Blessed to be a witness

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Wednesday, June 8th

The PP Plan Diet

Being now acclimatised to the blazing heat, when it rains and the temperature drops down below 30 degrees, it begins to make us feel a bit chilly. We therefore occasionally wear long trousers in the evenings. A few days ago I put my jeans on for the first time since Singapore. To my great surprise and delight, they fell around my knees, and I had to get a belt to hold them up, and this had to be done up on the smallest setting.

I have recently volunteered to take the walking tour, which is a two-hour slog round the worst affected areas of the island, to give the English girl who does it a break. The tour is led by a Thai guy who was here when it happened, but an English-speaker gives a few short talks, and clarifies any questions or mistranslations. We begin in the 'Tsunami Information Centre', which M is currently manning to recruit new volunteers, and is going to assist turning into a museum. There we describe the cause of the tsunami and the mechanics of how it hit. We then proceed to the temporary medical centre, where we show people the affecting videos of the disaster unfolding. The medical centre used to be the Phi Phi Inn, which opened for business on December 24th, 2004, two days before the catastrophe. Though devoid of doors and windows, its lobby is a better venue for treating sick people, which was previously in the dingy, mosquito-ridden bar called Carlito's.

Following that we walk to the staff quarters of the Cabana Hotel. This is the hotel from which this video (RealVideo format) was taken - this is from this tourist's website. The staff quarters is the only building that has not been cleared yet. It's a mess - the water forced the ceiling of the ground floor upwards, and stuff that floated to the top got trapped underneath the floor as the water receded. A grille on the Loh Dalum Bay side is crammed with seed pods and shells, rammed into the holes by the raging sea. A clock in the doorway is stopped at 10.37, the time the waves hit.

We then head to where Phi Phi Princess and Charlie's Resort used to be. Of the 160 bungalows between both resorts, only half of one was left standing. 55 Thai staff and 320 guests are known to have died there. Thence across the blasted waste ground to the fateful reservoir, and back to the Hi Phi Phi shop, where we try to get donations, and flog the goods made by the refugees in the camp, and encourage people to spread their money around - to eat in empty restaurants, their emptiness being no reflection on their quality, but purely because there aren't enough tourists around. Up to fifty people a day take the tour, and I feel it's enormously valuable to explain quite how dreadful the catastrophe was, quite how much has been achieved by hand, and to give subsequent volunteers more perspective of why they're volunteering.

As the videos play, I tend to stand outside the Medical Centre, since I find them rather distressing. The other day I was chatting to a medical centre in-patient, whose cut leg had become infected and swollen up like a balloon. He was saying he'd lost ten kilos since he'd been here. I mentioned the jeans incident, and we decided that we should market the 'PP Plan Diet' and become millionaires. So here it is, kids:

The PP Plan Diet


Cup of coffee and / or bowl of muesli, yoghurt and fresh fruit


Tuna & salad baguette or Thai fish curry so spicy that you can't eat it and have to throw it away


Pizza or Thai chicken green curry or nothing

Compulsory food groups:

Copious bottles of Heineken

Stick to this and you should lose about a stone in three weeks. Helps if you walk several miles a day, and you're travelling to remote beaches and gathering young coconut trees, then carrying them back to the beach and digging metre-deep holes to plant them for two or three hours every few days.

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