The next morning, we had to get a ferry to Phi Phi Don. The boat ride was about 3 hours and went way over the time the ferry was scheduled to arrive. Rachel and I were sunburnt very badly, as we were sitting on the very top of the boat. We were in the front row and the view was amazing until other passengers decided to stand right in front of us and sit on the railing. It was pretty unbelievable, but multiple passengers did it after a few brave ones came up. They walk over our stuff right in front of us. I thought it was comical how out right rude these people were
We finally arrived on the island hoping that we would find good accommodations. You had all of the normal vendors haggling you and bothering you as there were maybe close to 50 or 60 "travel agents" at the pier waiting to book room reservations for you. We went into a nice hotel right off the water within walking distance to the pier. I told Rachel to wait at the hotel pool so I could go around and look at the different hotels. The pool at this hotel was really amazing as it had an unobstructed view of the East bay, which was a really desolate beach with white sand and crystal blue waters. Needless to say, Rachel enjoyed the view while I was gone. I left and got the bright idea of getting a bicycle to ride around to all of the hotels to get the best deal. In my search for a bicycle a tall man wearing a full-on tux passed by me with a smile in 90 degree weather and humid. I thought he was wearing the tux as some kind of a joke or marketing stunt for a local bar. Then I looked over at the pier and saw a jetski suspended in the air with camera crews all over the place. They were shooting the newest James Bond movie. Interestingly, there's an island near Phuket that's called James Bond Island as it was the centerpiece for one of the James Bond movies back in the 70s. The man I came across was a stuntman and we saw him on the jet ski while it was being flipped in the air with suspension cords
. Most of the actors and film crew were staying at the hotel that Rachel was hanging out at.
Eventually, I came across a bungalow hotel off the beaten path where there wasn't a lot of activity, but was located right off of the beach. It was perfect. Private beach, private bungalow, private hammock. Ideally, we were hoping of finding a bungalow right off the water for about $20/night. We couldn't find that rate at this bungalow hotel - they were $11. Ridiculously cheap and probably the best value in lodging we've ever had. It was picture-perfect, exactly what we envisioned and an Island Paradise.
After checking in, we ventured out into the village. The village was a backpacker's paradise with beach bars everywhere overlooking the ocean, multiple vendors selling chicken, duck, pad thai, and other Thai food for $5 or less, tons of scuba diving adventures and other excursions. I saw an excursion for cliff jumping and, since that's one of my favorite activities to do, we had to jump on it. It left the same day. We jumped on a long-boat to head out to the side of the island. They had us put on special shoes and gloves to protect from cutting ourselves on the razor-sharp rocks we'd be jumping off. We finally arrived at this one cove with really clear water and sharp rocks making up the mountain jetting out to the sky which made up our cliff jumping launch pads
. Rachel and I jumped off the first one which was 8m or 24ft and both of us handled it easily. Next up was the 12m or 36ft jump higher up. When I jumped off this one, you definitely felt a difference in terms of air time as your head would rush during your descent. You had to make sure that you jumped a certain way and landed straight up and down like a toothpick. Rachel landed more like a pretzel. I knew it had to hurt when she landed so I swam over to her. She came up laughing but hurting. She bit her bottom lip too and it started to bleed. She was a warrior though and was going to go back up for the higher jump. I thought it wasn't that good of an idea and since her bum and neck were hurting. She decided to sit it out (although she couldn't sit so she really just "stood it out"). I went up the mountain one last time for the grand finale jump. This one was 15m or about 45ft up and pretty intimidating. I wasn't going to let it get to me though and jumped without flinching. This drop was more like skydiving than cliff jumping as I had time to do my taxes while I was on my descent. Eventually, I hit the water and it rocked me. Not as bad as Rachel but it definitely puckered me up. It was an awesome activity. Next, we headed over to Monkey Beach. They said that monkeys used to come to this beach during low tide and leave before high tide. One time high tide came in especially fast and the monkeys didn't have a chance to get off the beach to higher ground so they had to brave it on that beach. They found that many visitors came to the beach and would feed them sweets
. Whoever said there was no such thing as a free lunch? They decided to say as it was easy eats. Now, they're all spoiled and if you don't come with a food offering they get mad. Our guide said they'll bite if you don't sacrifice food to them. He was even bit once. Rachel had a chance to get up close and personal and feed them. They were pretty funny coming up to her matter of factly like they were entitled to the food she had in her hands. We were actually dropped off near Monkey Beach and had a chance to snorkel in the waters near it. We saw some really exotic fish with some brilliant colors. Blues, yellows, oranges, etc. We also saw abalone, sea urchins, eels, etc. One of the fish loved bananas. We fed these fish bananas. I don't know their name, but they must have gotten that habit from the monkeys at Monkey Beach - we'll call those fish Monkey Fish. Only fitting, right? Interestingly, I was taking pictures of these fish and they started biting me. I noticed our underwater camera cover had a yellow lining and my flippers were yellow. I was a big banana to them!
We came back and had a chance to unload our equipment. We discovered another excursion that was absolutely astounding to us. Stay overnight at Phi Phi Lay beach, which was the beach in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie "The Beach." It made Rachel's dream come true and we were a shoe-in. We made our reservations and made plans to leave our bags in the room overnight since you can't really camp on a beach with all of that luggage
. After making reservations for the next night to Phi Phi Lay, we headed out to the Phi Phi Don nightlife. Although it was slow season, all of the most popular hotspots were open. Every one of these bars/nightclubs offered what was called a "Bucket." It was literally a plastic bucket filled with whiskey, vodka, or any other libation and some mixer. I would have to believe there was some hippy on a beach making a sand castle. Once he finished his masterpiece he decided to celebrate with some alcoholic libations. No glass but plenty of alcohol. "Well, geez, why can't I just put this here alcohol in this plastic bucket pail that I've been using to make this sand castle?" Brilliant! The creation of the "Bucket" alcoholic beverage in Phi Phi Don. Obviously, a regular 8 oz. glass is not enough for these people. A big bucket is a good cocktail size.
The first hotspot we went to had Thai kickboxing. It looked pretty real as the guys would be knocked down, flip over the ropes, and do kickboxing moves as good as Rex from Napoleon Dynamite. One of the guys we were sitting by told us it was a showfight meaning it wasn't real. The show was free so we didn't feel duped but it was interesting that even in Thailand they have their version of WWE. We went to another place called Tiger Bar that was pretty popular in the village. We had a couple of drinks while battling against each other in Connect Four
. That was definitely a highlight of the night - a Connect Four game between Rachel and me.
The next day Rachel and I waited for the excursions out to Phi Phi Lay for our overnight stay on the beach. We found this really awesome bar right on the water that we had a chance to hang out at a couple of time. The music was actually surprisingly good and make it a cool place to chill-lax. Finally, we had to meet to take out trip out to Phi Phi Lay. We were so excited. Had our day bags all packed and ready for our excursion. We arrived and they told us that they were thinking of canceling. We were the only 2 that had signed up since it was low season on the island. We were super excited if we could pull it off and convince these guys to just take us out to the island. We'd be by ourselves on the beach. I made a big stink and they decided to make arrangement for us to go. Score! There was also another guy that joined last minute as well. They told him it was cancelled as well. We pulled it off. It took a while to find a boat since they had to charter another one because they hadn't planned on it, but we made it to the island. We were afraid it would rain as it had poured pretty badly the night before. It was raining some on the way out but seemed to clear out by the time we got there.
The island was majestic and had the most interesting formations on it
. Crystal blue water and forestry and green in its mountain tops. It was just as we had seen it on the movie "The Beach" and it was ours for one night. We set up camp behind the crest of the sand and they told us to go and explore. So we did. We went to the other side of the island on a jungle walk to climb a small rock wall for a view of the ocean on the other side. There was a mushroom-looking island on the other side that we got some pics of. We came back and just goofed around on the beach. There was another group on the beach but they left after about an hour. It was just me and Rachel on the beach. Before we knew you could stay overnight on the island Rachel wanted to charter an early boat to go to Phi Phi Lay to get there at 7 or 8AM so that nobody else would be there. She got her wish of nobody being there but without the early wake-up call. It was fabulous. The island was so beautiful and serene. The sand was powder and the water was mesmerizing. As the night grew darker we were called back in for dinner. The staff was a little odd and not that friendly probably because we dragged them out there, but that wasn't going to rain on our parade. Speaking of rain, it wasn't affecting us as we miraculously got clear skies the whole night! After the BBQ dinner which we enjoyed we headed back out to "The Beach." By this time, the moon was starting to glow and reflect over the water. The colors were so amazing as dark reflections of blue, green, and purples exuded from the landscape. We had a chance to enjoy the night beach for a while longer and then were called back in to camp for "Buckets." An excursion or any other activity on these islands wasn't complete without a Bucket
. So we had a "Sex on the Beach" as our drink. It was very good. The guides told us we could either sleep at camp or sleep on "The Beach." That was a no-brainer. Rachel and I ran out setting up our bed for the night. We had to spray ourselves liberally with insect repellant while sleeping there. After we laid down, we had a chance to gaze into the night sky. The stars were brilliant as there wasn't any bright light obscuring the night sky. We dazed off into a deep sleep sprawled out on a desolate beach cove not concerned with wake-up calls or having to set our alarm clock. The morning after we woke up to the sun starting to peek over the hills and setting onto the blue cove waters. We had a chance to jump into the water one last time with no tourists creating crowd pollution. We took some pics, had some breakfast, and jumped back in the long tail for our cruise back to Phi Phi Don.
Upon our arrival we went into town to get a quick bite to eat. We found this vendor that sold the best grilled chicken and fish on a skewer. The whole chicken breast and the whole fish not just a slice or a piece but the whole thing on a stick. The corndog is a culinary masterpiece hard to beat in the food on a stick ranks but these rivaled it pretty well. After that, we decided to make the hike up the mountain to hit Viewpoint Peak. We got instructions from a local that went a little like this "Go left, go straight for a little bit, you'll see this store, keep on walking, turn right again and then you'll be there." He should call himself the Phi Phi Don Mapquest
. We did end up finding the place in a surprisingly easy fashion, so he may have not been so bad after all. On the way, I had to stop at a convenience store for my daily iced green tea bottles and after I paid the girl hesitated to give me my change motioning toward putting it in her "Tips" box. She kept on motioning and I held out my hand to receive it and even after I had it in hand she put the "Tips" box in my face and gave me a sad look on her face. I felt bad not tipping her because as a convenience store attendant you should be fully entitled to an extra fat tip when you do your basic job of ringing a customer up for goods they purchase. Of course, that takes exceptional skill and should be compensated accordingly. After we had a laugh from that experience, we walked further to find the entrance to the Viewpoint Peak and walked to the top. We got these fantastic pictures of the bay - both sides of it. Luckily, we were up there when it wasn't raining and got some fantastic shots. It had been raining off and on during our stay but we got a great panoramic shot of the island which was postcard-worthy.
We were originally excited to go to Phuket but had heard from multiple people that it is a big disappointment and not representative of the way you envision Thailand's remote islands. We said "Phuket", might as well get out of Phuket. So we made arrangements to just stay there one night when we arrived. We were really glad we did, as it was pretty industrialized and dirty for a supposed getaway island. The hotel we stayed at was relaxing though.