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Published: January 22nd 2006
Aaahhhhhh Phuket....once the gem of Thailand....and parts of it still are but I must admit I was definitely disappointed with parts of Phuket. The wrath, aka "the Beast," of tourism has definitely take over part of Phuket. After our 5 hour layover in the Bangkok airport (which was not planned) we arrive in Phuket. We avoided Patong Beach at all possible costs because we heard it was just awful with tourists. At the airport their were buses of Eurotrash getting on their buses headed to such places as Patong. No thank you! Instead we chose to stay on Bang Tao Beach. We had no idea what to expect. We pulled into our cute little hotel, put our stuff down in our bungalow and headed straight for the beach. It was amazing. By the time we arrived it was 5ish so the sun had already started to set. Looking out into the lagoon it was 4 km of Paradise. It was exactly what I was looking for. Amidst the high tourism of Phuket, we seemed to esape it and found beauty on the island. We immediately jumped into the ocean...finally we made it to the beach!!!
Koh Phi Phi
Bang Tao Beach
Our BEAUTIFUL beach. 4 km strip of wondeful white sand and turquoise waters.
morning we got up early and headed on on a day trip to Koh Phi Phi (pronounced ko pi pi...hhaaahhahaha you said pi pi ;-)). Assuming we could get a cheaper deal by arranging the transport to the island by ourselves, we opted out of the hotel's 'planned' tour. We ask the driver to take us to a port to catch a boat to Koh Phi Phi. He tells us 500 baht ($1=40 baht). All of our travel books listed waaay less, so we were a bit confused, yet since we were out in the middle of know where we had no other choice. We held out to not buy our return ticket. Then it got sketchy...we had to jump into a van and go to ANOTHER pier to get on the boat....weird. This was the part of Phuket I did not like. They were trying to scam us because they could. At the dock there were a cazillion tourists (that includes ourselves of course) from all over the world. I was very surprised to meet so few Americans and a lot of Swedish, Korean (won't forget those Koreans!), and German. Indeed Koh Phi Phi has been considered one of
Bang Tao Beach
Sunset on the Beach
the most beautiful islands in Thailand, hence why so many people want to visit there. Yet I also had skepticism on the beauty of this island and to see if tourism had destroyed this natural wonder. My personal investigation would solve my questioning.
The boat ride was really nice. It was a beautiful sunny day and we just laid back and relax. As we approached the Koh Phi Phi islands these huge limestone cliffs appeared. They were absolutely amazing. They were what you saw in the photos yet no photo could truly capture the beauty. We rolled into the Koh Phi Phi port and hired a longtail boat to take us to one of the numerous beaches surrounding the island. When choosing the beach we wanted to go to, Leah said "Anywhere away from the Korean tour group." Well put my dear Leah. Our longtail boat moved through the turquoise water and we arrived at a private beach on the eastern side of the main island. There literally 10 bungalows on the island, inhabited by like 5 people...it was basically our beach. We spent the afternoon enjoying the sun (too much of it, my back was burned to a
On the way to Koh Phi Phi
crisp that evening!), snorkeling (beautiful Angel fish!), swimming, and of course the fruit shakes.
Let me take a moment to express how wonderful the fruit shakes in Thailand tasted. No longer did "Lets go get a few drinks" necessarily mean alcoholic drinks. "Drinks" now meant fruitshakes. At $1 each, we had them at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and sometimes more than just one. Sitting here writing this my mouth waters for my favorite a banana shake. We also indulged in mango, pineapple, coconut, strawberry, and lychee. I will forever remember the shakes. Yes, I could make them here but I just don't think it will be the same.
After a wondeful afternoon of enjoying Koh Phi Phi we headed back to Phuket. I definitely could have spent more time on Koh Phi Phi. Tourism has definitely affected the island. There are huge snorkeling tours that go out to visit the place where they filmed the movie "The Beach" and the Thai people try to suck you dry of every penny you have. Yet for now the beauty of Koh Phi Phi remains. The price of our boat trip on the way home? 250 baht. Stupid scams/monopolies of Thai
tourism. We ended up saving like 2-4 dollars in the long run. May not have been worth it, but it was definitely an adventure.
On a more serious note I would like to bring up the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004. Phuket and Koh Phi Phi were both hit very badly by the Tsunami. I think 1/4 of the population of Koh Phi Phi was killed in the Tsunami. We were in Chiang Mai for the 1 year anniversary and the photos in the newspapers were very graphic and brought back bad memories of the previous year of people washed up on the shore. While in Phuket and Koh Phi Phi I could not help but think about how the Thai people were effected and notice the damage/changes left from the Tsunami. I can't help but wonder how these people survived and others didn't. To my surprise and happiness much of Phuket has been rebuilt. Koh Phi Phi, has not rebuilt as much or as quickly as Phuket. As much as a tragedy as the Tsunami was, in a way I feel like it is giving Thailand dare I say a 'second chance' to rebuild Koh Phi Phi and
Koh Phi Phi
Me and the cliffs
not make the urband development mistakes they made before. At one of the restaurants we ate at along Bang Tao beach the owner told us about his experience: The week before the tsunami his father passed away. The day of the tsunami his whole family and been at a temple on a mountain in the center of the island. Despite the sadness of the death of his father, in the long run it saved his entire family. The man said that on the day of the tsunami people talked about how the water receeded to the point where fish could be seen and many people ran out to inspect this peculiar phenomenom. All of a sudden the water came back and swallowed all the people. The man pointed out a tree that one of the workers had climbed which saved his life. Being there and hearing the tragic stories of survival from the people was disheartening and made it more real. It was tragedy that that they are overcoming, quicker than I had expected.
Our nights in Phuket consisted of walking along Bang Tao beach and eating at one of the many charming restaurants. I even treated myself one
night to a lobster dinner...it was fabulous. I got to pick it out myself! There was not much of a nightlife in this beach so our nights were mainly long leisurely dinners followed by a stroll on the beach. Perfect for couples right...good thing none of us had any romantic involvement.
Phang Nga Bay
New Year's Eve Day we took a boating/kayaking excursion to a place near the Northeastern part of Phuket called Phang Nga Bay. In Phang Nga Bay (pronounced pang na) there are hundreds of rock formations/islands rising from the water. We thought that this trip would be us kayaking ourselves around the huge outcropping rocks and having a leisurely day. The trip definitely turned out to be more than this. When we stopped at our first stop we were sad at first because we were not kayaking, it was the Thai people that kayaked for us. They kept saying "too dangers." We thought, how dangerous can kayaking around these rocks be? To our surprise we were going IN the rocks. (btw maybe I was the only one surprise by this, my companions might have but I was def quite surprised!). We headed into this cave.
It was a little spooky and small at first, nothing we could not handle. Then all of a sudden it got smaller, and smaller, and smaller, to the point Leah, Liz, and I were lying flat on our backs, heads pressed between each others crotches trying to prevent losing a nostril on the ceiling 5 inches from our face in the pitch black dark cave. quote from leah "Now I know what childbirth feels like," referring to Liz's head placed so close to her crotch. Of course, to top things off, our paddler forgot his flashlight. Now, I never get clausterphobic. I definitely felt short of breath in these little caves! At one point the boat was just too big to go through the little hole. I was ready to turn around! What I thought at first was one of the boats popping was the paddler letting out air so that the boat could fit. I honestly thought I was not going to have a face after this experience. Once inside the rock there was a beautiful lagoon with tall trees that had the most amazing roots. The cave was definitely worth it. It was amazing...until we had to go
Koh Phi Phi
back through the cave.
We stopped off at numerous other rock formations and paddled around, including a skinny rock that is now called the "James Bond Rock" because it was used in one of the James Bond movies. Which one? I have no idea. Also, our boat had a Japanese couple on it so me, jeff, and jason got to test out our Japanese once again. We ended the day going to a nice beach. Although the day was over, the night was young...it was New Years!
After a New Year's Banquet at our hotel we headed to Patong for the night festivities. Bang Tao was great for daytime beach and good atmosphere, but the nightlife was kind of non-existant. Other Hiroshima JETs were in Phuket. We had no idea if we would see them but we were going to try. 5 minutes along the main drag we ran into them! I thought that all of Thailand would be one huge beach party. To my surprise it was not. We headed to the main strip of bars on a street perpendicular to the beach. The atmosphere of Patong was sooo different. We could have been anywhere in the
Koh Phi Phi
Our Boat Driver
world. There were so many different people and westernized restaurants and shops. Yet, it was fun to be there for New Years! We hopped into a Irish Pub (it seems wherever I go I somehow end up in an Irish pub!). It was actually really fun because they had live music and were playing stuff we could all sing to, including Summer of '69 (yeah pi phi) so leah and I were very excited about that. For part of the night Hiroshima JET Jen and I stepped out to go to the ATM. There were fireworks going off EVERYWHERE. I felt like I was in a battlefield. I kept my head turned away from the streetfireworks for fear of something hitting my eye. After the ATM we also picked up a cheaper kombini beer and chugged that. It was turning into a night of debauchery. We all celebrated a wonderful count down and began the New Year with a shot. Most people get kissed at midnight. This year lets just say I was not kissing anyone! The rest of the night got a little crazy....random people were running to the beach and lets just say there were more than 3
Koh Phi Phi
Our private beach
pairs of shoes outside our bungalow in the morning.....it was out of control and we all had some fun stories to tell the next morning. Way to bring in the New Year with a bang!
So this concludes our Phuket experience. Has tourism destroyed the island? No...there are some great spots like Bang Tao Beach. I definitely enjoyed Phuket and Phang Nga Bay more. We had an incredible time and there were some great memories.
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