Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Diving Phi Phi and getting to Ton Sai

Happy Yumi
We’re up relatively late, and go for a swim in the sea. Again, fairly rough, though this does give me an opportunity to body-surf a bit. Afterwards, along to find Jason in the Aussie bar (AFL should be on) but he’s not about, so we eat lunch in Sabai Sabai. Another tasty meal, with spring rolls, spicy salad and, okay, basically I ordered exactly what I ordered last time, except this time it fed two of us!

Round the corner, the post office – I need to get rid of my PADI manual, it’s too heavy to lug. Turns out they have a three month service! How does that work? Put into a bottle and thrown off a ship? So Hedge, expect the book about October!! The next task is to find Korean food – Madam has a craving. The only restaurant is apparently in the Diamond Cliff resort, back near Sunset Resort, so we use their shuttle bus then walk it. And indeed, there is a restaurant, though at first we thought it was just the Diamond pool bar!

A happy Yumi

The restaurant is next to the swimming pool, and looks over rocks to the waves crashing on to shore. They open the windows for us, which lets a gale-force wind blow over our table, just what we need with all the humidity and kimchi we’re about to consume!

Oh so good

I have galbi, the Korean bbq, and Yumi has kimchi chige. Neither of us are disappointed, though it’s nothing like Korea. We have two portions of kimchi too (have to order each time, no unlimited refills here).

Then a massage, which again is good, especially as this time I explain clearly that we’ve just eaten vast amounts of food, please don’t do that crush-the-stomach thing? The end of the evening, and I can’t bring myself to haggle with the damn tuk tuks, so we walk back to the hotel along the whole length of Patong.

Yumi doesn’t try diving
Another morning swim in the sea, this time cut short by Yumi saying it was too rough for her.

Not really swimming weather

Given the death a couple of days later she may have been right! Anyway, we headed along to Scuba Cat, who do free “Try diving” sessions in their small pool every other day. Except today they’re not doing it, as they don’t have any spare instructors about. Shame! So instead we go to eat pizza at Napoli, next door to Sabai Sabai. It’s good, but the pizzas are big and with our inability to waste food, we both end up stuffed. As Yumi points out, in Korea one of these would be to share!

The wind starts picking up, and rain starts, so we duck into Starbucks, only to find ourselves stuck there for hours and torrential rain and storm-force winds lash the coast. Starbucks’ big round sign is wobbling slightly, and the power goes off every few minutes for a couple of seconds, killing the hifi. When we finally emerge, we arrange to meet with Jason and Liz in the evening then head back to hotel for a totally un-earned rest.

The evening brings a seafood dinner at the open-air place not far from Bangla Road boxing stadium. I’d seen it a few times and it looked inviting, lots of plastic chairs with different restaurants at the back. Al Fresco dining as it were. What we didn’t expect was the incredible hassle as soon as we approached from the different places – I pointed out to one that I never go anywhere that hassles me, and he backed off. We made our choice based on expecting the rain to start again, and we were right, and highly appreciative of being under cover.

A veritable feast

We ordered curried calamari, and giant prawns with tamarind sauce.

All very tasty. Jason and Liz had the seafood basket, with all sorts of things, including a large lobster.

What is Jason reaching for?!

Washed down by a couple of beers, before we headed round to some more bars in the seedier areas for fun.

We all love girlie bars!

Phi Phi
We leave Villa Del Mar at 7:15am, being picked up and shuttled to the ferry port near Phuket Town. The boat to Phi Phi was full of day trippers – we had a different coloured sticker to wear to identify us as one way do-not-feed animals. Sea sickness no issue as we’re so tired we just sleep all the way there. Phi Phi is actually two islands, only the larger of which has any development (I think!). The smaller one, Phi Phi Lai, has Maya Beach, of “The Beach” movie fame. The larger island, Phi Phi Don, effectively consists of two lumps of rock covered in trees joined by a thin strip of land with beached on both sides. This is the where most development is.

The two bays formed by this arrangement are quite different. One side is deeper, and therefore has the pier that we arrive on, and most of the boats moored. The other side is a shallow bay with beautiful beach and knee deep water right the way out – perfect if one had children. Groups of honeymooners wade about and take photos.

The main pier

After disembarking at the pier, there are some touts, but we move away quickly following the street. My cunning plan, now I’m a member of the hallowed PADI club, is to pick a dive school I like the look of, and ask them for advice as to where to stay etc. And first up is Hippo Divers. Good name, good logo, and the cool and friendly Slim sitting outside, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Ayie on Redang. We chat for a bit, he seems like a good guy, so I book to go diving the next day and he suggests we try the cabins on the beach further round the bay on the boat side.

Round here

We walk round on the beach, fine with my pack, but Yumi’s wheely suitcase does not work well on soft sand, so it’s a hard twenty minute walk. The cabin we have is a simple wooden raised affair, with a fan and a mosquito net.

The roof is thatched. No power until 6:30pm. The hut is 300 baht a night, not cheap for what we’re getting, but the site is beautiful – sitting on the beach just in front of the water, with a huge sheer rock face right behind which climbers head slowly up.

Spot the people going up!!

In front of our house


Back into “town”, and on Slim’s recommendation we eat at Mama Restaurant, which is good – French/Thai owned, we have massoman curry and grilled fish Thai style.

After lunch, a bit of wading about in the water.

Then we climb up to the viewpoint for the picture-postcard view of Phi Phi. Yumi does a lot of moaning on the way up, it’s hot and a good 30 minutes up to the top.

Not happy

But it’s well worth the walk, Phi Phi really is paradise.

The postcard

Where we’ve just come up from

Cooling off

Others enjoying the view

Mr Scruff: “Trout are fresh water fish with underwater weapons”!

Next wander through “town”.



Shopping arcade

Then snorkelling in front of our hut. Hippo lend us snorkelling gear, which is nice of them. The visibility’s not great though. Dinner at the Phi Phi Bakery – spicy curries in the humidity!

Night time.. the hut experience! My goodness. Mosquitos. Spiders. Geckos. And the heat. And we need a shower! It starts raining heavily.

Diving Phi Phi and Low Season Island Travel Fun
Along to Hippo, and we head off on one of their boats. The dive site is off Phi Phi Don, the smaller island, so it’s only 20 minutes or so to site – a bit choppy between the islands but sheltered where we moor up. There are some Koreans diving too, one of whom is a girl who has just started working for Hippo – she’s learning to be an instructor in the next six months, then working for Hippo through the high season for another 6. What a life! I’m so jealous!


First dive we go down and potter about. Saw a scorpion fish, black lion fish.

Black Lion Fish

A beautiful spot

Slim on top deck

I think Slim was quite impressed with my air usage, as after 60 minutes had just hit 100psi, so we ended dive because all recreational dives are supposed to be capped at an hour regardless of how much air you have left. I am a god!! Hehe! Afternoon diver starts well, following a wall round with some fantastic soft coral.


Underwater collisions


Then disaster strikes! After unclipping my camera from its neckstrap, I obviously don’t clip it back. Next time I clasp for it, it’s not there! Horror! And I’m about the depth where the camera may or may not be buoyant! Looking up and down, I can’t see it. I start breathing heavily – don’t panic Mr Mainwaring!

I tell my buddy, a Korean guy, then catch up with Slim and tell him. We look. I head down to the bottom of the wall but no sign of it. I surface on my own, can’t see it either. Head back to the boat and look from there. No. Then… a boat crew member spots something floating in the water further round the
rocks. Could it be? I dive off and swim to it. Thank the lord! My camera, happily bobbing away on the waves. The relief!

The photo of relief!

Back to Phi Phi, and we take the ferry boat across to Aonang and Railay.

The plan..

I’ve booked to go to Ton Sai beach, where we’ll stay the last few days before flying back to Bangkok from Krabi. We get off at Railay, which I later learn is the wrong decision. Because there’s no pier at Railay, we transfer to a longtail boat, which takes us closer to the beach, but we still have to wade in thigh-deep water for the last twenty metres! Railay is not our destination, it’s the next beach round, Ton Sai.

Arriving in style

Wade wade

How to get to Ton Sai? There are three ways. Boat from Aonang (I now know). Scrabbling round the rocks between the two beaches. Or a mountain jungle trail which is not fun (we try it later). We head round, and look at the rock way. I tell Yumi to wait, and head round with my pack. The water’s up to my waste, bottom of pack getting wet and waves pushing me about. The rocks are really sharp too, and water cloudy, so you can’t see where you’re stepping. It’s not fun, and takes me 20-30 minutes to get round. I dump my bag at Ton Sai Bay Resort, then head to the far end. The boat guys say they aren’t allowed to go to Railay West, where Yumi is waiting. Not true I discover the following day.

How to get round?

Pretty Railay West Beach

Anyway, I head back round the rocks, the water now mid-chest, and I’m really being battered by waves. There’s no way I can get Yumi’s wheely bag round on my head and get her with flip flops round. It’s dangerous.

Not the right luggage for the beach!

So we head back round to Railay East where I hope to pay for a longtail boat to take us round. There they refuse. It’s too far. They say we should go to Aonang. How do we go there? We take a boat from here to Aonang Mao, then a tuk tuk to Aonang. Except (we discover) there are no tuk tuks going from Aonang Mao. Nice.

Luckily some French guys, one of whom has a Thai girlfriend who is impossibly small and cute, give us a lift in their hire car. We can’t find a pier at Aonang, and end up at the next place, where they send us back to Aonang. The French guys leave us here, and we’re told no more boats tonight. This also, I strongly suspect, would not be true. If we had gone to where the boat men were (didn’t know at the time where), it would just have been a matter of price.

So we are going to find a hotel, but then someone assures us that there will be boats to Ton Sai from Aonang Mao. We didn’t actually ask at the time. A second person confirms, so we tuk tuk round. After haggling the price to something sensible of course. The tuk tuk driver also tells us absolutely no problem, and when we get back to Aonang Mao, they also say, yes, Ton Sai, no problem, you can go now and pay for the whole boat, 500 baht, or wait for some more people and split the cost.

We wait half an hour, it’s now 9:30pm. Then they decide to mention that, oh no, Ton Sai, no, we don’t go to Ton Sai, only Railay. Why don’t we stay near the pier, and come back tomorrow morning, they suggest. I’LL TELL YOU WHY, BECAUSE THERE ARE NEVER BOATS GOING TO TON SAI FROM HERE! It’s infuriating! You never get the truth from Thai people, dammit! If you got information that was true, you could make sensible decisions. A simple I don’t know would be so much more useful than speculation.

So back to Aonang. Tuk tuk? No, only taxis here. I almost curse. Damned if I’m taking a taxi, so we walk for 10 minutes back to the main road and manage to get a ride there. One night in the Aonang Princess Hotel, and a weary dinner.


Marine said...

Thank you for your posts! the pictures and comments are great.
I found your blog looking for info on Ko PhiPhi on the web and your comments are really useful!
Thanks !

Sam Crawley said...

Thanks for the comments, hope you have a great time.