Another early day, another long journey ahead of us! Tonight, we’ll sleep in Phuket. For now, we enjoyed our last breakfast at Season Bungalows and settled our bills. 2,600 THB (about $73) for all the food and drinks we consumed over the past three days. I still can’t get over how cheap life is in Thailand. At 8:30am, we were on the beach with our bags, waiting for the boat that would take us to Ko Phi Phi first (there is no direct ferry from Ko Jum to Phuket). When the longtail boat showed up a few minutes late, we realized wearing sneakers was not the best idea. Without a pier, we needed to walk a few feet in the water to reach the boat.
We joined three British and one American girls that got picked up before us and then kept going alongside the beach. Another couple people joined us from a different hotel. About 10 minutes later, we switched boats while in the water and watched the longtail boat leave.
Later we picked up even more tourists brought from other longtail boats like ours. Though the larger ferry boat was faster than our previous vessel, it still took us close to 2 hours to travel the 13 miles that separate Ko Jum from Ko Phi Phi. Here is a shot of us seating in the front of the boat, with Ko Phi Phi islands in the background.
On the left is Ko Phi Phi Lee, the smaller of the two which has several secluded beaches including the Maya Bay made infamous by the 2000 movie The Beach. On the right is Ko Phi Phi Don, much larger island where the pier is located and most of the human activity takes place. Here is another shot of Ko Phi Phi Lee (which we did not visit) shortly before reaching the pier on Ko Phi Phi Don.
As soon as we disembarked we were hit by the contrast between the quietness of Ko Jum and the extreme business of Ko Phi Phi. This place is so packed with tourists that it reminded me of Main Street, America in Disney World. Still filled with mostly Europeans (we also saw a few Chinese families) but the crowd is definitely much younger and the businesses clearly cater to backpackers. A hipsters and frat boys paradise!
Since we arrived shortly before noon, the temperature was brutal. While we were determined to explore the island until our 2pm ferry to Phuket, we were also not sure what to do with our rolling luggage. We stopped by The Mango Garden to get some refreshments (and an A/C break) where Mimi used the WiFi to look up places for temporarily holding bags. TripAdvisor recommended a storage room on the pier itself, 50 THB per luggage. That’s where we went.
With only our day packs on our shoulders, we started taking pictures. The beaches here are wonderful with fine white sand and beautiful landscaping. Definitely more picturesque than in Ko Jum (you be the judge). The water is just as warm but much to my regret, we didn’t have time to swim.
We started hiking towards the vista point which according to TripAdvisor reviews is supposed to offer a stunning view over the beaches on both sides. The main road from the pier is very flat and filled with bars, restaurants, hostels, tattoo parlors, souvenir shops and of course currency exchanges. We then turned onto a smaller perpendicular street which was much less crowded and looked like what I imagine a Moroccan bazaar must look like.
Along the street there was also a Mosque. We learned that Ko Phi Phi Don was also initially populated by Muslim fishermen. Still today, Buddhists represent only a small fraction of the overall local population (excluding foreign laborers that come in numbers during the high season).
A few more minutes of walking and the topography started changing. We climbed steep hills and saw a Muay Thai center (Laurent, this is where you’ll want to fight when you stay in Ko Phi Phi).
We kept going for a bit longer but then checked on the clock and got worried we wouldn’t have enough time to reach the vista point and make it back to the pier by 1:30pm to catch the 2pm ferry to Phuket (also the last one for the day).We gave up on the hike and instead decided to stop by a local restaurant named Anita Restaurant for a quick lunch. That place had hands down the most disgusting restroom of our trip to date (no picture shall be provided!)… and the worst is that they had the gall to charge 20 THB for use! Food was OK but overpriced. We reached the North beach, the one where people actually tan and swim and took more pictures. I spotted a kayak painted in the French tricolor. Vive la France!
Also decided to capture the beauty of the place in the following short video. Yes, the birds chirping is authentic.
On our way back, we saw more of the same: more backpackers enjoying life, bars/restaurants, hostels and souvenir shops (I successfully bargained for a Ko Phi Phi magnet for my fridge collection). Made it back on time to the pier, picked up our luggage and boarded the ferry to Phuket. Phew. We sat down in the A/C room inside the ferry, waiting for departure. This boat was much larger than the one we took to come from Ko Jum. The line of tourists boarding seemed to have no end.
The ride to Phuket was close to 2 hours as well. We alternated between light napping and enjoying the scenery outside. Midway through the trip, this guy from the staff came to us asking if we need a shuttle ride in Phuket. When we told him we were staying at Le Meridien, he smiled at us and said “Oh wow Le Meridien! It’s for rich people! Not for poor people like all those people!”, pointing at the overall crowd around us. I tried to explain we didn’t even pay for our nights at the resort (Mimi used her Starwood points) but he did not seem to care or comprehend my point. The shuttle price was 200 THB per person, not bad considering his promise that we’d be dropped at our hotel!
As we got back on land, I turned my GPS back on to see how far our hotel was from the pier. It looked like a very long trip through the island, and we thought it would probably take over an hour. This gave us plenty of time to discover Phuket though the windows of our minivan! Phuket is the largest island in Thailand, and definitely seems more like a place where Thai people actually live. Not that it’s not also a top destination for tourists, but we did see other services and industries.
Our shuttle had 10 people. We got dropped at our hotel last around 5:45pm, after two backpackers that sounded like total stoners (one of which was not even wearing shoes, because why would he?) got off in the center of Patong. We were immediately impressed by the resort. I don’t know if it’s just the stark contrast with our previous accommodation in Ko Jum, but this place certainly looked like a palace to me.
We got welcomed by several members of the staff that all spoke very good English. We received flower bracelets (gave mine to Mimi), moist towels and delicious lychee juices as welcome presents. Frustrated by the time our shuttle ride took, we rushed to the room (our room number: 007), took the mandatory yolomimo.com hotel room discovery video (below) and then changed to our swimsuits.
The beach in front of the hotel really can’t be described in words. It’s just too perfect. I’ll let Mimi the pleasure to post daytime pictures since we got there in the evening. Mimi wanted to take another time lapse of the sunset but I wanted to do something different this time. Hopefully the results are good? Let us know in the comments if you like it!
On the sand, the hotel had installed 12 large tents with tables for Valentine’s day dinner. The lucky couples would get a 5 courses menu with wine. It reminded us it was February 14th!
After swimming a little bit (the water was still pleasantly warm), we went back to the room, showered and dressed up to have a nice romantic dinner at Wang Warin, the hotel’s Thai restaurant.
Though we traveled for much of the day and were a bit tired, we still managed to have a great time today!