We booked a tour through Phuket Island Hopper to explore the Phi Phi Islands. The sky was overcast…rain seemed just around the corner. I was grateful for the overcast sky as it was a minimal shield from the sun scorching us during this entire day spent on and in the waters of the Andaman Sea. The sun here, like Sri Lanka, has a searing intensity that burns my olive skin within minutes without sunblock.
The tour team greeting us warmly, explaining our day that weather and water conditions detailed the day and determined what islands we would visit. And we were off…..in a speed boat powered by 750 horses! 😉
ps…..I am saddened to report that at this time I am without an underwater camera….. 😦
Our first stop was an island whose name I can’t remember. This was a one hour stop for swimming, relaxing, and eating. It was packed with people, bars/restaurants and boats. Snorkeling wasn’t great as there were speed boats and jet skies coming and going in every direction and the water was murky. As Michael would say, it was all part of the experience!!
Yao Yai Island
Next stop was Yao Yai Island for more swimming, relaxing and lunch. This was a beach where perhaps each tour company has a “spot” on the island to land. I assume this as we were directed to drop our belongings at their place for lunch! Lunch was freshly made on location by two ladies in a very rustic kitchen in the back of the villa! They cooked from two large woks, scooping the freshly made food into chafing dishes for our buffet. Their food was delicious!
The island showed a few remaining consequences from the 2004 tsunami with out of place large concrete pieces on the beach. Snorkeling wasn’t an option as the water was murky, there were no coral reefs and very little fish off the beach. We tried snorkeling anyway and all we found were a few fish and empty glass bottles buried in the sand!
While we were swimming, I heard the call to prayer! This island has a Muslim population who live a fishing way of life.
Koh Mai Pai, Bamboo Island
Here we stopped for snorkeling and stayed for about 40 minutes. The beach was very small, nothing like the pictures of Bamboo Island my searches on the internet showed me. The water was murky and sadly the coral looked dead. We didn’t see much, a few schools of fish with a random parrot fish throwing in some color here and there.
Koh Phi Phi Don – Yong Kasem Bay, Monkey Beach
Here we pulled up to Monkey Beach, but we not allowed off the boat, on the beach. The reason,we were told, were that the monkeys would bite and cause disease and death. I was disappointed at first, but quickly changed my mind when we watched a guy on the beach upset a monkey and the monkey reacted back. All people on the beach looking at this monkey took a step back.
The boat dropped the hook off the beach for snorkeling. Snorkeling was ok. Surface schools of Sergeant Major fish were fun as they swam towards and surrounded me. Deeper down there were Parrot Fish, Wrasse, Angelfish, Batfish, Moorish Idols and an assortment of smaller fish. I didn’t see any Clown Fish, as the area promises. And again, sadly, the coral looked dead.
Koh Phi Phi Ley, Viking Cove
Viking Cove, I’ve come to learn, is a famous location in these parts for hunting/harvesting of swiftlet birds’ nests for the Chinese delicacy – Bird’s Nest Soup. These bird’s nests are sold at an average of US$2.500 per kilo and are very dangerous for the hunter to gather as they have to build bamboo scaffolding and climb in the dark to reach the nests!
Viking Cove is called Viking Cove because of the Scandinavian Drakkar drawings on cave walls within the cove!
Koh Phi Phi Ley, Pileh Cove
This beautiful cove, Pileh Cove, is made famous from the Leonardo Dicaprio movie, The Beach. This is the location where his character jumped from a cliff into the lagoon. We didn’t stop here for a swim or snorkeling as our next location was the final location, saving the best for last – Maya Bay.
Koh Phi Phi Ley, Maya Bay
This is the bay, the beach made famous by the movie The Beach. It truly is a beautiful area. And jammed packed with tourists. We didn’t go on the tour to see this location because of the movie. We went on this tour because what I read about Phi Phi Islands online is that these islands are some of the loveliest in Southeast Asia. For me, it was difficult to see the beauty through the tourists.
The beauty I did see was the sand was soft like white powder, the water beautiful hues of turquoise blues and emerald greens and the limestone rock formations gorgeous.
Downside was that swimming off the beach was buoyed to a small area. I tried snorkeling in the small buoyed off area and could barely see my hand the water was so murky.
A little caveat here…..I work at an international school with a faculty of expats who have travelled the world, and who are a deep pool of travel resources to ask advice. We have a “Classified” email that goes out to all faculty and a way to access their advice and suggestions. I asked about where to go “off the grid” in Thailand. Many replied with fabulous suggestions and recommendations. Phuket was not one of them. Why did we go to Phuket when we knew it would be a popular tourist destination? Because at the time we decided we wanted to see what that was like. My next blog is about Patong….and lets just say it was an eye opener for this naive gal! But, as a traveler this is what traveling is….a variety of experiences! Right now as I sit here blogging in the comforts of the hotel during a fabulous thunder and lightening rainstorm – with a continual downpour – Michael is out exploring the area on a scooter….. today I wanted rest and relaxation, he wanted to explore, even with the risk of rain…both of us will have a great day, experiences we wanted!
Love, Stephanie xo