It was time for a little luxury after crawling out of what I called our empty swimming pool room in Tonsai. We sailed along the calm waters from Tonsai to the port of Koh Phi Phi where a gentleman was waiting with a small sign listing the name of our accommodations. It was such a treat to have someone from the Bay View Resort waiting with a sign for the first time on our trip. After the crowds began to disperse from the pier we were led to another small boat to take us to shore right in front of the hotel. The staff unloaded our baggage and brought it to the registration desk. We were checked in and then driven in a golf cart up the pathways to our bungalow. If you only could have seen the look on our faces as we walked into our beautiful, luxurious room that opened out onto a huge balcony overlooking the sea. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO US!
Once the initial shock of being transported into the lap a luxury wore off, we remembered it was Christmas Eve and we had purchased tickets to the resort’s Gala Dinner. We left our private bungalow and headed back to the front desk to reserve our table for the show. Next, we dropped off a little laundry and made a reservation for a private boat tour for the day after Christmas to see a few of the nearby islands. With the business sorted, we spent the next couple hours exploring the resort and spending a little time in the sand before the big Gala event. Lilli on the other hand was already in the room resting, and suffering a little after the most recent rabies shot in the series settled in her system (another reminder to stay away from stray dogs).
Later that night, we dressed to impress (to the best of our backpacker abilities) and headed down to the beach to find our reserved seats. Sitting back only a couple rows from the stage we had the perfect view of the festivities. As can be expected in Southeast Asia, the service wasn’t so great, but we were still able to grab ourselves a few cocktails/mocktails from the bar, then wait for the buffet line to open.
The show began and we were absolutely entertained. I can’t tell you it was because of the lovely Christmas melodies playing or the sight of Santa strolling through the crowd. It was more the shock of such risqué dancing and singing that led us to watch with our jaws on the floor. Then we would periodically look around at families doing their best to distract the few children while the drunken Santa Clause danced by. The most exciting part of the night was the fire show. Seeing flaming batons and globes spinning through the air, we were easily entertained. They even invited Whitney and Lilli up on the stage for a final trick that involved lighting a cigarette they each held in their lips. I sat silently in the crowd fearing the moment when their hair would burst into flames…luckily all went well or I don’t think I’d be writing this article.
The next morning we slowly awoke to the morning sun shining through our windows on a beautiful Christmas day. We decided to make it a dedicated beach day. But before we got going for the day, we took it easy and enjoyed coffee from our balcony and FaceTimed our friends and family back home to wish them a Merry Christmas. Even so, we were still able to make it to the hotel buffet breakfast in time. Once fueled up, we followed the scenic path along the shore line towards Long Beach. The soft white sand welcomed us as we laid out our towels to catch the midmorning rays. It was the start of a scorching day, but it turned out to be perfect. With our sunblock on, we spent the entire day relaxing on shore and in the water. We even had lunch at one of the beachfront restaurants steps from our towels. One of the highlights was the snorkeling right off shore. For 100 baht ($3) I rented Whitney and I a snorkeling set and trolled through the shallow waters and saw so many fish in the crystal clear water.
Later we decided to venture into town for dinner. We followed the path along the shoreline in the opposite direction from the morning and this led us into the more dense part of the island filled with shops, restaurants, bars and tourist booking offices. There was so much more to see and do here than either of the last two destinations combined and Lilli even made a stop into a tattoo shop (not to worry, she only got a henna tattoo). While she got her tattoo, Whitney and I indulged in one of our favorite pastimes…1 hr Thai massages. We wandered past the crowds of tourists and the overwhelming number of bucket drink carts until we were on the north side of the island where competing bars presented their own huge fire shows. The fire show at our Christmas Eve Gala dinner was nothing compared to what was happening at each of the establishments we passed. Overall though, the best show was probably at Slinky where a group of 6-8 guys were flinging the flames almost in unison with the thumping electronic music. This absolutely can’t be missed. We then wandered through several shops looking for a few souvenirs before we finally settled down for our Christmas night dinner at a restaurant where I saw fresh seafood on display and pointed out the fish I wanted on the barbeque.
Early the next morning we met our boat captain waiting on the shore and set off for Maya Bay. The tip we had received from fellow travelers was to book a private long tail boat and get to Maya Bay as early as possible to beat the large group tours that flood the area after about 9-10am. It almost worked. We stepped off our long tail boat onto the sand around 8:30am with a descent size crowd already spread along the shore. It was gorgeous, but as quickly as we jumped off the boat, we waded into the water, took our photos, climbed back aboard and sped off to the next stop.
It was our chance to get even further ahead of the crowds and it was worth it. Our captain circled further around the island of Koh Phi Phi Lee to Loh Samah Bay. He lowered the anchor and handed each of us a snorkel set and pointed to the water. I immediately jumped in to find a huge school of fish swirling around us. The tiny yellow striped fish were surely waiting for the tourists to bring food, and since we were one of the first boats to this cove they were everywhere. The water here was truly crystal clear and we loved it.
Next, we circled further around the island to Pileh Lagoon. This small hidden lagoon with the beautiful green water surrounded by the high cliff walls made for some stunning pictures. We swam around a bit then ventured out closer to the opening of the lagoon for some more incredible snorkeling.
As we left the island we took a few moments to peer into the opening of the Viking Cave. The opening wasn’t that much to see, and we still aren’t clear on what was going on there with all the bamboo structures.
Anyway, to finish up our day on the water we made our final stop at Monkey Beach. There was only one other couple on shore when we arrived. Apparently they had paddled over on a kayak to watch the handful of monkeys scramble along the beach. It was so cool to see these monkeys scurry along the sand, but became a little frightening as they later leapt onto a tourist boat apparently looking for handouts. It turned out to be a full day and well worth having the luxury of a private adventure. We would definitely sign up for this again next time. The whole tour for our group of 3 cost about $63.
At the end of our island tour we had our captain drop us off in town and we went straight to The Adventure Club dive shop to sign up for an early morning Shark Watch tour the following morning. Whitney had seen something online about snorkeling with the sharks and made sure we had this on our itinerary. Luckily we were able to sign up last minute, and then it was time for some much needed lunch. We spotted a new restaurant just across from the dive shop called Acqua and ordered up a tasty western lunch. It definitely hit the spot. The rest of the afternoon was spent near our bungalow, a little time at the beach and a little on our gorgeous balcony watching the sunset.
That evening we were back on track to find a small clinic to get Lilli rabies shot number 3. (Reminder, don’t pet stray dogs, especially in Asia). We eventually found a clinic able to accommodate the request and moved on. Then after wandering briefly through the small streets in search of the “perfect restaurant” we actually ended up back at Acqua…the waitress even recognized us from lunch. Dinner was just as excellent as lunch.
Once again we were up super early the next morning, this time we emerged from our bungalow just after sunrise to walk back into town for a “swim with the sharks” adventure. I was a bit skeptical, not of swimming with sharks, but of jumping in the cool ocean just after sunrise. Luckily, we were each given wet suits along with our snorkel sets to stay warm that early in the morning. We then rode out to a small area of the bay where the Black Tip Reef Sharks regularly feed early in the morning. The steady current allows these guys to leisurely float through the water and get a little breakfast each day. The key is to slowly and calmly swim along the surface and watch as the curious sharks feed as they keep a close watch on us. Don’t worry, these sharks feed on only tiny fish and really don’t want anything to do with people, but remember they can easily be scared away.
By 10am we finished our morning excursion and were back just in time for the hotel breakfast. Then, with the rest of the day to enjoy, we headed back over toward Koh Phi Phi’s Long Beach. I had apparently imagined some private beach that we could access from a trail behind the waterfront hotels, but after an hour of hiking we gave up and returned to Long Beach. Once there, we relaxed on the soft white sand again. The weather couldn’t have been better and it made a perfect day to end our time in Thailand.
To close out our time on this beautiful island, we had dinner at a surprisingly amazing Italian restaurant called Ciao Bella. I of course dug into a tasty pizza and was obviously not disappointed while Whitney ordered a savory pasta dish. We then wandered back down the beach toward home stopping briefly to watch the series of fire shows again along the way.
Overall, we enjoyed our time in Koh Phi Phi and feel that taking a private tour of the nearby islands and Maya Bay was the highlight. The island itself is becoming much more crowded and definitely has a greater party atmosphere than the other places we have visited. Then again, we were easily able to find peace and quiet at our resort only a 20 minute walk outside of what I’ll call party central.
From here it was a couple connections until we landed in our next country. Vietnam, you’re up next!