From one extreme to another- Phi Phi and Lanta couldn’t be more opposite!

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Asia » Thailand » South-West Thailand » Ko Lanta
May 31st 2011
Published: June 4th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

We had gone back and forth about stopping at Phi Phi due to everything we had heard and read about the prices of accommodation, food, well…everything really. But then again, when would we be in Thailand again? Who knows. So, after some deliberating, we decided to check it out for a couple of nights. With low season starting, we were able to get ferry tickets to Phi Phi for 300 baht each, which left at 8 am. It was a bit strange wading out into the water to get to the long tail that would take us out about 200 feet to the deeper water and unload everyone onto the ferry. No matter, it all worked out. The ferry ride to Phi Phi was just as straight forward as all the others. After all of our research, we were expecting Phi Phi to be more of an upper class, swanky type of place with lots of high end resorts and middle age westerners sipping martinis on their balconies. The reality however, was almost the exact opposite! When we arrived at the dock, we first had to pay 20 baht to enter the island as a fee to help keep the island clean (we hope they use the money for that!). Then, we made our way down the dock and through all of the touts offering rooms and started down the road to look for a cheap place to stay, or at least the cheapest we could find. After only walking for about 15 minutes, we were both dripping with sweat and wishing we could lay in a tub of ice cubes for about 5 minutes. We stumbled on a place called Oasis where we found a room with a double bed and shared bath for only 300 baht per night. Score! That was a HELL of a lot cheaper than what we were thinking we’d be able to find.

Once we were settled, we made our way to the closest 7 eleven for a brief shot of ice cold air conditioning and a monster bottle of cold water. It was immediately apparent to us that we were actually some of the older people staying on the island. Hmm. Interesting. Since we were only planning on spending about 2 days here, we wanted to get up to the view point on the first day for the typical “tourist photo” of Phi Phi. The bad part was we were hiking the stairs straight up the mountain in the hottest part of the frickin’ day. Every time Nate thinks he couldn’t possibly sweat anymore than he already has, we get to another location and he’s proven wrong in a hurry. There was a little bitching and moaning on the way up, but eventually we made it to the top to soak up the incredible view we had been looking for. Not to mention there was a nice, strong breeze to help dry us off…at least until we climbed back down again. We have to say, even though we were dying in the hottest, most humid weather we’ve experienced yet, it really was worth it. At the top of the mountain, there was a little place selling cold drinks and postcards. It was pretty sad to see the devastation that Phi Phi endured during the tsunami as we saw a postcard of the island that had one picture of Phi Phi before the incident, and one after right next to it.

The other main thing we wanted to accomplish, was taking a half day tour to the famous Maya Bay just to check it out and see how beautiful it really was. Of course, we did our typical shopping around a little bit and found that most people had the same prices for the same tour. In the end, we ended up booking our trip through Oasis due to the fact that the German women, who had been there for 13 years, was completely honest with us about every question we had. Having accomplished our goals for the day, it was finally time to hit the beach and cool off! Back to the room we went to quickly change into a suit and grab our sarongs. As soon as we hit the beach, we were walking through groups of... late teens and college kids? We thought it was a bit strange and once again not at all what we had expected. We made our way to the water and waded in, taking notice of how much litter there actually was in the water. As the sun started to set, we started to see the bars on the beach setting up for the night and starting to crank up some dance music. That bad part for us was that travel to these islands is KILLING our budget, and we just don’t have the money to drink when we spend almost half a day’s budget on one ferry ride. Needless to say, we weren’t jumping into the party. All we would do the first night was have some dinner at Cosmo and go for a little walk through town. This really didn’t last too long though. We were pretty shocked that Phi Phi was almost like a full moon party, except it was every night instead of once a month. It was PACKED with a mostly younger crowd who were there for one reason only…to party!

Every bar had its’ own special on buckets, drinks, beers, etc. There was a bar called Reggae Bar that had a boxing ring inside. The people who decided to get into the ring against an opponent earned themselves a free bucket. On one hand, it would’ve been kind of funny to watch a couple of hammered, stupid westerner’s trying to beat the crap out of each other for a bit. On the other hand, this really wasn’t our scene. Plus, we had just been to a full moon party. When you work hard for years, sacrificing and saving so you can go on a trip like this, the last thing you want to do (at least for us) is blow a big chunk of it getting hammered. For every night we would go out and have some drinks at the bar, we literally take off an entire day from the trip. In our minds, it’s ok to have a couple drinks here and there, but we have to be careful at the same time….7 Eleven that is why we love you!! Let’s just say, most of the people on Phi Phi didn’t have the same mentality and most likely didn’t go through the same process to save the money to travel either. Then again, maybe we’re just getting old and we don’t fit into that college party all night age group anymore.

One of the saddest things we saw, however, was when we walked past a women who was holding a monkey wearing a t-shirt and a diaper. It was hard to watch as the poor thing was obviously more than scared of the banging music and people screaming all around. What the hell was she thinking? Then you hear the people walk past asking, “Can I take a picture with the monkey?” The response? “100 baht.” Oohhh, THAT’S what she’s doing. We should’ve know better. At one point, this ladies son (about 8 or 9 years old), was chasing after the monkey just to torment it and scare it half to death as it tried desperately to find a way out. Once he caught up with him, the kid smacked the monkey on the head. Not like we would do this, but Nate truly had half a mind to walk over and give the kid a smack to the side of the head and say, “ How do YOU like it you little shit?” Things like that just don’t sit well with us.

We had had enough people watching for the night and made our way to our room. It didn’t really matter that we weren’t at the party. It was so loud in our room from the outside noise that we pretty much felt like we were there. We’re pretty sure we’ll get some shit from people out there who read this and loved Phi Phi more than anything, but it just wasn’t for us. Don’t get us wrong, if you’re looking to get blasted, get tattoos when you’re drunk, and sleep with random people whenever you want, then you’ll most likely LOVE Phi Phi. If you’re on a tight budget and that’s not really you’re thing, it might not be your favorite place to be. In all honesty, there was a big part of us knew Phi Phi was once a beautiful, pristine island with incredible beaches and lots to offer. But now, it kind of scares us to think of what it will look like 10 years from now. Maybe other areas of Phi Phi are much different, but Phi Phi Don wasn’t at all what we thought it would be.

One thing we really enjoyed though was our half day trip we had booked. We booked the earliest one we could in hopes of beating most of the other tourists to the snorkeling spots because we figures a good majority of them would be fairly hung over. Once again, we were taking a long tail boat…and not just for a little while, but across the ocean with some pretty big waves, rocking our boat worse than the last time we were on one. You can probably guess by now that Nate was not enjoying this part of the trip so much. The idea of tipping over in between islands in the ocean is almost enough to make him put a life jacket on as soon as he gets in, especially when you look at the sides of the front of the boat and you see water leaking into the bottom with every wave that crashes against it. Our driver eventually got us to our first snorkeling spot, and neither of us were expecting too much after having just gone diving off Koh Tao. We were pleasantly surprised! It was amazing how many fish are still around with the amount of boats and tourists that visit this area on a daily basis. We saw everything from clown fish and puffer fish, to blue furry looking starfish, a sea snake, banner fish, trigger fish, parrot fish, you name it. It wasn’t quite as good as diving, but it was the best snorkeling we’ve ever experienced. The bay we were in was absolutely incredible. The water looked fake with its green and bright blue colors, so transparent that you could see a good 15 feet down to the floor where the coral was. The only part we didn’t enjoy was watching every single long tail boat and speed boat anchor right into the coral. It was another area that we just thought to ourselves, “ I wonder what’ll be left in 10-15 years.” Hopefully we’ll be wrong and everything will still be there, but that’s really just wishful thinking.

After hitting a couple of snorkeling spots and taking a quick ride past Viking Cave, we were on our way to Maya Bay. We were pretty optimistic after the snorkeling we had just seen, but we also knew that realistically there would probably be a lot of people there as well. Our driver pulled us into a bay and stopped about 30 feet short of a flight of wooden stairs leading up the hill side. “Ok. You walk from here. Only 5 minute.” Ok then, guess we’re swimming from here. We jumped in and made our way over to the rocks by the stairs. These proved to be a bit challenging. It was quite tricky to keep your footing on slippery rock with the tide sweeping in and out around your legs. Nate must have fallen at least 10 times before making it to the stairs. Jessie on the other hand, made it look a lot easier than he did. We hiked our way up the stairs and through the path leading to the other side of the island where Maya Bay was at. Even with the mass amount of people on tours with speed boats and long tails, the scenery was pretty amazing. How could we not be impressed with limestone cliffs surrounding white sand and crystal clear aqua colored water? We even managed to sneak in some pictures without other people in them when we took a walk off to the far side of the beach. Not bad! We only had about an hour to enjoy the bay, but it was enough time. With so many people there, it’s not really a place you need to spend more time than that. Nevertheless, it’s totally worth checking out! Jessie had to laugh as Nate still white knuckled it back to Phi Phi…not sure if that will change or not on this trip. We’ll see. The only other stop we made was to monkey island, which was home to about 20 or so macaques. Even though you’re not supposed to feed them, of course many people were, including the boat drivers. One of them actually gave a monkey a liter bottle of sprite which the monkey made quick work of, pounding down like without taking a break like it was the best thing he’d ever had. Obviously he’s had practice.

Since we hadn’t eaten much for the day, we stopped at 7 eleven yet again to grab a little bite to eat. We’ve discovered a cheap meal that actually fills us up for a while, and both of us eat for about a dollar! It’s called instant noodles in a cup. Yes, we know. That sounds a bit pathetic. But it’s actually really good, other than the fact that it kinda sucks eating hot soup with you’re already dripping from the heat. Not to mention it is some of the spiciest soup either of us has ever eaten…it even has Jessie dripping. It definitely reminds us of Vietnam sometimes.

We were hoping to go swimming for a bit on our last day, but when we got to the beach, something was different about the water as we walked in a little bit. The water was really warm and there was a brown patch of water along the entire beach. The whiffs of sewage every now and again proved it could only be one thing, drainage time from the resorts. Yeah, we’ll pass on swimming in that. Overall, we were glad we stopped in Phi Phi but were definitely ready to leave after 2 days. We found the cheapest tickets we could to get to Koh Lanta, 300 baht a piece, and were ready to head out the next day.

Koh Lanta
We had read and heard from various people that Koh Lanta was almost the opposite of what Phi Phi is, in more ways than one. Accommodation was cheaper, food was cheaper, and there really wasn’t much of a party scene, especially in low season. Other than spending a few days chillin’ out on Koh Pha Ngan, we really haven’t been taking enough time to just relax and not be doing something every single day we’re on the road. This is something we really want to get a little better at anyways, but Koh Lanta would be the perfect place to relax for a while. We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to stay exactly, but that wouldn’t matter. On the ferry, we got to talking to one of the touts offering us a room at the guesthouse he was working for. He said he had a fan room with a double bed and private bath, with TV, a fridge, and 2 pools for only 300 baht a night. How could we not take a look at that, even if it was too good to be true? The one good thing about taking one of these guys up on their offer is at least you get a free taxi ride out of it no matter what you decide. We didn’t really have anything to lose, so off we went to see what we were in store for.

When we arrived and Lanta New Beach Resort, we were pretty impressed with the pool in the main common area right off the bat. That would probably be really nice since the beaches on this part of the island are pretty much not swimmable. Nate went to check out the room he had told us about, and was pretty happy with what we were getting for the price. The only problem was that when he wrote the price down on the form he filled out, the lady told him it was 350 instead of 300. It was the old bait and switch routine and we knew it all too well. We obviously didn’t bother getting upset, we just told them that we were looking for a 300 baht room and we would keep looking. They brought the price down to what we were originally quoted pretty quickly and we ended up taking a room a little further away from the pool that we actually a little bigger than the one we were shown. That was just fine with us. The first thing we did was go for a walk and rent a motorbike since Koh Lanta is such a big island. There’s no way you’re walking from where we were staying to the other end of the island! It’s funny how it has become almost a routine with us an many places to automatically rent a motorbike and do some exploring. Nate is DEFINITELY getting a bike when this trip is over! We had to laugh when we got gas at one point. As we pulled up and opened the tank, we asked for 50 baht worth of fuel (from a regular gas pump). The guy tried telling us that he could only sell a minimum of 100 baht. We looked at him a bit confused and at the same time like, “Dude are you kidding me? Do we really look that stupid?” Apparently this must actually work with some people. I guess you can’t blame him for trying.

We honestly didn’t do too many exciting things on Koh Lanta. This was our time to lay around at the pool, try to catch up on some blogs, recharge our batteries and just relax. With us being right at budget now because of the cost of getting from one island to the next, and of course our Open Water and the dare we say the words “scuba video”, we ended up grabbing some Danishes from 7 eleven for breakfast, instant noodle soup for lunch with a fresh cut, incredibly sweet pineapple, and actually getting some real food for dinner. There was a little restaurant right down our dirt road called Nemoland that was run by the sweetest Thai lady, and she served up some damn good massaman curry! We would actually eat her 3 nights in a row because we liked it so much and the price was right. We couldn’t get over how many places were closed down because of low season. From one end of the island to the other, there were tons of places that didn’t even open their doors for this time of year. The place we stayed at however, seemed to be one of the busier places on the island. I guess it pays to have someone recruiting guests from on the ferry every day for you. What we had heard was completely true though. Koh Lanta was NOT the party island, and if you’re looking for that, then you don’t want to come here. It was exactly what we needed! The fact that we had a nice cool pool to jump in during the day when we were roasting our asses off obviously didn’t hurt at all either!

Well, we don’t really have any funny stories for you from the past few days, but there was one thing we didn’t like so much about our room the last couple days. It seems we were given the room with the toilet that doesn’t like to work very well, because our room was starting to smell like someone had taken a shit on the floor and threw it against the walls. No joke! It just wasn’t pleasant in any way.

We have to say, our last night here was a little bitter sweet. We’re really pumped to get to Malaysia and experience some different culture, food, and new adventures. At the same time, we can’t help but be a little sad to be leaving Thailand. Even though the islands were more expensive than we thought they’d be, this country had been good to us and many, many ways. Good bye Thailand. We’ll miss you…and your AMZAING food…

Traveler Tips
Getting There
Phi Phi- If you’re heading to Phi Phi in low season from Railay, you can find ferry tickets for 300 baht at the internet “café” just down the road from Yaya’s Resort. Everyone else was still selling them for 350.
Koh Lanta- There weren’t too many people on our ferry with it being low season, and this is why only one company runs a ferry this time a year and it’s at 11:30 am. If you’re leaving Phi Phi, you can find tickets for 300 baht even though you’ll see prices as high as 400.

Phi Phi- If you’re looking for a cheap but clean place to stay, Oasis was just fine for us. The German lady running it was very nice and incredibly honest. She was a great source of information. Our double bed in a big room with a shared bath was only 300 baht per night. Again, prices in high season will be considerably higher, but there were a few other places where we could’ve gotten our own bathroom included for 400 baht.
Koh Lanta- Lanta New Beach was a good place to stay at. The food and drinks are a bit expensive, but if you have a motorbike there’s a 7 eleven right down the road to grab drinks and a minimart right on the corner in walking distance to get cheap water and snacks if you like. Not one person we talked to was paying the same price for a room, but we were able to snag a huge room with a double bed and a single bed, TV with cable, a fridge, a private bathroom and a balcony for 300 baht a night…not to mention 2 pools for use.

Phi Phi- The best bang for the buck we found was at Papaya. We got a HUGE serving of curry and 2 rices for 120 baht! We haven’t been this full in months and the flavor was great! Cosmo had pretty good food as well although it was a bit more expensive. The other good thing about Cosmo is that there’s a lot of turnover because it’s packed all the time.
Koh Lanta- We weren’t too adventurous here, but found a nice little place right on the dirt road as you turn off the main road to get to Lanta New Beach Resort. The lady running Nemoland cooks your food completely fresh, including picking fresh basil from right outside of her house. We paid 150 baht for 3 servings of rice and 2 masaman vegetable curries.

Phi Phi- The only transportation you need on Phi Phi is if you plan on visiting another island. The half day tours to Maya Bay are 250 baht per person. Full day tours were 400 but you’ll be on a huge boat completely PACKED with other tourists. If you try to hire your own long tail, they’ll be asking over 1,000 baht for the ride there and back.
Koh Lanta- Almost everywhere you look you can rent a motorbike on Koh Lanta. An automatic will set you back 200 baht per day. If you can find a manual (we only found one after checking 4 places), you’re looking at 150 baht for the day. Unless you’re planning on staying at your guesthouse the entire time, you’re going to need one.

Additional photos below
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5th June 2011

Oh dear!
Seems like Phi Phi hasn't improved at all. Our first, last and only visit to Phi Phi was back in 2007 and we found the same things as you but it seems like it has got much, much worse since then. We are sure it once had a charm to it but from all reports now as you say it's just like a full moon party every night. Most of your criticisms in this blog, we have in ours and it's just going to keep getting worse we think! We will never go back to Phi Phi, but Lanta was an amazing island - we spent Christmas there and will definitely go back. Enjoy Malaysia!
5th June 2011

Looks Fab
Good blogging;-) Doesnt matter you didnt get to party - you have been there and experienced it on your own and it is more important ;-)Love the photos of Phi Phi cheers
5th June 2011

That's very true! Glad you feel the same way :)
5th June 2011

Hi Donna and Neil
Yeah, we totally agree with you! It's totally going to get worse yet. Definitely not our favorite place
5th June 2011
how amazing is this?

Gorgeous photo!
6th June 2011

Coach Hire Gold Coast
Nice blogging here mention every thing clearly. Thanks for sharing with us.

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