Koh Phi Phi: beauty with a health warning

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July 24th 2012
Published: July 27th 2012
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When we last left you we wondered in what state we would arrive at Krabi and with what possessions. It is with pleasure we can announce we arrived in tact at Surat Thani (yes we had to detour here, it turns out everyone boards the same bus to here then distributes to their onward place!) all our possessions were fine and all present, no evidence of tampering and we were even slightly rested, not well, but rested. We were asked where our destination was beyond Krabi as this is merely the jumping off point for surrounding islands and beach resorts, and houses a port and a dusty town. Upon replying Koh Phi Phi we were advised to buy the transfer as they would drop us out of town, yes of course how convenient, and arrange a tuk tuk to the port and the actual ferry ticket for the 90 minute crossing. It was 400 baht each which we felt but much but felt had no choice so we put up with it. We got a mini bus to Krabi where we were deposited at an out of town guesthouse for thirty minutes then collected and taken around other guesthouses in a large tuk tuk before being taken to the port. What was amusing was that most of the people we had collected around Krabi started out with us in Bangkok! Depending on who you booked with meant being dropped at a different place to be collected at a different time but by the SAME pick up! We boarded our ferry and sat out on deck watching the limestone peninsulas rise out of the horizon and caught some rays.

We arrived at Koh Phi Phi Don to give it it's official name, around 12pm some 18 hours after we set out to our tour shop in Bangkok. We were made to pay the customary new in town tax, which locals did not have to pay and set out to find a place to lay our weary heads and increasingly heavy backpacks. We looked at a few with pools but at 2500 baht a night we turned our noses up and found a decent one mid island with private room and shower tv and air con for 600! Happy days as we were advised we would struggle to find anything more than a dorm and fan for that amount. After a much needed shower we headed out to the small islands main sight, the viewpoint. Bit of a steep climb later we arrived at view point number one which looked out at both sides of the island which is separated by a maze of small alleys covered in palm trees that is home to dozens of guesthouses, some bungalow resorts and many stalls, shops and eateries. We continued to climb and reached number two aptly named Pee Pee viewpoint. It was the stunning postcard shot you expected from this famed beautiful isle. We got some stunning photographs and examined the well kept lush green gardens. We saw a sign advising there was a third viewpoint half an hour away so on we went in blistering heat but water in hand! We actually passed a hillside guesthouse and thanked ourselves for being in the main area and not having to bring packs up here! We got to the point and found it wasn't as beautiful! It only showed the west side not a panoramic view as Pee Pee. Heading back down we rested at Pee Pee and sat on the rocks taking in the view. We chatted to the owner of the cafe up here who witnessed the devastating tsunami in 2004 knowing he could do nothing. Now the island has completely changed most things were damaged beyond repair and everything re built with a full on evacuation path in place.

Feeling the need to cool down we headed to the gorgeous beach we had seen overhead. The island is sliced in two with the streets cutting between and from left to right it takes about five minutes, on the left side is the port where you arrive and a small beach either side of that, then the island cuts smaller and thinner and beyond rocks that seem like the end of the island lies Long Beach a beautiful more picturesque beach with turquoise waters and powerdy soft white sand largely untouched by the tourists. On the right hand side of the island is the pin up beach running the length of that side between two limestone rocks at either end. Here is the endless beach bars, deck chairs for hire and general rockin' island atmosphere. A few resort style hotels have infinity pools over looking the sea and most people sit drinking beer on sun loungers. We headed here unaware of this and witnessed a very small version of Ibiza! We did find the very far end quiet and tranquil most likely home to the few honeymooners who didn't realise this was party isle! We walked on the beach and this area was slightly pebbly but you didn't notice when in the water. It also felt safe at this end to leave your bag against the rocks as you were so close by.

Refreshed we headed to the sunflower bar at the same end which looked reasonably quiet as happy hour wasn't for a few hours! We had some food and ice cold coke and fanta and read an old Lonely Planet guide they had kept from before the tsunami. It made an interesting but sad read as none of these places still existed and on that note we went to the nearby memorial garden, which Ben noted is not as up kept or as big as it was in 2007 a big shame. We decided to come back to this area to watch our first beach sunset as the sky looked relatively clear. We came back around 6.30pm and took up seats on the edge of the islands rocks overlooking the swampy beach as the tide was out! It was captivating in its raw beauty and we left feeling we had just seen something special.

Dinner was next on the agenda and we went to one of the dozens of restaurants serving mainly western food, they know their crowd! But we ate rice dishes as these were better value and we didn't want pizza! We noticed the amount of stalls that popped up selling buckets. Basically a kids sand bucket with a small bottle of whatever in- whiskey, vodka or rum, with an energy drink plus a soda like coke or sprite. They fill it with ice mix it and you walk around drinking with a straw. They started at 120baht (£2.50 ish) and upwards to 600 baht for premium. There was also the constant stream of flyers thrust at you from every angle promising drink promotions and "the best night ever". We kindly refused. This is not what we came for. We came for the stunning view point we saw today and walking around a romantic island and in the day it did not disappoint. But as sunset finishes the tourists who want to get drunk crawl out from their hangover from the previous night and start again, this is maybe an over generalisation but from the conversations you pick up we aren't exaggerating!

We got back to our guesthouse which too was now selling buckets and called it a night and discussed what we wanted to do. A dilemma now ensued. When we planned this trip we had two destinations in mind, Railay where we were heading next was Ben's first love from last time and promised it was quiet relaxing and not built up. Lauren wanted to go to a full moon party. With that we had checked the dates and made a route around the continent based on being at that island for 4th August. It was the reason we had to fly to Thailand to get the visa extension and dictated how long we spent in each country. The plan as we sat there was two more nights here, three in Railay, head to Ko Samui from there for four days, then on to Ko Phangnan for five nights before getting a train over the Thai- Malaysia border to Penang an island city and then on to Kuala Lumpur for 11 August in time to fly to Singapore for 14 August. Now with that in mind, we had just come to what we had thought was a peaceful serene island albeit on the backpacker trail but we thought be laid back and peaceful, instead it was a party isle with music that started at four to get the crowds pumped up and didn't stop until dawn. We knew Samui to be a Magaluf of sorts and although pretty areas it was largely party party party so we wondered what we would be letting ourselves in for. If we missed that it would mean nine nights at Phangnan which was expensive and every night leading up to full moon was party central. Did we really want to go somewhere so centred on drinking for that long if at all, having witnessed this? How important was a full moon party? Sure it's what most people come and see Thailand and do, but we have fallen out of that generation, we were putting on slippers in front of the fire generation. There was also the downside of the minimum five night stay and the cheapest but decent we could find was costing $43 a night out of our $50 budget. So we wanted or rather needed a new plan. Two Ko's out what should we do? We also decided to leave Penang as it was fourth in line to a great city after Hong Kong, Singapore and KL and we were doing all three, we didn't need more having come from Bangkok a day ago! We had gained fourteen days in fourteen minutes. Ah slight problem. There was a lot of cost involved getting to the islands we had now saved so we could afford an air fare somewhere but where to, Lauren really wanted to go to Bocaray in Phillippines but that too has started to gain party status and wasn't that what we were avoiding? Bali again fell in this category plus the added cost for an indonesian visa. But what if we could change our flights and catapult out of SEA two weeks early thus gaining an extra week in Australia and New Zealand? The down side would be expense we would need to change four flights and at £30 each flight change that was looking expensive but we thought we would enquire nonetheless. Email sent we watched films on tv and drifted into a deep slumber.

We awoke early checked the weather and headed to catch a tour to Phi Phi's sister, Phi Phi Ley, home of "The Beach" film with Leonardo DiCaprio. We had enquired yesterday and found a good tour leaving 9am for four hours that had an hour at the beach and took in some over coves and bays plus snorkelling for a while which Lauren hadn't done before. Yeah you guessed why with her fear of most animals, getting in with fish, you should have seen her trying to do fishy feet in the UK it took Ben to have to pay to show her it was OK and even then she took about three minutes of her ten to put a toe in! This would be fun! We set off and got convenient steps up into the long boat and chatted to our ten other fellow travellers, mostly from the UK and a couple from china and a solo traveler from France. One of the UK girls now lived in Singapore so we had an interesting chat making an itinerary and asking her where she would go if she made two weeks magically appear. A conclusion was never really reached!

We arrived in a cove and instructed to get out and swim to the rocks where a vertical climbing frame of interwoven ropes hung from an entrance twenty feet higher. Wait this wasn't the beach surely? No this was how we were entering it, Leo got to jump we had to climb. Tentatively we got out, Lauren freaked at the fish and we swam to the edge, problems ensued of course as the tide was coming in, fast. We were hit at against the rocks underneath us as we grabbed the rope. We were told we could get through under the cove but come down the ropes. Ok we will think about that later! We got through but not without Lauren gaining more war scars! Luckily we had our camera as the boat driver had lent us a water proof bag, although not so lucky for the Chinese couple who as he pulled our camera out flung their iPhone into the water! They handled it well! We made our way and saw beauty but beauty came with a very busy tag. Very little of the beach, which is a lot smaller than portrayed in the film, was not littered with bodies. we managed to get some great photos with hardly any one in the background and enjoyed looking around, it was different to the film as they used graphics to make it look like the lagoon was enclosed but in fact there was in essence, a limestone rock missing so it opened into the Andaman Sea. Which meant there were bigger boats almost yacht like in the sea and in the way of pictures, but why weren't we dropped off this way! An hour quickly passed and we made our way back but had about twenty minutes panic as the waterproof bag had been misplaced (the last couple, the Chinese hadn't collected it and someone probably found it useful!) but with some Thai communication we managed to borrow a bag off another long tail boat and eventually started to descend the rope frame. Angled at probably 170 degrees! All you could see was the tide coming in creating waves crashing against the jutting rocks from where Lauren had three cuts. She was terrified climbing down and put all her trust in the ropes and a helper to ease her down, it wasn't just the climbing on slippy ropes but also people were climbing up which is off-putting and there was a swing as the waves came in and if you fell well you had a one way ticket to hitting your head on rocks. We managed with some dramas and a lot of gulping sea water and clamoured aboard our long tail and took some welcoming water! Gross salt water!

We saw some interesting coves from the comfort of the boat and enjoyed the splashing created from hitting the waves as we sailed along. Then came a bigger cove and snorkel masks were given out. Ben was eager to see the fish under water and Lauren was terrified. It took her a few minutes to get in but did as the guy threw pineapple out to the fish in another direction causing them to leave the immediate boat everywhere. Ben encouraged her after a few minutes to dip her head and eventually we got going! We saw some great fish, a lot were the same but the colours were bright and they ranged in size. We saw a big bright blue one that shimmered in the turquoise water and blistering heat. We even tried diving down but Lauren couldn't really handle how to not use the snorkel at this time so we gave up! After twenty minutes we were called back and headed to the next place. We went to Monkey beach although we didn't get off as it was more a cove, but aptly named as we saw many monkeys in the trees above playing and squabbling trying to push each other off into the water, one succeeded which was so much fun to watch and we knew they were putting on a show for us! Back to the port we exchanged details with the girl from Singapore that we will try and meet up with for a drink. We rested most of the afternoon as the sun had been very strong and knowing we had another full day. We only ventured out for some dinner around 6pm. We were given the usual flyers and stopped at an Indian, Ben having been very impressed with their fayre in Cambodia. We agreed and shared some korma and veg curry plus rice and naan bread. It tasted good and we headed back with full tummies.

Lauren awoke with the most incredible cramps around midnight and thus ensued a nightmare. Both of us were struck with food poisoning. And for those that think they have had it, you may not. Its like saying you have flu, and then getting actual flu and you know every other time was just a bad cold. This was horrendous. We couldn't walk barely breathe and writhed in agony all day. Ben managed to get out to get to the pharmacist so we didn't dehydrate which is the biggest worry as you can't keep anything down. We managed an electrolyte drink until it started all over again. Lauren got out around 9pm for half a baguette each to try and eat but this didn't help! The worst part was knowing we had to leave the next day as we had accommodation booked and paid for at Railay.

We barely made it through the night but actually woke up feeling a bit better. Enough to be able to leave. We had to check out at eleven. Lauren tried a fruit shake and Ben a croissant. All was ok and we even managed to walk to Long Beach which should have been yesterday's adventure. It wasn't easy and even though it was overcast we were sweating badly. Then more drama ensued as we had to walk through a jungle and has we clambered through trees a snake fell down to the ground. It was small, granted but a snake nonetheless and Lauren well and truly got in to a panic! This was starting to get beyond ridiculous! She made us hurry toward the main town, luckily it was on the way back from the beach. We were leaving on a 3.30pm ferry and it couldn't come quick enough as we started to feel bad again, Lauren much worse than Ben. We needed to find a toilet and no one would let us in without buying something so we grabbed a coke and Lauren was violently ill again. No fruit for her yet! The ferry ride was just as eventful Lauren being sick with motion sickness too as it was very windy and the weather was turning. The biggest problem came that as we were sold this ferry it said it went to Railay, which can only be reached by boat it has no roads. In fact it went to Ao Nang a province further down we then had to transfer by big tuk tuk to longboat and then sail thirty minutes. This meant we were a lot later arriving and the heavens well and truly opened! It was awful! Then there is the added bonus that tide was out so the boat couldn't get far enough in we had to climb out and walk through the sea for five minutes with heavy packs and the route was slippy due to others walking it and the rain had made a mudslide as this wasn't the nice beach! We eventually found our resort and gratefully accepted a welcome drink, thanking god we chose this place as our one stop of luxury having paid for it back in England. It couldn't have come at a much more needed time. Now where is the toilet?

Things of note:

It was nice to not have to worry about traffic other than bicycles as there is nothing else on the island

Everything is a lot more expensive as all imported. In Bangkok at 7Eleven, which they had a couple of, water was two for 10 baht here it was one for 18 baht. The t shirts were double in price and Lauren hadn't bought any yet thinking wouldn't be so bad!

Drinks, although plentiful were also more expensive in restaurants going from 50 baht for a small beer in bangkok to 80 baht.

One of the bars had a Muay Thai boxing ring which was cool

A place wanting staff had a sign for "free food, free drinks, free sex (optional)" this set the class that attended such bar.

The viewpoint was the best thing on the island and at 20baht entry fee each was well worth it, also you can watch the sunrise and set here as so high above sea level

We were ripped off on stamps overcharging us despite the fee being shown on the stamp!

Thai's have their own version of pancakes that are filled and then made into a square and sliced through and they are delicious, with either sweet or savoury filling

Nothing is free or cheap here from a toilet to deck chairs and want accommodation with a pool don't expect change from 2500baht even in low season.

There were a hell of a lot of cats and with litter of kittens, they didn't seem stray but also didn't seem to have a home very strange, but they were so cute!

Diving is a big thing here and going to the sister island, it is all about doing something different, but the prices ranged incredibly, our tour was 250baht each others for very similar went up to 1250 baht! Bet they got dropped at the actual beach though!

There are some secluded resorts here which looked great but with an island so small you don't need to be secluded you want to get in with everything!

Three weeks earlier we found out the place we had wanted to stay at but cost too much was where two Canadians died of food poisoning glad we got out of that one. This did put Lauren on a hell of a worry when we were sick though.

We were surprised by how many medical centres there were for a small island and they always had people in, mainly from accidents caused while drunk.

There were a lot of tattoo places and only busy at night after drinks were consumed!

There was a big Muslim community living here, that was weird too you expected it just to be workers and tourists but there was an area of locals living here some Thai Buddhists too but they had a huge mosque and not as many spirit houses!

What would we do differently:

Not have Indian! We would have wanted to stay slightly longer but only by a day we felt we still did everything but it was nice to relax, god knows how Lauren's brother spent three weeks here though it would get very same same and no different!

Thefts:0 not of our bag anyway!

Near misses:1 the food poisoning

Fallouts:0 it was quite hard to look after each other, we haven't ever had it where both ill at the same time but we did well and thanks to Fran Lauren's sister for ringing her mum to get advice!

Ps we managed to change flights in a round about way so stay tuned to see when and how we get where next!

Additional photos below
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17th December 2012

Love The Blog
Hey guys! Love the blog. Can I ask the name of the place you stayed at on Phi Phi, if you still recall? I'm heading over there in February and am looking for a reasonable price to stay for 3 nights. Thanks!
17th December 2012

Love The Blog
Hey guys! Love the blog. Can I ask the name of the place you stayed at on Phi Phi, if you still recall? I'm heading over there in February and am looking for a reasonable price to stay for 3 nights. Thanks!

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