Koh Phi Phi Island

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Where I stayed
Phi Phi Island Cabana Hotel Ko Phi Phi Don
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did
Monkey Beach
Loh Samah Bay

Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, July 27, 2012

Sorry for the late postings, but while in Koh Phi Phi we were without free Wifi in our room and the rates were a bit steep; better planning next time.

So, Koh Phi Phi was the highlight of our trip, aside from vow renewals in Krabi.  Koh Phi Phi is the jewel of Thailand.  It is located in the Adaman Sea off the coast of Thailand easily accessible by ferry from either Phuket or Krabi/Ao Nang.  Phi Phi's infrastructure was devastated by the Tsunami of 2004, and while on the island you can't help but think of what it must of been like given the paths to higher ground are limited and crowded (not to put anyone in a somber mood, but if you have the time, check out the series on Youtube that follows the events of that day, starting with Part 1.

The ferry ride to Koh Phi Phi is a mere 1.5 or 2 hours depending on which ferry you take.  We opted for the 9am ferry.  As we approached the island, you can immediately see why vacationers come from all around the world to stay here.  Its surrounding waters is various shades of aquamarine and what looks like jade, a great contrast to the lush green forestation on the limerock formations.  As the ferry approaches the islad, it parallels one of its long points, then begins to make a turn into its bay, slowly opening up more and more of its beauty.  You can't seem to take enough pictures or videos.  Just when you think you've taken all you need and have put your camera away, something new catches your eye and you're snapping again.  For the old schoolers, I can't imagine having to only pick 36 pictures to take before changing rolls.....especially not knowing if the pics came out clear.

Upon arrival, you are greeted by a community tax of 20 baht (less than a $1) for maintaining the environment and infrastructure of the island.  As you walk down the pier to the mainland, local men line the pier with hotel signs so they can assist you get to your hotel (there are no cars on Phi Phi) or some trying to sell you a room (more for the backpackers who decide day-to-day on what to do next).  Others try to sell you boat tour packages, either on their own personal long-tail boats or via an official tour company.  We find the young man with the Koh Phi Phi Cabana Hotel sign, give him the signal and he places our bags into this three-wheeled card.  He awaits a bit long to see if there are more guests arriving, and upon seeing there are not, he proceeds through the crowded passageways (remember, no streets in Phi Phi).  We check-in into our hotel and when we present the porter with our room number, he exclaims "oooooh, nice room !!!!".  He wasn't kidding.  The room just about hit the ocean on the opposite side of the island....while the lobby had a clear view of the ocean on the side we arrived on; if you stood in the right spot on the property, you could see both sides of the island.  Our room was on the first floor (not always a good idea, but not really an issue in Thailand), which provided us a balcony and a beautiful view of the bay

We soaked in the beauty of the view, but given we only had 3 nights in Koh Phi Phi, we wanted to maximize our time in paradise.  We headed into town only to be accosted for "taxi boat", most averaging between 1,000 to 1,500 Baht (between $30-$50) to take us some of the key islands around Phi Phi.  Se settled on what appeared to be a reputable tour company and with the focus of booking a boat tour of the islands that included cliff jumping; had done it last year and was looking forward to doing it again.  Settled on what were were told was a 3 for 1 package that included Monkey Beach, Cliff Jumping, Snorkeling in Phi Phi Ley Bay and relaxing on Maya Beach (site of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach); not sure if you counted, but that's more than 3.

At 1pm, we met with the rest of the folks joining this tour.  We met up with Jack and Daniel from California, they just loved to play on the Jack Daniel bit.  Two young men who chose to go backpacking in a country that spoke a foreign language, and offered a combination of adventure and fun.  They discovered adventure trekking in Chiang Mai and were now in southern Thailand for some fun.  Given the four of us were given red stickers to put on our tops, denoting us as "cliff jumpers", we thought, great, we have our own boat....only to find out that the other 12 to 15 folks in the tour shop were joining our boat and boarded before we did.  Let's just say that getting 8-10 folks on one of these boats is comfortable.

Our first stop was Monkey Beach.  That should say it all.  Michele opted to stay on the boat while everyone else decided to get a closer look at the family of monkeys waiting for hand-outs, be it fruit or water bottles.  That lasted an entire 10-15 minutes.

Next stop was the cliff jumping (See the videos here).  The first challenge is getting to the top of the cliff.  These limerock formations are adorned with very sharp edges and can only be climbed with proper footwear.  Compounding this is the fact that the tumultuous crashing of waves on the rocks makes it very dangerous as you approach the formation.  There are three options, 8 meters (26 ft), 12 meters (39 feet) and 20 meters (65 feet).  To earn the right to jump at the 20 M mark, you need to prove yourself at 12 meters.   To put it into perspective, if you've ever been on the roof of a 3 story house....think higher.  I opted for the 12 foot jump; no matter how many times you make this jump, each time is a new roll of emotions....sort of like roulette.  All your mind thinks about is the impact, making sure you make the right entry....not so much in an Olympic sense, but one where you ensure you won't get hurt....remember jumping from the diving board and landing wrong and how much that hurt?  yeah, add a multiplying factor of 20 to that, while avoiding the chance of rupturing an hear drum.

The group is mainly made up of young whipper snappers in their very early 20s.  The fear of height doesn't discern between women or men; in this case, your machismo could get you hurt (Geraldine/Auntie Ruthie, remember skydiving and our friend pulling his chute at 10,000 feet....yeah, sort of like that).  As I take place at the jump site, prepare my GoPro to record the action, I'm told to hold off as I must let one of the individuals from one of the other boats jump off so they can go on their way to their next waypoint.  This doesn't help any.  Standing there forced to overthink and study what I'm about to do, doesn't make it any easier....no matter how many times I've done this before.  You're told over and over again by the guides to jump like a pencil, arms crossed in front of you.  What you must realize is that there is a lot of air time in the process of this jump and your body is so inclined to just to want to flay/wave your ams and legs (is 'flay' really a verb?); that is the last thing you want to do as you will offset your balance and not get a straight entry into the water.  The guiding voices also tell you to jump straight out away from the rocks....that's where I went wrong....over thinking those instructions.

I take my place at the jump spot, think about the jump, but quickly try to clear the mind as I push off.....a bit too much.  The rush of it all only gives you seconds to ensure your legs are together, your arms are crossed and that you are properly bracing for the impact....and what an impact it was.  Instead of entering the water at a perpendicular 90 degree entry, I'm sure I entered around an 85 to 87 degrees entry, enough to make me feel it on my left arse cheek (that's how the Britons and Aussies say it....oh yeah, and the Irish; sorry Ger).  My first focus is on finding my GoPro camera; I attached a floating mechanism to it, so it's only a matter a time till it surfaces.  Next is all about getting out of the way and climbing back up for another jump.

For the next jump, I actually decide to check my manhood at the door and opt for the 8 footer.  Just as thrilling with less impact on the body.  This time I think the judges scored me with 9s and 10s for a perfect entry; I opted to just jump off vs. jumping out and "away from the rocks".

We all get back on the boat, and soon we all start sharing stories of our experiences, and this is where we begin to meet our fellow passengers.

Our next stop is Phi Phi Ley Bay.  It is a serene site that can only be described as paradise.  The ocean floor is no more than 12-15 feet deep with beautiful sand, coral and fish.  I think that this guy has captured some great pics of it  link).  We spend about 20-30 minutes here enjoying the sites and snorkeling.

Our next stop is Maya Beach, the must see when coming to Koh Phi Phi.  It is a breathtaking site to see.  I'll let these pictures speak for themselves.  We settle here for a bit enjoying the sights and warm water.  We soak in as much as we can as we know our respective realities will hit us soon.  We board the boat and head back to Koh Phi Phi Don.  On the way back Jack asks about the "BBQ"; of course I laugh and tell him that the best he's going to see is cut up pineapple and watermelon, but he's adamant that there is a BBQ tied to this tour.   Having booked with the same company last year and having the exact same guides (unplanned by the way, by haphazard chance), I too am adamant that this is over with.

Well, as we head back into the the Phi Phi Don bay, the boat starts to veer towards the rocks and into a very narrow opening.  The closer we get, a faint "boom boom boom" of some Black Eyed Peas tune can be heard....I guess I was wrong (my therapists says it's good to admit it).  Michele and I are the first to get off the boat.  From a distance I can see that a few, very few number of straw beach mats have been laid out.  I trudge through the thigh high water and claim one for us both..  What a cool little spot.  A beach just inside the opening that is no wider than 15-20 feet.  Looking up, you can see giant palm trees providing some cover from the evening sky.  The guides have set up a BBQ grill on which they have pieces of chicken being grilled, and they are selling beer and buckets.  Buckets are made up of a pint of either whiskey, rum or vodka, with soda and a small bottle of the Thai version of Red Bull.  I confer back with Michele only to find out that in what might have been 1 to 2 minutes, they've run out of Rum and Vodka.  So we settle on the Chang beer....our bloodstream has taken a liking to it.

We feast on the chicken and various accompaniments as the guides prepare to give us a "fireshow".  The fireshows are amazing as each guide takes turn showing us their majorette skill sets.  Of course, I don't think that any of these folks are licensed or bonded, so anything can happen with no recourse from any of us.  But the Chang beer tells us to relax and enjoy the show.  We do, for the next 40 minutes, it seems.  Then we're told to run to the water to see the glowing plankton.  Everyone, mind you, well spirited dashes for the water without regards for their belongings;  I swear it's a ruse to get us away from our backpacks, but again, i relax a bit and tell myself to ease up and take it for what it is....an opportunity to see nature at work.  At first we see nothing, so the whole idea of backpack ransacking runs through my head again until I'm told to shake my hand in the water and then there it is, small glows of light, akin to fireflies.  Looks like small sparks coming off your fingers and hands; really cool.

Back on the beach, we're told that there will be two departures; one now and another 30 minutes from now.  Looks like everyone had a long day and 85% of us rush to the boat.  I manage to secure my family on board (in the words of Chris Rock in "I take care of my kids" routine.....I take care of my wife !!!!!! ).  WARNING, HAS SOME VULGAR LANGUAGE.

The boat is now beyond the fire marshall code for capacity.  So here we are sitting in darkness as we await for the engine to start, but all we hear is the sound of metal against metal....hmmmm, I've heard that sound before in a mechanic's garage...never a good sound, means someone is working on something.  At this hour, we're not interested in mechanic work, we just want to go back to our hotel so we can shower up.  In the process of this repair routine, the long tail boat begins to drift, and not to the ocean mind you, but towards the rocks.  The closer we get to the rock and time when impact will be, we know it will be like some Bruce Willis movie where the engine will start seconds before we make impact.  Well, this is DiCaprio land, so no action hero here so for the rocks we head....with the propeller no less.  This goes on for another 15 minutes or so, the engine starts, we all holler in joy....only to find out the engine was just messing with us; you can actually hear it laughing at us.  Two minutes later, our guide gets the best of it and start it up for good.

Back to land we head.  What we thought was going to be a 4 hour tour, turned out to be more like 7-8 hours.....for $18 a piece.  Gotta love Thailand and its low prices.

The next two days on the island is spent enjoying the locals, the shops, the food, the beer and some Muay Thai boxing.  This particular bar offers visitors the opportunity to spar with one another.  On our next trip we will try to see the real deal in Bangkok Stadium.  Oh yeah, one one of those days, I decided to take it easy in the ocean, and though I was careful to avoid the various rocks every couple of feet, one breast stroke kick landed me a nice gash right along the length of my big toe.  I'm recovering.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention that Michele got an Ohm tattoo on the inside of her writst....Bamboo Style; she's going green and looking to conserve Koh Phi Phi energy.

My last blog will be posted later to close out our trip and some of the things we've learned and some of the funny things we've seen along the way.

All vids of Koh Phi Phi are posted here

Jean-Pierre / Michele




My Review Of The Place I Stayed



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