Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

I feel this blog entry should be renamed ‘a series of unfortunate events’ – it’s safe to say luck was not on our side with this segment of our trip!

We got a taxi down to the boat pier in Koh Lanta in the early morning, all feeling a little peaky from the night before. The ferries that we have been used to throughout Thailand are very similar to the ferries at home – they’re very big and spacious, completely air conditioned and provide a smooth transit so much so that you can’t really feel any movement from the sea – our boat to Koh Phi Phi was a world away from that!

The boat was tiny, a little wooden vessel about 5 seats wide and 30 seats long with an oven of a downstairs deck for anyone who was brave enough. There was no air con, just rusty fans which only cooled you down if you happened to sit right next to them. We didn’t. We were warned by the staff that the hour and a half journey may be very choppy due to strong winds and high waves – my goodness they weren’t joking. The boat was literally rocking from side to side and crashing against the waves so violently that you were constantly thrown from your seat – it was actually pretty terrifying. Worse still  it seems that 90% of the people on the boat were violently throwing up all around us – the noises, smells and the heat made it one of the worst journeys of our lives! We laugh about it now but I can still here the crying of the Japanese couple sitting next to us. Luckily none of us got ill but we were super pleased to reach dry land!

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When we reached the island of Koh Phi Phi we were instantly struck with how gorgeous the scenery was – tropical jungles lacing the horizons of the imposing limestone mountains – it was definitely the most beautiful island we had visited yet. Unfortunately the beauty pretty much ends the second you step off the pier – you are instantly struck by the sheer amount of tourists on the island and of course all the touristy shops, stalls and touts that come with that. We knew Koh Phi Phi was one of the more tourist heavy islands due to its fame created around the film ‘the Beach’ but we were even a bit taken back by the sheer size of the industry here. It really is a shame; you can’t help but think that paradise has been  ruined…

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After hopping off the boat we made our way through the lanes of the town towards our accommodation; the Ploy Hostel. We ‘checked in’ with the restaurant next door and the man proceeded to take us to our room. He literally opened the front door from the street which lead directly into a dorm room which we can only describe as a dungeon; it was dark, smelly and dingy – the shower was a cold stream of water above the toilet and you had to jump across various dirty pieces of rubbish to move around. The look on all our faces must have said 1000 words as we all knew we couldn’t stay here. We apologised to the man, picked up our bags and swiftly left. We lost our money on the booking but I think we would genuinely have paid double not to stay there!

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With our luggage back on we trekked across to the other side of the island and made our way to another hostel we had read about online; The Ibiza hostel. The rooms looked much cleaner so we decided to book ourselves in. Feeling much better we dumped our bags and headed across to the hostels pool which was right by the beach, stopping off first at the mango cafe for the most delicious juice and breakfast.

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Unfortunately our luck stuck again and the second we reached the pool the island was hit by the storm which went on for HOURS. It was absolutely torrential -we were completely stranded. We made the best of the situation and decided to have a couple of games of yaniv to pass the time. Funnily enough the Israeli guy, Dor, who we met briefly in our new room recognised that we were playing an Israeli card game and asked if he could join us. We had a couple of beers and he in turn taught us another couple of games that we can add to our Israeli card playing repertoire.  

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As the evening drew in we decided to try and book a snorkelling excursion for the next day. We particularly wanted to see Maya Bay – the bay made famous by Leonardo D’Caprio and the film the beach. We were completely gutted to hear that the storm was due to continue the whole of the next day and therefore the trips were all cancelled – what would we possibly do to fill our time in this island in the pouring rain?! All feeling a little deflated we decided to make the best of a bad situation and headed back to the hostel to get ready for a fun night out. 

In the hostel room drama struck again; one of the English girls in the room had just realised she had had all her money stolen from the room, from inside her locked safe (!) – we spent a good half an hour trying to comfort her. From this point onwards we felt really unsafe in the room which is a never a nice feeling. As we got ready for the evening we met another guy from the room, a Scouse guy who seemed really lovely (although it was obvious from talking to him that he was enjoying the more illegal highs of the island..)

We locked up all our bits, double triple checked that everything was secure before heading into the town for an evening of fun. We headed to a Basil’s restaurant and had the most delicious Thai meal complete with the obligatory buckets of alcohol (when in Koh Phi Phi…)

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After dinner we headed to the Reggae Bar to watch the famous Mai Thai boxing show. All I can say is this show is NOT for the faint hearted! It starts with a display from the professionals before volunteers are pulled up from the audience to fight each other. As you can imagine, testosterone and alcohol doesn’t really mix and some of the fights I watched the whole time through my hands. A particular memory is one guy having his two front teeth knocked out and the proceedings being paused whilst the ushers tried to locate his missing teeth in the ring. Nice. We met up with a few of the guys we met in Koh Lanta and one of the Dutch guys, Emile, was brave enough to get in the ring! 

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After the fun of the boxing show we all made our way down to the beach and enjoyed the delights of a ‘traditional’ Thai beach party; dancing, buckets of gin and tonic, fire shows and LOTS of crazy behaviour. It was a great night and we eventually made our way back to bed at around 4am

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The next morning Cat woke up at the crack of dawn and decided to be a Good Samaritan and brought coffee, juice and toasties back to room for me and Catharina who were still feeling the affects of the night before in bed! Fortunately for us the storm had blown over all night and we woke up to bright blue skies and gleaming sunshine. The snorkelling trip was back on!

At around midday we were picked up by our boat crew and walked down towards the pier and the traditional Thai long boat which we would be spending the day on. After making our way (rather ungracefully) onboard the boat we were off!

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Our first stop was at Monkey Beach where we all got off and admired the monkeys up close. They were great to see but you really had to be careful with your stuff – they were more than happy to jump up on you or hang from your arms, but they’re also very happy to run off with your belongings! We witnessed one girl have her sunglasses taken right off her head! The three of us enjoyed the monkeys from a distance which was probably sensible – one of the guys from our boat was unfortunately bitten;  I’m sure that would be an expensive hospital visit.

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After monkey beach we made our way to the most beautiful snorkelling location right in the middle of the imposing limestone cliffs. This is where my luck ran out…

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After about 3 minutes in the water I felt a MASSIVE stinging sensation on my foot. I couldn’t work out what had happened but ended up just shouting that I had been stung by a jelly fish. I swam as quick as I could back to the boat (followed by a very concerned/confused looking Catriona) and pulled my way up into the boat with a foot which felt like it was on fire!

When I sat down I looked at my foot and could see that I have numerous black spines imbedded deep into my foot – I knew instantly I had stood on a sea urchin! Argh! We called over one of the boat crew who, in my opinion at the time, look very worried! He started trying to pull the spines out with his fingers which really added to the pain. ‘Is it poisonous’ I said to him starting to cry. ‘Yes’ he replied ‘2 hours’. This was like a red flag to me ‘2 hours to live?!’ At this point is was crying pretty loudly and had attracted quite the audience.

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After begging him to take me back to the mainland we eventually worked out that he meant ‘it’ll stop hurting in two hours’. You see my confusion.

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The rest of the boat trip was a bit of a disappointment for me as my foot was throbbing and I couldn’t put any weight on it. I certainly couldn’t make my way up and down the tiny ladder! Cat had fun though in the water and I enjoyed chatting away to the rest of the people from the safety of the boat!

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The main reason I wanted to do the boat trip was so we could visit Maya Bay, the beautiful cove from the film the Beach. Typically our bad luck struck again and the beach was shut because of strong winds – but we were so close! We got a small glimpse of the shore but we’re so disappointed not to properly make it onto the sand!

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After a nice (!?) day out at sea we made our way back to the island making a little stop off to visit the sea gypsy village which was pretty interesting to see – I’m not sure I could live in those cramped caves!

When we made it back on the shore, my luck hit once again and, trying not to put my weight on my dodgy foot, I slightly misjudged my getting off the boat and fell straight off the edge, straight into the water below. I was SOAKED from head to toe.

One of the tourists from another boat who had witnessed my sea urchin fiasco came up to the then drowned rat me on the beach. ‘I think you should go to the hospital, some of the sea urchins here are very poisonous and you should have the spines removed’. Great – just when I was happy thinking I might still live…

The Koh Phi Phi hospital was only a stones throw (or a little limp in my case) away from the pier so we decided to go get it checked out for peace of mind. The doctor had a quick look but told me that because they were in so deep I should just leave them to dissolve naturally. Apparently it can be more dangerous to remove them as if they break they can release more venom. That solved that problem!

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On the walk back through town we were all feeling pretty down and none of us could stomach another night in the hostel. We decided just to suck up the cost again and moved to our third (!) accommodation of the island, our own little bungalow at – I cant tell you how luxurious it felt!

That evening none of us felt up for the party atmosphere of the island. We did all walk into the town and grabbed ourselves some food from one of the restaurants which we then swiftly asked to have takeaway and proceeded to eat in bed whilst I soaked my foot in the hotel rooms bin which I had filled up with vinegar. Although it was a bit of a lame evening I think we really needed a bit of down time – especially after such an eventful 48 hours.

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The next morning we all woke up feeling amazing after such a good nights sleep in such a lovely room. We were brought breakfast up to the villa which we ate out on the decking before packing up and making our way to the pier – we were leaving the island, next stop Phuket.

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Our experience of Koh Phi Phi was a bit unfortunate as it was such a stunning island – we were just so unlucky on our visit. We definitely would recommend the island to others and we did have a lot of fun there – maybe just make better accommodation choices and watch out for those pesky sea urchins!

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