Week 49 – Koh Samui, Railay & Koh Phi Phi

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March 11th 2012
Published: March 12th 2012
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Another early morning start, as we packed our bags and left the island of Koh Tao catching a Ferry to Koh Samui. We were still with the Welshies who were also heading to Koh Samui for a couple of days as well. As we were discussing on the Ferry whereabouts we were going to stay, a very camp Thai man complete with a bright pink shirt approached us about staying at his family hotel. It was set right on the beach and was “cheap cheap”, so we decided to go for it. The hotel itself was located on the Mae Nam beach on the north coast of the island. We spent the rest of the day getting used to our new surroundings, before deciding to head out to Koh Samui’s metropolis a place called Chwang. The place is a mini Bangkok without the high-rise buildings, full of neon lights, your Subway and McDonalds, and plenty of dodgy DVD’s being sold! We wondered round the streets and finally somewhere to get dinner, which happened to be a random Thai /polish restaurant with an unusual décor of bamboo and ice skates, which was very bizarre!

The next day we spent a lazy day on the beach chilling, relaxing and deciding on where we were going to visit during our last few weeks in Thailand. We dug out the ever trusty Lonely Planet and scoured the internet doing some research. The rest of the day was spent soaking up the glorious Thai sunshine and cooling off in the sea. We also got a good spot on the beach to watch the ferry come in from Koh Phagnan, where we watched as numerous casualties from the full moon party arrived either on drips or heavily bandaged! Made me grateful that I had been ill and not gone to the party otherwise a Banj on a dodgy Thai mushroom shake would have probably ended in disaster! We had our final supper with the Welshies at the slightly posher hotel next door to ours, as we were both going our separate ways the following day.

Lots of travelling was on the agenda the next day, in the form of a ferry, a coach, 2 mini buses and finally a long tailed boat. It went like this… An early morning saw us arrive at the ferry port, ready to catch the ferry to Donsak, several hours later we arrived back on dry land and caught a coach to the hub of Surat Thani where we then jumped into a mini bus which took us a couple of hours down the road and across country to Krabbi. Stretching our legs in Krabbi we booked into a hotel for the night in the nearby destination of Railay. This little gem of a place is hemmed in by the surrounding, towering lime stone mountains and anchored in by the shimmering sea. The beauty of this place is that even though it is on mainland Thailand, it is only accessible by boat. So we hopped on another mini bus which took us down to the nearby jetty, where once again the people of Thailand give themselves a bad name. As the local Long tail boat driver refused to take us until the boat was full or we paid extra. After an hour of waiting and a discussion with the Swedish couple that were also waking we decided to bite the bullet and pay up. The long tailed boat noisily made its way around the rugged but spectacular coastline line before arriving at our destination. Lugging our oversized and bursting at the seam backpacks along the narrow beach to our hotel for the night The Yaya Resort, which had nothing resort like about it but was cheap and cheerful! Famished after a day of nibbling on crisps on various modes of transport, we found a nice little bamboo hut on stilts and relaxed here sipping on a Singha beer and tucking into some amazing tandoori chicken in tempura batter, may sound a bit odd but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!

Now I should explain that Railay is divided into beaches, east, west and Pra Nang. As we were staying on the cheaper east side, we decided to go and do some exploring on the west side. Making our way along the narrow path ways we arrived at the west beach and we have to say that what we saw was one of the most breath taking beaches we’d ever laid our eyes on, and that’s saying something as we have frequented many a beach on our travels and we now consider ourselves connoisseurs in this department! The only way I can describe it is that it’s what you’d expect to see on a postcard from Thailand! The towering cliffs making their majestically way up and out of the pale, sparkling sand surrounded by the turquoise of the sea. As you can imagine where there’s cliffs, there’s caves… so after soaking up some rays in the sunshine, we went off on a walk to explore two of these caves. The first cave was the Diamond Cave and was particularly spooky, you needed a torch to go exploring in so we only managed to go 20 metres in before the darkness engulfed us and with Cerri having flashes of the movie “The Descent!” (If you’ve seen the film you’ll know what we are on bout) we had a quick pic and headed on to the next cave. Continuing along the pathway we made our way to the third beach here and just as spectacular as the west one, Pra Nang Beach. Here we visited the Princess Cave; this particular cave is dedicated to the spirit of the drowned princess (phra nang) who gave the beach her name, this small shrine in a small cave is notable primarily and bizarrely for the dozens of carved red-tipped phalluses donated by fishermen seeking her favour!

The Following day was spent doing what we do best, relaxing on the beach. We dipped in the sea to cool off every now and again. We had planned on scaling one of the cliffs to go and see the notorious lagoon on top of the rocky and beautiful outlet, but due to the tropical rainstorm during the previous evening the climb became too treacherous and with the locals telling not us not to take the risk we decided our insurance wouldn’t cover us! Ending our day with watching the sunset on Pra Nang beach and Cerri nibbling on some corn on the cob, brought from the Thai version of an ice cream van which was actually a long tail boat converted with a little kitchen, sadly no Mr Whippy though! We got an early night as we were on the road again tomorrow or should I say on the sea again…

We boarded another long tail boat first thing in the morning which took us out to sea, where we then had the tricky task off climbing out on that boat onto the slightly large ferry boat as they were both bobbing around in the crystal clear water. The ferry was bound for the Island of Koh Phi Phi, Don, which has been a mecca for backpackers since the 2000 box office smash “The Beach” hit the screens. The neighbouring island Koh Phi Phi Leh was where they filmed some of the most spectacular beach scenes in the movie. As we arrived on the Island we were charged for entry which supposedly covers the cost of the rejuvenation fee for the development of the Island since the tsunami. As my sister had visited the island back in 2009, she kindly recommended and booked us into a hotel for our whistle stop stay here, the hotel in question was ‘The White’. And may I say it was a luxury to have some air conditioning and a television after many a night in a bamboo hut with a fan blowing hot air around! We both had high expectations for this Island and were both disappointed to find it over run with drunks and Irish bars, it was now a slightly ruined paradise due to it being a little bit too seedy! As we explored the island meandering our way around the drunken backpackers, we came across the Tsunami escape route. Back in December of 2004 the small island was devastated by an Indian Ocean Tsunami, many people lost their lives and their livelihoods and are still rebuilding some six and a half years later. We trekked up the Tsunami escape route which seemed never ending in the hot Thai afternoon sun; it was worth it though because the views of the beaches down below were amazing. Dripping in sweat we decided to hop in a cold shower to cool down before venturing out in the evening, first to another recommendation from my sister, a small Mexican eatery under the name of 007’s. After polishing off a few fajitas and margaritas we made our way to the Reggae Bar on the island. This evening’s entertainment was in the form of some Thai Kick Boxing. We watched not only some professional hardcore fighters but also some backpackers in the bar that thought they would have a go after a few buckets of cocktails . . . . And all in aid of, yes you’ve guessed it a free bucket!

The next day was our last full day on Phi Phi, we had planned on staying a bit longer but had decided that we didn’t really come all the way to Thailand just to get drunk with a load of teenager backpackers. That being said we still wanted to make the most of our time in the area, so had booked ourselves on a day trip to see what else was on offer. After I was abused by the tour guide by having to help push the boat out into the water, we headed off and set sail for our first stop of the day, Monkey Beach. As the name suggests it was full of monkeys, we were advised not to feed the little critters so one guy decided instead of giving it a banana, he would give it some beer! We left the drunken monkeys behind and sailed past the Viking Cave from where the swallow’s nests are harvested for the thriving birds nest soup industry. Next we stopped off for a bit of snorkeling around one of the damaged reef caused by the Tsunami. The Highlight of the day followed, as we then made our way to Maya Bay. The stunning beach is sheltered by 100-metre high cliffs on three sides and it what this area is most famous for, as it was used for the backdrop in the film “The Beach”. Unfortunately we weren’t the only tourists there, as boat after boat followed in behind us. Leaving the majestic bay behind us we made our way back, watching the sun set and sipping on a complimentary bucket of dodgy Thai whisky! For our last evening here we decided to treat ourselves and went to a slightly posher restaurant than normal by the name of “Pum”. This place also doubled up as a cookery school, something we may decide to try our hands at soon……..

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