All good things come to an end, and after over 2 months on the beautiful island of Koh Tao, it was time to say goodbye. After a lovely farewell dinner and late-night drinks with Deb and Rick, Anna (a longtime friend from Scotland visiting Thailand for 5 weeks) and I headed off the following night for the island of Koh Phi Phi Don (pronounced pee-pee, not fee-fee!!). Koh Phi Phi Don, located in the Andaman Sea, just south of Krabi on the mainland is the larger of two islands there (the Phi Phi islands) made most famous by book “The Beach” by Alex Garland. Well, more specifically Maya bay on Phi Phi Ley (south of Phi Phi Don) was the filming site for the movie of “The Beach”. The book was written after the author visited and was inspired by the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, south of Koh Tao in the Gulf.
Ferry Dorm Room
Do I drink too much?
We traveled on the night ferry, which left the dock around 9pm. Before boarding however we stopped in to 7-11 to stock up on some booze and snacks (of course!) for the journey, then after dropping our stuff of at our beds in the dorm room of the ferry, we headed to the top deck for some fresh air and to properly wave Koh Tao goodbye. We were one of only 3 people on the top deck but seriously had the best view and air quality there than any other place on the boat! We hung out for several hours on the top deck watching the stars as we lumbered along, sipping on Smirnoff Ice and chatting away. Around 11pm we started to pass the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park (inspired the book “The Beach”!), watching the scattered islands appear in silhouette forms lit only by the moon.
Koh Tao Dock
Anna Saying Goodbye
A little after midnight we headed to the dorm room for some sleep (we were due to arrive on mainland again at 5am, so sleep was necessary!!). The beds were decently comfortable but at first I had a very hard time sleeping as the smoke from the engines smelled like it was being pumped directly in the dorm room and it felt like I could barely breathe! I almost took my blanket and pillow back up to the top deck so I could sleep without being choked by the smoke, but ended up passing out nonetheless in the dorm.
Ferry to Krabi
Phi Phi Don in Distance
A little before 5am we arrived at the Suratthani mainland dock and were escorted to a local eatery. We hung about there for several hours, then were picked up by a mini-van for the 4 hour journey to Krabi. I don’t recall much of that part of the trip as I was mostly passed out (though we were pretty tightly packed in!!) but once we arrived in Krabi we were once again dropped at a local eatery for more food or drinks if desired. From there it was another hour until we were taken via tuk-tuk to the Krabi dock for the almost 2 hour ferry ride to Koh Phi Phi Don. By far this was the longest stretch of traveling I’d done so far in Thailand to get to the next destination; over 14 hours in total. What we arrived to ultimately on Koh Phi Phi Don was, well…. Interesting to say the least!
My tour was due to start around 11am. As I sat in the common area of my hostel (Cabinas Eddy) I was surprised by a delicious homemade tamales that the Eddy family offered me, as well as to learn that I was the only one who had signed up for the horse tour! The people who ran the tour however were very good friends of the Eddy family and as such, Eddy the first and his wife opted to come along on the tour with me!
Eddy Sr and his wife didn’t speak a lick of English, and as I was still learning Spanish, communication was quite entertaining! But certainly not impossible as my knowledge of Italian helped a lot and hand gestures and charades made up for the rest. All during the ride to the horse facility Eddy talked about Monteverde explaining how the majority of the land is used for the growth of coffee beans and chocolate.
We reached the facility about a half hour later and were greeted with open arms. As mentioned earlier, the “horse” family and the Eddy’s were good friends so we were all greeted as such. We sat in the main lobby area as the two families caught up on each others lives, then we set off on horseback for the tour.
The tour was led by a girl about 12 years old who knew the land like the back of her hand. She was patient and kind and was very knowledgable about the land she grew up on. It was quite entertaining because there were several times when she would begin to explain something about the area only to be interrupted by Eddy Sr. who would continue the explanation as if he were the guide. I found this to be humorous as I could see that everyone was eager to share their knowledge of the area!
The horses are a much smaller breed than those found in the states, and since I had just come from a horse facility riding draft horses, it made these horses by comparison feel like ponies!! But nonetheless it was great just to be back on horseback!! It probably was a good thing that the horses were so small however as there were many areas that I literally had to throw the reins away and allow the horse to navigate their favorite path through the terrain! Parts were so narrow and muddy and slippery and on the edge of cliffs and through rivers that it honestly made me nervous until I just allowed the horse to do their job and get us through safely.
Over hills, through jungle, along hillsides, to the top of a small mountain we finally arrived and my-oh-my what a view!!! Our final destination felt like we had made it to the top of the world with a 360 degree view of everything around us!! You could see Monteverde, Santa Elena and all the way to the Nicoyo Peninsula including the Gulf!!! Though it was a little windy up there, the view was absolutely spectacular and honestly had it not been for the wind, we probably would not have been able to see so far!!
We got off the horses at this point and just spent time walking around enjoying the magnificent view all around us as the horses took a well deserved break, snacking on the grass around us. After we all had our fill of our surrounding views, we mounted back up and headed down a different path to get home. As some areas on the way back were safer to canter along, we did so enjoying the faster pace. You could tell the horses were once again quite familiar with their jobs as though they would never take off without instruction, they always slowed down when they knew they were coming to the end of an area that was safe for speed.
All sorts of day-critters were spotted along the path, including a large variety of butterflies and birds, and of course spiders and webs! Once we made it back to the ranch, I was shocked to realize that almost 5 hours had already passed!! How time flies when you are having fun!! I was very pleasantly surprised upon our arrival back to the ranch that we were greeted with a delicious homemade lunch!! Now, I’m not entirely sure if lunch was ever part of the tour itself or if it was simply that I was being joined by friends of the family that I was served lunch. Either way, it was delicious and I was very thankful to have had lunch as it had been a while since I ate anything as well:)
After our meal we all took a walk to their garden where we were shown a large variety of plants that they grow on their land including sugar cane and a very large variety of spices! Our young tour guide cut some cane down and led us to and old shack that had a hand-crank machine designed to crush sugar cane. She placed a bucket at the mouth of the machine and fed sugar cane bark through the machine as Eddy Sr. and I worked the hand cranks to make the machine work! After several feeds of the cane through the machine we had several cups of pure sugar-water entirely from the cane!! It was quite amazing to me how much sugar-water was squeezed out of only a few pieces of cane!! We all took shots of the sugar cane juice and cheered to a wonderful day!!
After our garden tour, I was asked if I minded taking a trip off the normal path of the tour and instead join Eddy Sr. and his wife on a trip to one of their friend’s house. Absolutely, I would love to join them was my response as any opportunity to see real life and real family life in different cultures is part of the reason for any of my travels to begin with!! We headed off on foot to their friend’s house (who I later learned was the family of our young tour guide. She was the eldest of the children in the family) where we were once again greeted with open arms and offered refreshments. I was absolutely taken aback by the beauty of where they lived!! The house was modest as all of them are, with only 3 bedrooms (to be shared by the parents and 7 children) and one bathroom, living room and kitchen. I loved the kitchen as though it was simple, it was the largest of all the rooms and was completely open with a large table in the center just welcoming family and friends to join. The roof was tin and as with most of the homes here the walls didn’t meet the roof but rather had a gap of about half a foot all the way around. I could just imagine how wonderful the sound of rain would be off the roof, echoing around the vast area!! How splendid!!
A better spot for the house as well could not have been picked as the land it was on had a phenomenal view of the mountains around them!! The sun was getting lower on the horizon and it simply lit up the land around us in a fantastic glow that changed in color as it set lower.
Just being with the family, listening to conversation, being present in their tremendous hospitality humbled me. There was nothing but love and fun radiating from them and though I couldn’t understand a lot of what was being said, the general feeling was of community. We headed back to Cabinas Eddy about an hour later and though it was technically still early, I was definitely exhausted and just relaxed the remainder of the evening. Of course I did make sure to thank everyone profusely for the fantastic day as none of it would have been possible without first the Eddy family joining me, and second for everyone’s amazing hospitality all along the way!!