On arriving at Koh Phi Phi, I was instantly struck by the welcoming vibe of the place. There are no vehicles on Phi Phi, but that doesn’t make it any more peaceful! The hustle and bustle of the place instantly made me excited to see more, from the tanned travellers wandering around eating huge slices of pizza, to the masses of people handing out flyers for various club nights and excursions.
Lots of people don’t like Phi Phi because of its touristy vibe but that was precisely what made me love it. Unlike the seedy areas of Phuket and Koh Samui, the tourists on Phi Phi are mostly seasoned backpackers, and so everybody is more or less on the same page. That, combined with the guilt-free hedonistic atmosphere, made me feel revitalised and ready to get on with the next 3 days.
After fighting our way past the swarms of people milling around the pier, we just about managed the short walk to our accommodation, the Flower Bungalows (never underestimate the difficulties of hauling huge backpacks around on sunburned shoulders!), and boy did we have a shock in store.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for slumming it, and I was looking forward to the ‘true’ backpacker experience, but nothing could have prepared us for the Flower Bungalows. Initially, they looked quite quaint, and I was looking forward to staying in the cute wooden shacks with their hammocks swaying gently in the breeze.
However, on opening the doors to the rooms and finding period stains on the mosquito nets, huge gaps where the walls didn’t meet the floor and a million and one cockroaches, none of us was that impressed – even less so when Lewis had a shit, turned the tap on to wash his hands and was greeted with HIS OWN SHIT spewing out!
I did think that perhaps we were just spoilt Western tourists but on reading the reviews on Trip Advisor and seeing that most people don’t last more than a night there, my mind was put at ease! Considering this place was the same price as the luxury of Phuket, I at least expected the plumbing to be working!
After the initial shock (and poor Paula nearly having a mental breakdown), we headed to a cute restaurant called The Rock (that was, conveniently, situated on top of a huge rock), to grab some pizza and chill out before the night commenced.
Finally, we got to the beach and headed to Stones Bar, where fit young Thai men were putting on a fire show. I don’t know what was better; the fact that me and Paula got to unashamedly stare at the half naked fire dancers for about an hour, or the fact that the guys were so stoned that they kept dropping the fire batons and nearly setting the audience alight, which was worrying but hilarious. It wasn’t long before me and Paula were called up onstage for the boys to do fancy tricks around our bodies with the fire. I should have been happy about this but something inside me was telling me that all the peroxide in my hair combined with the ‘skills’ of the dancers was not a good combination.
Anyway, I escaped with all my hair and even got a free shot for taking part! After that we headed to a bar further down the beach called Ibiza (cringe), where we inhaled balloons of laughing gas and danced in the sand (joined by the guy from Chile that we’d met in Koh Phangan!) under the stars until the music stopped and we made our way back to the bungalows, drunk and happy.
I’m purposefully going to leave out our encounter with a gigantic spider in our bathroom because I am still traumatised, but I’ll leave it to your imagination.
The next day we’d booked an all-day excursion around the islands which began at 9:30am. Problem was, we slept through our alarms and woke up at 9:23. HOWEVER, being super women (and Lewis) we somehow managed to get dressed, packed and race to the pick-up point on time, even arriving before the coordinator of the tour! #Winning.
We got onto the boat with the other people on the tour and enjoyed the free coffee and gorgeous views. When we’d got pretty far out to sea, we got off the boat to enjoy an hour or so of snorkelling, which was fascinating. I’ve only ever been snorkelling by myself in the very shallow waters near beaches, so to be able to see what was lurking beneath the water’s surface in deeper areas was incredible. I saw fish of such beautiful colours, with amazing patterns, that were close enough to touch, and one of our group even saw a shark (which I am so glad I didn’t find out about until after we were safely on the boat!).
Next stop was Maya Bay, where The Beach was famously filmed. As we approached it, I had mixed feelings. Part of me was desperate to see it – The Beach is one of my all-time favourite books/films and I knew it would be idyllic – but the bigger part of me knew that the mass tourism would have spoiled it, and to some extent, it has.
Maya Bay was full of Chinese tourists. There were probably about 1000 people crammed into the tiny bay, clamouring for space to take that all important photo. However, we still enjoyed the hour or so that we spent there, and as we ventured further down the bay, we found a quieter part that was simply beautiful.
Before we left, I made sure to swim a little way out and just float. From there, with the water lapping over my body, the sun shining on my face and the vast cliff faces looming over me, the tourists on the beach seemed a million miles away, and I closed my eyes and allowed myself to relax for a few minutes. It was then that I suddenly felt that this place, with these people, was exactly where I was supposed to be.
People back in the UK sometimes criticise me for wanting to travel, or they will ask me when I am going to get a ‘proper job,’ (ie. stop being self-employed and be a slave to the system in some crummy 9-5 office job), but as I floated in the crystal clear waters of Maya Bay, just off an island that can only be described as paradise, I realised that, considering it was just back 11am on a Monday morning, I wasn’t doing too bad. I thought of my friends back home. It would be 5am there, and all the people I cared about would be sleeping soundly for a couple more hours before their alarms went off and they dragged themselves to work – yeah, I wasn’t doing too bad at all.
After we’d exhausted Maya Bay it was back onto the boat for some spicy rice (and more coffee!), and then to our next destination, Monkey Island. I assume that the name has something to do with the hundreds of monkeys that ambush you the minute you step foot on the white sands of this beach. We’d all kayaked from the boat to the beach, and we’d no sooner dragged our kayaks onto the shore than the monkeys appeared, grabbing at our bags and water bottles in search of food.
We had nothing, but the our tour coordinator handed us some packets of sugar that we poured onto our hands for the monkeys to lick off. Not only was it super cute, but it was also funny as hell seeing monkeys with sugary chins wandering around everywhere afterwards.
After the monkeys had tired of us, we kayaked back to the boat and enjoyed some watermelon as we sailed to our final destination. This next beach had nothing particularly special about it – it was just a beach – but we were ‘let loose’ onto it for another hour or so to soak up the last rays of the sun and grab a bite to eat. However, it was doomed to failure from the moment that Simone accidentally dragged her kayak over Lewis’ foot, causing him to storm off and provide me and Simone with endless amusement on his angry return. I ate some pad thai while Lewis fumed at Simone, struggling to suppress my laughter as she also failed to disguise how hilarious she found it.
Our final stop, and a perfect way to end the day, was a random stop in the middle of the sea, where the boat threw its anchor down and settled for us all to come together on deck and watch as the sun set. There is nothing quite like an undisturbed Thai sunset.
That night was more partying, joined once more by the guy from Chile. We watched the fire show, bought huge ‘buckets’ of alcohol and danced the night away. When the music stopped and everything began to quieten down, I was approached by the gorgeous fire dancer that I’d been nursing a crush on, and we chatted for a bit, all the while me congratulating myself for managing to snag his attention.
That night, I slept with Simone in her cabin. Paula and Lewis had had enough of the shitty water and bugs galore, so they’d gone off to a more swanky place, leaving me and Sim to deal with the terrors of the Flower Bungalows by ourselves. We managed though, troopers that we are.
The morning of our third and final day on the island, me and Simone had a leisurely breakfast and some fruit smoothies on the beach (the benefits of life on a paradise island), and chilled in the sun for a couple of hours, until it was time to make our way to another tour.
However, today’s tour got off on the wrong start when I took an instant dislike to the large group of Brits on our boat who made absolutely no effort to speak to us, and the tour guide, who seemed desperate to prove that he was too cool for this sort of thing as he told us about the girl’s names he had tattooed on his arse and how rad it is getting free alcohol every night.
Before we’d been gone an hour, one of the girls hurt her back cliff diving and so we had to turn back because she needed a hospital. When we got to shore, the coordinator said that we’d head back out again shortly but that the trip wouldn’t finish until a couple of hours later than planned. Deciding this was my only chance to escape, I hopped off the boat and made for the beach, where I spent the afternoon reading, eating Massaman curry and drinking cold beers.
That night I went out for food with Lewis, who’d spent the day in bed, while we waited for Simone and Paula to come back. When we were all ready to start the night, we watched the fire show, as had become routine, this time getting involved with the fire limbo and more stunts onstage. At some point in the night, me and Paula ended up in some random tattoo shop, again being offered more alcohol than anyone could possibly consume, before getting free shots in an Irish Bar, and heading back to the beach to party with the other two in our favourite beach bars. After the bigger bars closed, we ended up in a quieter one with a group of French guys, who I stayed with after the others had gone to bed (and ended up meeting up with in Bangkok on our last few nights!).
All in all, it was the perfect end to what had been a beautiful few days in what is quite possibly my favourite place on earth. Thank you Koh Phi Phi 🙂