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Thailand with Trisha Broadbridge

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thailand's Phi Phi Island is one of the planet's most exquisite places. It has everything you would expect in paradise — luxury hotels, stunning diving and breathtaking scenery. Honeymooners, families, adventurers and people just recharging their batteries all find something to please them. But on Boxing Day 2004 the area was hit by the tsunami.

Trisha and Troy Broadbridge had been married for just eight days and were enjoying their first week as man and wife on Phi Phi. Then, without warning, Troy's life was lost, leaving Trisha widowed at just 23.

Troy, a star with the Melbourne AFL Club, was one of almost 300,000 victims of the tsunami. Australia's heart went out to Trisha and all those who lost loved ones in this devastating act of nature.

Family and friends helped Trisha travel through her grief. During that time she decided to rebuild not only her own life but the lives of young people involved in the Melbourne-based youth charity, Reach. Getaway's Jules Lund, also involved in the work of Reach, is a childhood friend of Trisha and he accompanied her on this journey.

Although she is moving on with her life, Trisha hasn't left Thailand behind. She has taken the lead of other survivors who've returned to the island and made it their life's work to help in its rehabilitation. Along with her late husband's football team, she has established the Broadbridge Education Centre — a school on the grounds of the Phi Phi Island Resort and Spa where she and Troy honeymooned. The school serves to fill a community hole, as previous schools, students and teachers were lost in the tragedy. The idea of building an education centre at the back of the resort came from a staff member.

With 11 visits to Phi Phi since the tsunami, the area has become a second home for Trisha. Each trip is a mission to accomplish something for the locals. On a personal level, each visit is an opportunity to honour Troy's memory and heal her own pain. She is close to that point, but admits she is not there yet.

Trisha's efforts in Thailand and Australia earned her the honour of Young Australian of the Year for 2006.

The tsunami caused minimal damage at the Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and Spa and although tourism is returning to near-capacity, things were very different for the first few months after the shock of the wave. Many jobs were gone, but within a year the local community had built the spirit house in memory of the two victims from the resort. There people can pray for those gone and those left behind.

Part of Trisha's personal mission is to learn more about this natural area, including the pristine waterway of Phang Nga Bay. John Gray is an environmentalist whose sea canoe tours are legendary. After 12 years designing and developing one of the world's most highly-awarded ecotourism companies, John's company has 18 loyal and experienced guides. He believes they show Thailand at its best by paddling, as he says, into crazy places.

Tonsai, a little town on the southern end of Phi Phi, is going through a slow recovery. It grew around the backpacker market around 10 years ago, thanks to the Hollywood movie The Beach. Australian expat Carolyn Srikaow is a guesthouse operator there and her wounds from the tsunami are still raw. Her sister Kathy and three-year-old daughter Sasha died there.

The water treatment well is extremely difficult for both Carolyn and Trisha to visit. It was where Kathy and Troy's bodies were found. The fact it was filled with mud and debris made it even more painful, but now it is clean, surrounded by flowers and more appropriate for their memories.

Carolyn said business has been slow. Everyone wants people to return to enjoy themselves, at the same time helping locals return to their usual way of life.

Location

Phi Phi Island, an hour south of Phuket.

Cost

Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and Spa stays start at around $155 a couple per night, including breakfast.

John Gray Sea Canoe tours start at around $560 for a day, and around $450 for two day one night trips.

Accor Hotels has a range of hotels in Thailand.

Thai Airways International has flights to Phuket. Valid for a stay of 35 days in Phuket. One stopover is permitted in Bangkok for $55. Children from two to 11 years pay 85 percent of the fare. Fares from;

  • Perth, $821
  • Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, $886

Prices quoted are correct on November 23, 2006.

More information

John Gray Sea Canoes
Ph: 0011 66 76 2545057
Website: www.johngray-seacanoe.com
Email: info@johngray-seacanoe.com

Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort and Spa
9 Satoon Road
Phuket 83000
Thailand
Ph: 0011 66 7621-5014
Fax: 0011 66 7621-4918
Email: sales@ppisland.com

Accor Hotels
Level 30 Angel Place
123 Pitt Street
Sydney 2000
Ph: 1300 65 65 65 in Australia
Website: www.accorhotels.com.au

Thai Airways International
Ph: 1300 651 960
Website: www.thaiairways.com.au

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