Annie and I sat in the “basement” of the overcrowded ferry boat, being lulled into a state of half-sleep brought on by the incessant hum of the engine muting all other sound and the rhythmic rock of the waves as we chartered through the Indian Ocean to Ko Phi Phi. It was Annie’s birthday, and we were justifiably heading to the “party island” to celebrate after two glorious days of relaxation in the Koh Lanta sunshine.
We arrived onto the dock and were immediately thrust into a loud bustle of activity – shouts to pay the pier tax, long-tail boat drivers refraining, “boat boat, taxi boat,” confused tourists trying to find their connecting ferry. We extracted ourselves from the throng and set about trying to replicate our travel agency success in Koh Lanta here in Phi Phi. Our first shock was that we were going to be spending at least 3x more per night, but we found something that seemed to tick enough boxes to justify the expense (still only $21/night, but its amazing how quickly money becomes relative).
The next surprise was that our “taxi” was a man wheeling a cart. I’m sure an ounce of research would have told me that Ko Phi Phi is a no-vehicle island, but I didn’t do any research and so I was surprised to find that bicycles were the only vehicle on the streets of the town we were staying in. The town was thick with people, heavy-hot, and very, very touristy. after serene and uncrowded Koh Lanta, it took a bit of adjustment. We landed at our hotel, dropped our gear and beelined to the beach in the late-afternoon sun to grab a few last minute rays and jump in the water.
After a meal, a shower, and a beer or two, we were ready to begin Annie’s birthday celebration. We headed back to the beach where the all-night parties took place every night and grabbed a famous bucket of rum and coke while we took in an particularly fascinating fire show at aptly-named Ibiza Bar. After the show and a bucket, we felt buzzed enough to partake in some dancing, so we went to the bar that had the biggest crowd, procured another bucket, and let the dancing begin.
After a couple of hours of dancing, making friends, watching drunk kids do ridiculously stupid things like try to participate in the fire shows, climb wooden totem-pole-like object and dance on top until jumping to friends below, etc., we wandered out into the ankle-deep water of the beach and had a mini photo shoot. Soon after, we decided we’d had enough rum, dancing, and sweating in the balmy 85-degree evening heat, and headed back to our hotel, the air con, and sleep.
The next day we were up and ready to do some exploring, so we hiked over to Long Beach from the town. It was good mile or so over some interesting terrain, and we ran into a few reptilian natives on our way. Once we arrived at that glorious stretch of white sand, we immediately jumped into the crystal-clear water to cool off. Watching tropical fish swim past your legs in waist-deep water is an experience I’d recommend to anyone.
We went back to catch our 2 pm sunset snorkel tour (which we almost missed thanks to some poor direction from our travel agent, but a few confused phone conversations with a lovely Thai woman and a private taxi to meet up with the boat full of people in the middle of the bay soon resolved the problem). Our tour took us to Koh Phi Phi Lee (or Leh), the small island off the coast of Ko Phi Phi Don, which is what is most tourists think of when they think Ko Phi Phi. This smaller island is home to Maya Bay, made famous by the Leonardo DiCaprio film “The Beach” in the late 90s/early 00s. After a snorkel and quick bite, we were left to lounge on this incredible beach for an hour or so before we headed back to main island to see famed Monkey Beach.
I couldn’t squash my excitement as our boat neared a strip of white sand with small, moving brown dots. As we got closer and closer those brown dots grew, took shape, and revealed themselves to be monkeys frolicking on the sand. In my excitement to interact I saw the sign that said “No Feeding,” but missed the one that said “Use caution, monkeys can be aggressive.” Our boat captain immediately disobeyed the first order, tossing a handful of pineapple onto the sand and sending the monkeys into an excited, chattering frenzy. So we grabbed what was left of the fruit we hadn’t eaten and starting handing it off in photo opp after photo opp. Until we ran out. And when the monkeys realized the photos were now free, they were NOT happy campers. I heard a strange grunting and looked up to see a couple of the monkeys chasing one of our fellow passengers. Before I realized what was happening, the grunting started dangerously close to me, and one monkey who had been sitting waiting for his next meal beelined directly for me, little hands grasping angrily at my sarong as I screamed and ran into the water in sheer terror. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was filming at the time, and the video plays a bit like a scene from a self-filmed horror movie (think: Blair Witch or Paranormal Activity, but with monkeys on the beach). But the monkeys wouldn’t go in the water, so I stayed comfortably ankle-deep for the rest of our visit.
After our return from the trip we were hungry, we we headed to Banana Bar to hopefully catch the last rays of the sun on the rooftop bar. We ordered food and a few beers and just after the sun went down the place got packed for the nightly screening of a movie the bar hosts on the big screen. Tonight’s pick: The Hangover 2. Having now been to Bangkok, the movie changed a bit for me, but it was fun to be wedged into a comfy corner of the bar surrounded by backpackers and other young travelers. We went to our hotel after to shower and prep for the evening, only to have the day catch up to us the second we slowed down, so we went to sleep early.
The next day we were due in Phuket for a day and night before we were due to fly back to Sydney (sniff), so we spent the morning hiking up the most ridiculous set of stairs in the history of sets of stairs to see the famed viewpoint. A gallon of sweat and two aching buns later, we were paid off with the most incredible view I saw my entire visit to Thailand.
We cooled off on the beach in Long Beach for a couple of hours before we had to head back to town for a quick bite of street food and the ferry in the early afternoon, not really believing that our incredible holiday was nearly over.