Two Phis in a Pod

Trip Start Nov 01, 2011
Trip End Apr 12, 2013

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The next destination on our list was a biggie, the much celebrated island of Koh Phi Phi, and a short boat ride away from peaceful Koh Lanta.

Koh Phi Phi is actually two islands, a place called Phi Phi Don where the population is situated, and Phi Phi Leh, an uninhabited island of breathtaking beauty.

To Phi Phi Don then! It's hard to imagine a more picturesque place, a slim, symmetrical convex of island, densely populated in the middle, but mirrored on both sides with outstanding beaches, the skyline dominated by that most Asian of pinnacles; limestone mountains mottled with lush greenery and scarred by gashes and overhangs in the rock. A real jaw-dropper to be sure.

Unfortunately the Lonely Planet effect was abundant here, we had arrived somewhere now firmly established on both the backpacker’s route, and the family and package holiday map as well. Couple this with the fact we were visiting just after New Year, and the island was positively stuffed with people. We had a real scramble to find accommodation, eventually finding some nice secluded bungalows away from the main stretch. Painfully we had to pay almost double our normal price because we had now jumped right into high season for a few weeks.

Nonetheless, we were here to enjoy ourselves, and that we did. On our first day we were a little taken aback I must admit. The town was a swarming hive of activity, tiny winding streets buzzing with travellers on almighty benders day and night, lots of western style pubs, chaotic beaches packed with people, hasslers in the street trying to sell us tours, accommodation, crafts and everything in between, and a general air of tourism out of control.

However, after scratching beneath the surface a little it was easy to discover Phi Phi’s true nature, and it didn’t take us long to fall in love with the place.

We spent a total of three nights on the island, and by far our most enjoyable day was doing a boat trip to Phi Phi Leh, visiting numerous bays and lagoons, surrounded by impossibly clear azure waters and spectacular scenery all day. We had the chance to go kayaking and snorkelling, the highlight of which was spending a long time watching a turtle under the surface, and seeing him come up for air at one point. We went to a few other places too. There was an area called Viking Cave, where a few people harvest the nests of swifts to make highly lucrative bird’s nest soup. We were told that the guys pay the Thai government a staggering 2m a year just to have exclusive farming rights in the cave, which shows how much money is to be made from the practice.

We also visited Maya Bay, which was the location for filming the Beach. Although this was heavily crowded with tourists, our waterproof camera came into its own once again, and we were able to wade into the sea to take some relatively peaceful photos ourselves. We saw yet another freakishly good sunset out at sea, and headed back inland. Fantastic.

That night we also succumbed to our heaviest drinking session since New Year. This was mainly due to the fact we were saying our final goodbye to Lou, our travelling companion who had been with us on and off since Laos. We had seen and done a hell of a lot of memorable things with her, so it was only fitting that we went out in style on our final night together.

We began the night in an elegant bar by the ocean, watching an excellent fire show, and taking advantage of the buy one get one free bucket offer. Never a good start. Soon after, easily the most epic thunderstorm I have ever seen erupted from above. The torrential rain came thrashing down, Noah’s Ark style, instantly transforming the streets into flooded wetlands. All the while explosive thunderclaps detonated above, and the whole sky was eliminated every few seconds with dizzyingly bright lightning sheets. Once or twice we even saw brutal lightning forks rip through the sky. It’s safe to say we were now prisoners in the bar until the storm was over, utterly captivated by the power and regularity of the booming thunder. What else was there to do then, than continue bucketing towards the steamboat?! And so it was, that instead of our planned pub crawl, we consumed far too many buckets of whisky over a few hours, and careered through the insanely wet streets to attempt to find another pub nearby. My night ended in far from glamorous fashion. At some point I spotted a Thai guy playing Fifa, and had to get involved. An hour and a half later, around 5am, I was still playing, and Abi angrily had left me to my own devices and gone home. I proceeded to get completely lost trying to find our bungalow, and made an absolute tit of myself walking round and round the island, once even tripping and smacking my head into a tree in front of a huge crowd of people, who laughed at me hysterically. I eventually bumped into Abi impatiently waiting for me to make it home, and thankfully she escorted me through the haze of whisky back to our bungalow.

Definitely not my finest night of the trip. And boy did I pay for it dearly the next day, the mother of all hangovers tortured me from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep. Hellish.

That was our most eventful 24 hours on Phi Phi certainly, the rest of the time we devoted to searching out more tranquil areas of beach and soaking up the blistering sun. On our last afternoon we kayaked out to see, and found a deserted little beach to spend a while in, a perfect getaway from the hectic buzz of the main town.

And that was that, once we got past the initial shock of how busy the island was, it really became a place dear to us both. Sadly, it was also the last Thai island we were to visit, and it was with heavy hearts that we tore ourselves away.

Next on the agenda, our last stop in Thailand; the national park of Khao Sok. We had high hopes for this one, and I’ll let you know how we got on in my next edition of spouting rubbish.
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