Friday, 16 March 2012

Koh Phi Phi

We got the bus to the airport, very handily right outside our hotel in Bangkok on Tuesday, and had the smoothest and quickest check in and security. All flights should be as stress free as an internal Thai flight. On the flight itself which is about 70 minutes long, you get a meal and everything. Total madness. When we arrived in Phuket I immediately knew I didn’t like it (it’s ok I was expecting not to, hence just the once night stay). As soon as we were outside (walking straight to the Airport- City Bus that stops outside our hotel and was cheap as chips) SOOOOO many taxi drivers tried to get us to go with them. And they didn’t  take no for an answer like in Bangkok, they even  told us the 4pm bus was cancelled (they’d even gone so far as to stick up a poster at the bus stop!), but I stuck with my instincts and held out and surely enough it shows up 5 minutes early.
We chose to stay in Phuket town, rather than go to the touristy coast as we were just staying one night before catching the ferry to Koh Phi Phi and seemed like the simplest option. We got a nice guest house for next to nothing and got collected the following morning and brought to the ferry port. Simples. Boy am I glad it was only one night. Phuket town was, in my humble and oh not so eloquent opinion, crap. There was nothing to do and nowhere to eat. A total right off. We eventually got a KFC and headed back to the guest house, tail between our legs and made the most of the free wifi.
The ferry the next morning was grand, and I used it to get some sleep and I’ve been waking up at 6 am every morning since arriving. When we started getting close to Phi Phi I could see how gorgeous it was, just like the tropical paradise I’d been expecting.
First spy of Phi Phi from the Ferry

We’d decided that we wouldn’t book accommodation beforehand, deciding instead to wing it, like the experienced backpackers and see what we found when we arrived. You can get the best deals this way and see the room before you take it. In theory this sounded great. Never again. It was a nightmare, in 35 degree heat, carrying a backpack…yuck. We got talking to a woman in an official Phi Phi Travel Agent t-shirt who gave us prices of a few places. When we said we wouldn’t pay her before we saw one she passed us onto a man in the same “official” t-shirt. He had an air conditioned room in our price range, he’d walk us there and if we like it we could take it, if not there were others close by. Sounded like a plan. Except the place was a 15 minute walk away in that heat with those bags, and the place ended up being a kip, that he owned! Ptcctchhhhh  he was as much an official agent as I was. Disaster. And it was in the middle of nowhere. We couldn’t walk around with the bags in that heat anymore, so we split up, I stayed with the bags, Leigh went off solo on the hunt for a room. After nearly an hour of searching half the town he came up empty handed and dehydrated.. The scandalously cheap prices we’d expected were obviously from low season, this was high season. Completely disheartened but not willing to take the first place I went off, leaving Leigh with the bags, for a quick stroll in the opposite direction. My famous lucky streak kicked in and I found somewhere nice, and just about affordable in 10 minutes. It was a cute, albeit rustic, wooden hut right on the beach. They probably weren’t worth what they were charging but they were nice, and the location couldn’t be beaten. And it meant we could have a cold shower and a lie down.  Bliss.
View from our bungalow

That night we had drinks in the bar attached to where we were staying and as it got later we sat on chairs on the beach as the tide came in, sea lapping at our feet, with lightening flashing above, it was pretty amazing.  Sitting there in that moment completely washed away how stressful earlier that day had been, and we were delighted to be there and made it all worth it. Gotta take the rough with the smooth. J

Day 2
I woke up early, again, and went to the beach and read my book for a while, defiantly making the most of having the beach at my doorstep. By the time Leigh got up (at a normal 11am for a holiday) it had started raining and proceeded to rain for most of the day, which ruined our plans for a chill out day on the beach. Instead we walked around the town and took in the sights. We booked our ferry and accommodation for Koh Lanta, our next stop, and booked a boat trip around Phi Phi Ley (the smaller uninhabited baby sister island to Phi Phi Don where we were staying) for the following day. That night we got dinner in a great place along the water, we both got fried rice in a pineapple, how cool?! And delicious.

Our waiter then recommended  a Fire Show back near our place, as the once near the restaurant we were planning on going to was apparently not very good. I’m delighted we took his advice because it was incredible. They put on such a show, including a tight rope walker, multiple acts, crazy moves and fireworks. It turned out to be some sort of full moon party, and we decided to go with it and get locked and dance the night away. We had our first buckets (a kids beach bucket filled with booze, mixer, ice and straws) and dancing in the water. It was a really fun night!

Day 3
Captain Bob’s Booze Cruise
Sinead, Stephen, Steph and Sandra who were in Koh Phi Phi in December pretty much told us we HAD to do Captain Bob’s Booze Cruise. So when we’d seen him the night before we stopped and got chatting to him so decided to go for it. There are possibly hundreds, definitely dozens, of day trips around the islands so to pick one without a recommendation would have been like picking straws. I’m sure most of them are fine, but many are huge boats filled with 50+ people and look fairly impersonal. I’m so glad the guys told us to go with Bob as there’s a max of 14 passengers on his sail boat (that he sailed there from Canada), so you really get to know people on board and the guys working on board really take care of you. It was such a great day! We were out the night before so getting up and out on time was a tough job. In fact we nearly missed it! We arrived at the pier at 5 past, and we saw them untie the boat from port and panicked! I called out “BOB” in a blind panic, which seemed to do the trick and caught someone’s attention long enough to stop them sailing off and gave us enough time to run down the boat it was tied to and hop aboard. Talk about a dramatic entrance!
The first stop of the day was Monkey Island. We dropped anchor a whiles a way from shore so me and Leigh kayaked over. I’m very proud to say I was first to jump into the water, with Leigh a close second! J There was a little bay filled with trees all brimming with monkeys. There were lots of tiny adorable babies, and also larger (and when antagonised by annoying men, aggressive) adults. It was kind of surreal how many of them were there, hanging off tree branches, enjoying the visiting humans who brought them a free banana buffet lunch!  Some of them got pretty curious with our kayak and made themselves at home, covering it with banana mush and throwing our oars into the sea. Cheers for that, monkeys!
Monkey Island

Next stop cliff jumping!
It was quite a climb up the cliff, and once I got up there I was way more scared than I expected! I’m not scared of heights, and I’m a good swimmer, but the standing up there on the edge looking down past the cliff edge into the ocean there was a (quite logical and sensible) block stopping my body from jumping. But this was something I’ve always wanted to do so I was doing it. Also it was way more appealing that climbing down that jagged cliff!  I did it from the lowest height,10 meters, I think,  and after nearly psyching myself and taking A LOT of deep breaths I did it!  I have to say it was terrifying but super exhilarating. Leigh went before me and I was super impressed as he’s not a great swimmer and was worried about not coming back up! But as soon as he stood up to jump he pretty much went for it straight away not a bother. I’m such a chicken!
Leigh after his cliff dive
Then back on boat, the hangover combined with sea sickness set in! Not fun!  Drinking buckets the night before spending an entire day on a boat was a terrible idea! The day was still great but I felt rubbish and nauseous and generally fairly crap. Although once I was in the water I was totally fine, just being on the boat in the choppy waters, not so much fun.

After the cliff jump we went snorkelling over towards Maya Bay (aka the beach from the movie The Beach, with Leonardo DiCaprio!). We saw THOUSANDS of fish. I can’t even explain how many were swimming right alongside us. There were fish of every colour imaginable, all sizes and shapes, so much coral, it was unreal! Then we got to land and walked through the grounds. It was a spectacular beach. The white sand was like velvet and the water was crystal clear. I was just glad to be on land for a while so I was more than happy to lie on the sand for a little while.

Maya Bay
On the way there we saw the army’s camps set up along the cliffs of Phi Phi Ley, they are there protecting against poachers trying to steal the nests of the Swifts which are made entirely of their spit. Sounds gross but they are apparently a Chinese delicacy that’s supposed to improve your health and act as an aphrodisiac, and a single nest sells for $1000 on the black market. Bob told us stories of how men climb the bamboo here, 100 metres to get to these nests, and how some have fallen to their deaths. Until recently the mafia had control of these cliffs, but the army stepped in and they now protect the area and the soldiers protect the island 24/7.

Next stop was back to Phi Phi Don and we stopped along the cliffs to watch the sun set. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced. It was totally stunning. There are a few pictures here to give you an idea. Just gorgeous, and a perfect end to a great day….or so we thought!
Sun Set

Leigh and Chang buddy Anthony

Beautiful sun set over Phi Phi

As we were nearing dock after the sunset one of the American girls mentioned to Bob about bio luminescence, and asked him if we could stop and try check it out. He agreed, I think mainly because he was curious! I’m so glad he did because it was amazing! It felt like magic! We were in the sea in the dark and there were these twinkling glow-in-the-dark lights (coral) appearing when we moved. It felt like I was in space swimming amongst the stars, if that makes any sense at all? 
Then we were back to dock and arranged to meet up later at Banana Bar for some Mexican food and hanging out. I’m so glad we went, because I was feeling so crap during the day I was a bit crap at making much of an effort chatting to people, and had a brilliant night getting to know the group, one of which we’ve met since in Koh Lanta, and a few more I’m sure we’ll see again in Aus. So after some delicious beef burritos and some drinks Leigh and I headed back for our last night in our Phi Phi beach hut to get some (much needed) sleep before our ferry in the morning.


  1. Wow Sarah what an amazing time you are having. Glad I didn't know you were doing a cliff jump beforehand!!!! looking forward to the next installment. Get Leigh to take some pics of you:) love mum xx

  2. nice blog post! took me back! fair play on the cliff dive, we were all too chicken, frazer was the only who did it! glad youre having a good time! Talk soon! xxx

    1. Ah no, can't believe you's didn't do the cliff jump! I was TERRIFIED but it was really cool!

  3. OMG I want to go to monkey island!!
    I am just ridiculously jealous reading this, sounds amazing!!

    1. Hazel it was kinda surreal, the whole thing! I'm glad I have photos so I know I was really there!