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Phi Phi Island- what a beauty
It would be hard for many to even comprehend, but this was my first holiday (or part of a holiday) on an island. Even more incredible is that I have never, ever, sat in one location for four days. Seriously, never….ever ! I don’t do “still”. I don’t ever sit around doing nothing. Even when I watch tv, I am more comfortable on the ipad at the same time, or reading something. I know I frighten the hell out of many people because of that, but, that’s the way I roll.
But then Phi Phi Island arrived, and whilst bursting at the seams with all kinds of activities both on and off the island, there was something about the serenity and sense of peacefulness here that for the first time in my life, I was encouraged to become a little less energetic shall we put it.
Having caught a taxi from Suvarnabhumi Airport into the city when we first arrived in Bangkok, we were keen to get back on public transport and take the train to the airport. As is the case with most public transport systems around the world (except some capital cities of Australia !) it was fast, efficient, and economical, with a fast train that goes to the airport every 12 minutes and takes 30 minutes to get there, and all for less than AUD$2 one way. This in itself highlights how ridiculously expensive and moderately useless my home city’s public transport system is.
We flew to Phuket from Bangkok aboard Bangkok Airways, who note themselves as Asia’s Boutique Airline. As an airline they did the job and were courteous at all touchpoints. It was interesting to note that even though this was a domestic flight, they still required conformance with the international liquids rule of carrying < 100ml liquids on board. No drama here, but just a quick repack of a few necessary items like sunscreen into our checked luggage.
Whilst I find most airlines overseas much less regimented with onboard safaety rules than my favourite Australian airline Qantas, I was amused at a series of interactions between an Italian passenger seated nearby, and one of the cabin crew. As we were about to land, the crew member was trying to ask him to put his shoes back on. He had kicked them off when the plane became airborne and was kicking back having a well earned sleep it would seem. When her gentle tones failed to elicit a response, she prodded him softly on the arm. Finally she got him to a state where communication could occur. It did however take at least three attempts to get him to put his shoes back on his feet. I thought at one point she was going to get down and put them on herself!
An hour after takeoff, we arrived at Phuket International Airport and after a little bit of “where do we find our transfer driver” confusion, we were on our way to Ao Po Marina, about 15 minutes drive from the airport and north of Phuket itself. We had booked a speed boat transfer to Outrigger Phi Phi Island Resort where we were staying rather than going via the public ferry. Whilst I am quite sure it offers a suitable ride, and certainly a more economical one, the lure of a fast boat zooming across the ocean and a direct arrival at the resort was too much to pass up.
Upon arrival at the marina, we had some time to grab a bite to eat so we settled in at the “Port of Call” restaurant, overlooking the harbour, filled with exquisite boats and the beautiful blue ocean of the Andaman Sea. The food here was excellent, as had been our Thai experience to date, the service very good, and they were happy just to let us hang out long after we had finished our meal and just nurse a couple of drinks whilst we used their wi-fi and caught up on a bit of correspondence.
Our entry onto the island reminded me of my days as a kid where we would stay at my uncle’s beach house and use a tractor to launch the boat off the ramp into the ocean. Here at Phi Phi, the tide runs a long way out off the island’s shores, making it inaccessible by large boats at low tide. Tractors, with trays built on the back, carry passengers from the boats onto the sand. The resort staff have it all down pat, and before we knew it we had been safely carried ashore and had a welcome coconut drink thrust into our hands.
We stayed in a ‘superior bungalow’, located just back from the beach. I think this provides a little more privacy whilst still being extremely well connected to all facilities. The standalone bungalow was well appointed and very spacious, with excellent airconditioning, (very important in this climate), cable tv, a good bathroom and a well sized deck with chairs to sit and watch the island world go by.
There are all the usual island facilities available here but I have to admit that we mostly hung out by the pool. The pool area is significant and accessible from a variety of different parts of the resort. It’s large enough to have a reasonable volume of people in the water and never have them come anywhere near you. About the only location where you might sit close to someone is on the underwater concrete seats that surround the sunken pool bar. Having never done the island holiday before, the pool bar came as quite a novelty to me so I was very keen to get myself acquainted with it quite early in the piece. There is something quite tropical about sitting in the water sipping cocktails.
The cocktails are a little on the light side, when it comes to alcoholic content, so it’s quite easy to drink a few and be nowhere near the limit. Not that I had to worry about driving anywhere. Even the staff drive the buggies for you, should you decide that your legs simply can’t walk another step!
Despite the tranquility on this island, and the years that have since passed, it it not possible to forget about the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. Phi Phi was one of the islands that suffered significant human loss and damage to infrastructure. As we sat on the beach and looked out to the perfectly flat, calm, inviting ocean, it is hard to imagine the massive wall of water that bore down on the beach. At the same time, you can actually understand how it caused so much damage, such is the exposure of the island to the ocean. I found myself looking up at the skinny palm trees, some six metres tall, and using them as a benchmark for the height of the waves that crashed through here. It’s a credit to the Thais that have been part of the restoration process here on the island, to enable it to function again. But, the memorial gardens and various plaques around the island, along with the official tsunami warning system that is now in place, will ensure that this tragic moment in our world’s history will never be forgotten.
We were thrilled to also have timed our visit in line with the full moon, not that we knew we had done so. Each full moon on the island is celebrated with a very special dinner on the beach. The resort staff work tirelessly throughout the day to dress the beach up. Flowing chiffon hanging to wooden sticks float in the breeze, whilst white bows and ribbons on the tables and chairs create a magical atmosphere under the full moon. The tide comes right up the beach here as well, so we found ourselves dining on a sumptuous buffet, listening to live music, with the ocean almost lapping at our sand filled toes.
Our time on Phi Phi couldn’t have been more relaxing, and whilst you won’t catch me doing one of these trips all that often, I’ve been tempted enough to definitely be a repeat offender.