Ko Phi Phi, Thailand: Beach Bars & Bull Rides

Trip Start Jul 28, 2013
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Trip End Feb 06, 2014


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Flag of Thailand  , Krabi,
Monday, December 2, 2013

The ease of travel in Thailand never fails to impress me.

(1) Go to one of the many travel shops.
(2) Book ferry ticket or tour or whatever you want to do. Takes about two seconds.
(3) Check out of hotel and wait in lobby until complementary mini bus arrives to take you to ferry.

No taxi to a shared taxi rank which breaks down and you have to get a bus. Everything works. It doesn't matter if you stay in 1 star or 5 star their customer service is impeccable. Best of all it's still relatively cheap. Our three star hotel was about GBP 40 per night. Expensive for a backpacker budget yes, but you get a lot more for your money compared to staying in cold homestays with no power or hot water for US$30 a night.

The ferry from Phuket to Phi Phi was smooth, hassle free and saw us arrive around 1230. On docking at Phi Phi you need to pay an island tax before being allowed to cross into the chaos of backpacker central. With no accommodation pre booked we were taken straight to travel info and showed wall to wall photographs of lodging options around the island. With Sam having been here before I entrusted the choice to him and we settled on a beach hut on Ao Lo Dalam Bay. Although a haven of calm during the day the beach turned into a banging house party from 8pm - 3am every night.

Being so close to the action we embraced it wholeheartedly on our first night. Sipping relaxed cold beers in the sand soon moved onto vodka redbull buckets over pool and before we knew it we were in a bar watching Thai boxing and I was riding a mechanical bull. Something I've always wanted to do but perhaps when slightly more sober. I was, however, far superior to those who went before me (at least in my mind). We ended the night dancing in the sand under the stars with people twirling fire around us.

The next day was a lot less fun than the night before. Urrrgh surely by the age of near on 33 one should come to realise a number of things:

1. It is not wise to drink copious amounts of beer and vodka.
2. Riding a mechanical bull when drunk will result in a grazed shin and numerous bruises.
3. In 30+ degree heat it is best to invest in a room with aircon.
4. Don't drink blue gatorade when feeling sick.
5. Even when far away your friends will always take great enjoyment in your fragile state, especially when they're sat at work, so do not expect sympathy.

Funnily enough we didn't feel like drinking that night and would have been asleep by 8pm had our hut not been moving to every beat. We lasted until about 11pm before we ventured out to lay on a cushion at one of the quieter bars that played Indie music over house or techno. The Caribbean have it right in playing nice chilled music. Not a huge fan of reggae but the ambiance it creates is far more suited to a tropical island than techno. Mind you, had you asked me that 10 years ago I probably would have refuted that statement.

Unlike the backpacking mecca that it used to be Thailand appears to have turned into a favourite holiday hotspot for an older generation of suitcase dragging Russians, Japanese, Spanish and families with children in tow. As a consequence the prices have upped, resorts have moved in and the once cheap and plentiful beach hut has turned into a rarity. Perhaps it's always been like that and we were simply blindsighted by youth when we first stepped foot on Thailand's sunny shores. All I know is that your money definitely used to go further.

Where Phi Phi is concerned, I think the description in the Lonely Planet says it all:

"Oh, how beauty can be a burden. Like Marilyn Monroe, Phi-Phi Don’s stunning looks have become its own demise. Everyone wants a piece of her. Though not exactly Hollywood, this is Thailand’s Shangri-la: a hedonistic paradise where tourists cavort in azure seas and snap pictures of long-tails puttering between craggy cliffs. With its flashy, curvy, blonde beaches and bodacious jungles it’s no wonder that Phi-Phi has become the darling of the Andaman coast. And, like any good starlet, this island can party hard all night and still look like a million bucks the next morning. Unfortunately, nothing can withstand this glamorous pace and unless limits are set, Phi-Phi is in for an ecological crash."

Yes it's a beautiful place and can be described as nothing less than postcard picture perfect from the hilltop view point we reached after a long hot sweaty walk. In reality though it's a total Monet - looks pretty from afar but up close it's a big old mess. Not helped by the fact that a vast majority of tourists are a bunch of morons who have no hesitation in sunbathing then leaving all their rubbish in the sand. Or flicking cigarette butts into the ocean. Or at night time being too lazy to walk 10m to a toilet so men stand in knee deep water peeing. At low tide you see bottles laid to rest along with plastic bags and other crap. The severity in which they would be dealt with in Australia would be swift and harsh as the number one rule is NEVER litter a beach.

Off the coast and between the two bays lies a maze of shops, restaurants and bars offering a plethora of happy hour deals and food options. Why you'd opt for anything other than Thai I've no idea. Oh except when you're hungover and craving a taco, then it's ok. Much like Phuket a lot of the merchandise is recycled from one shop to the next. Dive equipment, flip flops, bikini's, bamboo placemats, sunnies, hats, anything tie-dyed. Bought a few pairs of funky coloured shorts (not tie-dyed!). Tried to buy a pair of denim cut offs but was told "Oooh you have big bum. I no have nothing to fit you." Cheers lady, you know how to make a girl feel good. She did chuckle and apologise after she said it. If nothing else it saved me a few bucks and gave Sam a good laugh.

Yellow flags were strung up everywhere in celebration for the King's Birthday which was on the 5th. A few of the restaurants offered nightly movie showings - The Beach being a main attraction. We were going to book a snorkelling trip there (Maya Bay) but had to forego it due to the weather being a mixed bag of overcast and rain. Sam doesn't rate it too highly anyway so I don't feel I've missed out on anything... but maybe he just said that to get out of being stuck on a boat in the pouring rain!

Our last night was spent people watching at Relax Bar in town and then on the beach sipping cocktails from a fresh coconut. It's easy to while away the hours until 3am when you can watch drunkards jump over a giant flaming skipping rope or through a hoop of fire.

INFO:

Ferry: Phuket to Phi Phi 1 1/2 hours THB 400 ea (GBP 7.60)
Island Tax: THB 20 (GBP 0.40)
Hotel: Twin Palm Bungalow THB 1,200 per night (GBP 23). Simple beach hut, fan, ensuite with cold water shower. WARNING: It doubles as a club in the evening with loud banging house music played until 3am each night.
Mojito Bucket: THB 300 (GBP 5.60)
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