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!
Many days after my morning Muay Thai Kickboxing workout I’m left exhausted wanting to do little more than just relax with a book or have a massage. The best remedy for my sore body (especially my feet) however is to walk. I really have to rev myself up for the task however. Especially since the walking includes doing so during some of the hottest hours of the day. Usually I head to Hin Wong for a snorkel or Sairee to just hang about but this time I thought to check out a new route.
My initial plan was to head to Jim’s bar. Located high up on one of the hills nearby, it seemed like it would be a nice ‘goal’ place to walk to and to be rewarded in the end by a cold drink and hopefully a beautiful view to boot. Armed with my plan I headed out toward Hin Wong bay but made a turn at the top of the hill toward Jim’s bar instead of heading down to the bay. The walk there wasn’t altogether unpleasant. Though there were bits with a 20% or 30% grade to them, the majority was variable enough to cut the monotony of just walking uphill. Bits of the path were concrete while other bits were only dirt and gravel cut through with erosion from storms.
Peek at Sairee
Butterfly Garden Free View
Butterfly Garden Free View_2
Though it is possible to make the trek with a motorbike or an ATV, I prefered walking. First because of the exercise aspect, but most importantly because of the condition of the unpaved bits of the path. They really were quite treacherous and while during my hike up I didn’t notice any accidents, on my way back down I witnessed 2 rolled motorbike accidents (one with injuries) and heard from another person that he’d witnessed 3 as well! But I’m getting ahead.
Looking to Jim’s Bar
The View Entrance
The View Path
It felt like I had been walking for hours! No one was in sight except the occasional random passing motorbike and the sun was beating down hard on my skin. I took appropriate breaks here and there to chill in the shade and have some water or take pictures of the local wildlife (I spotted a water monitor!!) and though I was absolutely dripping in sweat to the point of all my clothes being soaked through, I trudged on having no idea how far or close I was, yet determined to get there. Eventually (after going up the 30% grade bit of the path) I made it to a little bar. It turned out to be the Butterfly Garden! That was good news for me since Jim’s bar wasn’t too far beyond that. I stopped for a sugary tea to replenish a bit of energy then continued up the hill to Jim’s.
I was surprised that Jim’s wasn’t that far at all from the Butterfly Garden since on the map they seemed to be a bit further apart. It literally was just up the hill from the Butterfly Garden. While it was a cute little bar, no one was there and the views were simply of the surrounding jungle. So instead of sitting and staying, I opted to check out a bit further along the path. There were signs for the Mango View Bar and another place simply called The View Bar. One was down the path to the right, the other to the left. I chose the right path toward The View Bar and about half a km later, I’d arrived to one of the most stunning views of the island I’ve seen so far! You could see just about the entire island including the National Park islands to the South of Koh Tao, a bit of Koh Samui to the SW and even the mainland of Thailand!
Koh Samui View
National Park Island View
So stunned by the beauty of The View’s views, I took a seat on the patio and ordered a drink. I learned from the owner that the place had only been open for 5 months now, the deck I was sitting on was only a month old and the bar itself is the highest bar on the island! There was only one other couple there when I first arrived which gave the atmosphere an even more peaceful and beautiful appeal to it. I met Suay (beautiful), the local squirrel who would pop in every time it was hungry for some fruit. He ate out of the owners hand but unlike other squirrels I’ve seen, he didn’t live in a cage. He simply came and went as he pleased 🙂 He did come over and sniff my toes at one point during his search for some more food, but sadly my camera didn’t reload fast enough to capture the shot 😦
I spent hours up there sipping on drinks and chatting with people as they came and went and was reminded just how international Thailand is. Within the few hours I was there I met people from Spain, South Africa, Norway, Germany and the States. Quite an impressive mix! In any event, the day was moving along and it was time for me to start heading back along the 3.5km path back to my place. As I came back into view of the Butterfly Garden however I was coaxed into staying for “just one drink”. “Have a beer, kick up your feet! Free view!” the Thai’s were calling to me. And though I had been kicking up my feet for several hours I thought, why not? So I settled in for a beer and started chatting with the locals who owned the place and a tourist from Canada.
The View Bar
The View Bar Patio
It was then that the local said they were going to have a barbecue. And the main meat of this barbecue?? Locally caught and freshly killed bat… Yes bat! I LOVE bats!!! Ok, not in the eating sense but I love those cute little critters!! I’ve loved them since caving in college and have always adored their little furry faces! So when he pulled out the bodies ready to be put on the barbecue, I couldn’t believe it and figured there was NO WAY I’d eat a bat! Alas, after 2 beers (why not have 2 when you’ve already had 1??) I thought, yea, I could try some bat! The meat was very tough and quite hard to pull off the bones but it was flavorful. I only had one wing however as I started to feel a bit guilty for having eaten one of the cute critters, but at least I tried something new.
I ended up staying for another couple of hours at the Butterfly Garden having beers (3 in total, I promise!) chatting with people coming down or up the road, heckling them to stay for some bat, doing some Muay Thai play fighting with one of the locals who then invited me back everyday to practice with him for free, and sadly witnessing 2 motorbike rolls (one resulting in a nasty road rash injury). After my 3 beers however, the sun was really starting to set and it was definitely time for me to head back down (I still had 3km to go!) before it became pitch black. I thanked my new Thai friends for the bat and conversation, and headed down the quickly darkening path back toward town. I won’t lie that I kept thinking how idiotic I was to have waited so long to go back down as the path became darker and darker. But, all’s well that ends well, and my hike down the hill was thankfully without injury!
I made it to the bottom of the hill just in time to see one of the most stunning sunset skies I’ve seen since being on Koh Tao. I wish the picture I took did it justice, but really it doesn’t. Unfortunately my camera doesn’t take night shots well at all!! 😦 All in all, it was a beautiful day full of unexpected people, experiences and breathtaking views all around. And on top of being thankful I’d made it back home in one drunken piece, I was also so very thankful that I’d made myself get off my duff that morning and make that hike in the first place. I will definitely have to go there again!