Ao Nang was just another tourist trap with a nice beach. This time there were more families and fewer hookers, but the same variety of narrow shops stretching deep into buildings, filled with cheap t-shirts with the same slogans as every other one, fake this and fake that, complete with a young Thai sitting outside begging you to come have a look as you pass by. The worst though are the taxi/tuk-tuk drivers and the tailors, who innocuously greet you with a heavily accented “Hello friend, how are you?” They are all Indian it seems, and yes they have the stereotypical Indian accent.
The boat to Phi Phi was nice and I got some good pictures, though I was rather anti-social and instead of talking to my fellow passengers, chose to jam out to my i-pod and enjoy the heat of the sun and the smell of the slightly salty wind on my face. It was great, and my anti-social behavior had no consequences once I got to Phi Phi.
Arriving at Phi Phi was a slap in the face to any notions I had had of arriving at some beautiful scene of natural beauty – don't get me wrong of course it had that too. The bay was full of speedboats, other ferries, small cruise boats, and a few longtail boats too. The shore was covered with expensive looking “huts” and hotels. Not quite what I had had in mind. The habitable portion of the island has all but been covered with guest houses and hotels, a few bars, massage parlors, and the occasional 24-hour tattoo shops thrown in as well. Not to be missed were the competing travel agents with the same variety of tours, and the dive shops, all with the exact same menu of diving experiences, equipment, white-faced instructors, and prices.
The beach opposite the pier – Koh Phi Phi has a narrow strip of land with 2 beautiful beaches sandwiching the village between them – was less full of chairs and umbrellas than I had expected, though there were plenty of beach bars, fire shows, parasailing operators, and kayak rentals. When I got there my first night I ran into some Canadians I had seen on the ferry from Ao Nang, and went to chat with them. They were Joel, Laura, and Ashton from Alberta. I spent all but my last night on Phi Phi with them, and some of the days as well.
There isn't much to do on Phi Phi other than dive, drink, eat, and take day trips to nearby islands. You can even drop 2,000 baht for a sunset booze-cruise with all you can eat and drink for 4 hours while sailing around Phi Phi. I nearly did this, but then realized it was twice as much as I had paid for my 4 nights in a hostel, and I could find a lot better ways to spend the money. I was going to go for a half-day tour around the neighboring islands on my 2nd full day there, but as it started raining early in the morning, I didn't want to risk being rained on the whole time. I signed up for a 4 hour session of rock climbing on the beautiful limestone cliffs above the bay the next day, paid my 1,000 baht, and went off to drink with the Canadians again. This was the night before Halloween – the 30th. Of course on Phi Phi there were to be big Halloween celebrations because it is full of tourists, but most Thais do not celebrate Halloween.
I woke up Halloween morning feeling quite ill and threw up a few times before going back to sleep. The weather was terrible, and my climbing session was non-refundable. I spent the day in bed other than going out to grab some gatorade, water, and a boat ticket to Phuket for the 1st.
I barely woke up in time to run to the pier and catch my ferry to Phuket, but made it and was on my way. The weather sucked the whole way, as well as my first day on Phuket.
Upon arrival I was crammed into a minibus (big minivan which has been equipped to seat 11) and taken to Phuket Town – the less touristic, cheaper part of Phuket. It is not near any beaches, but is only a short bus-ride away. I met a Spanish girl on the minibus who had also come from Phi Phi and was going to a cheap hostel in Phuket Town, seeing as I didn't have any in mind I chose to go with her, and for 200 baht had a room complete with a fan and free internet. The building was very modern, and next door was a small attached pub with western music, pool tables, and expensive beer.
I met a few Spanish guys, who despite their struggles with English, rarely reverted to their mother-tongue in consideration of their English speaking guests. There was also Rick, a Swedish guy who lives near Malmo and barely missed getting into university and decided to take a couple years of working holidays to travel before trying to go back, and 2 Norwegian girls who were just passing through on their way to Phi Phi. We passed the night together at the hostel because there was nothing around of interest other than a big outdoor market where I got dinner. We played a few games of pool and ended up watching a movie we had all seen too many times, with half the group falling asleep before it was over.
The next day I went with Rick to see a Gibbon Rehabilitation center which I had been told about by Emily Lewis from WWU, and Bang Pae waterfall which was a bit brown in color but still beautiful. Though it was raining pretty hard, we decided it was still good fun to be in a rainforest during the heavy rain. Although we were told by the hostel staff that public buses ran by the road to the waterfall every half an hour, we were told by staff there that the next one wasn't until 2.30. It was only 12.45 so we decided to start walking and try to hitch-hike. It didn't take long before we were picked up and taken to a major intersection where we caught a bus in a matter of minutes.
At 3.30 I caught a public bus from Phuket Town to Patong beach – the most popular and supposedly the most beautiful on the “island.” There I met up with Emilie who is beginning her 2 months in the islands – 7 on Phuket, 7 on Phi Phi, 2 weeks on Koh Samui, and a full month on Koh Phangan. What she will do for so long in each of those places I have no idea, as I was starting to tire of Phi Phi after only 2 days and can't imagine that Samui or Phangan are much more exciting or interesting most of the time.
Planning my next move I will be going to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia either Friday or Saturday morning at 7am on a 22 hour bus ride. This depends on whether or not the weather cooperates for the day trip we decided to take around some islands near Phuket, complete with lunch, kayaking, and the James Bond island! Although the bus ride will be long, it is less than half the price of flying, and it gives me time to read about India and plan my adventure – I'll be getting a guidebook for India before I go. I didn't spend any time before leaving researching India, and I've been told it is much more intense and less easy to get around for tourists than Thailand.
Originally I was going to stay in SE Asia, go to Cambodia, Laos, maybe Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia before going to Vietnam to teach, but with the flooding and resulting damage to Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos those ones are pretty much out of the picture, and the wet season is about to hit Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. This left me to choose between the Philippines and India, I choose India. I don't think it will be difficult at all to spend 7 or 8 weeks there, and at less than half the price of Thailand, it will ensure that I still have plenty of money to float for a couple months in Vietnam if need-be.
That's all for now! I likely won't update again until I'm in Malaysia, but may have a chance tomorrow night after my day trip.