Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Thailand: Koh Phi Phi and Maya Bay


Yes, it really is this beautiful. 

We came to Koh Phi Phi from Phuket; the boat cost 350 baht each (we haggled down from 500 baht each) and after rather a lot of waiting around at the port and then a two hour boat journey, we arrived! Phi Phi itself is a pretty small island with no motorised transport, so when we were dropped at the jetty we were pleased to find it was just a ten minute (ish) walk to our accommodation. Some of the more upmarket resorts will come and meet you at the boat and carry your bags for you if you give them a heads up before hand. We stayed six nights on Koh Phi Phi. 

A word on accommodation here - it's pretty expensive. We found it hard to find decent, affordable accommodation, and split our stay between two hotels. The first was Phi Phi Chang Grand Resort at around £28 a night - it was not worth anywhere near this price. I didn't want to put bad reviews of accommodation in these posts, but I think it's worth mentioning this one as a forewarning for anyone thinking of visiting. On first impressions the room was good; air con, four poster bed, breakfast included. However we soon discovered the bed was rock hard... I think we would have been comfier sleeping on the floor! The aircon was turned off during the day, and when I had food poisoning and needed to sleep it off, the combination of uncomfortable bed and intense heat soon became pretty unbearable. After a couple of nights we moved to Andaman Beach Resort - more expensive at around £40 a night but far more comfortable and they had a decent pool, hurrah! They also offered a free boat trip around the surrounding islands and to Maya bay which we enjoyed. 

As I say, Phi Phi itself is a small island and definitely has a reputation for being a bit of a party destination. In the evenings there are a load of bars open til late selling buckets - but don't let that put you off! We had heard mixed reviews of the island so were a little hesitant on arrival... but we loved it. As with anywhere, it is what you make it. 

Watch some Muay Thai - it's usually pretty expensive to see Muay Thai professionals in Thailand, but at Reggae Bar you can catch a glimpse for free. It's not quite the real deal, as it starts by opening to the audience. Basically, someone volunteers to fight (they could be a complete beginner or more experienced) and they wait for someone to agree to challenge them. The winner receives a bucket of booze (!) and the respect of those cheering them on. We then saw a semi-professional fight; two young Muay Thai boxers in training. It seemed fairly choreographed, but fun none the less. 

Go island hopping - there are loads of companies offering boat trips to and around the surrounding islands, or you can hire a long tail boat yourself (more on this later). We went on a free half day boat trip with our hotel (as above), being given the opportunity to snorkel, swim and visit Maya Bay. The sea is just so beautiful here; some of the bluest waters we saw on our trip! The beach at Phi Phi itself is a bit dirty - probably due to the beach parties every night - so it's worth getting out on a boat. 

Take a cookery course - definitely a highlight of our time on Phi Phi. We were recommended Pum's Cookery School and paid 1500 baht each to take the Pum's Little Shoes class at 4pm. This was perfect as we built up an appetite after a late breakfast (don't eat before hand!) and then were able to fill ourselves up on the delicious dishes we made for dinner. We cooked three dishes each but these were all shared as a group at the end. We had a pretty impressive spread of Pad Thai, Green Thai Curry, Noodle Soup, Andaman Fried Rice and Chicken with Cashews to sample between us by the time the three hours were up! It was a great way to spend an afternoon, and left with a better understanding of Thai cookery... and a very full belly!

Catch a film on the rooftop cinema - if you fancy a chilled evening be sure to visit Banana Bar's rooftop cinema. They show The Beach (filmed in Maya Bay) every week alongside more current offerings. We say Joy with Jennifer Lawrence, accompanied by some mediocre Mexican food, and had a lovely evening!

Hike up to the viewpoint - I will admit we didn't get round to doing this because it was so roasting hot in March when we visited. I've heard there great views from the top though, so give it a go and tell me what I missed out on!

Maya Bay at sunrise - another Phi Phi highlight for us was going to see Maya Bay at sunrise. Famed for being the secret beach in the film The Beach (with a young Leo), it is completely gorgeous... but packed with tourists. We wanted to avoid the crowds, so hired a longtail boat to take us at the crack of dawn. The how to is easy; find a longtail boatman the day before (you can't miss them) and arrange to meet them at around 6am (check sunrise times online). We paid 1200 baht (£24 in March 2016) for the private trip, but don't pay the whole lot upfront or you run the risk of them legging it with your money and not showing the next morning! You also have to pay 200 baht each when you arrive at the beach for a conservation fee. The journey takes around 30 minutes, and you'll get to see sunrise whilst on the boat and then be able to enjoy Maya Bay in peace. We visited a second time on another boat trip a couple of days later and it was packed; a completely different experience... and not a nice one. 

Where we ate...
Anna's - probably the best burger in Thailand (also does great Thai food).
Charlie's House - for great Western breakfasts and a good iced coffee, and a great fish BBQ in the evening. The blue marlin was delicious! 
PP Grand Arcade - next door to Charlie's House and also great for brunch.
Unni's - overpriced but tasty Western food.

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