Another two beautiful islands... from peaceful Koh Lanta to slightly crazy Koh Phi Phi...

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Asia » Thailand » South-West Thailand » Ko Phi Phi Don
June 22nd 2013
Published: August 15th 2013
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beautiful sunset on Koh Lantabeautiful sunset on Koh Lantabeautiful sunset on Koh Lanta

with Koh Phi Phi in the distance...
Quiet Koh Lanta… veeeery quiet indeed!

Our journey to Koh Lanta was quite uneventful but we surely managed to test all sorts of means of transport on the way! First a pick-up truck took us to the pier where we got our boat stickers, then the boat to Suratthani, then a bus to some very odd spot (in the middle of nowhere to be exact) in Krabi, where everybody was bombarded with accommodation offers for Krabi and Koh Lanta (unsuccessful offers unfortunately), then a car to some tourist office in Krabi, where they gave us another sticker and tried to convince us to book accommodation through them for Koh Lanta (this time successfully), then a van all the way to Koh Lanta (via a ferry to get to the island of course). It took us almost two hours to leave Krabi as we were circling around trying to find a few girls who were supposed to come along with us. Anyway… not that I really cared as I was in dreamland almost the moment we got in the van already. 😉 Ferry crossing was quite interesting though – well maybe not the ferry itself but the fact that the driver from our van told everyone to get out and get the tickets and then disappeared – with our backpacks inside! Then we were just rushed onto the ferry by the ferry workers but still saw no van anywhere. A couple of vans got on the ferry, but none of them was ours, and suddenly there was no more space and we were off. There was another ferry loading up as soon as we left, still it would take a while before it would arrive at the other shore. We thought, ‘just great!’ But then the moment we were reaching the shore our driver appeared out of nowhere on the ferry and told us to get in the van. He? How could we miss that? It looked like he was one of the first ones to get on board after all. Sneaky! Or maybe we were totally blind? Guess a bit of both. 😉 Then we drove through Koh Lanta until we reached our bungalow resort. First thing that struck me about the island was how many Muslim women were around here (we actually passed a couple of mosques along the way as well). I didn’t remember reading anywhere that this part was Muslim (or maybe just missed that). It sure made me look around a bit more – very interesting seeing so many Muslims around considering that actually a very small percentage of the population is Muslim! It was late afternoon already when we arrived at our bungalow, so only had a quick glimpse at the beach (amazing! and so different to previous beaches) and once we saw some mighty clouds coming our way we knew we wouldn’t be going anywhere that evening. Very quick plan for the evening – some lovely Thai food and a couple of beers while watching the rain would do just perfectly! When we asked the waitress what she recommended for food she said that she didn’t like Thai food... Hmmm… Well, that was honest at least and quite funny actually as obviously she wasn’t promoting the place too well, haha! We definitely didn’t expect answer like that. It turned out she was from Burma – aaaah! Now it made sense, she also said that she didn’t like coconut and in general the food was too spicy. Well, we did like it though! Loved it actually! So eventually I just went with the usual red curry. It just never disappoints! It turned out that one of the guys from the resort was celebrating his birthday that day, so we toasted with him and his friends a couple of times and were offered some local brandy to try as well. Even though the brandy was absolutely horrible (sorry! but definitely not my kind of booze), still it was a very nice gesture and on top of that birthday boy offered to show us next day what places we should visit while here. Another example of amazing Thai hospitality! I was loving this country more and more with each day passing by…

Next day we woke up to a beautiful blue sky. It didn’t last too long though as once we were having breakfast we could see some storm clouds over Phi Phi already. And shortly after it was raining again... Still we didn’t really mind. We just sat at the restaurant watching the beach and the sea and entertaining one of the inhabitants of the resort – cute, cuddly cat. Seriously so far I haven’t seen any other cat that would look so much for attention as this one did. Think we had as much fun playing with him as he did actually. 😉 Then we spotted a huge hermit crab so decided to check him out from a closer perspective. He seemed like he wanted to get away from us as soon as possible though so after a couple of pictures we left the poor creature alone. In the afternoon it seemed to have cleared a bit, so we decided to rent a scooter and check out the town. We asked for some helmets, but were basically laughed at by our Burmese friend, she said she never used one and we shouldn’t bother. It looked like they didn’t even have any so there was nothing we could do really but drive off without wearing any. The roads were very empty though, so guess we wouldn’t need to worry, just be extra careful on the road just in case. We drove to the northern part of the island, which was meant to be the lively part. Well… Koh Lanta is definitely dead in rain season as many restaurants and resorts on the way were simply closed. Still we found a lovely restaurant with super friendly people and some amazing fresh seafood displayed in front of the place. I don’t remember when was the last time I had fresh seafood like that, hmmm… We ordered some fish, a couple of gigantic prawns and a crab. An amazing feast! Probably one of the most expensive meals we would have in Asia, still totally worth it! As the sun was setting, mosquitos started attacking me from all sides and on top of that some heavy clouds were coming in our direction – it was time to head back to our bungalow! Quickly!!! We left the restaurant a bit too late though as the moment we jumped on the bike we felt first raindrops on our skin. We thought we would continue until it started lashing. Well… let me just say we didn’t go too far… There was a gas station on the way so decided to wait for the rain to pass right there. Lightning and thunders all around and we chose a gas station as a hiding spot! Hmmm… We did see a couple of lamp posts sparkling a bit and I have to say I really didn’t like the look of it… Storms are not my thing for sure! Still after a while (and a big box of ice cream from 7/11 at the station) it stopped raining heavily and it looked like the storm was slowly going away. Still I guess there was no guarantee, so we just bought two flashy ponchos (blue and pink, that’s right!) and headed to our resort. The moment we got to our place the skies seemed to have cleared and we could see beautiful full moon over us. Amazing sight! We wondered how the full moon party was going on Koh Phangan – sure nobody even noticed it was raining! 😉

Since we rented the bike in the late afternoon, we basically had it for almost full day next day. Weather picked up as well, so right after breakfast we jumped on the bike and headed to the south of the island. I really wondered how Koh Lanta must look like during high season... I doubt it ever gets very busy or as busy as other islands, still at this time it was really empty. We passed barely anyone on the way and I have to say I really loved it! As we were driving south it felt as if we had the whole road to ourselves. Really great feeling! At some point tsunami evacuation route signs started appearing along the road. It only reminded me of tsunami of 2004. I started wondering how this place looked like at that time… Did it really suffer? It’s hard to imagine a huge wave coming that way looking at the peaceful sea now. As we drove by the coast there were a couple of destroyed huts on the way – were they still leftovers from that time, I wondered? Or was it something more recent? As I can imagine they do get some pretty bad storms in monsoon season here and seeing how close some of the huts were to the sea, well… I just hope that people have learnt how to deal with these kinds of situations… As we were getting closer to the southern end of the island, the road started getting a bit steeper. It surely was nice to drive through the hilly area as some beautiful sea views appeared right in front of our eyes straight away. I remembered reading somewhere that the natural park at the southern point was worth a visit. Well… Maybe it was but the entrance was too expensive so we just didn’t bother (you would think they would have a different price during off season to attract some people to come there, guess not though!). We decided to head to the other side of the island to check it out instead. We drove to old Lanta town with its very long pier visible from miles away. We went there first and following the locals we just drove through it all the way to the end. Quick glimpse at the sea and the surroundings and it was time to look for some place to sit and have a drink. Old Lanta town sure does look pretty charming. It did look as if it was abandoned as well though as everything seemed to be closed in town. We found a restaurant that was open, rested a bit (from the heat and the sun as didn’t exactly get too tired sitting on the bike) and we had to get back as it was time to give back the bike. But first we had to arrange a boat to Koh Phi Phi for the next day. It turned out to be more difficult than we expected. We went to three different places where they told us there were no boats next day. Whaaat? At one of the places I think they tried to say that the boat was cancelled due to storm. It was hard to imagine though looking at perfectly blue skies… Anyway… We were about to give up on Koh Phi Phi, but decided to check at our resort as well and good thing we did as our Burmese friend said ‘no problem!’ and few minutes later she said we were booked for the next morning. Not sure what the travel agents were talking about saying there were no boats then? Anyway… All sorted in the end!

Slightly less quiet Koh Phi Phi…

So there was a boat to Koh Phi Phi in the morning after all, a boat with a few passengers but quite a few cockroaches on board as well! Still the trip was short, so it didn’t matter that much. I was just trying to keep my feet off the ground just in case. I left my flip-flops on the ground though and once I was putting them back on, I almost squashed a big cockroach with my bare foot… Let me just say my reflex didn’t disappoint me this time as I jumped onto the seat in a second. 😉 As we were approaching Koh Phi Phi I couldn’t believe how different this island looked from the previous ones! Same, same but different, right? Well… There’s definitely something about that! There were many longtail boats on the shore and even more boats floating around the port. I loved what I was seeing, that’s for sure! As soon as we got off the boat we were approached by a guy offering accommodation. Well… It certainly wouldn’t cost us anything to check out the place. The price sounded reasonable, the place was located away from all the bars, yep! why not? Besides it was really hot that day so walking around with the backpack and searching for the best offer wasn’t exactly something I was looking forward to be doing. Sitting in the room wasn’t an option either as even though the fan was on full speed, it didn’t seem to change the temperature in the room at all. We spent a part of the day on the beach and the other part just wandering around and checking out what Koh Phi Phi had to offer. There was certainly much younger crowd on this island, much younger! And you couldn’t help but notice that in general the one thing that was selling here the most were the buckets of booze. You could buy them everywhere! Different sizes as well! The big ones with 750ml bottles of strong booze inside looked pretty lethal actually… I wondered if anyone was going for the big ones at all? Just can’t imagine having a drink consisting of the whole bottle of spirit! Not for me, thanks!

We booked a boat trip for the next day – guess it would be a shame being on Koh Phi Phi and not seeing the famous ‘Di Caprio beach’ right? We met our group, got a packed breakfast each (bread with egg, mayo and lots of onion! Just perfect to mingle with new people! Haha!) and were ready to hit the road (or the waves in this case I should say?). For some strange reason I thought that we would be packed on some kind of big boat, so was quite positively surprised when it turned out that a longtail boat was waiting for us at the pier. Or close to the pier actually… It was a bit awkward getting on the boat as we had to get in the water, make it to the boat through some very slippery but rough rocks and then climb the tiny ladder. Our guide/boat driver didn’t seem to be too impressed with how much time it was taking us to get on board and was rushing everyone and pulling faces at the same time. I guess he needed a bit of time to pull his friendly face on… The first stop on our schedule was Monkey Beach. Let me just say that our guide and communication skills never really crossed the same path. We didn’t even know whether we could get off the boat or whether it was just a quick stop for a few pictures as our guide forgot to mention anything… Eventually some people just decided to get off the boat anyway but two minutes after the time was up and they were being rushed again to get back on the boat. Monkey Beach wasn’t really anything special at all, actually I felt very sorry for the poor monkeys living there as the beach was filthy. It looked like the tourists were feeding them with all sorts of stuff. One guy from our boat gave a juice in a plastic cup to one of the monkeys and seeing that she knew how to open it, well… I guess it wasn’t the first one! Next we passed by some big cave on Koh Phi Phi Leh and soon after it was time to get in the water as we were stopping for some snorkelling. This time I remembered to put sunscreen on my whole body (yep! even on my butt!). 😉 We stopped at an amazing spot actually! The water was turquoise and crystal clear with lots of fish around. Just beautiful! We swam a bit further away from our group as otherwise we would only be admiring other people’s legs underwater. There was a small beach there and after spending some time in the shallow water looking at fish and admiring the surroundings, we thought we might actually get on the shore and check out the beach but Grumpy was calling everyone on board again so we had to get back. A shame! Still we were lucky enough to enjoy this little gorgeous spot on our own for a few moments at least. Really beautiful place! Next stop: Maya beach! I guess we would soon find out what the big hassle was all about. It looked like we would be using a back entrance to get there though as suddenly we stopped next to some rocks, were told to jump in the water and climb the little wooden ladder nearby. The waves were crashing on the rocks and the ladder, you surely wouldn’t like to be caught up in one of these waves as you could just end up being sucked under the rock… Once everyone was away from the boat our guide started shouting the instructions on how to approach the ladder – a little too late I guess? I have to say I was getting a bit stressed out with the whole ladder thing. I might be a decent swimmer but waves just really frighten me, such a powerful and unpredictable force! There were quite a few ropes around that you could hang on to as well, still it looked pretty scary! Anyway… I tried to squeeze in between the waves and it did seem to be doing the job but slipped a bit on the ladder and it took a while to climb up afterwards (constantly being rushed by some ‘helpers’ shouting, ‘Miss, miss hurry, hurry!’ wasn’t really encouraging either!), but managed to get to the top finally. One bruise on the leg, not too bad at all! 😉 Maya Beach here we come! Suddenly it started becoming a bit crowded around… Where did all these people with huge cameras and all dry clothes come from? They surely didn’t take the same entrance as we did! We walked through a little path in between some trees and then the mystery was solved… Oh my God!!! What on earth was going on here??? There were hundreds of people on the beach and there was no space to get in the water at all as tens of speedboats were lined all along the shore… Well… I guess that’s what happens when Di Caprio puts his foot somewhere… 😉 It surely was a beautiful spot once… Actually it still is! The colour of the water was just incredible and the bay itself is very picturesque as well, still it’s hard to see all that past the loud roar of tens of boats and hundreds of people running and screaming around, pushing each other by and photo bombing each other… Maybe the mornings are more quiet? Possibly… Definitely we didn’t time it well to come here… Ah well… At least we saw it! As beautiful as the beach is though I think it’s a bit overrated as you can find this kind of spots (if not more beautiful) all around the Thai coast. Again we had to go through the ladder to get to our boat. Wait for the wave to pass, jump in as far from the ladder as possible and swim quickly away… Got it! Piece of cake! Really??? With lots of people shouting around ‘Now, now, now!’ it’s kind of difficult to decide which is the right moment, still I jumped in, almost lost my bikini top underwater (oops!) but made it to the boat safely… And so did everybody else, even Grumpy with his yellow heart-shaped glasses slightly twisted on his face. 😉 Passing by some cliff divers and more longtail boats we slowly made our way back to Koh Phi Phi Don. I have to say I really enjoyed this trip and having Grumpy on board created a few additional laughs for sure!

It was pretty hot that afternoon so after walking around a bit we thought it was best to find some shaded place and have something cold to drink. First we had to make our way to the main beach though as somehow we made it to a place with no restaurants around. We could go back through the same path we came in, but it looked like there was a shortcut right in front of us – we would have to get a bit wet though or try to make it through the round cement blocks aligned on the shore… Hmmm… It looked pretty easy but turned out to be quite a bit more technical than we originally thought… Waves were crashing on the cement blocks so walking in the water was off the list unless we wanted to be smashed against the blocks and land with all our stuff, including my precious camera 😊 in water. So we just made our way through the blocks, one step at a time, being careful not to fall into water… As we soon found out, it would actually take us less time to go around rather than taking this shortcut. Ah well… That’s what usually happens though, doesn’t it? We found a nice place with a shaded table where I got myself some fresh coconut juice (absolutely addictive! I could have one after another!) and after chilling in the shade for a while I thought it would be a good idea to get some sun. Still since I can last the whole 10 minutes lying flat on the towel, it was time to walk around ‘the town’ again. As it was coming closer to sunset, more and more people started crawling out from their hotels to the streets. Even more stands with booze buckets started appearing all around as well. And all these young crowds everywhere! Where were these people hiding the whole day? Probably recovering from the night before… Once it got dark, it got even wilder on the streets… Couple of drinking games here and there, a chance to fight a Thai boxer in hopes to get some free booze, loud music all around and it looked like the beach seemed to have transformed to a party place. Fire shows and laser shows everywhere! We thought for a moment of joining this madness for a while and maybe even trying one of the buckets, but after having a couple of beers and spending the whole day in the sun we were pretty tired and decided to call it a night in the end. After all in two days we were meeting my friend (who I haven’t seen for 7 years) in Phuket so it was best to save some energy (and liver) until then… Still even though Phi Phi transformed into a totally different place during the evenings, I have to say I really liked this island! Probably the loud nights could’ve gotten to me if we stayed here longer but it definitely is a good spot to stay at a couple of nights as the island is just stunning… But then with so many islands around to choose from, would I get back here? Hmmm… Maybe one day… I would probably check out the others first… For now it was time to say goodbye to Phi Phi and head to an even creasier place... I was getting scared even by the thought of it! 😉 Next stop: Phuket! Or should I say Patong?

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