Something I’ve learned from traveling is that bad experiences are always eventually followed by good ones, and that has certainly held true for my last five days in Southern Thailand.
After some easy living at the Westin Resort in Siray Bay, life turned into a bit of a roller coaster. From Siray I took a 2 hour ferry to Ko Phi Phi Island. I never planned to come to this island. It’s incredibly touristy and full of young westerners looking to party, very much not my scene. But the only way to get to Ao Nang, my next planned destination, from Phuket was to ferry to Ko Phi Phi. So I figured why not spend one day there, worst case I lay on the beautiful beach for a day and go to bed early.
The two hour ferry left on time and arrived an hour late. Turns out that similar to airplanes, “direct” does not mean “non-stop” when it comes to ferries in Thailand. So before arriving in Ko Phi Phi, we took a detour to Ko Phi Phi Leh, the smaller of the two Phi Phi islands (the southern one in the box above) where The Beach was filmed, to allow half the passengers to unload in the middle of the bay onto a different boat to dock at Phi Phi Leh. The detour around Phi Phi Leh was beautiful, except that I had positioned myself on the right side of the ferry, which would have been perfect had we followed the direct ferry route and not the detour route.
Arrival on Ko Phi Phi was a bit chaotic but exciting as there’s a ton of activity on the dock, mostly people trying to sell you on various cruise/day trip packages around the island. I made it to my hostel to find they had accidentally overbooked and had to move me to a hostel down the road, but it’s okay because they gave me a minion key chain. 😐 The hostel I had booked and the hostel I stayed at were the two top-rated on Ko Phi Phi and it was really a toss-up anyway so this was fine.
I decided to head down to the beach straight away to relax a bit only to find the beach was at extreme low tide, full of beer bottles, trash, pools of hot water, and stranded longboats. Yuck.
So instead I decided to take a walk around the island. In my head I had pictured a town kind of like a Thai version of Lahaina on Maui (I thought this was a fancy resort island?), but what I found was more like what I imagine Tijuana looks like (I don’t know though, I’ve never been). There were a lot of dirty looking tatoo parlors, white guys handing out party flyers, a strong sewage smell, “not-on-the-beach” bungalows, carts selling buckets of vodka & Red Bull, and it was suffocatingly hot with no shade to be found. I made it across town to the other beach where the sand is very shelly and there are so many boats there’s no where to actually walk into the water.
I wandered back to the hostel feeling discouraged and questioning whether I should just hop on the 3:30 ferry to Ao Nang and forget I ever stopped here. Sitting on the hostel porch I started looking at the day trip packages and saw there was a half day cruise leaving at 2:00 (it was 1:30) with stops at Monkey Bay, Maya Beach, Pileh Lagoon, snorkeling, and a sunset on the water for 400 Baht ($12). I thought, anything to get me off this island, so I went for it.
There I met Karlee & Devon, a Canadian brother-sister duo, also staying at my hostel on Phi Phi and headed to Ao Nang the next day to stay at the same hostel as me for the same number of days. A friendship that was meant to be!
The half day boat trip was both beautiful and interesting. The two longboat drivers didn’t really speak except to say things like “monkeys here”, “swim here”, “now snorkel” and a big “okaaaay” when it was time to move. Turns out it was an extra 400 Baht if we wanted to get off the boat at Maya Bay, no doubt the most popular stop on the tour. And it wasn’t exactly like there was a choice to stay on the boat and not pay, as they basically refused to turn on the engine until we had all paid. But when at Maya Bay you might as well get off and enjoy the most powdery sand that exists on this Earth, so another 400 Baht it was.
The sunset was also spectacular.
Here’s a quick video of the day:
The next morning I hiked up to a famous viewpoint on the island (viewpoint #2), directly up the hill from the hostel.
I got to wandering and ended up walking through the area where the locals live, which was interesting. The complex looked similar to projects, just rows and rows of square concrete buildings, lots of kids running around, and tons of roosters, dogs, and cats. Along the way I passed some other tourists, a couple with a baby, asking if they were on the right path to the viewpoint. They asked if there was a town below the viewpoint, and this is when I realized I had only seen one side of the island, the backpacker’s side.
So I headed to where the 1% vacations, Long Beach, which was full of beautiful resorts, fancy beach bungalows, and sandy beaches with lots of shade. I walked the full beach and then followed a fun trail back up and over a resort called Viking Nature Resort to get back to my part of the island, about a 45 minute walk from one end to the other. Now all the talk about how beautiful Ko Phi Phi was made sense.
That afternoon me, Karlee, and Devon caught the “direct” ferry to Ao Nang with a 45 minute “drop people off 10 at a time into longboats to go to Krabi” stop on the way. The rock formations in this area are really cool.
The next day we hiked the Khao Ngon Nak trail up Dragon Crest Mountain. Unfortunately a pretty good storm hit us at the top but the hike through the jungle was really cool and the views from the top were unbelievable, despite the fog.
For the last day of the year the plan was to head to Railay beach, a beautiful beach in Krabi, and then to Ao Nang beach for the NYE festivities. Unfortunately I woke up to my first of hopefully not too many battles with food poisoning, so instead I spent the entire day in bed. On a scale of 1 to hospital, luckily it was a mild case, but still not the way I planned to spend my NYE so I was a bit bummed out. What I didn’t anticipate was the bed bug that crawled across the sheets while I was finishing watching Elf at 10:00pm. So I guess I wasn’t being attacked by mosquitos quite as much as I thought, in fact most of my bites are from bed bugs. Yep, round 3.
So it looks like 2018 is going to be a fresh start (literally, all of my clothes and bags have been washed and steamed). I spent New Year’s Day laying on the beach in clothes borrowed from the hostel owner, slowly recovering from stomach cramps, followed by a foot massage (1 hour for $8, in case you were wondering).
Turns out massages are a good time for reflection. Yes, my NYE sucked, but a little food poisoning and 20 more bed bug bites are a drop in the bucket when compared to how I’m getting to spend my life right now. There have been and will be more bad days, but the amazing days far outweigh the bad ones, and if I get food poisoning from 1 in every 10 chicken pad thais… I’m okay with those odds.
Tomorrow I’ll be continuing the adventure with my first overnight bus (13.5 hours) from Krabi to Bangkok, with a fun bus switcheroo in the middle (at what time exactly…I have no clue) 😛 .
Despite my food woes, I’ll still show you pictures of everything because I know it’s the main reason some of you are still following me, and I won’t even say which one got me sick:
Footnote: alternative title of this post was “From Ko Phi Phi to Ko Poo Poo”… but decided to footnote it instead 🙂 .