Sunday, June 21, 2015

Phuket and Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Bear with me for one last Thailand post! 
Luckily, it's a good one. 

Exploring the islands of Thailand in Phang Nga Bay and the Andaman sea were some of my favorite memories from my SE Asia tour. Koh Phi Phi, our last stop, was straight out of a movie (The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio is the most famous movie filmed there) or postcard. I've never seen such clear, tranquil, and nearly deserted beaches before. It helped that is took around 2.5 hours to get there from the mainland (Phuket) and our resort was only accessible by boat...
Songkran on Bangla Road, famous backpackers' road in Phuket 

After recovering from my illness and basically skipping out on Bangkok, I recovered just in time to fly to our last destination, Phuket, at the southern tip of Thailand for some beachside R&R. Phuket was famous for being the resort town devastated in the 2004 tsunami, but it seems like it has made a full recovery. We were there during the lively time of Songkran, Thai New Year, a holiday that has turned into Thais happily soaking each other (and bewildered tourists) with water guns for a whole week. The tradition stems from washing away evil spirits to usher in the New Year, however everyone in Thailand has taken it to a whole new level by stopping all activity, buying super soakers and buckets, riding around on the back of pick up trucks, and spraying each other with ice cold water. It is also the deadliest week in Thailand, with an average of 300 deaths from the amount of drinking and traffic accidents the festivities cause. Locals had no sympathy for anyone who didn't want to get wet, hosing you down mercilessly or pelting you with baby powder, which represents the sins of the past year meant to be washed away with water. I mean, I couldn't even walk next door to the 7-11 without being soaked! At the end of the night, we put on our raincoats to go out and didn't even think about bringing our cameras. While it was fun to experience the madness and chaos of Songkran, I was greatly relieved that Phuket only celebrated it for one day, and that the next day, business resumed as normal.

In Phuket, we stayed in the impressive Burasari Resort, across the street from the beach and facing in towards this sparkling wraparound pool. While our room had some issues, Burasari definitely had the nicest pool and breakfast buffet, with both western and Thai dishes. 



We mainly used Phuket as a base to explore Thailand's well known islands and didn't spend much time in the city itself, which seemed like any other beach town honestly. And full of spring breaker types, mainly Europeans. We signed up for a one day speedboat tour of Phang Nga Bay, where we saw caves, critters, went kayaking, and ultimately I dunked my camera into the ocean. I couldn't let that ruin the trip though, so I carried on with my iPhone. But thank goodness it was at the end of the trip! 
Boarding our speedboat


Kayaking around the James Bond II island


Fresh oysters!! Emi ate them off the rocks and she didn't die of vibrio.

James Bond Island--my last shot before I dunked my camera in the ocean and it died  =(

After reeling in shock the rest of the day, I picked up my iPhone again and resumed taking pictures the next day. We said goodbye to our third musketeer, J, and it was me and Emi once again going to our last and final destination, Koh Phi Phi. We woke up early to take the 2 hour ferry to Phi Phi island, and arrived just as a storm was rolling in.
Once on Phi Phi island, we transferred to another longboat which would take us to our resort. We actually didn't know our resort had pickup included and so were stressing about how we would get to the resort. Would we find a taxi? Hire a boat? Once we deboarded the ferry, we saw a guy holding the sign for our resort and start shrieking in relief (which we have been known to do). The journey in our longboat was actually a rough one, taking twice as long as normal, and because the waves were so strong we had to stop in the middle of the ocean and walk the rest of the way to shore. Needless to say it was the most unique disembarkment I've ever had!
Hotel boys met us out in the ocean and carried our suitcases on their backs!
The guests' turn.
We made it to shore!
On land, the hotel boys continued to carry our luggage into the woods and up a million flights of stairs to our private treehouse. The whole way we were huffing and puffing on the dirt paths just walking it and watching in amazement as the hotel boys scurried along the paths with giant ass suitcases on their backs. At the end, we basically threw money at them for tip, we were so impressed.
Now, our final resort was a bit different. As soon as I heard of Koh Phi Phi and saw pictures of the islands, I knew I wanted to stay in one of their famous treehouses. No air conditioning, no electricity, no keycards, just an outdoor shower, a mosquito net, and the wilderness. Well, at least for one night. While I don't think I could have survived more than one night, we got an unbelievable view from our private porch and hammock, and the ocean was just a few steps below.
Relaxing on our own hammock
So happy and hungry

As soon as we arrived in our resort, we felt like we found paradise on earth and wished we had skipped Phuket and just stayed in Koh Phi Phi longer. We had less than 24 hours on Koh Phi Phi, so we made it a priority to just relax and lay on the beach, finally doing nothing after our nonstop tour of the rest of Asia.
Viking Resort's private beach
Sunset



Sunset at Viking Nature Resort
That night, we trekked over half an hour in the dark to Koh Phi Phi's downtown area and cash dwindling, had ice cream for our last dinner in Thailand. We walked around for a while and then walked another half hour back to the resort on torch lit paths while getting bit by mosquitoes the whole way back. 

The next morning, we woke up at 6 am, crawled out from under our mosquito net, and hiked over to the beach down the hill to catch the sunrise and sleep on the beach. 
On our way back to our resort for breakfast, we finally got some shots of the colorful longboats KPP is known for. Just like that motivational poster! 

Tempting flyer
Famished from an early rise and swim, we were excited for our resort's generous breakfast (only $5 extra per night!) 

As soon as we finished, we rushed back to the beach again so we could soak up as much as we could before we had to check out just a few hours later. We were literally and calculating how much time we would have on the beach and running over there so we could frolic in the beach one last time.



We <3 KPP
Even though we rushed there and rushed back, I'll always be glad we went back to the beach one last time. I had a lot of favorites on this trip. Favorite hotel was Khmer Mansion Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Favorite skyline was Hong Kong. Favorite food was in Taipei. Favorite pool was Burasari Resort's pool. Favorite overall experience was probably Angor Wat with the four of us girls. But that last morning, laying on that white sand beach with crystal clear water lapping at my feet, cemented Koh Phi Phi as my singular favorite locale on this trip.
I call this my kabuki (mineral sunscreen) face. Waving goodbye to Koh Phi Phi!
After a whirlwind trip back to Phuket (2 hours on the ferry, 1 hour to the airport, freaking out that we might have to check our bags, then relieved when the ticket agent seemed to turn a blind eye), we stumbled onto an awesome lounge for Bangkok Air passengers that apparently only we knew about. With literally no Thai money left, we were miraculously able to enjoy our long wait in comfort with free coffee and hot snacks!
After a quick one hour flight to Bangkok, it was finally time to say goodbye to my traveling buddy and bestie from med school. We were off to separate weddings on opposite coasts of the US, and the flight back was a long, lonely one. But I'm glad we'll always have these photos to document our epic SE Asia adventure. As I'm sitting here, shivering in San Francisco, the start of residency looming over me just three days away, I wish I could go back to this trip so much. I guess we'll have to plan the next one in oh...three years?

1 comment:

  1. beautiful pictures! koh phi phi looks amazing. you've definitely given me inspiration for what to do in SE asia. this is making me want to have an adventure together, let's get our portland trip planned!!

    ReplyDelete