First stop in the Thai islands was Phuket, the 4 of us flew in from Siem Reap on the 27th of January. On descent to the runway, it looked like we were going to crash into the sea due to how close the runway was to the beach itself. You would likely get some great shots of the planes coming into land here if you’re into that kind of thing. Having made our way through Thai security and collected “our” bags (more on this later). We met Chris who had landed in Phuket a few hours earlier having flown from Sydney via Kuala Lumpur. Now a 5 some for the next 10 days we made our way from the airport to a place on the island called Patong, very much a touristy and party part of Phuket island. Having checked into our hostel we headed out for some lunch, it was while at lunch I received a message from a guy saying he believed we had mixed up bags at the airport and I had his and he had mine. After a few messages back and forth it was determined we were indeed on the same flight and had as it appeared picked up each other’s bag. Luckily for me, but not so much Ollie it was, in fact, Ollie’s bag who’s had been mixed up not mine. The reason I got the message was due to my name being on the luggage tag attached to Ollie’s bag. This is because all 4 of us checked in together and my name tag ended up on his bag. I did think at first it couldn’t be mine as I was certain I had the correct bag plus I had never seen anyone else with my bag. Ollie’s bag on the other hand half of Asia travel with, even Fred has the same one! After getting back to our hostel it was 100% confirmed Ollie had mixed up his bags. The couple with his bag were staying about 45 minutes away so Ollie went off to sort out the mix-up while the rest of us headed to the beach for the afternoon. Ollie finally joined us after switching bags. Patong beach in Phuket is very touristy and not all that nice, it was the nightlife which attracted us to this place and the infamous Bangla Road. Quite simply Bangla road is the most mental place I have ever been to on planet earth, if you’ve ever been Koh San Road in Bangkok then this is Koh San Road on steroids its crazy, pubs and clubs lined the street and side streets with reps trying to pull you inside (literally) every step of the way. There is also a myriad of seedy clubs, offering a variety of adult entertainment shall we say. We only stayed in Patong two nights knowing that we just wanted a few nights partying here and that’s exactly what we did. We spent both evenings on the strip ending up in the numerous nightclubs after bar hopping. The bars even have several games aimed at conning the punters out of more money such as connect 4 whereby you play a Thai lady and have absolutely no chance of winning! I played simply for fun about 6 times and didn’t win once. I also must admit that this time we bit the bullet and headed to a Ping Pong show! We declined the offer in Bangkok but here it just seemed every Tom Dick and Harry was going to one, so we thought we would see what the fuss was about, after all, when in Thailand and all that! Now I’m not going to go into details as, to be honest, the less I relive of that experience the better, let’s just say we all saw things in that show that we never thought humanly possible and which we won’t forget for a very very long time!
Moving on. After two nights of craziness in Patong and Bangla road, we needed some tranquillity, this sanctuary was found on the Phi Phi Islands, a two-hour ferry ride from Phuket island to Phi Phi took us far away from the madness of Bangla Road, but also straight into the dorm of another party hostel. Also, Chris missed the Ferry so joined us around 4 hours later after catching the next one! Once again, the Phi Phi Islands were inundated with tourists (but after all it is high season in the islands so to be expected). This time it was tourism of a different kind, with people coming here to chill out as opposed to partying. Although they still throw some crazy parties here too. That’s why on our first afternoon on Koh Phi Phi we headed to the Ibiza Pool party that was happening just a short way down the beach. The party was good but the pool itself smelt pretty bad. Once the pool party ended shortly after it turned dark, everyone spilled out onto the many bars that lined the beach too to carry on the night. After heading to bed, Fred woke up in the middle of the night and was violently sick for the remainder of the night. Apparently, it was now his turn to have a stint of food poisoning (or bad pool water) and he wouldn’t feel himself for the next few days. He was, however, able to keep his food down after that night. The following day, our first full day on the island Chris, Con and I took a kayak out each for an hour in the late morning and kayaked most of the way up one side of the bay, out to sea and then back again. It was a pretty intense paddle and we were all worn out after the ride. Connor also turned into an Olympic kayaker as he seemed to make his way back to shore quickest and easiest. With Chris and I struggling to keep up.
That evening we headed to the viewpoint on the island that was a fair walk up from the beach. By the time we arrived, we were all sweating buckets. The walk was worth it though as we watched the sun set behind the cliffs of the islands and got a great view of the beach and island below. There were however once again many tourists but that is to be expected seeing as the Phi Phi islands are one of the crown jewels of the Thai islands. After the viewpoint, we had some dinner (this time I was able to eat Indian, Fred however didn’t) and had an early night ready for the full day boat tour we had scheduled the following day, although falling asleep wasn’t the easiest due to the base coming from the speakers of the hostel bar.
The boat tour commenced at 10.30 am and we wouldn’t arrive back to the port we departed from till around 7 pm that night. The first stop on the tour was a place called shark point out in the sea around a collection of rocks. As the name suggests it’s known as a place for spotting reef sharks. We had a 30-minute snorkel here but unluckily (or luckily) didn’t bump into any sharks. There was however a collection of other cool fish and coral. After shark point, we made our way to Bamboo island, which was a national park and commanded an entrance fee of 400 Baht (£10) which we did want to pay so stayed on the boat and just swam around here. Don’t get me wrong the beach and that did look beautiful but once again it was overcrowded with tourists and 400 baht was very steep. After Bamboo island, we made our way to Monkey beach. Once again as the name implies this is a beach where a family of monkeys live. The monkeys although appearing to be cute were right little shits and have very cleverly (although a downside to the impact of tourism) learnt that they can steal a lot of interesting things from the tourists. We saw monkeys going through unguarded bags pulling out water bottles and food for them to drink and eat. They would often chase tourists away who got to close or if they held something that the monkeys desired. Finally, when the monkeys came across something that they all wanted a massive fight erupted between themselves. At one point it appeared that a monkey had even been killed by the others. It wasn’t until a group of the tourists started throwing sand and stuff to try to break up the commotion that the monkey was, in fact, playing dead and ran off again. All in all, monkey beach was a stressful experience and I won’t be rushing back!
After monkey beach, we then headed to another number of snorkelling spots which all had their own unique quirks. After touring around most of the Phi Phi Island we then made our way to Phi Phi Lee, where the famous Maya bay beach is located. This is where they filmed “The Beach”. Due to the beauty of the beach and the fame it received from the film the beach itself is closed to tourist due to the damage which has been done to the coral off the beach. Another damaging effect of tourism, but at least the authorities are at least trying to combat the situation slightly. Yet many tours visit daily, and you are still able to swim to another beach opposite Maya bay where once again many tourists a lot of them drunk from a booze cruise where clambering over all the coral to reach the shore. It therefore wouldn’t surprise me if the whole area isn’t shut off in years to come, either that or the government needs to get stricter on the tour companies that operate here. Clearly, tourism is good for the locals and without it, I wouldn’t be writing this blog, but it needs to be managed in the proper way to ensure that people are able to see these beautiful places but also in a sustainable way that ensures their longevity and protects the ecosystems that are situated there. After a few more snorkel stops and a trip into one of the lagoons at Phi Phi Don. We stopped on the open seas to enjoy the sunset over the water. It is the first time of all the sunsets we’ve seen that we have been able to watch the sun fall into the sea, as previously cloud coverage or mountain ranges would prevent our view. This one I simply enjoyed with my eyes so didn’t capture a photo for you all to see. Sometimes the camera is better left in the bag. Overall though the tour was a great way to see a lot of the island delights in a short space of time. On returning from the boat we had some dinner before a few drinks around the hostel, once again the beach was turned into a makeshift dance floor with fire shows, limbo and skipping ropes enticing travellers in. We didn’t stay out too late though as we had a ferry to catch the following day to Koh Lanta.
The Ferry to Koh Lanta was due to depart at 11.30 am on Sunday the 3rd of Feb. Ollie Fred and I opted to skip a sit-down breakfast and headed straight for the pier where the boat was departing knowing that it was a fair walk and we didn’t have enough time. Con and Chris determined they wanted some food and said they would meet us on the boat. 11.30 came around the boat left, and Chris and Con were nowhere to be seen. The boat ride was only an hour, but it was very crowded and a little stuffy. When Fred Ollie and I arrived in Koh Lanta we got a Tuk Tuk from the pier to our hostel. Shortly after getting in the Tuk Tuk I noted the number of policemen lining the road, with one stationed every 50 m or so. Shortly after noting this we were asked to pull over to the side of the road and wait here like every other car on the road. This was when we found out that a Thai Princess had been holidaying on the island too and was leaving today. Hence the police procession and why we had to stop. We waited about 20-30 minutes until a large convoy of police cars and other cars came rolling past, one of which clearly contained the princess, which one who knows, as we didn’t get a glimpse of her. Once she passed we were back on our way to the hostel. Koh Lanta was a much more chilled out island and, in all honesty, we really didn’t do too much here. I spent one day just in the air-conditioned hostel room sorting things out for my future travels and all my photos and stuff while the boys headed for the beach. It really does seem to be very hot on the islands, but the contrast from baking hot sun outside to freezing cold dormitory rooms has meant we are developing coughs and colds.
The main thing we did do on Koh Lanta was to go watch some Maui Thai boxing at the local stadium one night. In total, we watched 6 fights over the course of the evening. The first fight was between boys who were very young around 5/6 years old I would say. Now, this was a little cringy and they didn’t even have protective headgear on, which should probably be the case at such a young age. But I guess its worth remember that this is there national sport and kids as young as 5/6 go to play football against one another on Sunday league pitches in England (even if the brutality is a little different). After the first 2 fights, the age range and weight class increased to a level where the watching was far easier to take. One fighter was quite brutally knocked out with an elbow to the face while others lost due to repeatedly being knocked to the floor and winded. By far the best fight of the night though came from a bout between two female fighters who went to blows for the full 5-rounds. It was a brutal affair with both fighters giving as well as they got. In the end, it came down to a points decision with one of the ladies taking the victory. To conclude it was good to see this hugely popular sport up close in the country that invented it, but I’m very glad I was on the outside of the ring and not inside of it.
This concludes our first week or so in the Thai Islands. In the next blog, I shall describe what we got up to in the week following.