If you’re passing through Cork or Derry during the day and the streets are empty when they should be full and you find yourself thinking “where are all the Irish people?” look no further because they’re all right there on Koh Phi Phi.
There are Irish bars and Irish restaurants and Irish hostels and an Irish Thai massage joint.
There are harps on menus and menus on harps and clovers and leprechauns on street signs and on people. It’s like St Patrick’s day if Ireland were in the middle of the Pacific and pints of Guinness cost 50p.
I’m on a small rock in a big sea for one short night. It’s a lively ninety minutes by boat to the mainland. It’s a limestone plug, the largest of a clump emerging from the sea like the stubby fingers of a giant-child’s hand.
The typhoon escape routes all point along the sea. There’s a constant strong ocean wind which makes me nervous – the weather has been terrifying all week and I scan every room I’m in for something that looks like it might float.
I was picked up at the pier by a man with by far the worst sign. It was handwritten and the name of the hostel was misspelled. The journey was long and I wondered if I’d made the wrong decision. At one point we tackled a hill on the back of a flatbed truck.
My room – “only five left!” – is bolted with stilts to the side of a cliff. There are warnings about feeding the monkeys, which of course I would ignore given the chance. I look out over a shiny new reservoir, still empty.
Hostelbookers commenters called the reservoir either a damn or a sewerage works, which shows that the people who comment on Hostelbookers are the same mouthbreathers who comment on YouTube videos. The only question is how they get the time off from licking windows to write all the comments. The room is fine and doesn’t stink of shit.
I maintain that “free wifi” is no longer a selling point. Hostelbookers should have a big red banner saying “this hostel has no free wifi”, or “you can sometimes connect but it still won’t work” or “there’s nobody around to give you the password”. When I check in, the wifi works in the lobby but not the rooms. Later it works in the room but not the lobby. The desk lady has a gleam in her eye that says “I’m fucking with you”.
Also it’s not free, is it? It’s factored into the price of the goods just like everything else. You don’t have to wind a thing to get electricity or pump your own shit down the toilet except, of course, that often you do.
My bag is light now – I dumped my camera, sneakers and a pile of books and clothes on my friend Sarah to take back to Hong Kong. I didn’t tell her about the drugs inside the heel of my shoe, it’ll only make her nervous. Hope she’s okay!
It’s not a long way back into town. I jumped inside a place called Matts joint, or hangout, or spot. I’ve long since given up on eating local. It’s a fallacy and a burden and besides, I wanted a lasagne.
The place is packed with seriously buff men. I feel like I’m at some kind of convention. I suppose in a sense I am.
Inside is what you’d expect. Yellow and orange walls. Tableware you’ve seen a thousand times. Popular but inoffensive background music. Heinz ketchup, Tabasco, and something called “seasoning”. I’ve seen it before and never thought to try it. I guess that reflects badly on me.
Yes of course the lasagne was shit. Never eat someone else’s version of a meal you like to cook yourself.