It was pouring it down again in Phuket as we ate my fave breakfast of pancakes with bananas and lychees at Phuketique. The biblical downpours hadn’t relented when we wandered out to find a taxi. After two days of ‘sir! sir! taxi! much rain – take taxi!’ we couldn’t find a bleeding taxi anywhere when we needed one. Mercifully we eventually found one (well, as usual, one found us) and got ourselves out of the rain for ten minutes in the journey to the pier.
It was hard to know which ferry company to buy from – they were all 600 Baht – but in the end just picked the first one we saw. We scrambled across a plank even pirates would write letters to the Health and Safety department about to a boat, which was in fact just a stepping stone to another boat via an equally dodgy plank (crossing a boat to get another is something we have done a few times in South-East Asia). Our luggage was buried in a mountain of backpacks and the journey was, to put it mildly, a bit rough. I rarely get seasick but the constant jerks and bounces back and forth and side to side meant I could feel my lunch spinning in a manner akin to a lonely sock in a tumble dryer. After a nauseating two hours we alighted (having finally uncovered our luggage from Mount Backpack that is) onto dry land at last.
Except, it wasn’t dry in the slightest. The sea was probably more dry than what we walked out into. Tropical Storm Cats and Dogs was raging (not a real name, but a very apt one, nonetheless) and we were blasted in the face as soon as we stepped onto another dubious and oh-so-slippery plank. We purchased ponchos for 50 Baht each and dodged the hotel touts as we embarked onto the mainland proper. There are no cars or bikes on Phi Phi which is quite nice but despite being a remote island it is one of the most tourist-centric places we have been, built with backpackers in mind.
The paths were totally flooded so I and to carry my backpack (which I normally wheel) across small lakes which were ankle-deep. More by accident than design we discovered our hotel and got a decent rate of 500 Baht per night. It’s nice in SE Asia that they always let you settle in for a bit and then come down to reception to pay later. Tara Inn was the first place we and stayed at in a while without a fridge but the soft bed was good – we were still used to Vietnamese rock hard beds.
It was amazing to be in the Phuket/Phi Phi area which was devastated by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. A ten foot wave on one beach met an eight foot wave on the parallel beach with catastrophic results. Pretty much the whole town has been rebuilt since then.
Having been to Koh Chang, Koh Rong (can’t Koh Rong there) and now Koh Phi Phi, I was on a quest to find the fabled Kho CoPop which, legend has it, is surrounded by chocolatey milk. After having a pee pee in Phi Phi I now just needed to have a crab in Krabi and a bucket in Phuket.
We wandered down through town to the glorious beaches of Ao Loh Da Lum and Ao Ton Sai. Even in glum weather the place looks terrific – everything you’d dream of from a Thai island. It may have been wet season when we went (which we had been lucky to avoid really throughout SE Asia the previous four weeks) but Phi Phi Don is still awesome. Phi Phi Don is the island’s full name and it is almost two islands separated by a strip of land with two back to back beaches where most of the town sits and the tsunami struck.
As it got dark, we grabbed a nice Thai curry and walked to La Da Lum Bay where we saw a man walking a monkey which was wearing a jacket! We had Singapore Sling and Blue Hawaii cocktails at Stoned and lay on the beach watching in awe as a group of fire jugglers performing spellbinding tricks of acrobatics, occasionally showering the beach in an eruption of sparks. It was sensational stuff. I could have stayed all night but the heavens opened and when the heavens open in Phi Phi, you don’t hang round the beach for long!
Life on Phi Phi is fun. Clothes are cheap, food is good and buckets are lethal. The next morning we had swiss muesli at D’s Books for breakfast, then dropped off laundry for 60 Baht per kilo (came to 210 Baht, same as breakfast). The sun came out as we wandered through the shops so we walked to the beaches for a bit, then picked up sunglasses and suncream for our room and ascended the hill to the world famous viewpoint of the ‘isthmus’ back to back beaches, stretched between two iconic hills standing proud out of the ocean.
It was a sweaty hill climb but totally worth it for one of the most majestic views in the world (there are actually two awesome viewpoints on the hill). I like to think that generations from now my great-great-great-grandkid will be at a bar in Mars chatting to someone who is perhaps second generation Martian who asks what Earth is like. My great-great-great-grandkid will pull out his iPhone 55S and pull up maybe ten pictures. These ten pictures will demonstrate how beautifully unique our planet is. They’ll include a few famous landmarks and several stunning viewpoints. I think Koh Phi Phi will be one of them. It has everything that’s truly great about Earth: lush green foliage, water and life. But that’s not all. On December 26th 2004, an 18 foot wave crashed onto La Da Lum Bay from the right and a 10 foot wave smashed Ton Sai Bay from the left. The result was devastating. Over 100 children lost at least one parent and pretty much every building was destroyed.
Since then, locals and tourists have worked together tirelessly for nearly a decade to rebuild the place. And they’ve more or less done it. There’s a hustling bustling town down there with a tourism industry thriving like never before. This isn’t just a viewpoint of natural beauty; it’s a view of perseverance, determination, inspiration and humanity. And that’s why I think it’s one of the best views in the world.