Ko Phi Phi (Phi Phi Island)

Trip Start Jun 05, 2008
Trip End Jun 14, 2009

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The day after our bike ride around Phuket, the weather was absolutely glorious. Despite the weather forecast's prediction of heavy thunderstorms for the weekend, there was hardly a cloud in the sky. We were up bright and early and made the decision to go to Ko Phi Phi - the island made famous by the film The Beach. Ko Phi Phi was also one of the worst affected islands by the tsunami on December 26th 2004. Despite this, Ko Phi Phi, or Ko Phi Phi Don as it's also known, is quickly returning to pre-tsunami status as Thailand's Shangri-la: a hedonistic paradise where people head to frolic in the glassy green seas and to snap pictures of colourful long tail boats puttering between craggy slate cliffs.

We caught a bus to Phuket Town where we would catch the ferry across to Phi Phi. The boats run fairly regularly and we had timed it perfectly, the 11am boat was about to leave just as we got off the bus. We bought an open ticket that would take us across to Phi Phi and then on to Krabi whenever we wanted We opted to sit out on the front deck of the boat to catch some rays (Sun rays, not the big fish) and doze off for the hour and a half crossing. As we approached the island our peace and tranquility was spoiled by several other passengers clambering over us to get to the front of the boat. It wasn't difficult to see why. The two islands Phi Phi Don (big) and Phi Phi Leh (small) are made up spectacular hills and cliffs jutting out of the emerald, crystal clear water. It's difficult to put into words just how stunning these islands are, as the boat passed between these islands we just sat slack jawed in absolute awe of the sheer beauty of the ever changing scenery. We've both seen some beautiful parts of the world but this was beyond comparison. This was one decision we knew we'd never regret as soon as we clapped eyes on the place.

As soon as we got off the boat we were set upon by numerous touts trying to sell you accommodation, we practically had to fight our way through them. In many ways it would be great to take them up on their offers, at least they carry your bags for you, but we can't afford to pay for half of these places anyway. Nope, we were determined to find our own digs and haggle them down to suit our budget. For about half an hour or so, we did just that. We trudged through the narrow paved streets dodging bicycles and carts (there are no roads or motorised vehicles on the island), looking at various rooms and we were starting to think we'd have to settle for something really basic if it was going to fit in to our price-range. Eventually we succumbed to a rather stern but comical tout named Sallee. She promised us the best beach bungalows on the island for 500THB a night. We followed her back to our office where she presented us with a push bike each and told us to follow some guy to the bungalows, if we liked it they'd send our luggage down to us. The whole push bike scenario didn't faze me at all but Katie's face was an absolute picture. It was hysterical, she can't even remember the last time she'd ridden a bike and now she was expected to weave through heavy crowds on these narrow little streets. As she wobbled off in front of me, sticking her feet down every two seconds, a passer-by quipped "It's just like riding a bike!", we were in stitches. Anyway, the bamboo huts on the beach were crap, just a mattress on the floor and a toilet with no flush. The shower was a piece of Alkathene pipe attached to some kind of shower head. No thanks. I reckon Katie was praying that they'd be nicer because now all she had to look forward to was the bike ride back to the office.

We left Sallee with her brochures and set off on our own again. It was 4pm by the time we settled for a guest house run by a friendly looking German lady called Sacha, and we were pooped. It was absolutely scorching hot all day and we were both looking a bit pink and sweaty. We had a shower to freshen up and went for a little stroll along some of the colourful shops, restaurants and bars before strolling along the beautiful beaches. As we strolled through paradise, we noticed lots of posters advertising various Full Moon parties being held later that night. Full moon parties in Thailand are world famous and we were keen to go along and see what it's all about. I chose our destination very carefully, the one with the free BBQ at 8.30pm.

The full moon party we'd chosen to attend was at Hippie's beach bar. They'd set up massive speakers and elaborate laser lights and full moon themed decor and the music was pumping. The location was perfect, as we sipped our Chang beer the sea lapped gently at the sand just yards from our seats. The only thing missing was the people, apart from another couple sat opposite us, we were the only ones there. The most famous full moon parties are held in Ko Pha-Ngan and that's where the hardcore partiers all head but we expected a bit more of a crowd than this. We put it down to the fact it was only 8pm and the crowds would probably be out much later, when we're tucked up in bed. More food for me anyway. We persevered until 11pm when there was a very impressive fire show put on for us before we decided that enough was enough. Just as we were about to go home to bed slightly deflated we wandered over to the next beach bar. We'd only gone to the wrong party! There was a band belting out funky tunes, people dancing everywhere and more cocktails than you could shake a cocktail stick at. Typical! We stayed until the band finished their set, before going home to bed with big smiles on our faces.

The next couple of days were spent mainly in the shade. The sun continued to beat down on us relentlessly and although we came here to top up our tans and lay on the beach all day every day, a certain someone had neglected to apply sunscreen before sunning it up on the boat crossing the previous day. I won't mention her name because she's only just starting to fade from lobster pink and I don't want to embarrass her. When the sunburn had begun to fade a little we decided to take the adventurous climb up to the island's viewpoint. This was no mean feat, it was a very steep climb up hundreds of steps and it seemed to take forever, stopping every fifty yards or so out of sheer exhaustion from the sweltering heat. Once we arrived at the top, we paused to take in the view for a few minutes before I noticed a plank of wood nailed to a tree with the words 'Runtee Beach' painted on it with an arrow pointing to a rather dubious looking footpath leading down the other side of the mountain. My thoughts were simple,"We'll follow this path to a remote and deserted beach, spend a few hours there and get a taxi boat back". I wish I didn't listen to my thoughts sometimes. The dubious looking path soon had us in the middle of a bloody tropical jungle struggling for breath and grip as I repeatedly landed on my arse whilst getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. I don't think it's a very popular route on the island somehow, not popular with flip flop wearing numpties like us anyway.

Despite the ridiculous descent down the side of the mountain, we kept our spirits up and kept laughing. I kept assuring Katie "Of course there'll be taxi boats down there", whilst all the time I didn't have a bloody clue. How could I? All I knew for sure is that I did not fancy going back the way we'd come and it was already too late to change our minds. When we got to the bottom and emerged from Tarzan land all our efforts had been rewarded. There it was, our own private beach in paradise. Stunning, and just to give us that extra little spring in our step, there was a taxi boat moored in the water with the driver sleeping in a hammock nearby. Phew. We quickly dropped our bags, removed all excess clothing and made a bee-line for the crystal clear sea. We swam over coral and frolicked about in the water until suddenly, Katie decided to stand up as we were swimming back from shore. She let out a sharp cry and a couple of naughty words and I could tell she was in a lot pain, despite this we made it back to the beach and the sleeping boat driver soon came to our aid. It turned out she'd stepped on a black spiky sea urchin which had made four neat holes in her foot. A couple of locals rallied around us, poured some mystery liquid over her foot, beat her foot with a bottle full of sand and rubbed it with half a lime and in a couple of minutes she was walking on it again. Right as rain. We were extremely grateful for their help because we wouldn't have had a clue what to do. Some young boys were shimmying up palm trees to collect coconuts and they kindly presented us with one as we left. I took it even though neither of us like coconut milk, it was a nice gesture.

That day was plenty enough adventure for us, we spent the rest of the time lazing about watching sunsets and dogs 'playing' on the beach and just watching the world go by really. Ko Phi Phi is an absolute must for anyone traveling to Thailand. It's a bit more expensive than the rest of Thailand but that's to be expected. Electricity is from generators on the island and just about everything else has to be shipped there, so you pay a small premium over the odds for a few things. Accommodation can be as cheap or as expensive as you choose however, and if you ask me, whatever you choose, it's a bloody bargain. If there's anywhere that can even come close to being as perfect as this place, we promise not to tell you where it is and keep it all for ourselves.
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