A utopian dreamscape of adventure and pleasure: such is the promise delivered by Thailand's Phi Phi Islands- a promise of paradise created, represented and maintained by culture industries such as western popular cinema and tourist and travel organizations world-wide. On the morning of December 26th, 2004, Ko Phi Phi Don, the populated of the two main Phi Phi Island's, bore the brunt of the Sumatran tsunami as it careened through the Indian Ocean. Loss of life and property was staggering. Yet, thanks to the efforts of a transient volunteer labor force made up of primarily western tourists, Ko Phi Phi Don was rebuilt in a matter of months. The swift economic recovery of the islands and their reintegration back into the global tourist industry reveals the pervasiveness of a "visual economy" of tourism that transforms spaces and landscapes- even people and natural disasters- into viable commodity forms. This study illuminates the complex forces at work in the creation and re-creation of tourist "paradises" such as the Phi Phi Islands; forces often beyond the knowledge and control of the visitor as well as the visited.
Daniel S. Bollwinkel holds a Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts in addition to a Bachelor of Arts in Modern Literature from the University of California at Santa Cruz. A freelance writer and editor, Mr. Bollwinkel contributes to numerous online and print publications annually.