After Lanta, the girls and I were anxious to meet some more people and have a little fun and what better place to go than to Koh Phi Phi
(pronounced 'pee pee' and is also a joke when you want to go to the bathroom, sometimes people would say, "Oh, you need to go to Pee Pee Island"). As we were pulling into the harbor, I could tell why the island had over 1000 tourists arrive each day during high season. The sky scraping cliffs over the sparkling green-blue water make this a place not to miss. I love getting to a new place and not really knowing what to expect. People can tell you things, just as I am now, but it's so different when you experience it yourself.
I knew it was a busy place, but even after the tsunami in 2004, which destroyed just about everything on the island, it didn't look like the place skipped a beat. We got off of a small ferry just as the load of people were getting off of a huge ship next to us (if 'ship' doesn't explain how many tourists there are, I don't know what does). Then it was a race down the dock to check out the accommodations available. We thought Lanta was expensive, but were we wrong. Phi Phi was even more expensive as the cheapest place we could find that was available was 1200 baht/36us per night! There were a few other places that were cheaper I saw at about 600 baht/night and a friend I met said she stayed at a place on the mountainside for 300 baht/night, but there really weren't many.
It's also much better if you can share, but during high season places fill up fast, so sometimes you really don't have a choice. After walking around and trying to check out places for ourselves, we gave up and just booked a place by the pier. Then we got a Thai guy to come pick up our packs with a steel cart, so we didn't have to carry them across the island, which really wasn't that far (a little over a kilometer), but far enough in the midday heat. The streets were quite narrow and since the island isn't very big there were no motorbikes or cars whizzing by, which was really nice. When the locals have to transport things from one place to another, they use the steel carts, probably not by choice, but it was hard enough to walk around as it was. I couldn't imagine motorbikes trying to weave in and out of the crowds.
After dropping off our things, we headed out to explore and figure out what we wanted to do for the next couple of days. We saw a lot of snorkeling trips and decided it would be fun for all of us to do, especially since Abi wasn't a diver. We booked a place and headed out the next day around 10am. We started off at shark's point, but with no luck of seeing sharks although we did see a lot of tropical fish. The weather was nice and sunny, which allowed for good visibility. Next we went around the south point towards bamboo island. It seemed like it took ages to get there even though we could clearly see the island. Once there, we snorkeled a bit more and found a spot on the beach to rest and eat a quick fried rice packed lunch. Then we journeyed to mosquito island and Koh Phi Phi Leh where they filmed the movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Finally, we headed back stopping to view the sunset from the boat. The total trip was only 450 baht/15us for the day plus lunch. Devon and I were keen on diving and checked out Princess Divers where she had gotten her advanced diving certificate the last time she was there. We booked a trip for the next day starting at 7am, an early day, but diving is usually better in the mornings, so we went. It was 2500 baht for two dives including lunch, actually quite expensive compared to the rest of Asia. Princess Divers had a nice two-decker boat, great equipment, as well as instructors. On our first dive I just missed the huge sea turtles, but saw a lot of really cool reefs and tropical fish although I was a little disappointed that I didn't see anything big like a shark or octopus.
We dove for about an hour and came up for a deliciously packed lunch you could choose from a few different sandwiches or rice with some kind of stir fry. I had chicken cashew, which was really good. After a few minutes of letting our stomachs settle Devon and I thought it would be fun to jump off the top of the boat, so we climbed over the railing and counted off jumping 20 meters into the water which then started a trend. The second dive was much better. Again, it was another hour long dive, but this time we saw so many unique and crazy looking fish. We also saw black tip sharks that were a couple of meters long. A little scary and exhilarating the first time I spotted one. They move quite fast, so it was hard to keep my eye on them. We saw a lot of other sea life like manta rays, eels, blow fish, cuttle fish, and these crazy little brightly colored shrimp that like to hide behind the rocks.
Even though it was expensive, it was still worth it. I really wanted to go to the Similan islands as well and do some diving or a live aboard, but it was pretty expensive so I decided to save it for another time. Koh Phi Phi was definitely beautiful and I'm glad I went, but I don't think I would've stayed longer than a couple of days. The island was packed with lots of shopping, dive shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, massage parlors, and tour agencies. I had one of the best massages of my trip on Phi Phi for 200 baht/6us. It was a little hard not to go out and turn down free buckets, especially when it was Sangsom, the Thai rum which was a close comparison to Captain Morgan, my drink of choice. We kept getting these free fliers every time we walked up and down the streets saying free buckets at a specific 10 minute time period, but everything shut down around 1am because of a recent incident on New Year's Eve where a couple of people were shot.
It involved two groups of feuding Thais. It wasn't random. Nonetheless, there was more security and they shut everything down early to avoid any other mishaps, but people still stuck around on the beach for awhile after that and it was more relaxed than the bumping music each bar competes with. There was an excellent Italian restaurant called Cosmic where we had really good pizza and an amazing ravioli with a blue cheese cream sauce. The street food was awesome as well. We definitely ate the 40 baht chicken kebabs glazed with a honey barbeque sauce a few nights. I'm also glad we didn't miss a restaurant called Papaya that had some of the best Thai food I had in Thailand. It also had a couple of cats that liked to sleep on the bottom shelf of the glass-door refrigerator.
After our couple of days were up, we jumped on the ferry to Phuket
where the girls had to fly out of that same evening. I was leaving the next day for Chiang Mai, so it worked out nicely. When we got there, we walked around, did a little shopping and had one last meal before they flew back to Bangkok
and then Taipei. It was so nice to travel with them. I stayed near Patong beach at a decent place called Crown Hostel. It was cheap, 300baht/night, and just what I needed for the night even if the area was crowded with old men and their young Thai mistresses. I didn't stay in Phuket long enough to have a real opinion about it, but I wasn't sad I couldn't stay longer.
I did meet a Canadian girl who owns a bar with her boyfriend called Rock, Roots, Reggae that sounded like a nice place to hang out. Wish I would've known that before.