Thailand 9: Koh Phi Phi

I’m not a morning person. I’m also not a quiet person. Having to wake up at 5:30am to make my way from Phangan to Phi Phi (at 850 baht, FYI) isn’t exactly ideal, for me or my dorm mates, especially when still feeling fragile from Full Moon. Picked up by Tuk Tuk at 6am, a group of us were taken to Thongsala Pier for our 7am ferry back to the mainland (stopping via Koh Samui). Our bags were transferred from boat to pier in some weird combination of production line/chucking-them-at-the-man-on-land process, whereby I only managed to retrieve my bag through standing right next to him with eagle-eyes (and almost being pummelled in the face by numerous flying bags). I was then thrown onto a coach that went from Surat Thani to Krabi, before having to board another ferry to Koh Phi Phi. Even more alarming than the previous one, about a million bags were in a huge pile and it was up to us to retrieve them ourselves – it’s only about, oh, the 157th time I’ve experienced internal terror that my bag has been mislaid.

Once I had collected my bag I had to pay 20 baht to get on the island – something about conservation fees but, in all the stories people I have been told about Phi Phi, this wasn’t mentioned to me ONCE, so apprehensively I gave the money over (turns out it is legit and everyone had to do it – plus it’s similar on Koh Lanta and other islands I have since been on – but as I wasn’t forewarned of this I am warning you all now!)

I’d already reserved 2 nights at Hangover Hostel so I walked the 15 minutes with my backpack, weaving down the cute streets and perusing the market stalls – combined with the stunning view of the island and the sea on arrival (soz, didn’t mention – was all “bag, bag, bag!”) I was already in love with Phi Phi. Then I was greeted by Mr Singh, the owner of Hangover; a 12 bed room with 2 bathrooms, air con, plus a plug socket and light per bed, and literally the most welcoming and accommodating host. He provided free coffee, ear plugs, first aid, hair products, toothpaste…. a whole bureau of little extras. Plus, every evening he would provide us with whiskey and mixers, snacks and music. It was a sociable but chilled-out hostel just behind the beach, so close enough to the beach bars (3 minutes walk) but far enough away from to get some sleep.

I arrived at Hangover at around 4pm, and an hour later I was off out with two other girls from my hostel – June from the Philippines and Merel from Holland) to head to the Viewing Point. The bottom of it was probably only 10 minutes’ walk from our hostel where you first climb up some steps to an entry point where you pay 30 baht and can look out over the 1st viewing point. It is probably then another 10/15 minutes walk but it’s quite an incline, so you certainly feel like you have achieved the view at the 2nd viewing point. Sat on some rocks with about 20 other people, it offered amazing views of the island and the bay, with the sun setting as a backdrop.

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It was dark by the time we decided to be bothered to move and, as the paths weren’t lit, we didn’t go to the 3rd viewing point (apparently through the Jungle and not as good for sunsets) and instead clambered down to grab some dinner.

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Back at the hostel we discovered more people had arrived in our dorm (Rhiannon and Vicky from the UK, Chelsea and Sam from Canada) so we all sat outside with Mr Singh for whiskey and peanuts with music and conversation. It didn’t take long for all of us to decide to book the 500 baht tour of Ko Phi Phi Lee for the following day (other than June, as she had done it already the day before).

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The 6 of us were picked up at 1:30pm the next day where we walked to the pier and climbed (literally – we waded into the water and combed up steel steps attached to the side) onto a small boat where we were joined by 6 others. We first went out to Monkey Beach where we waded into the sand to watch all the monkeys combing the trees, doggy paddling in the sea and leaping onto people. I opted for posing next to a more docile-looking one, being perfectly happy to not get as intimate with them as other people had done.

Back on our boat we then went out to Ko Phi Phi Lee, hitting some choppy waters on the way with only a warning of “Big Wave!” from our sailor (?!) about 3 seconds before they hit us. We sailed into Pileh Lagoon – an enclosure within the island itself, we were able to jump off and swim in the warm, crystal clear water, surrounded by beautiful cliffs. When swimming you felt as though the water was carrying you and it was almost soft on your skin – like cotton wool.

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We then climbed back on board to eat our fried rice with chicken, only to find out we would then be snorkelling – not exactly the best planning but not about to miss out on snorkelling in the middle of ocean off Phi Phi island, back in we went. I saw some amazing rainbow fish (parrot fish??) and others that literally looked fluorescent.

 

It was then time to visit Maya Bay, where “The Beach” is filmed, and embark on the most adventurous way to get to a beach. The boat pulled up in Loh Samah Bay (I THINK – this is what google maps is leading me to conclude) where we each had to pay our boat driver (seriously, is it sailor or what?? Mind blank) 400 baht to enter; I’m not sure if this is commercialising on tourism or for conservation, but I will say now it is worth it. We then had to jump in and swim out to the side of the cliffs where there was a rope ladder for us to climb up, but clambering over pointy rocks with tumultuous waves knocking you off your feet every 5 seconds made it really difficult and pretty exhausting, especially as I had and my dry bag with me (I wanted to take my phone for photos, clearly not being one to learn from their mistakes – some are too much fun to make only once, right?!) climbing up the rope ladder was the next challenge, with about 15 people attempting to do it at once and having people smash into it below you having finally made it over the rocks, but it was so much fun and made it feel totally worthwhile once you got to the top (where we realised there was another way in by swimming under the cliff, although this looked pretty rocky and choppy at this point) and could start your walk through the tree-lined sand (almost mysteriously jungle-like) towards The Beach.

For some reason I expected it to be enclosed, which it wasn’t, and it felt so much bigger than I thought it would be, but the bay itself was lovely and the view out to sea, with the sun already quite low in preparation for sunset, like a postcard. We took obligatory group and jump-in-the-air shots before walking to a secluded part of the bay to lay down in the softest sand I have ever been on – it was like velvet (I have stolen this from Sam – thanks for the words!) The whole thing was surreal and so cool, but I’m still raging that Leo wasn’t there to greet us – for 400 baht I would at least demand a frenchie.

Going back we took the route under the cliff rather then roping it as the tide was low and it was more a case of clambering over rocks (although I did manage to scrape 5 of my toes) before lugging ourselves onto the boat again. We then headed out back towards Phi a Phi, stopping in the middle of the ocean for 15 minutes to watch the sunset out at sea before stopping back at Monkey Beach to watch the plankton light up in the sea at night – snorkelling in the dark, with tiny fish glowing as they swarm around you, was magic (Sam, that might be another one of your classics – or maybe it was Chelsea!)

This was literally one of my favourite days so far and it didn’t even end there – once showered and changed we joined George and Danny from our hostel (both from the UK) to go for dinner at Hello My Mum (amazing and cheap Thai food) before then heading to Reggae Bar for some Muay Thai boxing – it’s free to enter but you have to buy a drink, yet for 100 baht fir a beer and front row seats for one of the most enjoyable and ridiculous experiences; witnessing a guy being pummelled into the rope right in front of you, and then later watching two volunteers throw some dance shapes to the music in between one of their rounds was mad and absolutely brilliant.

We went back to our hostel for some pre drinks before heading to the beach to drink and dance at the bars lining the shore – Blanco and Stoned are the most popular, but all offer music (including Waka Waka, of course!) and dancing at the water’s edge. Sadly the music abruptly ended at 2pm as immigration were on the island, so we popped into a 7-Eleven (Danny, this is for you: “I say seven, you say Eleven; seven, ELEVEN, seven, ELEVEN!) to pick up some alcohol before heading back to the beach to sit on the sand with our drinks and chat with the sea lapping at our toes. Vicky, who is 19, drunkenly declared, with a big smile on her face and her arm around me, “it doesn’t feel like you are 10 years older than me!” – in ways a lovely compliment but not the first time my age has been highlighted as being much greater than someone else’s since travelling (I rarely actually feel old, until I’m casually reminded that I am in comparison. Burn, Vicky, burn!) – and at one point George pinched my nose as if to “steal” it between his fingers, staring intently at me before offering “you have a nice face”. Well I suppose that’s a good thing; I’m old but I have a nice face. I went to bed that night after one of the best days ever, completely in love with Phi Phi.

After spending a few hours on the beach (the tide comes in on the narrow beach pretty quickly so I left it at around 1pm), June and I headed to the pier the following day for our 3:30pm boat across to Koh Lanta…

LS.

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