we started off our day-trip to koh phi phi at the le meridien breakfast buffet, as per usual. we were soon whisked off in a tour van on a trip across phuket island to the marina where our boat would be waiting for us.
along the way i snapped this photo of thailand's current king, bhumibol adulyadej. he is also known as "rama ix." he is apparently well-loved because his image is everywhere on billboards! there is one image in particular that we saw over and over again. in it, king adulyadej looks like steven colbert with a drop of water running from the tip of his nose. alas, i did not get a photo of that one!
driving through phuket to the "asia marina harbor" offered us many chances to experience the "local pulse" - or "pulsations" as doug and i lie to refer to them as.
from the lamely-named "asia marina harbor," you can get a good view of one of phuket's main non-beach attractions - this large mountain-top white buddha.
yes, i know... you're as sick of seeing these things as i am of writing about them. this may be the last one (i think).
as we set off for koh phi hi from asia marina harbor, we soon started seeing evidence of the dramatic scenery we would encounter all day long. our adventure for the day would not take place on the andaman sea (as that is off the west coast of phuket). instead, we would be sailing the strait of malacca, located in between phuket and the krabi provicne of the malay peninsula.
our first stop on the trip was the tiny island khai nok - which did not seem that far from the east coast of phuket where we disembarked.
we had seen poorly-outfitted bathrooms before on the trip (the worst being the outhouses near the chiang dao caves), but this was certainly the most treacherous. the boat's small cabin had rushing water coming through the floor (hopefully from the sea?)
the tiny little islands near khai nok actually had what appeared to be residents living on them. it must be a lonely life as you are literally surrounded by nothing for miles.
we had heard from our boat guide that this area was particularly ravaged by the 2004 tsunami, and it is no surprise. some of the islands in this general vicinity were not much larger than a new york studio apartment.
because of the shallow waters and corals surrounding khai nok, we had to be transferred on to a longtail boat to get to the island itself.
okay, slightly larger than a nyc studio apartment, but not much!
khai nok featured stunning craggy rock formations and a heaping dose of tropical fish in its crystal clear blue-green waters.
dD goes in for some snorkeling on khai nok... but be careful of that coral! it can shred you in a second. (we saw many tourists walking around phuket with scrapes and cuts and scabs from their nearby sea adventures.)
one fish, two fish, three fish, four.
we only stayed on khai nok for about an hour. the various tour groups have to pace everyone out because otherwise there would be no room on the island or in the water!!
you won't find many people sitting under the umbrellas - and its not because they are all out snorkeling - or don't want to be covered from the sun. it is because the locals on the small island charge you to use an umbrella for the hour that you are there!!
this was the more dangerous part of khai nok - with its rocky sea floor and swirling riptide pools. but did that stop me, heck no!
did i forget to mention that the day prior doug and i both got fried to a crisp on our little "relax bay" beach? the problem was that for the first half of the day we were using facial sunblock meant for daily use. it was not waterproof - nor strong enough for the intense thai summer. i got hit mostly in weird patches on my shoulders...
while doug's poor feet were turned into an imitation of fred flintstone. his feet aren't normally that swollen!
time's-a-wasting at khai nok island...
most everyone stayed in the one area most populated by fish, but i decided to take a look around and snap more photos.
yep, that's dougee groovin' with the fish.
you could go pretty far out and it was still pretty shallow, but the strong current and jagged edges of the coral made it difficult to stand anywhere for a long period of time.
this photo was achieved by shooting through the cage wall of, you guessed it, a touristy souvenir shop right at the edge of khai nok island.
don't get caught in here - your liable to get cut by the coral beneath you!
eventually it was time to get back on the boat and have lunch...
yep, you guessed it... another tame "traditional thai buffet."
and guess who got scraped by the coral? um, that would be me - the one who was telling doug over and over again to be careful!
of course, i blame this hunk of rock.
as we trudged off back into the waters, i got this cool picture of seemingly mystical phang nga bay to the north. definitely want to check that out next time i am in thailand!
on the boat, doug covers up - embarrassed by his uneven redness.
this is our destination. remember, objects in mirror appear closer than they really are...
oh, now what is doug grimmacing at...?
ahhh yes... so our boat's passengers included this huge group of young russian travelers. the dudes were all total studs, and they set themselves up to suntan on the deck immediately upon getting on the boat. look at me in comparison with my awkward patchy sunburn! what a dork i am.
doug and i hated them for their young rippling bodies...
doug tries to put on a front - in front of the russian kids...
yes, we are getting closer to koh phi phi - but it is still very far away!!
as we neared, things started to take better shape.
koh phi phi is actually a set of islands - and while the largest island is only about 16 km long, some of the islands in the group are virtually just big rocks sticking out of the water.
i believe this is koh phi phi leh - the smaller of the two biggest islands. it is here that "the beach" was filmed.
with its emerald green velvety round hilltops, it obviously reminded me a lot of hawaii.
one of our crew mates gets us closer to "the beach" at koh phi phi leh.
the rocky formations all appear as though they are floating on top of the water because the salty ocean waves have eroded away the bases of the mountains.
this is "maya bay," and the actual beach where the 2000 movie "the beach" was filmed. sadly, we did not stop here. the tour groups again must alternate depending how busy the different groups are.
we curved around maya bay and headed alongside the limestone cliffs of koh phi phi leh.
from a geological standpoint, this set of islands was truly fascinating.
aside from the moving line of ladyboys at the simon cabaret, this site proved to be one of the most difficult to photograph of the whole trip.
with the varying degrees of light and shadow and the striking colors of the sky, water and islands, it was hard to get everything just right.
and yet, i think this is about "just right."
the color of the water was so amazing. no wonder they picked this island to film a movie about a mythical beach that people risk dying to find...
there are no accommodations on koh phi phi leh but i am told there are hiking tours you can take, and i am sure that would be amazing!
if you have read the book, you may recall the section about the main character getting trapped underneath the caves which separate the lagoon from the ocean. loh samah bay is presumably a location to depict that scenario.
longtail boats ferry tourists closer to the islands to avoid damaging the stupendous coral reefs below.
okay, okay i know what your saying... there he goes agin with that "on-angle" photography again. i don't know why i do it. i just can't help it. with this shot, it appears as though the water is going to just drain right out of the lagoon...
the limestone bluffs are quite extraordinary with their brilliant hues of blue, pink and orange.
take it all in kids...
unspoiled natural beauty - for now...
we basically took a 240-degree tour around koh phi phi leh.
the russians are coming! the russians are coming!
this was pi-leh cove on the east side of the island.
pretty groovy limestone formations were found here as well...
this seemed to be a more popular area for stopovers than maya bay, but we did not dock here either. instead, we went snorkeling somewhat near the entrance to ton sai bai on the larger koh phi phi don island.
longtail boats await their charges in pi-leh cove.
...the viking cave, a groovy undercropping right at sea level. the "viking cave" was used in the movie "the beach" as well, but ended up on the cutting room floor of the dvd extras.
the cave, which gets its name from the "ancient color paintings resembling viking boats," is filled with bird's nests and wooden replicas of pirate-like ships.
koh phi phi leh's dramatic limestone bluffs are dotted with huge gaping holes.
this is the view into koh phi phi don's ton sai bay. koh phi phi don is the largest of the islands in this group.
we went snorkeling not too far from here - the sea urchins were huge! the water was so deep that you had to keep paddling and swimming the entire time - i wish i had worn the floaty life vests as suggested.
ton sai bay is like the grand central of koh phi phi.
...but you wouldn't really know it from this southeast view.
dD docks in ton sai bay.
the longtail boats act as taxis in koh phi phi as thee are no roads or cars on the islands.
the longtails do have an allure - the noisier more rowdy distant cousin of the venetian gondola.
colorfully-festooned longtails are lined up all along ton sai bay.
it is picture postcard perfect!
speaking of postcards, this is an image that i picked up at the airport. it shows the devastation to the hourglass-shaped phi phi don in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. (ton sai bay is on the left.) doug and i walked throughout the badly damaged area in the lower right-hand corner. this area is really ramshackled with new construction popping up everywhere. at the time, however, we did not know it was because of the almost five year-old storm.
daily life on koh phi phi don.
the inhabited part of koh phi phi don is so crowded and jam-packed with tourist amenities that it appears somewhat unkempt. clearly, they cannot keep up with the high level of tourists pouring in every day for overnight stays.
see the spiky fruits in he background? these are the controversial durian. when cut open, their smell evokes quite an array of reactions. different tourists books liken the aroma to dead bodies, rotting garbage, eggs on elephant dung, etc. it is no surprise that the fruit has been banished from certain hotels in southeast asia. (we actually saw a sign on the glass entrance of our hotel in chiang mai that depicted "no smoking, no walking around topless and no durian.")
the isthmus of koh phi phi don features ton sai bay to the southeast and loh dalam bay to the northwest. as you can see, canoeing and parasailing are just some of the attractions available.
sadly, we did not have enough time to really hang out on the beach, but we did explore the island for quite awhile - mainly to find a decent bathroom!
this one will have to do i guess!
yeah, this will do nicely.
this is actually one of my fave photos of the trip... the colors were just so perfect. would have loved to have stayed over night for a sunset here.
sadly, all good thing must come to an end...
when we got back to our boat, we were greeted by a ravenous school of fish!
check out how the cloud of fish in the bottom portion of the photo darkens the color of the turquoise water...
now that is some shoal!
when tropical fish attack!
now this is the life!
our trip back afforded us all new views of the various islands from the other side.
the russians had gone inside (presumably from too much sun exposure) so we could enjoy the front of the boat all by ourselves.
the wind felt so good whipping past us on the way back from koh phi phi.
...but we were pretty exhausted. I think we both dozed off for awhile.
it's a rough life, but somebody's got to live it.
as the sun started to set, the cloud formations brought in more dramatic scenery for the day.
ahhhh, finally, a picture that is perfectly horizontal. see, i can do it even though it is against my nature.
as we headed back to asia marina harbor, we took time to reflect on our lives back home...
thinking about the future and going back to the daily grind... UGH!
we will always have this day though to remember...
love the perspective in this...
alas, we are back.
the harbor was pretty gritty. the lighting was hazy - otherwise i could have gotten some neat shots.
oil and water don't mix.
this may be the last structure of this type we see in the photos as the architecture does change once we head into cambodia.
on our way back to our resort, we soaked in more of the local phuket pulsations.
i tried in vain for days to get a good photo of the glass bottles of red gasoline for sale all throughout the highways in phuket. this was as good as i could get!
my, what large rambutan you have!
ahhhhh, and the last (blurry) picture from thailand... "WELCOM AL FOKS - WE SPIK INGLISH." nice!