Take me to the beach...
Koh Phi Phi Travel Blog› entry 221 of 658 › view all entries
People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Jill (Sweden), Fernando (Venezuala)
Ten minutes into our boat journey from Ao Nang to the Phi Phi islands, it suddenly dawned on Jill that she had lost her credit card, either having left it in the cash machine, or in the shop where she bought juice. Thankfully she had a cell phone to call her parents in Sweden, so as to cancel the card - i guess they must have received a bit of a shock to here the distressed sound of their daughters voice at 4am in the morning! With institutions such as FedEx and Western Union, such ordeals have now turned from holiday breakers into minor ordeals, and a week later with no real inconvenience, she would receive a replacement card on Koh Phangan.
The Phi Phi Islands shot to fame when Alex Garlands book 'The Beach' was brought to the big screen, with Leonardo DiCaprio starring in what was to become a huge blockbuster. Ironically, Garland wrote the book about a completely different paradise beach that is said to be located in Palawan, an island within the archipelago of the Phillipines. The reason Garland had not wanted to disclose the true location, was for the threat that it would be ruined by tourism and commercialisation... instead he left this fate to the Phi Phi's!
The second destruction of the islands came on Boxing Day 2004, when the islands were smashed and battered by the now famous tsunami. Rather than look to sensibly rebuild Phi Phi Don with attractive buildings and thought to the surrounding environment, there was instead a foot race to see who could build the most ugly concrete buildings and then charge way over the top for all of us clamouring foreigners, all so desperate to get a look at this perceived 'paradise'.
Having said all thats bad about the place, let me stop my bitching and tell you whats good! The beaches are breathtaking, the surrounding topography stunning and the underwater life magnificent. There's obviously a reason why any place becomes so popular, other than people wanting to set foot where Leonardo has :)
The 3 of us managed to find the best budget accomodation on the island in my opinion - rock backpackers, where 200 baht got you a bed in a concrete dorm and was located centrally in the town.
Our next accomplishment was to find a reasonably priced restaurant (for Thai prices), which was not as easy as it sounds. Again, prices were often triple what you would find in most other areas of Thailand. Thankfully Panda restaurant provided us with what we were looking for and we would eat there basically every meal time for the next 4 days.
On our first afternoon, a walk along Loh Dalam Beach seemed the best option, before the 3 of us set off up a steep hill to a viewpoint overlooking the island. The heat was sweltering, but we took a pleasant break when running into a large amount of stunning butterflys, fluttering around the path half way up. Having stopped long enough to get some photos and catch our breath, we pushed on to the top and made it in a little over 30 minutes. The walk was well worth it, as the views at the summit were fabulous, looking down over Loh Dalam Bay on the right and Ton Sai Bay to the left, with Phi Phi Ley also in sight.
A cold shower had never felt so good as it did when we got back to the hostel! Invigorated and once again full of purpose, a walk around the island at dusk was taken. Dinner at Pandas was followed by drinks at our favourite Thai Bar - the ever affordable 7/11 :) There was a nice wall on the seafront calling our name, from where we could listen to one bars music and watch another bars fire show been performed on the beach. Now thats what i call budget travellers ingenuity :)
I had got news that Fernando was arriving on Monday, so the 3 of us went down to the pier to meet and greet him and show him to his home for the night.
So, boat hired, sun screen applied and smiles on our faces, we were ready to go! The boat chugged out of Ton Sai Bay and within 20 minutes the tip of Phi Phi Ley had been reached. Our captain drove the boat around the island, pointing out the pretty Viking Cave, before entering into a bay, which had shallow cystal clear waters. The rock formations towered above us, making the boat look like a toothpick in a glass of water! After circling the beautiful inlet, we exited and continued our journey around the island. Our next stop was for a spot of snorkelling and there were plenty of sergeant majors, triggerfish and other colourful fish on display, to keep us entertained for half an hour.
Having seen the movie before, i expected a beach almost enclosed from the elements and was therefore pretty surprised at just how wide the opening between the cliffs really was. I watched the movie in Bangkok later in my trip and realised that it was all clever camera work and that they never actually properly showed the opening in the film - this satisfied me that i wasn't going insane - well not totally.
Returning to the boat, it was decided that we would make the most of our extra 30 minutes by stopping for a snorkel at Shark Point.
Back on dry land and freshened up, our little posse went out for dinner and drinks.
The following day Fernando said his final farewells to us as he headed off to Ao Nang and then on to Kuala Lumpur. It was back to 3 again. Our plans of a day at the beach were scuppered in the afternoon, when it began to rain again. Saying that this was the west coasts dry season, i was becoming a little miffed by the amount of rain that we were receiving! The rest of the day was spent flitting between restaurants and reading a book. After a short walk when the rain held off long enough, Julia and I decided to call it a day and catch up on lost sleep.
Wednesday would be our last day on Phi Phi Don, so the 3 of us were determined to get some more colour in our cheeks, but rather than a lovely golden brown, my freckly skin soon turned a lovely lobster red. At least i wasn't letting down the image of Brits abroad :) Mid afternoon and we were all aboard the ship back to Ao Nang, ending a topsy turvy time between the islands. Certainly the highlight of my time here was snorkelling with all those sharks and i'd say thats the real must do activity for anyone visiting this neck of the woods.