27.12.2011 - 16.01.2012
We arrived in Ao Nang, the beach area of Krabi, and we were greeted by an amazing beach, after a first night out though we decided promptly that the area was not quite what we had hoped for, while beautiful we missed our group of friends who had moved on to Phi Phi an island off Krabi. After spending a few glorious days of sunshine on the beach at Ao Nang we decided to pull some strings and get ourselves out to the island of Phi Phi Don for New Years to be spent with our friends.
(the above pictures are all of Ao Nang -Krabi)
We received a message from them informing us of a boat trip they were taking on New Years Eve afternoon before the celebrations so we asked them to book us in too. We arrived on Phi Phi on the 31st to be greeted by the dilemma of everywhere being booked up, Phi Phi being a tiny island in the Andaman sea, literally too large rocky outposts with maybe just under a half a mile stretch of a sand bank in between that is full of places to stay, restaurants, bars and shops! We found accommodation albeit one night in a dorm and then booked a following two in a bit of a box room, we dumped our stuff, got ready and met the gang.
The boat trip took us to the infamous 'Beach' on the neighbouring island of Phi Phi Lay, made famous by the film which shares the same title with Leonardo Di Caprio. I have read the book too while I have been away traveling, the island is actually fictitious, and supposed to be an unknown paradise in the Gulf of Thailand not the Andanaman. I expect once upon a time Phi Phi Lay would have been like this, but due to the film being filmed on this island it has made it a tourist destination, even though you cannot stay there for more than a day and the island has no accommodation it has become in some respects everything that the book and later, the film, is attempting to depict an unspoilt island with no tourism where people who want to escape reality can. Ironically, in reality the setting for this had becoming exactly what the characters were striving to avoid. However, it was still remarkably beautiful. We jumped off the boat and swam to some steps that went up the side of the steep cliffs around the islands so that we could enter the beach like Leo did in the film. It was a cool experience, unfortunately though I was unable to take my camera so I have had to steal pictures of the beach from friends who have waterproof cameras.
(the gang on the boat before departure!)
During the boat trip we pasted a Cave which has the bizarre name of Viking Cave, this is not because the Vikings ever made it to Thailand, or were even the first people to develop the package holiday. Apparently inside the cave is a painting of a viking ship that one of the first people who used the cave as shelter during a storm drew on the cave wall, however, I'm not sure why they chose to draw a Viking ship. This cave though is now inhabited by a few brave people who live there all year and pay the Thai government a substantial annual free of around a Million Thai Baht (over £20,000). The people who then live there, in return are allowed to harvest the birds nests of the birds nesting in the cave. These are used in the famous Birds Nest soup, a very pricey delicacy in many of the power nations in Asia such as China and Japan.
New years eve was an amazing night out, all along the beach bars where we were located when the clock hit 12 they let off fireworks. Although, at times, they almost seemed out of control, particularly as the bars were attempting to out do each other, it was a great place to see in new year! The weather the next day was very wet, and the island with it's poor drainage got pretty flooded resulting in a common practice in Thailand of taking your flip-flops off and leaving them outside shops or guesthouses. This prompted some bastard to steal my trusty flip-flops, I couldn't get it into my head why someone would as they were horrendously worn and shabby. After a couple of days they reappeared outside the guesthouse, muddy and dishevelled. I was planning on waiting in a bush nearby to see who came out and put them back on, particularly seen as they had been that 'ballsy' to wear them to where they stole them from. I had the intention of clubbing them round the back of their head and stealing their shorts or something. I decided to let bygones be bygones and except that my flip-flops had a little fun without me but were back in possession to cushion my tootsies on the road again!
The rest of our time on Phi Phi Don was spent on the beach, one day Smith and I hired a sea kayak and paddled out of the cove and around the headland to a secluded beach called Monkey Beach, I don't expect it would take a lot of guessing to work out what was there. One of the other days after spending a day on the beach, the weather became a little over cast and we headed up to the view point on the island and got some amazing views across the island and across to Phi Phi Lay.
After spending a little while on Phi Phi and our group gradually getting smaller as people headed off to other places, some before going home, others heading back up to the north of Thailand and some getting ready to move on to pastures new. We decide to check out Phuket which has a reputation as a popular tourist destination and is only a couple of hours away by boat from Phi Phi.
Phuket like the Phi Phi islands is located on the Andaman coastline, and although an island it is connected to the mainland in the north by a bridge, due to it's close proximity. Phuket didn't have the same vibe that we had experienced on the previous island we had been to, it felt more like a Coastal Bangkok. Packed full of westerners and families clearly on holidays.
We spent a couple of days down by the beach which was packed full of sun-loungers and the water front was bustling with people doing various water sports. After a little while on Phuket we decided it wasn't for us, just a walk down the some if the streets became a challenge, being accosted by Thai girls outside countless massage parlours trying to pull you in or physically standing infront of you. Our hotel too, although we had no problems and the room was cheap and cheerful but pleasant enough, we were quite convinced some of the rooms where being used by prostitutes. The bar street in Phuket was huge, we had a couple of beers there while watching some football, but it arguably made Khao San road in Bangkok seem a little tame, which I never expected to say.
I'm painting a bleak view of Phuket, to some its got everything they would want on a holiday, but it is more of a Magalouf kind of destination, and is a poor reoresentation of Thailand, even more so if you have experience the North, which unfortunatly we were unable. It was one of my least favourite destinations, it did have somethings going for it, but we had decided we had enough and decide that we would head back to Phi Phi for a couple of days before heading off to the otherside of Thailand, back to the Gulf to explore the two islands we still wanted to see, Koh Tao and Koh Samui. Going back to Phi Phi was nice, but arguably we had exhausted the small island the first time, so other than a couple of nights out it was a relatively familiar existence and we booked our tickets to take us to Koh Tao. They had been experiencing poor weather conditions in the Gulf and we had no choice but to take a boat to Ao Nang, where we were before new year, and then stay for a night before heading off early in the morning as to make sure that we caught a boat in the gulf during the day when it was safer and less rough. Once in Ao Nang we went out and had some food at a Resturant we enjoyed the first time, watched some football and then got an earlier night before a day of travelling back to the Gulf!