Safe to say, it has not been a bad send off by island hopping around the South-Western islands of Thailand. We had pretty high hopes for Thailand, especially the legendary Ko Phi Phi and they have exceeded our expectations. We arrived in Phuket first, where we met up with another Old Brightonian, Jo who is also travelling through Thailand. After a good old catch up and a spicy but amazing green Thai curry, not to mention our excitement over the water bottle refill stations (1 baht! Which is about 2p) we got a bus trip to Krabi, a little Thai seaside town where we hopped on a fairly dubious looking wooden longtail boat, the only way to get to Railay. Despite a bit of a rocky journey in the blazing sun we arrived at stunning Railay (Rai Leh) where we disembarked straight into the water desperately trying to keep our balance while maintaining backpacker postures!
After a sweaty search for accommodation we finally found a sufficient room, which turned out to be the one and only downside to our three nights here. In short, we LOVED Railay. There is a vibe there that is unlike anything we've ever witnessed and everyone feels it, there's British people saying hello to each other! Could have something to do with the beach, no the food, no the sunset, the cocktails, the banana pancakes; the list goes on... We became a bit attached to a particular restaurant, Mangrove which we went to every night and tried pretty much everything on the menu. The food in Thailand is made of dreams- from Phad Thai to Tom Yum Kung to Massman Curry- all impressed!
It's pretty hard to sum up the jaw dropping landscape of Railay in a few words but just to give you an idea, it's basically made up of two curving coved beaches backing onto one another... Rai Leh East and Rai Leh West, with a mountainous headland in the middle of the two, jutting out into the sea and creating the beautiful Pranang beach. By the final day we had established the ultimate combination... Munching our way through the cheap but amazing food on the east side, lolling on the palm tree studded Pranang beach during the day and making our way over to our favourite beach on the west just in time to take in what the Lonely Planet describes as "orgasmic": the sunset. With a happy hour drink, we felt truly relaxed as we took in the reds, yellows and oranges of this amazing country.
In danger of becoming permanently horizontal from Railay induced relaxation, George and Soph decided to test out the island's famous rock climbing reputation, while leaving Jen to recover from her air conditioned cold. Despite constantly reiterating our beginner status to our experienced yet language challenged guides, we were thrown head first into some serious vertigo inspired climbing that would have given spiderman a run for his money. Despite some serious reservations as to what I had made her sign up for Soph manned up and conquered the first couple of climbs, but then decided to leave the last ones to me and I can honestly say that climbing those vertical bare cliff walls proved to be one of the most demanding yet rewarding activities I've ever done.
All in all, Railay is just one of those places that photos can't do justice, and neither can a blog, and needless to say, it has zoomed into our top 5 places visited so far!
Picture Railay, add dozens of holiday resorts and hundreds of "gap yah" cliches and you get Ko Phi Phi. Still very beautiful and framed by dramatic limestone cliffs is the island that shot to fame after Leo himself came here to film "The Beach", hence the average age being 20. Phi Phi is a riddle of tiny little lanes and the continuous tinkle of bicycles, the only transport in Phi Phi other than boats which definitely adds to it's charm. Charm, it has to be said, that is sadly in the shadow of the effects of the 2004 tsunami. Our favourite restaurant here, Garlic 1992 had a wall of photo memories of the devastating effects of the tsunami that literally ripped their world apart. Luckily some friendly Westerners had helped restore their business but everywhere there is still a sense of loss and they even now have an official evacuation route.
We stayed in Phi Phi Don and as a farewell to Soph on her final day, we ventured over to the uninhabited Phi Phi Leh, where the film was shot. Costing us just 250 baht (£5) for a day trip in a long tail boat we even got Soph in the water for some amazing snorkelling, despite her phobia of fish! Jen got particularly excited when she saw Dory from Finding Nemo, but one should really refrain from attempting to call friends over while your snorkel's still in your mouth... "mrooorg, mooooooph" and just enjoy them on your own.
We stopped at Lohama Bay and after a horrendously choppy swim to a hole in a rock, had a short walk to Maya Bay; AKA The Beach. Once again we were speechless on a Thai island, but this time by the hoards of ridiculously snap happy Japanese and Chinese tourists working their Leo, and bizarrely, James Bond poses. Thanks to them, we felt much more confident about our own necessary beach poses on this famous beach and through the sea of Nikon and speedboats, finally appreciated the white sand and turquoise water. What a shame it was to find out that we were just there at a bad time and usually it's pretty empty.
After exploring Pi Pi's little sister, we thought it only right to head up to the highest viewpoint and get a birdseye view of the beautiful main island. Unfortunately this mini trek brought with it the realisation that we had become horrendously unfit since our tramping days of NZ an Oz, however, as we brushed the monsoon of sweat dripping from our brow as we climbed the million steps of doom, we were greeted by a gobsmacking view of Ko Pi Pi's amazing twin beaches. Such a trek could only be rewarded with a visit to our favourite tiny little shack of a restaurant that proved itself to be the undisputed king of Phad Thai. Covered wall to wall with post it paper comments from travellers gone by disclosing their love for THE BEST Phad Thai you'll ever eat, there was no option other than to leave our own happy noodle thoughts.
As Wells and AJ crossed paths with us again, as well as AJ's friends Tom and Dave it was time to head out for some goodbye food and a mini full moon party on the beach, complete with fire shows, BOGOF buckets and body paint....bring on Koh Phangan!
Lots of love,
George, Jen and Wells xxxx
Isn't it crazy how fast things seem to go?! We really can't believe it is now time for Sophie to leave after her four weeks with us.