What is not to love with an island where there is no option but walk – 04.03-04.15
Despite my not-so-convenient experience finding my temporary home in this island, I got to say this is my favorite from this trip leg. An island that is all-walk, a stand-out blue and calm water, crowd when you need them and someplace when you don’t, an option to splurge or go cheap with beer — it’s no wonder I felt happiest in here.
Although deprived of a plankton tour, I still managed to score a half-day trip with an island of monkeys which I realize to be universal source of cuteness (because while others may have thought it strange of me taking ‘selfies’ with monkeys, they took one themselves anyway), an encounter with location shoot of a favorite movie, an unexpected trail via Loh Sa Ma Bay, realization that I could have this sideline being a photographer to snorkeling people and this shallowness at finding enjoyment in varied shapes set against the water
Click more for more of my stories at Phi Phi!
Coming from the less secluded island Ko Lanta, I was prepared to be in some crowd as I was on my way to Phi Phi.
This time, I rode a ferry that is much smaller than the first one at a trip that was shorter too. Did not then even manage to get some sleep so I killed time observing people and going back and forth my comfy seat inside and deck when I need some sun or some random view find.
I was especially interested in Phi Phi because I knew way back that it serves as one of the more convenient jump-off points to filming location of one of my favorite movies (The Beach). My interest grew when I also read online that feet is the only way to move around the island and that at the bay, there is opportunity to swim with the glowing planktons.
This fellow passenger little boy who was also comfortable in his seat
I was excited yes, but it was mixed with tired when upon arriving at the pier, I was greeted by some unbearable heat, not to mention this burning feeling on my shoulders.
I nonetheless immediately loved the busy-ness of the place. For one, how the place seemed to get its share of a more varied mix of guests. Finally, I was seeing Asians compared to Ao Nang and Ko Lanta beaches when I felt like I was sticking like a sore thumb as the sole Asian (well, except the locals who I look alike with).
Phi Phi seemingly also had more promise of street food. And this I concluded early on by mere sight of some fried chicken in one of the stalls near the pier (Maybe I was just hungry then, huh?). Having gone to Bangkok, I actually expected street food at almost every place in Thailand. Until Phi Phi though, I was starting to think that was a wrong conclusion.
Island’s ‘welcoming’ photobomb (and I tried best to smile although I was feeling so hot and uncomfortable)
Walking starts here, baby!
Man-made versus natural
Unlike hostels in other areas I was in, I had no idea in mind where my hostel exactly was as I heard no reply when I tried contacting them via email weeks before my trip. I had no choice then but to rely on what is written on my Agoda voucher; and well, my skill in asking strangers for directions.
Before looking for my place to stay in though, the plan was to first look for this tour agency where I can book my Plankton Tour at Maya Bay. That I was guided with where. I still had to ask around but maybe its location was easy to find that I had no trouble really.
The real trouble happened when I was told that they were no longer offering that tour and had the SleepAboard tour only (this, by the way, is an overnight stay at bay. It had good reviews and I wanted to get this too but I already had my hostel in Phi Phi and a ferry-out to Phuket the following day). I then felt that my plan for the day was ruined so that was quite a let-down.
After such sad news, I went on to search for my hostel, uncontrollably thinking of a plan B. Could be the reason too why I was not able to find my hostel immediately. It could be too that I just really suck at directions. 😀 Apparently, I still had some though because I knew that I was looking for Loh Dalum Bay. When I was there, however, I did not expect it to be that long a strip of beach. It was a matter of deciding whether to go left or right. And I turned left. (Funny how I would later on find that my hostel is a few meters to the right).
Inevitably, I asked many people around but for some reason, despite the address in Thai, no one could be of help. There was then a moment when I just threw all my bags in a shady spot and paused from all that hostel search. The view was amazing so I took some photos first before heading back to reality that I must find that place.
One of the many lazy cats I encountered while searching for my hostel
Relieved by this view
Tired but at least this is what I get to see
Upon arriving at my hostel (Blanco Dorm Room), I was still lost as I could not find the reception area. A Caucasian guy on his laptop at the hostel bar said to me “you’re looking for the reception, right? This is the reception”. I was like to self “yeah right, even the reception area I could not find”.
I logged in but unable to get my space in a room because it was still occupied. I just prepared my beach stuff, left my backpack in the common area and off I was to some water and sand.
Yes, I should have seen that sign
More of these longtail boats in this side of town
Still feeling uneasy that my supposed tour for the day was not going to happen, I decided to take a walk around the commercial streets to look for options. I felt lucky that I did because I managed to score one at an affordable price of around 600 baht.
I found a random tour place (which are everywhere really in Phi Phi!), asked for a tour to Maya Bay in the afternoon and booked without even bothering to ask what else are in the tour.
I was just initially worried that I my tour would be cancelled because it was just me. It was later during the tour when I came to realize and that which I appreciate how systematic the tours are in this place (and probably in the surrounding islands). One can book by herself then they make the arrangements with boatmen whose guests are being filled by tourists from various tourists agencies.
Because this island was once visited by a tsunami
Came back to my hostel to check in as soon as I settled my tour for that afternoon at 2. I was told to come back 15 minutes so I thought I still have time to go to my hostel, laze around a bit, walk and maybe even grab a bottle of beer.
My room was ready when I came back at Blanco. There was this odd moment when I entered my room because the girl seated on my left smiled at me and I seemed to have smiled back awkwardly. She seemed to be friends with my other roommates so even if I did not intend to be friendly really, I felt quite out-of-place. It could also be the fear that this was the first that I am staying in a mixed dorm.
I literally just put my backpack in my room and found a spot in the common area. There were others guests minding their own business – chatting with a friend, talking with someone over the phone, sleeping – while I did mine, which is charge my phone. Yep, by that time, I have accepted that powerbank was officially dead that I again have to hoard every possible outlet where I can charge.
Non-guests, but two resident pets were seemingly doing their business too. The bully dog bullying this tiny kitten whose business seemed to be allowing self to be bullied.
On my way back to hostel, could not help but still stop to again capture
Thank you very much, my broken powerbank
My hostel’s bully dog
I was set for more walking but despite my basic beach clothes, I could not seem to take the heat. It was too early to be at the meet-up place though so I decided to look for a place where I could drink beer.
I was on thrifty mode so did my canvass of relatively cheaper beer. I observed then that the cheaper ones are those that you can just buy and drink while walking but with the heat at that time, it was not an option for me. (Hence, those signs that request tourists to not bring beer not brought from that establishment).
What I did then was just stay away from the ‘expensive-looking’ restaurants and found my way into – guess what – a bakery! I slowly finished a bottle there before going back to the tour agency place which conveniently happened to be just beside the place.
Let us sample those chicken pops!
Do not drinks or else you would go the clinic?
Drinking at a bakery, huh
AND NOW LET THE TOUR BEGIN!
As I may have hinted earlier, I was joined with other tourists who booked from another agencies as I noticed that a guide came to ours already with other tourists trailing behind him. (And yes, I spent some time on tours for this trip that I could actually smell who are tourists from locals).
At the boat found a spot on the front row so I could take photos. True enough, I was taking lots of photos and enjoying too much of the structures that the possibility that my gadgets would get wet was off my mind. (There were lots more that I would no longer be sharing here because I could no longer remember why I even took some! I may have seen a shape then but now I could no longer do!)
While waiting for the other passengers
Those exposed engines made me more fascinated with these boats
And at this point, I began this series of karst photos
Is it just me or is there some illusion to this photo that this makes me feel dizzy when I stare at it?
Our first stop and one that actually made me giddy was at MONKEY BEACH (AO LING) !!!
I have read about this online but since I did not know what this was included in the trip, I was extra happy! We were given (freaking short) 10 minutes for this so I was in panic trying to capture as much as I could.
I know monkeys to be naughty (and mean sometimes) but the ones here were not (at least from my brief encounter with them) but were not the friendliest either. I did manage to take just the right amount of photos, including a pretty decent one among many selfies. (It was a moment when these two girls were looking at me, thinking I may been crazy. Then they had their photos taken too!).
That ray of sunshine to that happy first stop!
Monkeys on camouflage
Of similar shape
Where tourists and monkeys roam
This monkey seemed scared at me. But – I don’t care!
Woops. Wrong way
This photo of the inside my bag an evidence of how careless I was at that time!
Sharply cut from the edge and looks like a sleeping big-bellied man too!
Wondered what that white sand place is called
MAYA BAY, and of course that tour’s reason for being was our next destination. It was low tide when we arrived and expectedly, it was no as secluded as they make it appear in the film.
Apparently though, that was not in its most crowded state then. When I posted a photo of it on Facebook and a friend commented that when he was there, it was like Plants vs Zombies with the volume of tourists. Later on when tide got lower, I thought that it could be because most of the tours try to be there in the morning when tide is most pleasant.
Before leaving the boat, we were given this instruction that the boat would pick us up from another spot. I heard something about a path to the other side where the boat would be waiting for us. Looking back now, I could not seem to recall what the guide’s actual words were. Suddenly amazed then how I got that instruction (they why for which I would only understand later that afternoon).
Upon leaving the boat, I was marked with a pentel pen on my right hand – maybe a sort of identification. That, however, did not make me less scared of the possibility that I might miss the boat. As a solution, I tried my best to keep to memory bank faces of boatmates so in case I do not know to do, I can always ask (or stalk) them.
It was a walk from the boat to the shore. I was not the most physically strong individual so while it was shallow and clear with some tiny rocks, I did that so with so much cautiousness. It was only then upon reaching the shore that it was able to sink into me how lovely that place that I was in.
One has to see it for himself and I am also bad at describing places so I shall talk about the feeling. To me, surrounded by those giant greens and that calm water, being there felt like being given this big hug. With this comfort comes the feeling of sadness as I am unable to document (and somewhat take home with me) this feeling of having lovely all around. That could be coming as well from the feeling that I could not be in there forever (or worse, with an hour in that island, with at least as long as I want for the day).
When it panic, take it panoramic
Because they wanted that to be in the background
And I was just like them
My spot at Maya Bay
Water far from shore at this time of day
After a quick wade in the water, I decided to look for the other side of the bay our guide was talking about. I thought that should allow me to estimate how long it takes to get there so I know how much I can still bum in Maya Bay.
It was easy to find the path on the right side with my back to the sea. Directions were pointing to Loh Sa Ma and toilet so I just assumed that that other place could Loh Sa Ma. I followed arrows to that place but I ended up seeing steps that lead to nowhere but a rocky bay.
So this was a path somewhere; I just was not sure whether it was THE path the tour was talking about
Kept on walking and still I was not sure
Hmm. What now?
I took some photos then went down again to go back to Maya Bay. On my way back, I saw this couple who I recognized to be those seated behind me on the boat so I approached them and asked where we were supposed to meet. They apparently also was in that area and I went to and they as equally confused as I was where we were asked to go.
Oh well, I thought I had more time so I just went back to Maya Bay, maybe subconsciously hoping for clues on where our boat was.
Interesting island at Loh Sa Ma Bay
Tenting allowed on this area!
Upon reaching Maya again, the water has significantly receded, making it impossible for boats to dock. It was then it dawned on me that yes, there is no way that the boat could be waiting for us here.
Just when I was on my way back to Loh Sa Ma and just before I walk along the path again, the couple I talked to earlier approached me to tell me that we were in the right place earlier. It was a nice gesture as it seemed like they indeed looked for me.
Apparently, from that spot after the stairs, we just had to climb down through a rope or go through the small cave on the right side. Howkey. I did not sign up for those extra ‘physical’ activities but I was left with no choice. I could not remember what led to the decision but I went with going through the small hole lower ground. And – it was not easy for me. But I was lucky that two travelers were trying to cross too – one going before me held my hand while the other one had my stuff.
When that ordeal was over, I even had to do more rock-walking on my way to our boat. Since I knew I really could not do it by myself, I had to actively ask help from the guide. Gaad, I could not explain how thankful I am when we I finally made it to the boat.
The other passengers had a hard time crossing too. Some even had a harder time getting into the boat because the waves were making it not steady. There was even longer wait-time at the boat because two girls were not clear on the instructions so they were just looking for the missing boat on Maya. Thanks to the helpful guy from the couple who re-approached me earlier who went to look for them.
Where have most the water gone?
Moment of relief
Spot the cliff jumper from the booze cruise
From a far perspective
Because this stuffed one looks like Sabah-nana, a toy I got from Kota Kinabalu last year
Goodbye, other boats
While I remembered the guy manning the agency that the tour would go back to main island right after sunset, I thought that after that destination, we were done. It was then a surprise when we were brought to two more snorkeling spots after that.
I was in a slight bit of depression not having the skill (or even the courage) to wear a vest and snorkel. I ended up then just watching the rest of the passengers have their moments with the fish. In hindsight, I really could have snorkeled as the water was not that deep anyway. It was just at that time, I was too scared I could not even make my way back to the boat and I did not want to bother others helping me. Tsk. Talk about being arrogant and unwilling to ask help. I shall not be like that next time.
Insert me there!
That bird may be small but it soars higher
View from our second snorkeling spot
Rocky but shallow water
A monster hides!
Passed by this community who lives in rocks
Uncaptured by they reside on those gaps too
The sunset viewing was apparently from the boat. Quite literally right before we go back, right? Our boatman stopped the engine and we stayed on this spot. People started wondering so he explained that we have an option to wait for the sunset for about an hour or go back to the main island.
If it was just me, an hour is a looong wait but tolerable. Most passengers though feel that was too long.
Back at Phi Phi then before sundown at just the right time when there was light but less of the heat, it was a chance for me to do the walking I did not get to do earlier that day. Grabbed myself a bottle of Chang, which was cheaper than the ones at restaurants (and apparently too, they just let you get the bottle for free unlike here in the Philippines where they usually ask for a minimal deposit fee) and explored the streets.
A favorite was when I came across this part near the supermarkets because I felt that was where I could find more local than touristy. A fun discovery too to get inside convenience stores whenever I feel like getting some cold air.
Hello there, big bottle of Chang
Less tourist, more local
When I felt like wading, I decided to look for Loh Dalum Bay again. I was greeted with sight of the sea with significant portions gone. On the surface, it was a gloomy view because what was once blue has then turned gray.
I was suddenly reminded of the tsunami in 2004 and what contributed to casualties was how people came near the sea when it was suddenly low tide. I realized how low tide is common in this area and quite obviously at that that it was not unlikely for people, maybe even locals, to not panic at that time.
Despite such thoughts about tragedy, I oddly felt at peace at that time of day. I found myself walking as far as I could. I eventually made sense that it could be fascination in being able to reach places that I was scared to be into when there was water. Crossing that marker that separates the swim area from not gave me a certain high, like I just invading an abandoned personal property. Kind of odd, I know. But true.
So that is how that sea bed looks like
On the other side
Crash into me
Blanco where I was standing
A different sunset
Father and daughter sighting
When had enough of peace at the then-sea, I went back to my hostel to freshen up before I find places to visit for the night. Knowing how the island is known for its parties, I was expecting it could be a challenge to find that is more on the ‘tame’ side. I just knew I could not stay in my hostel because reviews online identified it to be indeed a party hostel. And I am not a party person yet I just chose this because it was near the beach, cheap and claimed to be clean too. Hence, that escape plan in mind.
While charging my phone, I did not even realize that it was starting to get dark and yet there were no people in my hostel. When phone was done charging, I decided to take a walk and that was when I saw how nearby establishments were having the parties. Nothing different as quite similar to the ones in Boracay with all those dancing and play with fire.
What are you looking at? And where is your kitten friend?
Where the brave dancers were
Just so I remember the beer price
Finally got to check out the souvenirs
And tried their pancake I have always been curious about since day 2
This made me sing
Hard drinks + Soda in buckets
Checked out this place but did not dare get in
Getting a tattoo on my to-do list when abroad but this scene scared me for some reason
HOW TO GET TO ISLANDS OF PHI PHI DON AND PHI PHI LEE
Island is accessible from various points on Andaman Sea side of Thailand. Phi Phi Ley, where Maya and Loh Sa Ma bays are a boat ride away.
In my case, I got to Phi Phi Don (Tonsai Pier) via a small ferry ride from Lanta which I booked via Phuket Ferry online for USD 14.40.
I got off the island via a bigger ferry ride to Phuket (Rassada Pier) for USD 17.64.
OTHER PRACTICAL DETAILS :
Streets in the main island are similar to a portion of Boracay in the Philippines as souvenirs and restaurants are everywhere.
Get ready for sweat especially during noontime which could be irritating especially if you have luggage with you. Some offer cart service for 50 baht if you do not want this kind of hassle.
Beer is cheaper in convenience stores and souvenir shops than restaurants and bars. Generally sold in bottles than in cans (unlike in Krabi Town / Ao Nang) and tourists are seen carrying it around while walking.
Read my TripAdvisor review of Blanco Dorm Room here. It is right across the beach but water is better if you walk farther on the left side.