Getting Around Ko Phi Phi
29.03.2010 - 29.03.2010
Sadly, today will probably be our last day in Ko Phi Phi. I think we're going to catch a ferry and go to Phuket for a couple of days. Not because we expect Phuket to be more enjoyable than Ko Phi Phi, but because we're beginning to exhaust all entertainment options on Phi Phi and it's worth taking a chance to leave to see something new.
The past few days have been relaxing and fun. We spent another full day lounging at the beach, alternating between swimming and getting up to get food or fresh fruit shakes.
Another day we hiked to Long Beach on the other side of the island, in horrific heat (I was dehydrated and sick, so I bravely fought off heat stroke...), and then yesterday we spent the entire day out on a boat exploring islands. It's been so relaxing! I hardly know the day of week without consulting the computer, and the slow moving days make this vacation feel longer than it has been. It is exactly the kind of vacation you want to take when you're not interested in returning to work and real life.
Long Beach was beautiful, and we really saw some amazing coastline walking over there.
One can get to Long Beach via long tail or a walking path across the island. We chose the path. We climbed over rocks and along dusty trails, up tree roots that passed for steps, and down slopes with taut rope to guide.
As I mentioned, I was sick, so it wasn't something I did without complaining. I was increasingly dehydrated as the day went on, soaked in my own sweat, and feeling as if I was about to pass out. This of course left me walking in super slow speed, frustrating Zac, but not so much Jenna because she was stopping to take pictures every five minutes anyway.
We got to the beach and I recooperated for a bit before hitting the water. Long Beach had better waves, deeper drop offs, and cooler water temperatures than our side of Ko Phi Phi, but it also had coral in the sand, dangerously waiting to insert itself in the soft part of your feet. Zac managed to avoid the coral sprawl, but cut his heel pretty bad on a rock. I say pretty bad because it's on the ball of his heel, which is thick, but a huge chunk went missing and while it's not life threatening, it continues to bleed every day because of the location combined with walking.
We left Long Beach in the afternoon when the clouds came rolling in and thunder and rain followed. We opted to catch a long tail back (again banging my freakin' shin getting up there!), and sped over the growing waves in time to hit shore as the rain began to pour down.
We all showered, waiting for the storm to pass, and then went for dinner. Going out to dinner here feels more like an obligation than treat, as all food establishments are far overpriced, in part because it's an island and it costs more money to get products here, and in part because it's tourist island here. The food has also been pretty underwhelming. It feels drab to pay so much for so little, or so mediocre, but we do it anyway and just chalk it up to part of the experience. And truthfully, we complain because the food is $2.50 instead of $1 for breakfast, or $5 for dinner instead of $2.50. Such babies.
The best food item on the island is by far one of the cheapest--banana roti. It's hardly a dollar for a giant Thai pancake, wrapped with condensed milk, bananas, and a few other choice toppings should one prefer the addition. Forget a full dinner. I could eat my fill of banana roti all day, every day on this trip.
Tonight at dinner the power went out while we were eating thanks to the passing storm. It came back on pretty quickly, and the meal was continued. While the food may be lacking, the open dinning of nearly all the restaurants is wonderful. Even with the rising winds and rain we enjoyed our meal under nothing more than a canopy.
Yesterday was by far our most exciting day on Phi Phi, and we hardly spent it at Phi Phi Don. Ko Phi Phi is a chain of islands (most are just huge rocks in the middle of the ocean), numbering something like 42. The main inhabited island is Phi Phi Don, where we are.
Today we spent a good deal of time around Phi Phi Leh, a smaller and uninhabited island a short distance away. Our first stop was Maya Bay, a beautiful beach where the movie The Beach was filmed. What a shitty movie, but what a lovely spot. The water was cooler and deeper, waves bigger, and color far more opaque. I loved it there, minus the 200 other people on a strech of half mile beach. This place is crowded. There is a small park you can pay an enormous amount of money to enter (more than our ferry ticket from Ao Nang to Phi Phi), but we did not. People pay because they want to see where Leonardo DiCaprio was. I hate people.
Zac and I swam in the water, the first beach where it was over my head without being a mile out! We took our pictures (and tried to pose them so it appeared we were the only people on this island...ridiculous), and loaded back up on the boat. Phi Phi Leh is closed to the public overnight, unless you pay for a special camping trip to sleep there. It's 4 pm to 10 am, and we of course had no interest in this. It wasn't the rats and cockroaches in my tent that put me off, it was the idea of being stuck on a deserted island with Leonardo DiCaprio fans for an entire night with no escape.
After Maya Bay we were navigated around to various parts of the island, from the safety of our boat.
We were allowed a stop for snorkeling, which I excitedly did, thinking we were at Shark Point, which was where we were supposed to be snorkeling. I saw no sharks. I wanted to cry. Then I learned it wasn't Shark Point and I was instantly revitalized!
Snorkeling was by far my favorite part of the day. While I generally feel a pang of sadness at snorkeling beacuse it's watching the ocean as a spectator, rather than a participator like diving, this time it wasn't so bad. I just swam away from the group of clustered Europeans and floated as I watched a variety of coral blosom and breathe, watched fish swim and feed off anenomeas (no spell check, sorry), and even saw a sea snake! It was beautiful, a combination of black and tourquois stripes as it wound its way into the coral below. I saw sea cucumbers and urchins and slugs, and what I thought to be a carpet shark, but turned out to be a rock half covered by sand...so many things! Initially I dove in and thought there wasn't much, but when you really watch, really pay close attention, you see the details. So many colors, so many animals, and so much life! I didn't want to get out, but then I started getting stung by sea lice and it was time to get in the boat anyway.
I was pumped after snorkeling. A good warm up to see some sharks! But our next stop was passing by more islands to view, lunch, and then Bamboo Island. Bamboo Island was tricky to navigate. We had to pass over coral in very shallow water and the boat hit it several times. When I say boat, I mean wider long tail. The hull certainly wasn't built with durability, so these scrapings were a bit worrisome. Nonetheless we made it ashore and fortunately there weren't nearly as many people as Maya Bay. Jenna, Zac, and I were able to go off and be alone. We layed out our sarongs (thanks for that mom, you bought it for me when I was like 9--I'd never used it before, but this trip it came in handy!) and were told we had an hour. One hour turned into two as we waited for the waves to cooperate.
I spent that time exploring the tide pools on the rocks off shore. I watched for a long time as sea slugs slowly moved, charting their location and taking humor from their interactions with one another. I kept calling Jenna and Zac over, but neither were as interested in the world I was watching. It was a miniature version of what we saw snorkeling. There were even little camaflouged fish that tried to bite me when I put my foot too close to them. I got a kick out of that. They were tiny, so it didn't hurt.
After Bamboo Island we were taken to Monkey Beach. Oh wow. I have NO idea how this place is approved for tourism. NONE. I read about it prior to coming, read that sometimes the monkeys can be slightly aggressive and even throw poo. No problem, we'll keep our distance. I suppose the first indication this place wasn't safe was that the boat operators for our tour did not get off on the island. They stayed on the hull and anxiously watched all of us as we poured onto the beach, fighting sharp rocks and coral to get there.
Getting on the beach was a dangerous mission, but staying there was more so. Everything looked fine at first. Monkeys sitting up on the rocks watching, eating, playing. So cute! We all marveled at them, followed their movements, and snapped pictures. People called out to the monkeys, they really wanted that special shot. Then a big monkey came down from the rocks. Everyone got excited--he was walking among everyone! Quick, get your pictures!
Jenna snapped one of this large male with Zac, about a foot away. I kid you not, no more than 30 seconds later that big monkey tried to attack a woman standing next to Zac. She ran away. Near the same moment a group of babies came from the trees. Jenna and I rushed over to take pictures. More big ones came out.
Monkey fight begins--it started with a group of big monkeys (and some small) attacking another monkey. It was a mean fight, and we were convinced they'd killed the other monkey (turns out they didn't). I wanted to cry. The fight continued to sprawl along the beach. As the fight continued on, more monkeys came down to join--the remainder began growling and charging tourists! They even surrounded a Japanese man and scratched at his legs and bared their teeth as they swatted him. I couldn't believe it! We took off for the water, figuring the monkeys wouldn't come in. Everyone stood in horror and panic at what was happening before us. Again, "only in Asia" came running through my mind.
We all lined the shoreline, huddled and anxious at what the monkeys would do next. All of us. Like, forty of us. Afraid of monkeys. Like, ten of them.
Finally a boat operator from another tour came running up the beach waving sticks in his hand, twirling in circles and going mad. He chased some off while another boat operator threw sand at the few monkeys not scared by the sticks. They scurried back into the trees.
AMAZINGLY, people moved back onto the beach and into the opening of the woods to again take pictures. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? These monkeys attack people, why the hell are you getting close?! I didn't want ebola from monkey scratches, so I high tailed it back to the boat with Jenna and Zac. We spent the remaining 10 minutes or so standing on the hull behind the boat operators, watching to see what was happening. There were monkeys tracking people, but no more attacks and no more swarming the Japanese man. It was at this time Zac and I both looked at each other with the same thought--being so close to our "captains," we could hardly ignore the stench of alcohol that wafted from them.
After Monkey Terror Island we were taken back to Phi Phi. Wait a minute--what about Shark Point?! I silently sulked and wanted to cry. I had been sick and felt like shit all day, yet I still went on the tour, fought through my upset (the night before I felt like I was going to puke, die, and then be resurrected so I could puke again), and only because I wanted to see zebra and black tip reef sharks. I knew after Monkey Terror Beach I wasn't going to see sharks. The sun was going down, it was getting dark, and it would be irresponsible for them to allow us to snorkel at that time (feeding time).
I sat silent, but we had a firey group of Latinos who grew upset and attempted a mini-coup in protest to our missed shark spottings. Looks like I wasn't going to be the only one in the water with them, after all! I loved them for it. Still, it yielded no result. The tour operator said we could go out there after we'd landed, but he wasn't responsible for any bites that took place. Maybe if there were flood lights, but you can't snorkel in the dark and see anything. It was a no win situation. They said they hadn't taken us there because the water wasn't right, but everyone was upset because no one had told us this ahead of time or as it was happening, or given us any choice to change activities for the day. Mixed with the two hours of lounging on Bamboo Island and the beer on their breath, I suspected we got the shaft.
Anyway, that was our day for the most part, followed by food and relaxation. Today we're just chilling out and making plans for tomorrow. I'm sure when I touch base next it will be from somewhere other than Phi Phi, but with no solid plans we just have to wait and see.