17:37 March 9, 2554
Last night on our scavenger hunt for dessert across Phi Phi Island, we passed a beautiful enormous tree.
The kind where the roots seemed to reach up all the way into the branches.
The wiggly bark was draped with colorful cloth wrapped tight around the trunk and fastened into a decorative bow.
Nissi stopped for a minute and held her palms together, touching the tip of her forehead in prayer at the base of the tree.
“What are you doing?” I smiled.
“Making a wish.” She replied.
Thinking that perhaps this was the wishing tree, I made a little wish myself, because one never knows what to believe in.
We slept in a small bungalow on the island that evening, furnished with simply a mattress on the floor and, well…that pretty much covers it.
Elated, I used a mosquito net for the very first time in my life, and actually found it to be rather charming in a fairytale book princess sort of way.
It draped over the bed like a netted canopy. Leaks of light from outside invaded through the holes in the thatch, creating a sprinkling of stars on the net.
But maybe that’s just the romantic in me.
We were met with a number of visitors throughout the night.
I guess, sent to authenticate the rurality of the little Thai bungalow: one house lizard, a couple of centipedes, several snails, and something else that ran across Nissi’s leg during the night. We’re not quite sure as to what it was, but it certainly isn’t coming around again any time soon due to the many sound barriers Nissi broke with her horrified screech.
The next morning, on the lookout for a ferry back, we ran across tens of taxi drivers pestering us, promising to take us to Long Beach.
I couldn’t help but wonder, wasn’t that a bit far away?
With the slightest interrogation of the Scottish bartender, we discovered it was supposedly the prettiest beach on Phi Phi Island about a half hours walk away.
That made a little more sense.
We headed out of the crowded oasis of Phi Phi Island that afternoon, sitting atop the ferry for a couple of hours with no distinct destination, in the light pulse of steady rain, feeling nothing but the perpetual wind hit our faces as the boat scraped gently across the water.
Scouring over maps, we closed our eyes and pointed, deciding to head about four hours North from Krabi to Khao Sok National Park, conveniently cutting some time off that treacherous ride home.
We waited patiently in the Krabi bus station, described in most tour books as a “jumping-off point for wonderful surrounding destinations,” which I discovered to mean that actual Thai people live there!
What a concept!
A startling sight after so many days spent sweltering in the hygienic container of tourism.
Switching onto a bus heading to Khao Sok National Park, my only slight annoyance was the sixty-five year old former rocker with long braided bleached blonde hair, dragon print sweat pants and hairy beer gut spilling shirtless over into his small Thai girlfriends chair. He was re-living the glory of his former days through the speakers on his portable radio he carried with him that displayed a profound devotion to Led Zeplin.
Despite his high volumed rock music infatuation, Nissi managed to fall asleep on the bus journey, and I managed to sit there, smiling in my own existence, pen and paper in hand ready to write down the next breath that anyone takes.
It was only after exiting the bus at the very last stop and peering around into the abandoned roads of empty black night nothingness did we realize that we should have gotten off about eighty kilometers back.
I never thought about that during the journey, you see the lighting through the trees outside was oh so beautiful, and the confident bus sure seemed to know where it was going…
Sitting on the curb of nightness peering intently through my Lonely Planet Thailand Travel Guide, flashlight perched in hand, (Life lessons compliments of my father: double check all locks, make sure the gas is off, and carry a flashlight at all times) spread between us, doing our very best at not freaking out and figuring out just where we were.
After a bit of frantic flipping through the glossy pages of the tour book that somehow had a knack for looking a lot better during the day, we identified our location and called a taxi driver to come pick us up and help to perform a hotel hunt.
Waiting on the taxi to arrive, I casually mentioned the wishing tree from the night before and how beautiful it had been.
In hindsight, it was probably not the best subject I could have brought up at that precise moment.
It was right about this time, that Nissi decided to tell me the truth about the wishing tree. She hadn’t wanted to tell me the night before while we were on the island so as not to scare me.
Six years ago, an enormous tsunami had hit Phi Phi Islands as well as Phuket on the morning after Christmas, and tens of thousands of people died or were injured, the results split equally between foreigners and Thais.
The Princess Ubolratana had been vacationing on the island when the tsunami had hit and her son, Khun Poom Jensen was jet skiing at the time.
He died instantly and his body is rumored to have flown through the windows of the hotel at which the Princess was staying.
Nissis’s brother, nineteen at the time, volunteered to help pick up the dead bodies and sort them for identification. He had to fingerprint each of the corpses.
The foreigners were shipped back to their home countries and the Thai bodies were each burned.
Nissi told me that when her brother first arrived, he wouldn’t get out of the car and wanted to go back home immediately.
He wasn’t prepared for what he saw.
She says that he tries to describe what he experienced, but he can’t.
He came home smelling like dead bodies, and reeked for weeks afterwards.
As for the wishing tree, he’d had to climb it to get all of the corpses that were stuck in the tall branches.
That wish I thought she’d been making, was a prayer for the safety of all the souls caught in the tree.