The tour package turned out to be a bad idea, in fact possible one of the worst I had whilst on this trip as a whole, firstly because I should have listened to my gut instinct and done the trip solo and using the regulated bus services and companies as despite my initial thought that using a tour company would make for a smoother ride and be more convinient I was seriously mistaken; they turfed us off the VIP bus early in the morning in Surat Thani, here cue more ludicrous ticketing stickers and hanging around for 1-1.5 hours waiting for the next minibus to arrive, then it was onto Krabi where we changed minibuses again (after yet more waiting around) which then took us to the pier where were had to wait another hour and a half, when you're hot, hungry and sleep deprived all this waiting around is infuriating particularly when there seems no reason for it.
By the time we actually got the ferry and docked in Phi Phi the entire journey had taken pretty much 24 hours, a good 3-4 hours longer than if I'd have done the trip myself, I know you have to expect lots of waiting around when travelling but when the agent in Ayuthaya
had told me be arriving in Phi Phi several hours earlier than we actually did that was the infuriating part, particularly as I was only staying in Phi Phi for the next 3-4 days and I'd lost a good portion of my first day as a result. The main reason I should have listened to my gut and also to the warning about these kind of trips in Lonely Planet is because I managed to get robbed on the VIP bus from Bangkok
to Surat Thani to the tune of around £100, they'd left enough money in my wallet to try and make it look unnoticable and also difficult to prove should I call the police ( a fruitless exercise as I had no way of proving what I'd had in their originally), I was livid, mostly though with myself and my own stupidity.
Long boat at dusk
I could also tell they'd managed to go through my larger rucksack even though it was inside a larger bag which I'd locked (I could tell that they'd been through it as things were not packed as I'd left them), I was lucky however that they hadn't decided to take anything else, hard lesson learned. There were loads of backpackers taking these buses and I'm sure many more take them each day, my advice, don't do it! No matter how convinient or cheap it may seem it simply doesn't outway the risk of theft.
Thankfully that's where the negativity ends; after walking past all of the touts at the pier I managed to find one of the porters from where I was staying who put my rucksack in his trolley and off we went through Ton Sai village.
View over Tonsai village from the Viewpoint
I was quite surprised how built up it was and was beginning to wish I'd gone to Viking Resort with the Dutch guys I'd met on the boat. Thankfully Tropical Garden Bungalows was right at the end of the main path nestled in its own bit of jungle so at least it felt a bit more secluded and would hopefully be quiet. I was fortunate it was low season as when I told the girl at reception I had a reservation she couldn't seem to find it, owing to unwantedly parting with my cash on the bus I decided to plump for the cheapest room they had (400B a night with fan) to try and save some money, it was pretty basic but clean and so would do just nicely, the shared shower and WC were pretty much right outside so I wasn't concerned about not having my own bathroom. After properly checking in I took a quick shower before heading out to explore the village.
View over Tonsai village from the Viewpoint
I wanted to talk to a few tour companies before deciding on what tours I do as I'd deciding against doing a cooking course (too expensive and supposedly Chang Mai is the place to take a class) so thought I'd like to get out there and do a few water based activities. I'd read about a shark watching snorkel trip and saw signs for a sunset kayak trip that sounded interesting so went to check out a few reputable agencies, on the way I stopped at one of the many shacks selling fruit shakes to partake in what was to be the first of many while I was on Phi Phi. The prices for the trips seemed pretty reasonable (about £10-15 each) so went away to mull it over. I realised that I hadn't really eaten properly so thought some food would be a good idea, there seemed no shortage of good choices to eat but in the end I settled on a small ferang-free place in the local food markets where I tasted my first bit of amazing sea food, grilled fresh fish from the barbecue stuffed with Thai herbs and spices, simple yet tasty! It also turned out this place was renowned for it's coconut doughnuts as countless people walked by saying "oh that's wher they sell those coconut doughnuts" so thought it'd be rude not to try one while I was here, desert for 10B, yummy and cheap what a winning combination.
I went for a walk down the beach facing Loh Dalum bay taking photographs as the sun started to set, admiring the unbelievable view but less than impressed about the cleanliness of the beach. I then went to Adventure Club diving to talk to them about the shark watch and was pleased to be greeted by staff were really helpful and nice, and not in the least bit pushy. I got to meet Andrew the owner who told me that the shark watch was unlikely to happen as current weather conditions would mean poor visibility in the shallow water they took groups to, he then ran through another option which would be a snorkelling trip around Koh Phi Phi Leh if the shark watch wasn't available but said it was best if I came back the following day when they could review the weather again.
After having little sleep on the trip down to Krabi I was pretty tired by this point and so decided a power nap was in order; when I got back to my room I set an alarm for a few hours time so I could get up and go exploring again and perhaps get more food, the alarm seemed to come no sooner than I'd put my head on the pillow so I turned it off only intending to snooze for a little while longer... I woke up next morning after my well deserved sleep-a-thon feeling refreshed and ready to head out and as it was early and the heat of the day had yet to fully take hold I thought I'd head up to the view point as the Dutch guys had said it was worth a visit. Even though it was still early it made for a sweaty climb to the top but it was worth it as I was treated to a view over the hourglass-shaped island and Tonsai village, there were a few guest houses located on the hill on the climb up but one lucky family had snagged top spot at the view point so it was here I grabbed a refreshing fruit shake.
After finishing my drink and taking a rest I headed down to try and find somewhere for breakfast; it seemed that the village at this time was as sleepy as the tourists so few places were open, luckily Beach Bum overlooking Loh Dalum Bay was and I made the most of the tranquillity whilst gazing out across the ocean enjoying breakfast. Before settling down on the beach for the day to cook myself I went back to Adventure Club to sort out my trip; after talking to Andrew about the alternative option and hearing that there was a possibility you'd see sharks on that one anyway I booked the Phi Phi Ley snorkelling trip for the bright and early the next morning.
Then it was time for the beach, after being less than impressed with how dirty the beach was on the Loh Dalum side I decided to check out Tonsai Bay; I walked to the far end of the beach past Phi Phi hospital and picked my spot up the sand facing one of the cordoned off swimming areas, both beaches have speed boats and long boats coming and going all day so you have to be careful about where you go swimming as it can be somewhat hazardous.
After feeling like I was starting to have too much exposure to the sun I thought that taking a break for lunch and sitting in the shade would be a good move, most of the places at my end of the beach didn't seem the most inviting so I walked the full length of the beach to place next to Pizza corner, which I think was called Nemo's. Stocking up on yet more fruit shakes and sumptuous seafood it was then back to the beach.
After managing to sleep through sunset the previous day I decided I wanted to actually see it this time and settled down at a bar called Carpe Diem (supposedly the best place to watch the sunset from I'd read) and thought I'd relax with a few cocktails while the bar's DJ pumped out good tunes and girls performed tricks with some kind of ball on the end of a piece of cloth (no idea what its called).
The sunset was hardly one of the best I'd seen and I wasn't sure if I agreed this was the best place to see it either and decided I might go back up to the viewpoint for sunset the following day. The cocktails had given me the munchies so I headed back to the local markets to sample some titbits from the barbecue, fresh crabs claws and crayfish light boiled in spices and smothered in sweet chilli sauce, what a snack! I wasn't sure if I could ever get bored of the food on this island. Feeling like I'd been rolled in sand I went back to take a shower before going for dinner (yet more food!); I'd passed Pum's restaurant the previous day (Pum also runs the cooking school) and decided even if I couldn't afford a cooking class here that the menu looked too good to resist.
Pum's is done out like a trendy eatery that you'd expect to see back home and her daughter has now taken the business overseas to France and Manchester in the UK. Given its such a swish looking establishment you'd expect the prices would reflect this but its actually a pretty cheap place to eat; I had the best green curry I ate in Thailand and a oddly refreshing Chrysanthemum and rum cocktail, by which point I was truly stuffed, imagine my horror when Pum gave me a free banana and coconut desert to try, I was so full this rich little extravaganza was the last thing I wanted to see or eat. I didn't want to appear rude so did my best to eat as much as I could, it was a shame I was feeling so full as it was such a yummy desert. My over eating though had a price to pay as my stomach rebelled and between that and the alcohol sent me to bed for another early night, which wasn't the greatest loss as I needed to be up early the next day anyway.
I arrived at Adventure Club just after 8am to meet Andrew, the two other guys on the trip, Michael and Clementine, their French translator and another trainee Naomi. We got kitted up in wetsuits and picked up fins, masks and snorkels before heading down to the pier. We wove our way through the backs of condemned houses from the tsunami and waded through the water to get to our longtail boat. We travelled past Viking Cave where Andrew explained that locals live there in order to collect the birds nests for birds nest soup (the birds nests are actually made from their spit - gross!) as its a lucrative way to earn money. We had a brief stop to go swimming in an isolated cove, only one other boat was there before heading off to do our first bit of proper snorkelling.
Cocktails at Carpe Diem
I'd forgotten how clear the water was in Thailand and the marine life we saw was just amazing, so many brightly coloured fish. We then stopped to visit Maya beach where they filmed the movie The Beach; the side we docked on there weren't too many boats but as soon as we got onto the main path connecting us to the beach it started to get busier until we arrived on the beach itself. This place is an absolute tourist trap, there were around 20, if not more, speedboats in the water and the beach itself was insane, it was such a zoo. None of us were overly impressed so asked Andrew if we could get the hell out of there, why people want to go on day trips there is beyond me, there are just too many people to sit on the beach let alone bask in its beauty and tranquillity (if that's ever possible there).
The snorkelling we proceeded to do after Maya beach was the highlight of the trip as we got to see Leopard sharks and a Hawksbill turtle, how Clementine ever spotted I don't know as it was camouflaged with the rocks incredibly well. I was disappointed when we had to head back as the trip had been amazing; when we got back to the office Andrew downloaded the pictures onto a laptop and gave us some educational info about what we'd seen and what Adventure Club do in terms of conservation in the area (one of the things they have been working on is an artificial reef). Two critical pieces of information Andrew told us about was how the sea had increased in temperature and how quickly this had killed off the coral; it had only taken 4 months to kill off coral that had taken ten years to grow, another thing which is contributing to the corals demise in the area is the use of speed boats as every time they drop anchor onto the coral they kill a section of it so please, please if you take a trip in and around the waters of Thailand make sure the company you use takes you out on a long tail boat or if they do use a speed boat ask them to moor it to a buoy rather than drop anchor.
The trip had been absolutely amazing and I like the fact Adventure Club opt for small group sizes, have professional multilingual staff, and educate you about marine life as well as providing you with a good time, sure there are cheaper outfits but only by about £5-6 and I'd rather pay that measly bit extra to use someone I know is doing their bit to conserve the environment.
After agreeing to pick up my DVD of photos later I headed off to find lunch (and breakfast as I hadn't had time to get any before the trip), I was starving and needed something simple to settle my stomach as I don't have the best sea legs ever so settled on a pizza at Pizza Corner (Naomi had told me they make the best Pizza's on Phi Phi), I also had arranged to meet Naomi for drinks later, it'd be nice to finally have some company.
After lunch I spent the afternoon on the section of beach in front of Carpe Diem as I'd noticed the previous day that this stretch seemed cleaner and nicer than both the main sections of beach. Another afternoon of catching up on my journal and cooking myself on the beach ensued before it was time to head back to the guest house to shower and get some dinner before I met Naomi. I swung by Adventure Club to see if the DVD was ready and bumped into her there and told her where I was heading for dinner as where I was headed was on her back to the shop where we'd arranged to meet. All of the time I was on Phi Phi I was determined to check out was what was supposed to be the best sea food place on the island, Tonsai Seafood, and boy did it not disappoint.
I chose to have fried crab in a red curry and you get to see the staff prepare your food in the open air cooking area. It was a bit of a messy dish but proved to be one of my favourite meals I ate in Thailand and I can see how its earned its reputation.
I met Naomi after dinner back at Adventure Club and we headed to the beach to a place called Sunflower Bar to enjoy a few cocktails and have a good chat. They had quite a list of frozen Mojitos so decided we'd them a whirl, it didn't end up being too much of a late one as Naomi was working again early in the morning so about 10.30 we called it night and promised to stay in touch via email and Facebook as I was keen to hear more about her trip and how things at Adventure worked out.
My last day I spent hanging out by the pool at the guest house as it was the most hassle free solution that would allow me to get some sun bathing in without heading down to the beach with a load of stuff after checkout.
I was debating going back to Pum's for lunch but time was running away with me so decided to get lunch at the guest house bar by the pool, the Pad Thai unfortunately turned out to be a bit disappointing and I'd wished I'd made the effort to venture further afield. Soon enough it was time to head down to the pier, luckily the guest house provided a free trolley service which meant avoiding a sweaty 10 minute hike to the pier lugging my rucksack, I was hoping to pick up one last fruit shake on the way down to the pier but I was cutting it a little fine for the 2pm ferry so had to do without. The boat I took on the way back was much more comfortable than the one on the way there, further leading to more feelings of being cheated and we arrived at a completely different pier to the one I'd left from.
I managed to share a taxi ( I say taxi, more like a lift in someone's plush car) to the bus station with an American girl who was heading to the airport and as soon as I got there I managed to secure a ticket on a regulated VIP bus to the Southern Terminal in Bangkok and left Krabi within about an hour of arriving, the ticket was cheap, there was no changing minibuses, no waiting, no worries! So at 5pm off I went heading on the 12 hour journey back to Bangkok.