After five days of relentless rain, we were finally basking in the sunshine. And to my surprise, we were doing it on Koh Phi Phi. Originally, I had just wanted to take a day trip to see Maya Bay (made famous after the movie “The Beach,” with Leonardo DiCaprio, which we watched our first night in Koh Lanta). Everything I read online turned me away from spending any real time on Phi Phi since it's known as a “party scene." And on the scale of party people, we rank pretty high on the loser end of that spectrum.
Brian visited Thailand ten years ago and convinced me to at least spend two nights here since I was still chasing my beautiful beach dream (nothing came close in Koh Lanta. The rain didn’t help), and he had remembered Phi Phi being beautiful. Thankfully, Brian’s memory was correct, a rare occasion for sure, and Phi Phi was everything I had imagined a beach in Thailand to look like.
Don’t get me wrong, Koh Phi Phi Don was a complete frat party, but if you can look past the bro-fest, buckets of booze, and all the Same Same muscle tanks (of which Brian is currently, and unfortunately, sporting as I type this post) and walk a little further outside of the super populated beaches, you’ll find beautiful turquoise waters, white-ish sand, and gigantic limestone mountains jetting out of the ocean.
Our quick trip turned into five nights at three different guesthouses ranging from $18 - $35. One of the budget hotels we liked, Gypsy Village 2, was off the beaten path and even gave you access to the pool of the much more expensive resort. Every morning we had the same routine: wake up, walk to 7-11 for our go-to breakfast (usually it was 70 baht but on Phi Phi it was 120 baht) and make a plan for the rest of our day. One day we hiked to Long Beach, stumbling on some beautiful smaller, more secluded beaches along the way.
We decided to take an all day boat ride advertising the Top Ten Island Tour (something we usually wouldn't do) and absolutely loved it! We met an awesome couple from Essex (Hi Marcus and Molly!) on our twelve passenger longtail boat filled with close to thirty of us. This was not a lost in translation situation; we were lied to, but it was still tons of fun.
We snorkeled at Shark Point and surprisingly saw sharks (okay I didn’t because I refused to get in, but Brian did). We visited Monkey Beach where Brian and I were reminded of why we got our rabies shots, especially when a little boy from our boat was traumatized after being bit by a monkey!! It was horrible! The family didn't speak English, and we didn't speak Spanish. But after a lot of back and forth, we finally convinced them to seek medical attention.
We took turns diving from the boat into the beautiful waters and landscape at Pi Leh Bay (this was my favorite part of the trip). And we snorkeled again at Loh Samah Bay where we saw loads of Parrot Fish (ps. I really don't like snorkeling, but it was amazing here). It was this snorkeling trip that gave me the final push to sign up for a dive during our time on Phi Phi. We followed up the colorful snorkeling trip with a couple hours to enjoy Maya Bay (The Beach). We cruised around during sunset and ended the evening swimming with plankton at Mosquito Beach. The plankton, however, was a bit disappointing. Once again I was imagining glowing waters all around me. When in reality I was swimming in the dark, absolutely terrified, seeing only little flickers of light when I rapidly moved my hands and feet back and forth under the water. I pretty much looked like I was drowning the entire time. All in all though, the boat trip was a great way to enjoy a lot of what Phi Phi has to offer. I don’t think I have ever, willingly, spent so much time in the ocean.
As soon as we docked, Brian and I walked over to Aquanauts, the dive center we had researched, and signed up for an afternoon dive. All my fears instantly rushed back, and I was already regretting my decision. Given my anxiety and irrational fear of getting eaten by a shark while being sucked into the depths of the ocean, Brian and I paid a little extra for the private dive + refresher course. There was a moment where I almost backed out, but in the end, I decided to go and I’m so glad I did! The visibility wasn’t great since it was the afternoon of the full moon causing highly disruptive tides, but I regained my confidence in scuba diving and discovered another side of Koh Phi Phi.
I had one moment of complete panic. At one point, we came out of the reef into what looked exactly like the drop off from Finding Nemo. The current was so strong that I felt myself getting sucked into what was surely the great abyss where all the killer sharks were waiting for me. Rather than remaining calm, as we are taught to do, my arms, as if having a mind of their own, starting flailing about so destructively that I knocked out, not just my regulator, but our wonderful dive master’s as well. THANK GOD WE TOOK THAT REFRESHER COURSE! The number one rule of diving, and the first thing you learn, is to never hold your breath, and I did the exact opposite. When I safely had my regulator back where it belonged (MY MOUTH), Roo, our dive master, decided it would be best if we held hands until my now added fear of my lung popping 60 feet below subsided and I could continue the dive. And just to add to all the excitement Under the Sea, I saw a black tip (reef) shark in the distance. But this time, I found myself swimming towards it rather than away. Maybe this whole diving thing is my calling…maybe not. But for now, I’m glad I gave it another go!
All in all, Phi Phi really surprised me. We had the best time and managed to avoid all the buckets of booze! After five blissful days, we decided to head back to Krabi and figure out our last few days in Southern Thailand.