Thursday, July 29, 2010

PHI PHI TRIP REPORTS

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Mark's Phi Phi Trip Report - visited August 2013

Early start to make the morning Phi Phi ferry. Our particular boat doubled as a day-trip ferry and did a circumnavigation of Phi Phi Ley, the unsettled national park island. That's the famous Maya Bay of "THE BEACH" movie fame in background.
Our ticket including van transfer to the pier was 300b each from one of the many trip counters on the street at Patong - dad was impressed, saying his favourite Phuket Backpackers in Phuket town is 400 and the pier price 500.


The birds' nesting cave on the other side of the island was interesting. 
The same eastern side had some really deep inlets for sheltered snorkelling too. Most of these shots click-expand - this is a good one for that.


Scrum at Phi Phi arrival pier. As promised our resort boat was waiting to take us and a dozen others the 8km or so around to our beach on the east side of the island. 150baht (over $5) each though - apparently most resorts make the initial ride from the ferry free.


Our Phi Phi abode, RELAX RESORT, at a small sheltered beach called Ao Pak Nam aka Relax Bay on Phi Phi Don's less visited east coast. That jungle clad hillside is twice as steep as it appears - dad has walked to the top in 20 minutes; another 20 to the twin viewpoints above the arrival town Ton Sai and another 20 minutes of knee destroying descent of super steep stairs into town itself. I was tired from the flight and dad had a busted foot so we said blow that....


....and contented ourselves in lounging in the beach chairs under the trees. Or....
....swinging in the hammock. Or....
....propping up the beach bar.

We weren't completely idle,  grabbing the face mask and snorkel. The fish and coral were pretty good but we're not talking Great Barrier Reef standards here.
Commercial day-trip speedboat arriving to snorkel the reef off Relax Resort. Even in low season August there were dozens of these boats from Phuket and Krabi working various reefs around Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Ley. In high season there are apparently dozens tied up at THE BEACH in Maya Bay alone. It's a boat jam and people jam in there. If you are staying at Phi Phi the best bet is to get across there before 1000 when they start to arrive. Or after 1630.

I also took a kayak around to the next beach north.......
....Loh Bakeo. I didn't climb up here for this shot - dad took it on one of his 5 hour hikes the previous March - the hike he got lost on and walked in a 40 minute circle in the jungled highlands, behind and way above the camera. Bushman he aint.

Relax Resort's beachfront restaurant was another nice place to spend time. Food very good but dad was disappointed with prices a fair bit higher than comparable Thai beach bungalow joints. However I was impressed with the value when compared to a similar standard of food in Australia.

A NOTE ABOUT THE WEATHER
August is wet season but in my 7 days in Thailand there was rain twice - both on the same day: a short shower in the morning and another early afternoon. Oh yes, it rained pretty steadily the first night at Relax Bay but next day saw sunshine/scattered cloud all day which was the pattern for all my visit. Dad said the weather for my stay was a lot better than the last 3 early dry season visits (from mid November into early December) he's done. But even then, he said he got plenty of sun.


Beach Blogger's Phi Phi Whistle-Stop - visited April 2012


My favourite Phi Phi beach - Loh Modee on the lower east coast - walk up over the saddle in background from Long Beach. No resorts here - just one small beachfront restaurant. Shot should expand when clicked.

I've never stayed on the steep slopes in the east of Ton Sai/Loh Dalum town before. For this reason plus needing a place relatively close to the pier on a quick stop-over on my way further south, I got me a room at Phi Phi Ingphu Viewpoint which is up overlooking the dam.

Ingphu Viewpoint top right of this modified Google Earth image. 
Shortest route is to turn right off the pier onto the main drag thru town. About 400m east the street zig-zags over a small headland about - turn left (there should be a sign for the mosque) and head up the cross isthmus path. This goes behind the big rainforested hill in the east part of town visible from all over. Check map. The path isn't flat - you will be actually descending a slight to moderate slope when you see a sign VIEWPOINT to the right pointing up a road. This is maybe 400m after you turn inland. You will know you are on the right road because of lotsa motorcycles parked streetside (this is as far into town as vehicles are allowed) and the fact that you pass the dam to the left after about 200m.
Inphu's website map is misleading - it gives the impression the joint is on this road, but in fact you need to turn left immediately past the dam. Ingphu is the 2nd joint on this small path along the east side of the dam. When I visited there was no Ingphu Viewpoint sign indicating you should turn into this path.

I said "relatively close to the pier" but this is a fair haul - I reckon it took me the best part of 20 minutes. The last 250 m up the hill past the dam is relatively steep but not a heartbreaker unless you are unfit. I understand if you inform the resort which boat you are arriving on they will send down someone to help with your bags. I didn't. There was a guy at the pier with an Ingphu Viewpoint sign but I figured he was a tout and I didn't want to hang around 15 minutes while the rest of the ferry passengers disembarked.

A few points about this location.
It is fairly quiet unlike a lot of Ton Sai/Loh Dalum - at night I could hear the distant thump thump of music bass from the bars at the east end of Loh Dalum beach, but it didn't annoy me and I'm a bit fussy in this respect.
If you continue heading up that bigger road instead of turning left to Ingphu you can eventually reach the 3rd (Top) viewpoint and by taking branch tracks, reach the other viewpoints, the east coast beaches, the new dam and high village plus Long Beach. See the trekking maps on the main Phi Phi page.
If you head right along the dam-side track out of Ingphu you can zig zag a bit until you hit Soi Viewpoint and the steep steps up to the first and second viewpoints.
Inphu Viewpoint's neighbours look pretty sweet to me. Golden Hill Bungalows had a pool similar to Ingphu's.
Ma Nay Resort closer to the uphill road looked more budget (the others are flashpacker into lower midrange).
There is a range of small supermarkets and restaurants on that main uphill road within 200m of these resorts.

Inphu Viewpoint is built up the side of an extremely steep hill. If you are not fit, ask for one of the lower bungalows. I work-out every day so I went for a top row bungalow because I'd read on reviews that you need to be high to get ocean and bay views. The lower bungalows and the restaurant have outlooks over the dam, which are not shabby. I reckon the bungalows overooking the pool would be sweet for scoping out bikini babes (hey, this is a non-sexist website: you ladies might luck in and have a toned, tanned dude like me doing laps) but I think they are the most expensive aircon options.

Outlook from my balcony - Ton Sai Bay top and Loh Dalum Bay. But that big hill in the east end of town I mentioned earlier blocked off central views of the actual town and isthmus.


This dude was exploring a coconut palm nearby.

The next few shots are from Ingphu's website. I was a bit lazy and didn't bother with  room and pool pix thinking interested readers would go to the website - but mildly interested people probably won't be bothered. The website doesn't have a decent shot of the restaurant.


My standard fan bungalow was spacious, clean, in good repair, comfy king size bed and nice pillows. Mozzie net in good repair. TV and safe. Good lights, quiet fan. Nice bathroom but no hot water (website is unclear - looks like the more expensive rooms have hot water). Towels and soap provided but not drinking water. Most decent Phi Phi bungalows are well over 1000 out of low season these days, but this was 1000 on one of the mass-booking sites, pretty good value considering the nice pool.


The pool was small but pretty sweet. The dam is down in the dark top right of the shot. The restaurant is slightly higher than the pool, out of frame bottom right. It is one of those airy side-less types, nice views over the dam, good food maybe 20% dearer than average budget restaurants. Service here and in general very good (note this is one of those places where you leave your key at reception if you want your room serviced). Internet is not to expensive on their laptop and there is wireless.



As I said, the stairs are a pretty good workout. These are in a LESS STEEP section down towards the pool and restaurant.

I spent two nights at Ingphu Viewpoint - just enough time to fang around checking the island for changes.
First day I looked at the Ton Sai/Loh Dalum town and beaches area including the nice section up the far western end - and then I hiked over to Long Beach via the high road to the new dam up past the old dam (labelled less hard and longer on the modified Google map up-page) and back to town via the coastal track.
Next day I hiked up to the 3 viewpoints via the hard and shorter stairs/track (I gotta tell you this IS hard even if you are fit) and then cut down to Ao Rantee on the laid back east coast. From there I rock/beach hopped (the tide was low enough) down to Long Beach via Ao Toh Koh, Loh Modee and Ao Poh. Then back to town on the coastal track.
I detailed any significant changes on the main Phi Phi page.


Young farang kid about 11 or 12 demonstrating his (unlit) fire-stick twirling skills on what I call Ton Sai east beach (just over that little headland from the main pier beach). He wasn't bad and the Thai pros from the beachfront restaurant were patiently giving him tips.
This restaurant played pretty cool music around sunset and would be about equal distance to the other closest-from-Ingphu (but more rowdy) beach bars on Loh Dalum east.

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Beach Blogger's Phi Phi Whistle-Stop - visited June 2010

Beachfront bungalows at oft-praised Relax Beach Resort on the less-visited east coast of Ko Phi Phi

Whoa! It isn’t there!
I’ve just jumped off the ferry, and turned hard left towards the far western end of Ton Sai beach for Rock Climbing Bungalows - a simple trad-style place which appeared beachside not too long after the tsumami. But the joint is gone! There are now about 4 outfits down near the cliffs, mostly flashpacker. I ask around for cheap rooms and they direct me back 100m to the first joint Phi Phi Sand Sea View Resort which has some budget bungalows back from the beach.

The nice western end of Ton Sai beach - Sand Sea View is the joint with the blue roof. Beach is very good here - water relatively clean and deep all tides.

Sand Sea View front rowers - these are lower midrange but there are about 4 rows behind with fairly closely packed flash-packer and budget rooms. I got one of the latter at 400b (800 high season) - big spacious very well built (which is often not the case even into mid-range) and well provisioned. Fan only but hot water. Slightly more exxy rooms have fridge and TV. The place was less than a year old and paths and landscaping needed to be put in. The seafront restaurant (background-right) with nice views has good food at average budget restaurant prices, is bigger than number of bungalows would suggest - maybe they expect a fair crowd of visitors from other areas in high season. This was certainly the case for this part of the beach in the old days.

They have some sun lounges and umbrellas out front on the beach.

I stow my gear, have a quick swim and take off to get myself up to date on the island for all you blog-reading dudes.
I walk across to Loh Dalum - the sand spit which makes up Ton Sai-Loh Dalum is at its widest at this western end - probably about 400m across. About 100m in I see someone has rebuilt old budget favourite Chong Khao Bungalows in roughly the same position as the original. There are a fair few other changes from 07, mainly new locals’ housing, but this western end if far from built out.


Loh Dalum where you first hit it on the western end. This part is not crowded in high season but I have never seen so few people on the beach even in the busier areas towards the central and far end. That’s Viewpoint Resort far left side on the lower hillside, best seen if you click to expand.

So I walk down to Viewpoint Resort - ask lowest bungalow price (600 - not bad but remember this is low-low season) and snap shot. The beach and pool for you guys, the cutie for me. Gotta remember just about all the water in this shot is bare sand lowest tide. Nevertheless, I reckon if I wanted to stay flashpacker/lower midrange, ol' Viewpoint would be hard to beat. Quiet, real scenic, but close to the action of town.

After that I wander inland from the beach and find the town/bay to viewpoint path - this leads up thru the higher parts of town with quite a few good budget places to stay and then gets REAL steep with multiple steps.

I hit the first viewpoint in maybe 10 minutes - nice little restaurant here, but the panoramic views you see in shots like this are from the second viewpoint which is maybe another 10 not so steep minutes away.

Not too many people make it to the highest viewpoint - keep walking up the track and start to follow signs for TOP VIEW RESTAURANT/BAR. There are 360 degree views here and a nice little raised timber deck place to have a snack or drink (and from memory they have some rooms - hell of a place to lug some bags!)
They are working on some repairs when I call in so I don‘t interrupt their efforts. Like a dope I don’t take any pix of the joint itself but heaps of the views which because of the distances involved don’t turn out too mind-blowing. That’s the northern outlook towards Phuket and Ko Yao Yai which might be a bit clearer if you expand the shot.


So now something new. I’ve walked down to Ao Toh Koh before but never taken the rainforest track down the steep eastern side of the island to Ao Phak Nam/Relax Bay. So I retrace the Top Viewpoint track about 500m to where there is kinda an intersection - the track back to the second viewpoint and town to the right (west) - straight ahead is the unsignposted track* down to the dam area and eventually Long Beach (and a more important branch back to town) - and 3 SIGNPOSTED tracks branching off to the left - to Ao Toh Koh, Ao Ranteee and Relax Bay. This may be clearer if you check the first map below.
* this is more a narrow road - the locals living up here (there are a few places with crops, pigs and chickens) have motorcycles but I’ve never seen anything bigger away from the new dam when it was under construction a few years ago. Interestingly you never see motorcycles in town - so there must be some sort of ban. I also saw about 2 motorcycles on the far western end of the town spit too near Sand Sea View.

Relax Bay is a sweet beach with a nice resort although they ignore me when I go in the restaurant. Serves me right for looking like a bum. So I head on northwards. I have rock-hopped along the shore to Loh Bakeo before and it’s a fair distance so I’m happy to spot a track heading up into the bush which kinda cuts across the revers L shape of the coast.

Loh Bakeao is probably the nicest beach on the island and is dominated by the luxury Phi Phi Island Village. But there are a few budget-oriented places on its northern fringe although the price of beer in one of their restaurants makes me think they are pricing for the rich tourist walk-ins from the flash resort rather than their budget guests.

There is actually a road runs along the coast from Loh Bakeo to Laem Tong maybe 3km north. It’s pretty hot going so so I head for the cool elevated headland bar at the far northern end where there is a live singer doing some bluesy stuff. But the beers are a bit exxy so I retreat to the little shop run by the locals on the beach where I raid the cooler for a reasonable priced Chang. Followed by a nice swim. And another Chang.

Fans of Laem Tong reckon it's a better beach than Loh Bakeo. Certainly got more life with a small local village and several resorts. I heard the villagers have recently put in a few reasonably priced huts, but I forget to check these out. Duh.

I’ve walked approx 4 hours by this stage and my knees, never too good after overtraining in my triathlon days, are feeling a bit dicky. They particularly dislike steep descents - and there are several hundred super-steep steps going down into Ton Sai from the viewpoints. So I try to bargain a long tail with the local longtail mafia.900 baht!! - tell them they’re dreaming. It becomes 700 which I later find is standard price - I wave 300 at them (show ‘em the money!!), tell them that’s all I have. They wave me (away). So I walk. After 100m they call me back.
Now this turns out to be one long trip - the equal to which I take several times at other islands this trip at 700 or near. I reckon this guy must have wanted to get some beer in town and figures my 300 would help.


It’s 1630 when I get back to Sand Sea View and realising I haven’t eaten I grab a Massaman curry - all these places down here are Muslim so a good Massaman is guaranteed. After this I grab a beer (like a lot of Muslim joints, the restaurant does not sell it, but the guy in the little reception booth adjacent does) and go 15m to the beach, have a swim, sun it out on the deck chairs with the umrellas which you can see just past the kayaks if you click to expand.
Sweet.


Day one journey in yellow - I just realised it's hard to get any two resorts further apart on PP than Sand Seaview and PP Natural. You can click this one to expand. BTW - north is to the right on this tilted Google Earth image.

I get a bit hungry again around 2100 so I walk up town, find a food hawker on the beach path over the small headland to the east and have a real nice chicken-rice sitting on the sea wall listening to cool music from one of those little beach bars with the candles in the sand.


DAY 2
Next day it’s raining steadily. Got a few places I haven’t checked so I grab my $2 Chinese made honcho which covers everything including my small back-pack and set off along the coastal track for Long Beach.

Second day trek - probably just as long without any boat rides home. Labels are a bit small, maybe click to expand. Image from Google Earth.

Approaching the little cove where Maphrao used to be I notice about 20 very nice new-to-me bungalows along the path - these belong to Viking which took-over Maphrao a few years back, and the low season price of 600 is way better than the 1000 they told me their smaller originals were a few Augusts back. Viking has done up Maphrao’s old beach restaurant but it is nowhere near as nice or funky as their own ioriginal n a separate nicer cove a hundred meters further east.
It’s raining so hard I’m not prepared to pull my camera out of my pack for any shots. The steep track across to Long Beach looks real muddy so I rock-hop around the headland which isn’t too hard at half-tide.

Still raining hard at Long Beach (not like the above which is from August 07) so the sand is deserted. Biggest change is the new compact beachfront restaurant Paradise Resort has built, right in front of my August 07 bungalow (from memory #4) so this view which I shot out the front folding doors of the bungalow doesn’t exist. All the other beachfront shacks are not affected.

I want to check Loh Modee to see if the new development has progressed. It takes 15 minutes of steep up-down to cross to the east coast and NOPE - the only new building on Modee is a couple of locals' huts in the bush at the far northern headland. Still way too much rain for any pix.

Only place left to check is my favourite Ao Toh Koh. Dilemma - I know rock hopping along the shore is difficult above half tide from previous trips, but it’s a long and very possibly real muddy walk up past the dam, along the eastern spine and then down the super steep jungle track to the beach.
So rock-hopping I go. This becomes so difficult that I’m forced to go up into the bush lining the rocks which all my Aussie experience tells me is snake city - so down into the water where I manage to wade knee to waist deep. All the while the downpour continues.
When I reach Ao Toh Koh I cut up thru the ruins of about 5 National Park Bungalows at the south end - these were almost completed in August 07. What is it with Thai National Parks? I see similar ruins of almost completed joints on Ko Kradan this trip. Is this outfit the most incompetent in Thailand?

It’s still pouring outside in this shot at Toh Koh Resort’s beachfront restaurant. I’m sitting up the back downing a red curry and a beer, soaking wet. Those people in background have just come in off a long tail from the pier and are even wetter. Lovely host Pon has given them towels. Pon remembers my ugly face and asks about Lady Tezza. Biggest changes here - the aircon bungalow has been completed and the steep rainforest track up the hill which I take on leaving seems less distinct off the beach.

So it’s back to town but instead of taking the short (maybe 50 minutes) way via the viewpoints I decide to check the new dam which was unfinished last trip. I’m surprised it is only 5% full and that the adjacent new local housing apartments built after the tsunami still have about a 20% vacancy.
I take the wrong track away from the dam and instead of going back to town via the high ground-old dam route I end up back down on Long Beach - which adds another 15 minutes to my trudge.
At least the rain has stopped which allows me to repeat my swim- beers-sun lounge thing back at home base, and later my chicken-rice with cool music around 9pm.


Next morning I’m on the early ferry for Krabi. Okay, 48 hours only on Phi Phi, but the idea was a whistle-stop tour to see and snap the changes. As I later do for Ao Nang/Ton Sai/Railay, Ko Muk and Ko Kradan. It’s only when I hit the nicer weather on the southern Gulf side I slow down and spend more time on each island.

OTHER CHANGES
- The new second pier has at last been built - it is closer to the main pier than pre-tsunami - virtually adjacent and joined by a dogleg so that all arrivals hit land at the start of the main pier where the porters, longtail drivers and touts from the resorts are waiting.

- There is now a rubbish levy for incoming visitors. This is payable at the pier, forget how much but pretty reasonable. I got the impression day-trippers were not paying it but I may be wrong. Question is - if not, WHY NOT?

- No cake shop! Hey, big change in town - the old Phi Phi Cake Shop which has been there since very early days has gone! Dunno what has replaced it because I can’t remember exactly where it was.

- Lower ferry prices. Travel forums were talking of 500-600b from Phuket just before I left Oz. I got a combined van shuttle to Phuket pier (normal) plus ferry ticket from Phuket Backpackers' for 400. Gets better - despite news-forums reporting govt approval of PP-Krabi fares going to 400 at least 2 years ago, I got a 250b fare from one of the places along the main drag in Ton Sai town. Other places were 300-350 as were afternoon transfers and Ao Nang/Railay trips at the place I used. Competition or impact of low season/economic-political crises?

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Sessa's Phi Phi Day-Trips Report - January 2010

Bamboo Island off north-east Phi Phi Don

We leased a Thai man with a longtail boat to drive us around. We traveled to Maya Bay first early in the morning, a peaceful sight, almost no people to see in the island.

- and then the Viking Cave above.

The next day we made plans to travel to Bamboo island. Good Lord what a beautiful place!

We stayed in a tent on Bamboo and got a sunset that just completely took my breath away.








Another shot of the Viking Cave.








My son Ruben short-cutting a cliff descent near the Viking Cave.







Sessa has more pix and information on her blog here.

UPDATE - Sessa called by Phi Phi again in
Jan Feb 2011 and has some stuff on her Multi-Island trip report Jan-Feb 2011 HERE

BACK TO MAIN PHI PHI PAGE

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IF YOU WANT TO DO A TRIP REPORT ON PHI PHI OR ANY OTHER LOCATION, FIRE IN A FEW PIX AND CAPTIONS TO lajolla22@hotmail.com. NOTE IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE A MULTI-SHOT MULTI-WORD EFFORT - A FEW PIX AND CAPTIONS LIKE SESSA'S ABOVE IS FINE.

2 comments:

  1. Woww!!! nice trip.
    If you can’t decide for your next trip…Phuket is the best choice for you!!
    I love here Surin Beach Hotel This hotel is very nice clean and the people are friendly. VERY nice hotel with helpful staff.
    And I really love white sand, crystal clear waters at Surin Beach too.
    Thank again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Sbipk! :)

    Thank you. Traveled to phuket and Kho Lipe 2011 and phuket 2012. I will send Tezza a update and picture.:)

    ReplyDelete