Soul Sister of Phi Phi Island
It was the spring of 2006 and as a 22 year old transgender woman, I was feeling equally fearful as I was excited. I had my suitcase packed, my passport ready and a one way ticket bound for London via Thailand!
I had never been overseas before and my best friend Beau and I had just arrived at Sydney International Airport. We were thrilled for the adventure ahead and I knew this would be the trip of a lifetime. We said goodbye to our friends, dropped off our bags and boarded the plane. Deep breathe girl, first stop Bangkok!
We landed in Bangkok 10 hours later and I was in awe of the lights, hustle and bustle, Thai culture and adoring people. I was drawn to the Kathoey (commonly known as ladyboys in western culture) of Khao San Road and was humoured and shocked when they pointed at the tall blonde girl (me) and cheekily screeched “same same, same same!” Beau and I couldn’t help but laugh as we made our way to our hotel through the crowd of this humid, polluted, overcrowded and completely spellbinding city that was Bangkok.
After 4 days in Bangkok we travelled further south and discovered the tranquillity of Phi Phi Island. The majority of South East Asia were still recovering from the 2014 Boxing Day Tsunami, which was apparent as the tidemarks lined the cliff tops above the piles of debris covered landscape below. This visual clearly resembling the natural disaster of recent times, however the trained welcoming smiles shaded any doubt in newly travellers as we were welcomed by staff with a Pina Colada and a key to our bungalow.
Waking up to the crashing waves of the Andaman Sea was a peaceful alarm to tell us it was time to awaken and replenish for the day ahead. Beau and I head to breakfast and were slowly approached by a tall, slender, flat chested girl with chalked on black eyebrows and wispy long, dark hair.
As the girl drew closer, I heard the words of the Bangkok Kathoey repeat in my head “same same, same same”. Our waitress introduced herself as “Ice” in a deep husky voice and like the Kathoey of Bangkok, I could see she had also realised that this blonde girl was just like her, relief.
Ice and I connected immediately. We spoke of our cultural differences, struggles as transgender women and future aspirations. I told Ice that I was a hairdresser and I was planning on getting work in London. I could see Ice’s excitement as she had not cut her hair in quite a while.
As a gesture to Ice’s hospitality, friendly demeanour and polite nature, I offered to give Ice a haircut. Ice humbly and eagerly accepted my offer and although I could tell this was probably not customarily acceptable, she was clearly enthusiastic and I was more than willing to help a sister in need.
Later that afternoon, Ice invited myself and Beau to her hut in the mountains. We walked up a steep hill in the dawning sun, scissors in hand while Ice and her friend giggled at their mischievous behaviour. Once we got to the hut we were welcomed with tea and broken conversation while I cut Ice’s hair into a long bob, just beneath the collar bone. I handed Ice a nearby handheld mirror and she was thrilled with the result.
As a thank you, Ice offered to take us to party that evening. We met later that evening and trekked through the jungle to a secluded beach hut, covered in fairy lights and greeted by friendly party goers gathered around a bon fire upon the shoreline.
As we danced in the moonlight, laughing and carefree, I realised that the most precious moments are the ones that are unpredictable, spontaneous and connected just like the one I was sharing with Ice in this very moment, my soul sister of Phi Phi Island.