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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.
Word History: It may seem hard to believe, but Latin aqua, "water," is related to island, which originally meant "watery land." Aqua comes almost unchanged from Indo-European *akwā-, "water." *Akwā- became *ahwō- in Germanic by Grimm's Law and other sound changes. To this was built the adjective *ahwjō-, "watery." This then became *awwjō- or *auwi-, which in pre-English became *ēaj-, and finally ēg or īeg in Old English. Island, spelled iland, first appears in Old English in King Alfred's translation of Boethius about ad 888; the spellings igland and ealond appear in contemporary documents. The s in island is due to a mistaken etymology, confusing the etymologically correct English iland with French isle. Isle comes ultimately from Latin īnsula "island," a component of paenīnsula, "almost-island," whence our peninsula.
Who hasn’t been spellbound by images of Capri’s electric Blue Grotto? This glowing sea cave impresses even veteran globetrotters — and it’s only the beginning of the island’s marvels. Ash-white limestone cliffs, hidden slivers of beach, a towering natural arch: It’s no wonder Capri has been a tourist hub since ancient Roman times. Tip: Climb up to the ruins of Emperor Tiberius’ Villa Jovis, circa A.D. 27, for a heart-stopping vista.