The joy is to watch how these islands are transformed by changing distances, by sunlight, by clouds. On some, there is a sliver of beach, just enough from which to swim; others are edged with little villages built on boards, the houses tied together. All are tropical paradises: Koh Phi Phi, Koh He, Koh Racha, Koh Surin, Koh Dok Mai, to name some of the favorites. Koh Phuket serves as a good jumping-off point. After being devastated by the 2004 tsunami, these islands have made a comeback.
Every imaginable shade of blue manifests in the lagoon of Bora Bora, aka, the Jewel of the South Seas. Coral motus ring the main island like a sandy sash, and beneath the surface, dolphins, rays, sharks, turtles and colorful fish throng. Presiding over it all is the moss-green volcanic peak of Mount Otemanu, where god descended to the island on a rainbow, according to local lore. Timeless grass-skirted dancers and exotic overwater bungalows round out the sublime scene. 

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