I had a great time in Phi Phi (pronounced pee pee - hehe). When we first got off the ferry it was a little daunting since we'd heard accommodations book up very fast on the island, and it's not uncommon for backpackers to have to turn around and get on the ferry going back since the whole island is full. Luckily we managed to find a little guesthouse for a decent price. The guesthouse itself was very basic – two beds, a fan, and a small bathroom, but that's all you really need since you're not there to stay inside. Our first day there we went up to the Phi Phi viewpoint, which had some spectacular views of the beach, which you can see in the pictures posted in the previous entry. The climb up is incredibly humbling though...it's about 15 minutes of climbing stairs that are very steep. That combined with the heat means you have to take your time. There are a couple places along the way where you can rest and buy some water, but of course the people that run these establishments are no fools and charge three times the normal rate for a bottle of water. It's unavoidable though, since I lost at least a water bottle's worth of sweat climbing up. Even people in much better shape than me (hard to imagine, I know) struggled. But it was well worth it to finally get there and observe the beaches below.
Phi Phi is a beautiful island, but it's very overdeveloped and crowded. There are no cars on Phi Phi, so there is lots of foot traffic, and some locals riding bikes, constantly shouting “beep beep” at the oblivious farangs (Thai for tourist) in their way. It's one of the more popular destinations for the young crowd. Luckily this also means it's not too hard to find some parties at night, which we did on our first night there. We even got into the spirit and bought a couple “buckets” which are basically small sand pails filled with a vile concoction of cola, red bull, and plenty of Thai whiskey. One is more than enough as we quickly discovered. They're not so bad at first, but once the ice starts to melt and the coke loses its fizz, it's just brutal. At night, there are fire shows along the beach, which are basically some Thai people juggling fire with various levels of expertise. Afterwords the beach bars blare music of all different tastes, so if you don't like one place, you can easily move on down to the next bar. One of my favourite memories from Phi Phi was on the walk home one night when Paul had drank one bucket too many (total: one bucket) and was given an impatient beep beep by a passing cyclist. For the rest of the way there, Paul managed to mimic the tone and cadence perfectly, shouting “beep beep” at anybody in front of us. Watching them jump out of the way was priceless. Sometimes this actually did get us around some slow pedestrians, but as often as not the people in front of us would be a good 5 yards in front of us and walking at the same pace. Guess you had to be there.
The following day was spent relaxing in the shade on the beach, where I managed to put a good dent into Rainbow Six, a 900 page tome that I conquered within a week. The great thing about most hostels is they have lots of book shelves, so when you're done your book, you can simply swap it for a new one.
On our third day, Paul and I did a boat tour that lasted all afternoon and took us to many different spots. The first was Monkey beach, where hundreds of tourists line up each day to take pictures of the monkeys that inhabit the beach. Then we went to a little bay with warm shallow water for a quick swim and to snack on some pineapple. After that we went to another bay to do some snorkeling where you can see many different tropical fish. I've only snorkeled once before and find it tough to breathe only through my mouth via a tube, but after a few minutes I got the hang of it. The trick is not to tilt your head too much, otherwise you get a nice throatful of sea water. After this we went to Maya Bat, which is famous in backpacker circles as the filming location for The Beach. Its appeal in the movie is its extreme seclusion. Now it's notoriously overrun with longboats and people, as you can see in some of the pictures. Pretty much every tour boat goes there, so it's not quite that special any more. The trip ended with enjoying the sunset on the water. At less than 10 dollars canadian, it was quite the deal.
After that it was just a lot of reading on the beach and checking out the nightlife. Luckily I managed to wake up early on Monday morning and caught the Superbowl, which was the first full football game I've seen since leaving. While it was a little slow at times, it was great watching the game, regardless of the time.
Finally on Friday we decided it was time to move on and came to Ao Nang, a smaller beach town on the south coast of the mainland. We booked a thatch hut guesthouse, which I think threw Paul off a bit. It's a nice spot and very social atmosphere, but the amenities are barebones at best. It reminds me a lot of Baboo's Gardens, the campground in the mountains of Jamaica that I've visited twice. I must admit I was a little unsure too when I heard some critters scurrying across the ceiling right above my bed in the middle of the night too, but thankfully nothing attacked me – that I know of.
So right now we're just waiting in Ao Nang to catch the bus back up to the belly of the beast – Bangkok. Unfortunately it's a 14 hour ride, so it'll be a long one. Paul's flying home on Tuesday, and I need to go there to finally get my new bank card sent. While there I may also apply for a visa to visit one of the neighbouring countries as well. I'm not sure where I'll be heading to after Bangkok, but when I do, I'll be sure to keep you posted. Later!
By the way, happy birthday mom! I wish I could have been there to celebrate with you. Love you!
Update – we made it to Bangkok after the terribly long bus ride. We managed to sleep a bit in some real beds upon arrival, so we're well rested. Which is good, since it's Paul's birthday tonight and we're gonna make it a good one. Beep Beep Bangkok!