The Phi Phi Islands sit off the western coast of Thailand, floating like jewels in a turquoise sea, a picture-perfect image of a tropical getaway. Director Danny Boyle filmed his 2000 psychothriller, The Beach, on the largest of those islands and if you know the movie, you know, despite the gem-like setting the story ends badly.
They say, though, that the movie put the largest of the islands, Ko Phi Phi Don, on the map as a tourist getaway, a reasonably priced home to glittering beaches and unlimited partying. And that’s undoubtedly what drew two young sisters from a small Canadian village, just north of the Maine border, to travel there for a summer break from their university studies.
Noemi Belanger was 26 and her sister, Audrey, 20, when they planned the June vacation. Both sisters lived in their hometown of Pohenegamook, Quebec. Did I mention that it was small, the kind of place where people know each other, stay close? The population is about 3,000 and both girls worked for their father, Carl, in his grocery store before starting university classes. They were happy girls, friendly, residents say, involved in their community, helping out at the local library, at public beaches.
Phi Phi is renowed as a rites-of-passage destination for 20-somethings and it transforms from a haven for day-trippers in the sunshine to a less beguiling island party after dark.
Alcohol is just one of the many ingredients that Phi Phi’s party people mix in their buckets.
Each bucket is a concoction of all kinds of juices and substances that are mixed into containers of various sizes and usually sucked through straws all night long.