Megan and I took a two-week tour of Southeast Asia during our honeymoon in August/September of last year. Now it’s time to wrap up the trip report after a holiday break. Here’s the Trip Report Index:
- Booking the Honeymoon
- Asiana Airlines Business Class (SEA-ICN, HKG-ICN, and ICN-SEA)
- Seoul-Incheon Airport and Singapore Airlines Business Class (ICN-SIN)
- Singapore Zoo
- Singapore Airlines Business Class (SIN-DPS)
- St. Regis Bali – Part 1
- St. Regis Bali – Part 2
- Day Trip to Ubud
- Thai Airways Business Class (DPS-BKK and BKK-HKT)
- St. Regis Bangkok
- Westin Siray Bay Phuket
- Day Trip to Phi Phi Islands
- Thai Airways Business Class (HKT-HKG)
- Conrad Hong Kong
As discussed previously, Megan and I were looking for a way to escape the Westin Siray Bay and readily agreed to sign up for the day trip to the Phi Phi islands being promoted in the hotel lobby after dinner. The cost was 3,000 Thai baht per person, or about $100, including round-trip transportation from the hotel to the marina, a one-hour boat ride each way from the marina to the islands, and lunch at one of the island hotels.
I don’t know that price is high or low, but it was actually a great trip and something we would have planned to do anyway if we had bothered to research this trip better. I thought the whole operation was well run, and we had a good time despite being the only English speakers on a boat full of South Americans. The guide spoke Spanish and English and was probably American, so we were fine. A Brazilian couple had the most difficulty, but you wouldn’t know it. They were so upbeat the whole time and kept insisting on taking our picture for us.
On one of several high speed boats setting out around 9 in the morning, we volunteered to sit in the bow where we could get a better view of the minor islands we passed along the way. On the return, this may not have been a good choice because it was very choppy — I pretty much held on for dear life for an hour.
Our first stop was the Viking Cave on the far side of the smaller Phi Phi Le, where elaborate bamboo scaffolding allow workers to gather the nests used for birds nest soup. No, most of the names for these places don’t make sense. It looked about ready to collapse and didn’t seem nearly large enough to support an entire soup industry, but that’s what the guide told us!
We motored past and into a bay where everyone jumped in to go swimming. The sheltered water was very warm and would have been crystal clear if not for all the boats and swimmers mixing it up. Plus there was trash everywhere, something that fortunately was not an issue at our other destinations. There wasn’t much to see except the cliff walls and the warm water, but it was cool nonetheless.
These islands don’t include the famous James Bond island, with the towering pillar of rock in the middle of the bay used in The Man with the Golden Gun. But they are still “famous” for something. Phi Phi Le featured in The Beach, a movie neither of us had ever seen before and is about a picturesque beach that some foreign tourists try to hide from the masses in Bangkok and various party towns, which might overwhelm it just as they did every other beach in Thailand. I can certainly understand that perspective.
In the movie, this beach is a walled off lagoon that must, somewhere have an inlet from the ocean. In fact, that inlet is right around the corner. It’s encircled just enough that it is possible from most angles to never see the ocean from this beach, which does give it a bit of a magical feeling. But like the bay we stopped at before, there were lots and lots and lots of boats. So many people.
We played a bit in the sand, which was so fine it reminded me of powdered sugar, before stopping at a shack on one end to buy a couple of beers and walk through the forest. At the back end there is an actual lagoon with a ladder over the rocks to the other side. Some ropes have been lashed together to allow people to jump off boats there and climb their way over, avoiding the chaos of the main beach were we had docked.
After returning to the boat, our group was off to Phi Phi Don, the much larger of the two islands. This one has several hotels on it (including a Holiday Inn) and seems like it might be a great place to stay. But my only comparison is that Westin. I’m sure there are other good hotels on Phuket that don’t require this added travel time.
We passed by a beach with several monkeys (Monkey Beach, about the only name that made any sense), and this time I didn’t have the freedom to jump off and feed them. But they also seemed more aggressive to the other tourists already there, who did get off the boat — probably because they were so isolated and had fewer visitors than Monkey Forest in Bali. I’m glad we stayed put. After watching for a few minutes we moved to the other side of the same large bay to do some snorkeling. It was an adequate location, but not worth spending more than an hour. Most of the water was too deep and the reef too far away on the bottom.
Fortunately an hour was all we had. I think the guides did a good job of moving us along just as each stop started to lose our interest. There is a lot to see, and some of it I could have spent all day exploring, but when you are in a group sometimes that becomes difficult and you just want to move on. The timing was good enough to let us see everything there was and maybe inspire us to come back with a private boat sometime in the future.
We had lunch at some nondescript all-inclusive hotel on the north side of Phi Phi Don. The food was certainly not impressive (rice, some type of soup, and a few hot and cold dishes in a buffet), and all the beverages but water and tea had a price. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, because it was my first thought when I got food poisoning later that week. But this was over 48 hours before I got sick, and Megan ate the same food without consequences. So, suspect food, but alright in the end. We bought some ice cream for 300 baht and enjoyed the view afterward.
Funnily enough, the shore here is really shallow and the tide went far out. We had to walk a good 500 feet through surf 1-2 feet deep to get back to the boats. One of the more amusing sites of the trip was watching all those tourists wondering if the boats were going to come to them!
Our final stop was a small, roundish Bamboo Island that had a forest (not bamboo) and camping in the middle. This was our least favorite because by this time the storm clouds were coming in and the tide had gone out, so the water was generally too shallow to swim in. And had we left for port earlier, we might have had a smoother ride back. I was so ready to get off that boat. But it was definitely some of the best money we spent in Thailand, and one of the more memorable experiences of our honeymoon.