Koh Phi Phi was a bit of a problem for Harmony and I. It was a beautiful island with stunning scenery, but it was so expensive that we just couldn't afford to stay for long. Prior to our arrival, we spent hours online searching for the cheapest place possible - Flower Bungalows. The fact that the mattress was on the floor and had insects living inside it should give an idea as to how budget this place was. It was a total junk yard, and still cost us £15 a night.
Other than that, we absolutely loved Phi Phi. I was stunned as soon as I saw it, with it's mountains covered in greenery, white sandy beaches and wonderfully clear water. After settling in, it made sense to spend some time relaxing on the beach. It was fairly busy, but beautiful none the less. The cove-like location was surrounded by stone stacks and limestone karsts, and I guess the blue skies and scorching sun was a big bonus!
Koh Phi Phi View Point
For sunset, we decided to go up to one of the island's view points. Steep stairways lead us up through the jungle, sweating in the high heat. At the top of the stairs, we came to a man who charged 30 Baht each for admission. Further up the path was the first view point, which didn't offer a very good perspective of the island, but it was a nice area and well looked after. We then came to a clearing with a collection of rocks at the top of the hill - that's where everyone sat to watch the sunset. It was surprisingly busy, but we did managed to find a spot with enough space for my tripod. As the sun started to go down and people became less hopeful of an incredible show of colour, more space freed up and so did the ideal spot. Still, it wasn't my usual type of shot to take, so I was trying lots of different compositions - tight shots, even tighter shots and verticals. The biggest challenge was the haze from the hot climate and smoke from a nearby fire but, in the end, I got a few shot that I really liked.
The Night Life
At night time, it was saddening to see the island simply turn into a place to party, creating litter and drawing a crowd that wasn't very compelling. On the other hand, evening entertainment was easy to find. We came across a fire show on the beach, which was the best fire show we had seen, with over ten people simultaneously performing on tightropes and balancing on balls, whilst through their fire sticks high in the sky.
Maya Bay Boat Tour
The following morning, we woke up to rain, which was especially annoying as we had booked a boat trip to Maya Bay (where "The Beach" starring Leonardo Dicaprio was set). Regardless of the rain, we made our way to Ton Sai Pier and checked in for the tour starting at 9:30am. We hoped that choosing the morning trip would allow us to avoid some of the crowds... We were wrong, but that said, our group was nice and small. There was nearly as many staff on the boat as passengers and they were all great to! Luckily, we weren't heading out on a long tail boat like some people were, as we would've been batted about and brutally splashed with water throughout the 40 minute journey. The large boat that we were on was well equipped for the weather conditions, and had music, free refreshments and lunch included.
After boarding, the boat soon sped out to sea and headed straight for Koh Phi Phi Le, where Maya Bay is located. We were able to see some of the small coves and caves along the way where locals went to catch fish. However, we weren't going inside to explore the caves as I previously hoped, nor were we able to snorkel and swim just yet.
The island itself was incredible, with jagged rocks and jungles. Rocks clutched onto the cliff face, as the water wore away the rocks at sea level. The boat pulled into one of the small bays and the boat staff chucked some kayaks into the water. The staff then proceeded to take us, two by two, over to the island, where we carefully climbed off the kayak, over the rocks and onto the island. All that was left to do was to walk a short way through the palm trees, whilst being cautious of falling coconuts, until we came out at Maya Bay. It was beautiful and an almost pristine paradise if it weren't for the speed boats and people. The sand was white and free of litter and the water was warm and an amazing, emerald colour. It was like something out of a movie... Oh wait, it was! However, it was surprisingly hard to see the similarities due to clever angles during the filming (if I had to guess). The people made it hard to photograph, but I chose to get a few shots close up to some long tails boat. All the while, blocking the camera from the rain.
After about an hour on the beach, we went back to the boat and further round the island. We actually ended up opposite the beach and were free to swim in the sea for thirty minutes. Also, we were even allowed to jump off the top deck of the boat! Then, the boat went back to the pier and those only doing a half-day tour got off.
After an enormous bowl of rice for lunch, more people boarded the boat for the afternoon and we went back on our way. The next spot that we went to was Yong Kasem Bay - otherwise known as Monkey Beach! There were hundreds of monkeys and, in turn, what felt like hundreds of monkey attacks! Of course, that was only because of people putting their phones in the monkeys' faces and people teasing them with food. We had about an hour to admire the monkeys and then left on our kayaks that we were actually allowed to use for ourselves.
The boat ride to our next location was long and choppy. The wind picked up and the waves grew drastically in size. When we arrived at Bamboo Island, we had to jump in and swim to the kayaks because the conditions were so bad, but the water was warmer than the air and the island was unbelievable! Even in the rain, it seemed like paradise! Only after we started to explore the island did we realise the risk of man of war jellyfish in the water. There were signs everywhere warning tourists about how unsafe it was (waves or no waves), and we still had to swim back out.
Our next location was known as Shark's Reef, so similar dangers were on peoples' mind. Of course, we wouldn't have been allowed in the water if there was any real risk, so I jumped straight in. I was one of few that did and, in the end, didn't see a single shark. However, there was a big barracuda that I had to avoid and lots of colourful fish. Then, we were treated with a nice sunset whilst we were still out at sea. I would've preferred to have been shooting it on a beach, it was a nice way to end the day.