Postcard From Phi Phi Islands

Dear reader,

Allow yourself to dream, dare to desire and believe that your dreams will become (and they will be your) reality one day.

The main destination for tourists all over Thailand are the Phi Phi Islands and if you’re traveling for the first time to Phuket they are a must! A Phi Phi Island day tour is the most popular activity in the region and of course, being on my bucket list, we went and explored the town in search for my dream trip offer. We got a good deal from one of the many travel agencies in Karon, and the following morning we were picked up from the hotel. After a short drive, we reached the marina where we met our guide and boarded the speedboat, that took us around the amazing Phi Phi archipelago. The most amazing trip!

Tip: If you’re planning a speed boat trip, make sure not to have the biggest breakfast in the world as the ride it’s pretty bumpy, and if you usually get motion sickness don’t forget your pills! If you choose to sit outside on the speedboat, a hat, a sarong or towel, and sunscreen lotion to protect your skin from the sun are a must. Trust me, you don’t want to get burned and spend the rest of your holiday hiding from the sun!

After approximately an hour we could finally see them – rising proudly from the emerald waters of the Andaman Sea, the limestone cliffs of Phi Phi Islands, were giving way to white powdery beaches and luxuriant green jungles further inland.

Phi Phi Leh Me
Maya Bay- Ko Phi Phi Leh

Our first stop was at Maya Bay for swimming and snorkeling. The place became popular after The Beach was filmed there in 1999. Unfortunately because it is so stunning and famous many boats ferry thousands of tourists in and out each day. You must know that if you enter the bay on your own, there is a National Park entry fee of 400 baht but this fee was included in the price of our tour.

If only it wasn’t so crowded… In order to accommodate the high volume of tourists that come and go, each boat is given 40 minutes to station in the bay, therefor we only had a short stroll through the lush jungle and a refreshing swim in the emerald green waters. Soon after, off we sailed towards the next famous gem of the Phi Phi archipelago – Ko Phi Phi Don.

On the way there we made a stop at Pileh Bay, another lagoon where the water was turquoise crystal clear, and which probably is a good spot for snorkeling but we did not get to swim there. Soon after, we slowly floated by and admired the spectacular rock formations around Viking Caves – famous for its mysterious wall paintings that indicate the arrival of clipper ships hundreds of years ago. It was interesting to see scaffolding at the base of the cave, built by people who live there that are protecting the resident sparrows. This sparrows apparently are so special because of the type of nest they create, which are a delicacy in the Chinese cuisine (most famous is the bird nest soup) and can be sold for up to $100!

Viking Cave
Viking Cave

At Monkey Beach we had the chance to feed the macaque monkeys, the only inhabitants there, and take some nice picture. As much as you want to touch them (like I did, ’cause I just adore them) you should not, as they are wild animals and their bite is quite dangerous. Don’t worry though, they are really friendly and used to tourists feeding them. Just be aware that they are little ‘thieves’, so you better leave your belongings on the boat.

Monkey Beach (451 x 802)
Monkey Beach

We had lunch (included in the tour) on the main island of the Ko Phi Phi archipelago –  Phi Phi Don, which hosts the bohemian town of Phi Phi Islands and it’s the only island in the group with permanent inhabitants. This picture postcard island was my favorite and even if I’ve already been there twice I can’t wait to go back. I highly recommend it! It’s like you’re part of the best wallpapers on the internet.

Phi Phi Don (800 x 450)
Phi Phi Don

Surrounded by stunning turquoise waters, colorful marine life and many coral reefs this place is not only great for diving and snorkeling but it’s the perfect spot to unwind. Long-tail boats putter between these islands, their schedule-less movement and the laid-back tropical atmosphere makes time stand almost still here …waiting for you to relax and ‘catch up’ with the stress, hassle-free existence of the island.

Phi Phi Don me1 (541 x 800)

Restaurant Phi Phi Don (800 x 450)
Restaurant on Phi Phi Don

Here are some link where you can check itineraries and prices:

Phuket All Tours

Phuket.com

Sawadee ka!

James Bond Island – Thailand

Kao Phing Kan is an island situated in Phang Nga Bay northeast of Phuket it’s part of Ao Phang Nga National Park. About 40 metres (130 ft) from the shores of Khao Phing Kan lies a 20-metre (66 ft) tall islet called Ko Ta Pu . Since 1974, when they were featured in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, Khao Phing Kan and Ko Ta Pu have been popularly called James Bond Island.

Now that we know why this island is so popular –  let me tell you all about the trip! If you’ve seen all the James movies and you call yourself a big fan of the series than maybe, just maybe this might make sense to you. For me personally, the place was too crowded.

We booked a half day trip through Phuket Andaman Tours in Karon, and we paid around 1500 THB per person. The tour includes transfers from the hotel and back, lunch and light refreshments on board.

We were picked up from the hotel in the morning and after around an hour drive we reached Ao Po Pier where, eager to discover one of the most famous islands in south east Asia, we embarked on a cruise boat.

cruiser

We stopped at Panak Island for canoeing into the deep bat cave which can be a bit a scary especially if you’re  afraid of bats and you’re claustrophobic. The cave ceilings are so low in some areas that you have to basically lay down on the canoe to fit in.

Cruiser

Our second stop was at the Hong Island famous for its limestone rock, where we canoed around the lagoon which is spectacular! We admired the scenery while our guide was telling us all about this places. I was really impressed by his knowledge and he even made me a flower out of a dry palm leaf that I brought home with me as a souvenir. How sweet of him…

rose

hong island.jpg
Hong Island

After a buffet lunch served on board, we continued our journey towards James Bond Island.

Now due to its precarious position – big on the upper part and relatively slim at the bottom the island is under national park protection and as a result no boats of any kind are allowed to go too close to it. We were transferred to long-tail boats that took us to the island and once we reached the small beach on Koh Ping Ghan we were told that we had to pay an entry fee (which wasn’t mentioned anywhere) in order to visit the island for which we only had about 20 minutes to enjoy(?!) the view. The place was so crowded that you couldn’t even get a single picture with just the islet! To be honest I think the place is a bit overrated.

Long Tail Boats
Long-tail boats

arriving.jpg

jb islet.jpg
Ko Ta Pu/James Bond Island
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View from Kao Phing Kan
On our way back we stopped at Naka Island for some swimming and sunbathing and shortly after, we reached Phuket where our driver was already waiting for us.
return from jb
We ended the day with a well deserved Thai massage and a delicious dinner.
If only I could spend my life traveling… See you next time! Sawadee ka!

Discover Thailand – The Country of Smiles

Phuket

One of the places on my bucket list I had to tick off, was Thailand. Because who hasn’t seen and fallen in love with Phi Phi Island – that forbidden breathtaking paradise (and Leonardo Di Caprio) in the famous The Beach – Official Trailer ? I know! I know! Such a cliche! But still, the island is stunning (though overcrowded for my taste) and for any travel enthusiast, it’s a must see!

Let’s begin with the planning.

You will most probably require a visa for Thailand and if you don’t, then lucky you! Your passport must be valid for more than 6 months from date of entry and you must hold a return ticket. Don’t forget to bring one recent 4×6 photograph that you will need to attach to the Visa Application upon arrival. I will leave a link here with  the visa requirements for The Country of Smiles.

How to get there?

We booked our tickets with Qatar Airways and I recommend subscribing to their newsletter for offers but there are several carriers operating this destination and you can find good deals if you book in advance.The flight to Phuket is around 7 hours from Doha, and there are 2 flights per day.  I personally prefer to plan my own transport and hotel and it works out cheaper than booking through a travel agency. For hotels I use either Agoda or Booking.

Sawadee ka! Welcome to Phuket!

Once landed in HKT – Phuket International Airport getting to the hotel it’s piece of cake! In case you haven’t booked a shuttle prior to your arrival, there are lots of taxis outside the airport waiting for the perfect customer ;). We paid 1200 THB ($30) for approximately 1 hour drive from Phuket International Airport to our hotel in Karon Beach.

Tip: If you are a good negotiator, this is the time to showcase your skills 😉 if not, just try! Everybody does it, and you can get away with half off of the initial price on anything starting from day trips, clothes, souvenirs or taxis! I guarantee that by the end of your trip you will be a pro!

We booked a pool villa at Mandarava Resort & Spa a hillside resort, overlooking Karon Beach (along with Kata Beach are the best places to be in Phuket in my opinion), that offers a spectacular sea view while being immersed in a lavish greenery heaven.

Mandarava Resort & Spa
Mandarava Resort & Spa

Located on the west side of Phuket, facing the Andaman Sea and stretching between Patong at the north and Kata Beach at the south, Karon Beach is the third longest beach on the island. Renown for water sports, here the sea is calm during the dry season, it’s not crowded and is much cleaner and tranquil than the (in)famous Patong.

We spent the first days lounging on the beach or by the pool, indulging in Thai cuisine, getting massages twice a day (who wouldn’t for 300 THB/hour?!) and visiting the island. Oh Paradise!

Sunset in Karon
Sunset Karon Beach
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Big Buddha
Kata Beach
Kata Beach

Getting around the island is really easy and affordable – it’s up to you if you prefer the more conventional air conditioned taxis or the traditional tuk-tuk. But most of the beach resorts are small enough to walk around and most hotels are located close to the beach, restaurants and shopping areas.

Ready to explore some islands, we booked a few day trips from one of the many travel agencies in Karon village but all about that in a future post!

Tip: I highly recommend checking more than one travel agency in town for better deals. Most of them have special offers or are ready to bargain, especially if you’re a group, and from my experience I guarantee it could be even half price than what hotel are offering.

Useful phrases:

  • Sa-wat dee (hello & goodbye)
  • Khop koon (thank you)
  • Gee baht? (how much) Essential for all the shopping you’ll be doing, or when bargaining with tuk-tuk drivers.
  • Yoo tee nai…? (where is…) Extremely useful when lost!
  • Mai ow (don’t want) Useful for refusing persistent street vendors.
  • Khor tort (sorry)
  • Neung, song, saam, see, haa, hook, jet, baat, gow, sip (one to ten)
  • Lot noi dai mai?  (can you make it cheaper? ) Try this handy phrase when shopping. By speaking a little Thai you might just get a better discount.
  • A-roi (delicious)