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Phi Phi Islands

Koh Phi Phi Maya bay

Thailand 2009: Day 7 – Touring Koh Phi Phi (Maya Bay, Monkey Island & Bamboo Island)

Date: Dec 19th, 2009

Woke up 6am, checked out and kept my bags at the reception. I got picked up at around 7am and the tour vehicle went around collecting the other tourists from different hotels who were all part of some day tour or the other.

Ao Nang beach road
Ao Nang beach road early in the morning

The tour of Koh Phi Phi I had chosen was on a speedboat, thinking it would have been safer as supposed to taking a traditional longtail boat (the wooden ones commonly used as taxis and by fishermen).

Ao Nang beach speedboat tour
The first boat was our ride

Our tour group consisted of nearly 16 people and I walked rather hurriedly towards the boat in the hope of getting a spot right in front. Unfortunately, in that rush, I ended up dipping my camera bag in the water. (“Oh crap” moment #7).

Fortunately, the camera and lenses were safe. Only thing that got drenched was the manual and the battery charger (wasn’t too happy about that) which were placed in the front pouch. But because I had to stop a few seconds and assess the damage, a few managed to pass me by to get a spot right at front. Sucked.

Anyway, we set off after everyone put on their life-jackets. The tour boat had to pick up two more tourists from Railay which is a 5 minute boat ride from Ao Nang beach.

Railay West beach boat
Barracuda was the name of our tour company

Railay was another place in Krabi I planned on spending time at. It’s become a destination for rock-climbing enthusiasts…

Railay hill limestone rocks
… for obvious reasons.

Railay hills sea

Railay West beach
Railay West beach

Since we docked at the beach and the boat was stable for a few minutes, it gave me an opportunity to take out the Sigma 70-200 lens. Unfortunately, humidity had caused vapour on the filter and I made the mistake of trying to clean it with a wet towel — which only made it worse!

Railay hill, Thailand
It wasn’t misty that morning… the lens filter wasn’t clean
Railay beach rock hill
None the less, the “effect” still makes it look ‘heavenly’

Railay beach boats

We left Railay and headed off for our tour of the Phi Phi islands. On the way, we passed by Koh Kai (“koh” = “island”), famously called Chicken island.

Chicken island Koh Poda
Spot the ‘chicken’
Barracuda Phi Phi boat tour guide
The one in orange was our guide. I believe she was a woman.

A bumpy 30-minute ride later, we stopped at a quiet and less-crowded spot for snorkeling.

Koh phi phi snorkeling stop
Emerald green water… mmmmmmm 🙂

I had never tried snorkeling, so I put on the gear and got into the water (which was quite cold). I had my life jacket on so I just lay flat and put my head down under the water. My-GOD-the-water was so clear! It was an awesome feeling and wished I could have captured it on film — but I wasn’t going to risk my Canon 7D even though it was weather-sealed to a certain extent.

“Swimming with the fishes” was the only way to describe the feeling. There were so many in the water and the sun light making its way through the water and glistening off the fish scales made for a very pretty sight. I can’t wait to try out scuba diving!

Phi Phi may bay water fish
The fish… from above the water

After 30 mins or so, the tour boat moved on to our next stop — the famous Maya Bay. Like I mentioned in an earlier post,  I wanted to come to Krabi after watching The Beach. Even though the movie was mediocre (but the soundtrack awesome), I loved the fact there were beautiful paradise islands not too far away from India. In the film, the inhabitants of Ko Phi Phi Lee were only a few. The beaches were pristine, the waters clear and the sands were devoid of any litter. I was looking forward to visiting such places in this trip.

But…. things have changed since the release of The Beach apparently.

Ko Phi Phi Lee Maya bay crowd
This is Maya Bay now

Turns out I’m not the only one who watched The Beach and was inspired by it to visit Thailand. 🙂

The place was crowded! Most of the visitors are from Phuket and there were more than 20 boats at any given time docked on the shores. Our stop was for around 30 minutes, so I could wade through the hundreds of people and check out the place as much as possible.

Many Chinese/Taiwanese/Hong Kong/Japanese tourists were excitedly posing under these phallic stalactites.

Phi Phi Maya Bay penis shaped rockOur tour guide even asked if she/he could take a photo with me citing we were “matching-matching”.

Phi Phi Maya bay Mithun
I’m guessing it was because of the ‘orange’

Besides tourists, there really isn’t much on Maya Bay. Its a protected reserve and there is just one shack serving drinks and toilet way in the back.

Phi Phi Maya bay bar toiletPhi Phi Maya bay boats

A brief video (you may choose 720p or 1080p for Hi-Definition quality):

Despite the crowds, you could still make out how beautiful Maya Bay is. It would have been nice if I could come by private boat early in the morning or at sunset and spend some quite time alone here.

Koh Phi Phi Maya bayAfter half-an-hour, we moved just a bit away from all the boats for some more snorkeling.

Phi Phi Maya bay snorkeling
Lying flat and staring under water is fun

We left Maya Bay and moved on to our next stop — another location which was featured in The Beach. Seriously, half the tour was based on “how this is where Leonardo DiCaprio did this”, “here is where Leo jumped into the water” etc. What Dil Chahta Hai did for Goa, The Beach did for Ko Phi Phi.

Koh Phi Phi lagoon
Leonardo DiCaprio was here too

Koh Phi Phi lagoonKoh Phi Phi lagoon

A brief video of the lagoon:

After taking a round inside the lagoon, we then made our way to Tham Pya Nak, a.k.a Viking Cave.

Viking cave Koh Phi Phi
We were told a few people actually live in there

No, the vikings never made it to Thailand, but you can read about why it got that nickname here. Found inside are  swift’s nests which people collect to be used in Bird’s Nest Soup, a Chinese delicacy.

We couldn’t go inside as it is restricted to tourists mostly because of the disturbances caused by chatter and flash lights that annoy workers and the bats that reside in the cave.

So we moved on to our final stop before lunch — Monkey Island.

Koh Mak Monkey island
Monkeys inhabit this island… thus the name. Duh.

Koh Mak Monkey islandAt around 12:30, we headed for Phi Phi don, which is the only commercial region of the Phi Phi islands. All the hotels, stores, internet cafes and markets are located on this part of the island.

The buffet lunch was at some restaurant and it was… meh. Didn’t have much ‘cos it wasn’t really palatable. The lunch is included in the tour fare and there were dishes in both veg and non-veg (though, as with all of Thailand, more options in the latter).

Phi Phi Don view
Phi Phi Don: The view from the restaurant

We had around half-an-hour to kill after lunch to walk around Phi Phi Don, which is what I did.

Phi Phi Don streetPhi Phi Don panoramaPhi Phi Don beach

Phi Phi Don fisher men swordfish
Yummm… (yeah, yeah.. go away PETA!)
Phi Phi Don Finding Nemo restaurant
Poor Nemo. After all his father went through.

Phi Phi Don town

Phi Phi Don town store
Man with evil stare: “You better buy banana”

Phi Phi Don marketPhi Phi Don lady shoppingPhi Phi Don barPhi Phi Don boatsBy 2pm, we left Phi Phi Don and made our way through slightly rough seas (best not to eat much when taking a speedboat) and it for a bit, it looked like it was going to rain.

Koh Phi Phi dark cloudOur final destination on the tour was an hour-long stop at Bamboo Island.

Bamboo island beach
Now I know what it feels like to be on the set of LOST

Bamboo island beachAnother island view from Bamboo islandThis is what I wanted to see in Thailand. This is the kind of place I wanted to spend an entire day at. Sit on the beach under a shade and just stare into the sea.

But all I could think about was how sad I was in knowing I had only hour here. I didn’t even feel like walking a bit to explore the island and find the bamboo trees inside, which is where the island get its name. I wanted to soak in as much of the shore as I could. There weren’t many people on our beach too — the way I liked it.

Even the rocks looked unique.

Bamboo island panorama
(This is a panoramic photo comprised of 4 shots)

Bamboo island rock formationBamboo island rock islandBamboo island rocks waterAs it neared time for us to leave, I recorded some videos (which I didn’t even feel like setting up the tripod for) and then headed back to the boat.

Mithun at Bamboo island
The lack of smile is due to: a) very sunny b) very sad to leave

With that, the one day tour of the Phi Phi islands came to an end. It really is a beautiful place and it was exactly how I pictured it to be. (Minus the crowds). But the next time, and there will be a next time, I’m just going to come here on a longtail boat. It may be slower, but it will be a lot less bumpy than the speedboat.

Koh Phi Phi speedboat ride
Word of advice: Speedboat not recommended for photography

Koh Phi Phi sea rock

Koh Phi Phi sun seaOn the way back, I sat there all glum and told myself I didn’t want this to end. And so, on the way back to Ao Nang, I decided not to end it.

When it came time to drop the tourists from Railay… I got down along with them.

Other posts in this series:

Getting ready for my trip

The day I left for Thailand

Day 1 – Suvarnabhumi, Pantip Plaza, Fotofile & MBK

Day 2 – Bridge over the River Kwai and Tiger Temple (Wat Pa Luangta Bua) in Kanchanaburi

Taking the bus to Chiang Mai from Bangkok

Day 3 – Maesa elephant camp, ‘long-neck’ tribe village near Chiang Mai

Day 3 (Part 2) – Chiang Mai Night Market

Day 4 – Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai… and back in town

Day 5 – Leaving Chiang Mai for Phuket

Day 5 (Part 2) – One night in Phuket

Day 6 – Leaving Phuket for Ao Nang by bus (via Phang Nga)

Day 7 (Part 2) – Exploring Railay, Krabi

Day 8 – Flying from Phuket to Bangkok

Day 8 (Part 2) – Chatuchak Weekend Market, Bangkok

Day 9 – MBK, Siam Paragon… and ‘little Arabia’?

Day 10 – Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha

Day 10 – Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and finally leaving Thailand

Figures, lessons learned, and things I couldn’t do

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