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Phi Phi Ley and “The Beach”

Aerial shot of Maya Bay

Heading to Phi Phi, we knew we’d end up doing at least one day trip out to see the famous Maya Bay and surrounding bays and islands. After a hangover fiasco that ended in naps, and rescheduling our day, we finally ended up on a boat on our second full day on the island.

An abundance of travel agencies claim the best tours of Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Ley, however we chose to go with one that promised the perfect end to a day with a beach barbeque and party. (Like I said, the party on Phi Phi never stops.)

The weather changed our plans somewhat because as soon as we’d finished an 8 metre cliff jump it started pouring rain. Our longtail boat captain had no where to dock, and so we just floated around for a bit waiting for the torrential downpour to pass. Once it had eased up a little bit, our captain informed us that he wouldn’t be able to navigate the east side of the Island and so we missed out on a couple beaches, such as Loh Samah Bay and Pi-Leh Cove as well as the Viking Cave.

We were still able to navigate into Maya Bay, the beach that was made popular by the movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio. In the movie, the main characters come across this beach in their search for their own little slice of paradise and end up living in a community of other travelers. As most Hollywood movies do, this one stirred up some controversy as the film crew destroyed the face of the beach, and possibly the island by trying to make it bigger to accommodate cast and crew. However, it is said that the effects of the Tsunami in 2004 undid any damage they may have caused.

While it is almost impossible to find such an off the map haven in Thailand these days, there is something magical about the place. Surrounded almost completely by mountain cliffs, and water so clear that you feel like you’re in a pool, it’s enough to take your breath away.

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Longtail boats and jet-lag

As I wrote this, I was sitting in Bangkok, in the Sawasdee House on Raambuttri Road near Khao San on my ninth day in Thailand, as of posting, I’m leaving the Pagoda Inn in Chiang Mai. Internet was scarce on the Island we were on, cell phone reception was almost non-existent and the internet café they had was just as bad, if not worse, than dial-up. I have a backlog of things to write about, but am going to work in chronological order for the most part and will hopefully catch up some day.

The Journey into the Future

After one delayed flight where I thought I wouldn’t make it to Bangkok, and not having any of Sasha’s flight information and panicking about whether or not she was delayed enough to miss her flight (luckily, she was only delayed two hours as well, not enough to miss her connecting flight), she finally found me waiting to get through customs. After some much needed coffee in the airport, internet time and shipping some things to the school, we were on our way to Koh Samui.

Once we landed on Koh Samui amid the throngs of people ready to party on Haad Rin for the New Year, we boarded a ferry, then a longtail boat that would take us away from the madness to a secluded resort getaway at The Sanctuary in Haad Tien.

Longtail Boat

Since we had only met one girl who seemed to be remotely headed our way, we shared a relatively quiet boat ride with her. Throwing our carefully packed, 12 kilo bags onto the boat we all looked at each other as if to say, “we’re getting on this thing?!” The boats themselves aren’t that out of the ordinary, despite the fact that they are rather long. However, the car engine of a motor, and the almost 6 foot long propeller attached to about a 3 foot handlebar quite different from the pull start motors attached to speedboats at home. With some nifty maneuvering out of the harbour, our driver takes his place standing in front of the motor, sunglasses in place and waterproof rucksack slung over his shoulder. Slicing through the waves, with the boat bouncing up and down, all three girls would randomly scream in surprise as the boat landed with a thud after a particularly large wave, showering us with blasts of warm salt water.

Sasha had a hysterical grin on her face, from ear to ear, that perfectly portrayed what each of us felt.At one point, Natalie looks back at Sasha and says, “I can’t tell if you’re really happy or terrified!”

I think it was a little bit of both.

Haad Tien Beach

Arriving at The Sanctuary was, to say the least, a relief. However, because of the time of year and the parties planned for the next few days, finding a room was difficult. Unfortunately, because of the popularity of this particular resort and the likelihood that people extend their stay, booking a room in advance was impossible. If it had not been for the fact Melissa asked around everyday, we could have been sleeping on the floor for the first night. So she was able to reserve us a lovely bungalow that could be easily shared with Theo when he arrives later that night.

Despite that, we end up homeless the next night (long story). Neither me nor Sasha are upset by it, instead we both look forward to sleeping on a balcony, in our own hammocks, with a view of the jungle after a night of partying. I woke up with the sun, draping my scarf over my eyes, and put earplugs in to drown out the music that would continue for the next 3 days for the New Year parties. We eventually got our own bungalow, which they finished building and painting the day we moved in, so we were the very first people who had slept on the bed, used the shower and toilet and scattered their belongings across the floor. We were quite spoiled.

New Years Week

New Years was a lot of fun, and not because it was something that I hyped it up to be like I usually do at home, but because it exceeded my expectations and then some. The nature of the resort that we stayed on has many different bars, and in order to keep the money flowing to each bar, the party would move every night and sometimes every few hours. At midnight we had champagne, hugs and kisses, and lit a paper lantern as a group and sent our wishes for the new year into the sky before seriously starting a party that, for some, lasted well beyond the first sunrise of 2012.

I was thoroughly exhausted, but appreciated the zen of the yoga resort to regroup and relax. Especially since I had a couple injuries due to falling while climbing a tree root up a jungle bath back from the bar on New Years Eve: scraped shin and cut hand, no big deal.