Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Leo and Me in Ko Phi Phi

Longtail boat in Loh Dalum Bay
The journey began oddly. Well, maybe not that oddly for us. Around 9 PM we found ourselves in the travel agent office in the lobby in of our Phuket hotel drinking large bottles of Heineken. With the travel agent. Who, until we showed up, was celebrating his birthday* by himself. After one round, he assured us that he could arrange the cheapest and best ferry tickets to Ko Phi Phi,** our island destination about 50 kilometers off the coast. So, with beers in hand, and many toasts, we booked our tickets, and 12 hours later happily found ourselves situated on gorgeous Ko Phi Phi.

Ko Phi Phi Don from the Viewpoint (186 metres above sea level).
You can see Tonsai Bay (left) and Loh Dalum Bay (right) with the cliffs of Phi Phi Don

We did the hike.  It was a piece of cake.
A decorated long tail boat.
Gorgeous sunset at Loh Dalem
There are three things to do in Ko Phi Phi: Dive, Go to The Beach’s beach (Maya beach), and Party. Two of out of the three ain’t bad for a couple who is 50% older than nearly everyone else on the island….

Our diving was good, but not spectacular (JLM: Except for the turtles!].  Our day trip to Maya beach, however, was spectacular. It began as you would expect, we walked through some back alleys, past the town’s dump (literally), and then under some peoples’ houses into waist deep water, and only then did we get into our long tail boat. From there, we motored around stopping occasionally and without apparent reason. After some inquisitive looks from the passengers our driver/tour guide/captain would grunt and nod towards sea. We soon learned that this meant snorkeling! And great snorkeling! Crystal clear waters, blue skies, and super buoyancy made each stop better than the last. Just floating around was great fun (which was good, because while snorkels and masks were provided, fins were not).
Jesse ducks under the house to board
Just past the staircase and drying laundry
Ahhh, made it.
Our boat.  Waist deep.  At least the water was warm.
And we're off (along with a few other afternoon longboat tours)
Perfect snorkeling bay
Gorgeous blue waters, soaring limestone cliffs
Riding around in our longtail boat
Next, we headed for The Beach’s beach, Maya beach. No Leo, sadly, but I did my best sexy Leo impersonation. Movie aside, it was a nearly perfect beach. Arriving in the afternoon meant most of the other tourists had gone, and with a short walk Jesse and I were alone laying on the perfect sand and playing in the perfect surf.
Did Leo play in the surf?  I did.
Did Leo lounge on a private beach?  We did.
Did Leo get to Phi Phi Leh by colorful longtail boat?  We did.
So did all the other tourists.  (But there actually weren't very many people.) 
Heading home as sunset.
As for the partying, well, we tried our best. Famous on Ko Phi Phi is Reggae Bar, which found great success with its classic business plan. Young, drunk tourists are offered a free bucket (literally a child’s plastic sand bucket filled with Thai whiskey) in exchange for gearing up and participating in a Muay Thai boxing fight. In a giant, elevated ring, in front of all the patrons of the bar. Whites, blacks, Thai, American, European, you name, they fought. Women too! (Though these fights garnered great initial enthusiasm they quickly became quite boring.) It was great fun, and though neither J nor I got in the ring, it was certainly a sight to see.
The sign reads:
Free Bucket.  For anyone!!!
Who volunteers to fight Thai Boxing for FUN!!!
Will be protection such as head guards.  Thank.  You.
These guys went for it.  Hey, free bucket. 
It was a messy, sloppy fight.  But fun to watch.
Afterwards we heading to the beach, lined with clubs sporting the latest in neon and laser technology. With their music blasting, there was a club for every taste; techno, house, drum and bass, reggae. The music was so loud in fact, that at any given club you could easily hear your club’s music, and the music from each of the neighboring clubs. Somehow, we just weren’t feeling it. Though we weren’t 100% lame, we did get a drink: virgin mango shake. And it was delicious.
Everyone was feeling a bit tired that night

* Though each time we toasted to his birthday, the little Thai man would wink, giggle and clap his hands, saying, “Yes, birthday, birthday!” Whatever, we’re always happy to celebrate.

** There are three daily ferries from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi: 8 AM, 11 AM, and 2:30 PM. Initially he told us the 11 AM was sold out. We hemmed and hawed over the other less desirable times, and suggested we’d just show up at the pier and buy our tickets there. He insisted – slamming his beer down for emphasis - that not only would the boat be sold out, but that the price at the pier was be higher than his price. As we sat around considering our options he made some other calls, and found some tickets on the 11 AM. And you know what, when we got to the pier the next day the 11 AM was sold out, and the ticket did cost more at the pier! Good thing we listened!

More Ko Phi Phi photos are available here.

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