Thailand: Day 6

Thailand: Day 6 – A full day in the Phi Phi Islands.

We started the day by getting up early enough to go down to our beach and watch the sunrise.  However from the angle of our beach, we only got to watch the effects of the sun’s rays as the subtle red and yellow hues warmed the cliffs on the opposite side of Ton Sai Bay.  Though we didn’t get to watch the sun come above the horizon for the start of the day, it was still worth getting up to watch its effects on the surrounding environment.

The resort’s breakfast was awesome and it was free with our booking, so that was an added bonus.  The breakfast was set up like a buffet with almost anything you could want to fill your morning food cravings.  After having our fill, we met up with Po, who would be our guide for the day.

Po led us to the longtail boat we would be using to get to Phi Phi Leh, which is only a few miles from the shores of Ton Sai Bay on Phi Phi Don.  Unlike our first boating excursion on day two of our trip into Phang Nga Bay where we were with fifteen others, today, it was just the two of us and Po…which was really nice because that meant we could go at our own pace.

Car engines that have been strapped to the back of the long narrow boats power Longtails.  A long pole with the propeller on the end is used for steering.  The boats themselves are really pretty to look at, but most of them are very loud.  Po cranked the engine, backed out from the shore, and pointed the bow toward Phi Phi Leh.

Departing for Phi Phi Leh

This smaller island, not far from Phi Phi Don is an uninhabited paradise where the movie “The Beach”, with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed.  In the movie, a group of young people is in search of the ultimate paradise, and their search lands them on Phi Phi Leh in Maya Bay.

Approaching the island over the ocean currents by longtail is an experience in and of itself.  An island that seems small and unintimidating from a distance, slowly earns your respect as you get closer and closer and the sheer rock faces jutting up from clear aqua waters loom ever nearer.

Approaching Phi Phi Leh

Phi Phi Leh looming nearer.

Then, you’re right at the base of its mountainous peaks in a tiny boat as the currents toss you back and forth.  Your respect for the island turns into an awe and a fear.  Sure it’s beautiful unlike anything you’ve seen, but it’s a wild beauty that speaks and demands you to listen.

Towards Maya Bay.

Twenty minutes after we left the shores of Phi Phi Don, Po anchored the boat in Maya Bay.  It’s a bay that is surrounded on all sides except one by huge limestone walls.  On the beach, the bay seems like it’s completely enclosed by these walls.  Trees and shrubs find ways to root in to any crevice that can be found.

Anchored at Maya Bay

When we coasted into the bay, I was astounded by the clarity of the water.  It seemed to me that it was made of a substance that didn’t belong on earth, like that of an element more precious than gold.  I thought to myself,  “this water looks like it’s pulsating with electricity.”

While we were on the beach, I made sure to try and capture Maya in its fullness with as many photographic compositions that I could think of.  As we took in the views of the bay, and swam in the waters, I became confident that the producers of “The Beach” were right in picking this as the location of their “paradise.”

Arriving in Maya Bay

Floating on Glass

Flying high in Maya Bay

The water was electric.

A panorama of Maya Bay

A while later, the day crowds on tours started to show up, so we decided to move on to our next destination on Phi Phi Leh.

Leaving Maya...

From Maya Bay, Po guided our boat into an enclave of rock walls for some great snorkeling.  Jill and I strapped on our gear and jumped overboard into an exotic underwater world teeming with life.  The water was deep enough to where we couldn’t touch unless we dove, but it’s clarity helped us see a colorful ecosystem that two mid-west born Americans are only familiar with through National Geographic magazines.  After seeing what we saw, I’m pretty convinced that being a land-based mammal limits us to seeing only half of the created world.

Before we left for Thailand, we bought a plastic casing for Jill’s camera so we could take underwater photos.  This was my first experience shooting underwater and it’s a whole different ballgame than shooting on stable ground.  I have a new respect for underwater photographers, as mine didn’t turn out nearly as well as I hoped!


Jill is ready to visit the underworld.


I think my beard may have caused some leakage in my mask...

This fish were a bit stubborn. They wouldn't move out of my way.

From snorkeling, Po took us to explore another bay of Phi Phi Leh, called Ao Phileh.  This bay had no beaches and it was much longer and narrower than Maya.  However, like Maya, we were floating on otherworldly water and surrounded by limestone cliffs.  I took some awesome video footage as our longtail boat ventured further and further into this narrow bay.  As we went, the opening of the bay disappeared behind a slight turn, and it seemed as if we were surrounded three-hundred and sixty degrees by stone towers.

Po was going to take us to another spot to go snorkeling on Phi Phi Leh, but by that time, the wind had changed and the water had become too choppy for safe snorkeling.  Our small boat was being pushed up against the foreboding walls of Leh, and Po made the call to make our trip back to Phi Phi Don.

When we got back to our bungalow, we grabbed what we needed for a day of relaxing, and went out in search of lunch and the perfect beach spot.

Lunch was a decent Pad Thai (however not as good as the Pad Thai at Southern Fried Rice Guesthouse) at a beachfront restaurant on Ton Sai.  After sitting at our table for a while watching the day crowds leave the island, we made the hike to the other side of the island to what’s called Loh Da Lam Bay.

Usually, from the pictures I’ve seen online, this bay is quite remarkable.  But due to a low tide, the water had receded significantly from the beach leaving behind a long stretch of mucky sand.  Yet this still did little to deter from the natural beauty of the surroundings, so we plopped down on some beach chairs under rainbow-colored umbrellas and stretched out.

Loh Dalum Beach. This bay is on the opposite side of Ton Sai.

After a couple of hours, the distance it took to get to the water at Loh Da Lam, and our fondness for the quiet private beach near our bungalow, led us to leave our colorful umbrellas behind for the beaches near our resort.

The island is small enough to traverse by foot, but still large enough that it took us a solid twenty minutes to walk from Lo Da Lam back to the southern end of Ton Sai where we settled onto the warm sand of the beaches we were familiar with.  I spent the rest of the afternoon writing while Jill relaxed in the beach chair next to me.

As the temperature cooled, and the sun neared the horizon, we left the beach, and watched the sun set from our balcony.  It was the perfect way to end our last full day on Phi Phi Don.

The sun setting over our bungalow.

As we watched the sun set from our balcony, vivid colors began to paint the clouds, so I ran back down to the beach to get a few more photos before the colors were gone:

A sunset and a tree swing.

Sunset on Ton Sai, with Phi Phi Leh on the horizon.

116 thoughts on “Thailand: Day 6

  1. What a stunningly beautiful place. I’ve traveled a good bit in Thailand, but have never been here–wow! The rock formations remind me a bit of Halong Bay in Vietnam.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Hang on for the ride!

  2. Thank you for visiting my country. I hope you are having a wonderful time. Unfortunately, for the past few weeks, there has been severe flooding across the southern part of Thailand. I hope that you will not be affected by this problem.

    • Thank you for your comments. I’m very sorry to hear about the flooding in southern Thailand. I will keep the people in my prayers. We are no longer in Thailand, so we just missed the heavy rains.

  3. Really jealous of you at the moment, I want to be there! glas all the flooding etc isn’t affecting your trip, I have friends leaving for Thailand this weekend who are worried about the weather and the situation. Thanks for sharing the pics to brighten up a gloomy day!

  4. Loved these photos… my family is from Thailand. These pictures made me miss the beauty of the island and it’s a place I always long to return to. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Wow…appears you had a great time on this trip. Beautiful photographs of the Phi Phi Leh…. how warm was that amazingly clear water? Great pics again. I hope to see some more of your posts.


  6. I love travel pictures, but these take the cake! I particularly love the one of “Arriving in Maya Bay” the boats look so happy adorned in those scarves and ties. Then I saw your pic below…where you are jumping in the air and it just was so fun to see.

    What is the food like? With pictures as cool as this…I wonder if a picture of some of the cuisine you had on Maya Bay would challenge the happiness of those boats.

  7. Makes me sooo jealous! I’ve been to Phi Phi a couple of times, although it’s been 8 years since the last time. It looks just a fabulous as I remember (especially compared to the grey dull snowy/rainy spring day I see outside my window!).

  8. I absolutely love these pictures… Maya bay looks stunning… as i sit here in my cold office in London, it is difficult to fathom that somewhere right now, the sun is shining and lucky people (you) are frolicking in the see-through sea…. *sigh*… I am so jealous….

  9. nice! i love all the photos. seems like you had a real great adventure! one question out of curiosity: what kind of camera did you use? the pictures are beautiful.

    • Thanks, I’m glad you like the photos!

      As far as equipment, I use the Canon T1i (500D), and I carry two lenses and a few different filters. My primary lens in most of the photos in these posts is the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 wide angle with a UV filter and a circular polarizer filter on the end. My other lens is a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 prime that I also use a UV filter and polarizer on.

      I hope that helps!

  10. The water in Thailand is so clean and clear; it looks really picturesque. It looks like such a different experience from the usual European exploration. If you don’t mind my asking, how much planning was put into the snorkeling trips?

    • In all honesty, very little planning went into the snorkeling trips. We did a lot of online research before we went to Thailand, and learned what was available, but unlike most of our trips, we decided to kind of wing this one and see where it took us. The only real pre-planning we did was for accommodations.

      The resort where our bungalow was located on Phi Phi Don had available trips via rented longtail boats, so that’s what we did. It was nice to have our own boat and go at our own pace.

    • I’m glad you like the pics! As far as that particular photo, I did add a graduated filter in post-processing because that exposure didn’t capture all the blues in the sky that we saw while there.

    • Thanks! Yes, many of them are edited in Photoshop, however most of the time my goal is only to bring out the colors and contrasts the camera failed to fully capture. You know how your eyes always see better than a photo can capture? Well, that’s my aim–to deliver photos according to what my eyes saw.

  11. I got back from two months in Thailand/Cambodia/China in January, your photos make me happy and sad. It’s such a beautiful country, I wish I could have stayed on Phi Phi island forever! Thanks for sharing! If you go to Koh Tao, eat at Pranee’s, absolutely amazing food and super nice staff!
    Have a good trip

    • That’s sounds like an awesome trip! We traveled to China last September, and loved it. I so wish we had the time and $ to make it over to Cambodia after our Thailand trip. I’ve heard Cambodia’s temples are a photographer’s paradise.

  12. Your post maid me feel very sad as I am sitting in my London flat in front of TV and laptop screens :/ but inspirational at the same time! Thank you!

    • Thanks, they were a delight to take!

      I use the Canon T1i (500D), and I carry two lenses and a few different filters. My primary lens in most of the photos in these posts is the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 wide angle with a UV filter and a circular polarizer filter on the end. My other lens is a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 prime that I also use a UV filter and polarizer on.

  13. Your pictures are amazing! Looks like a beautiful place! We are in the process of selling everything and traveling the world. One of our major projects will be traveling the states and raising money to build a Christian church in Thailand and will be over there for quite a while acting as a general contractor to get it built. Your pictures make me even more anxious and excited to get started. Just thought I would let you know that I liked your pictures!

    Aaron Jennings

  14. Gorgeous photos! We had the vacation of our life in Phuket and one of the highlights was our visit to the Phi Phi Islands. Your post brought back so many memories.

    • No, we didn’t get a chance to make it to Koh Lipe. If we ever have a chance to go back to that area of Thailand, we’ll try to make a stop there. Your photos looked awesome!

  15. Pingback: Thailand: Day 6 (via Till We Have Faces…………………………) « Things to Cherish

  16. Thanks for sharing your photos of Phi Phi. I’ve been in Thailand for more than a decade but never paid attention to this island. I just sent this post to friends on Facebook. Can’t wait to hear them say “let’s go!” 🙂

    • Haha! Thanks! I use the Canon Rebel T1i (500D) with two different lenses. Most of my Thailand shots are with my Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens, and some of the others are with my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 prime.

  17. lovely photos! The decorations on the tip of the boats look really cute! I’m glad you did enjoy your time there. Im promising myself to visit other countries and enjoy as much as you did when I get a little bit older. probably when I get a job. 🙂 Come visit Philippines too! :]

  18. I like the captions in your photographs, aligned left with the small line. How did you do that? In my WordPress blog ( I have no choice in aligning the caption, it just appears in the middle. Maybe because I use another theme (Pilcrow)?

  19. I’ve been to Thailand twice and I can’t see anything on this earth more beautiful than Thailand. The clear green water, the white beaches and the almost every day clear sky is something everyone has to see. Really nice pictures. Hope you enjoy it down there!

  20. This is amazing!! Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures with us! I am saving some money to go to Morocco, but maybe I should change my mind 🙂

  21. love the pics!!! 🙂 i love island hopping too!
    you should come visit Kalanggaman Island in Palompon,Leyte,Philippines.
    It’s not yet a commercial island, and still very fresh! 🙂

  22. Thailand is so beautiful! It looks like you had a great time, I can’t wait to finish College so that i can some travelling soon.
    By the way, which camera did you use to take the underwater pictures? I need a new camera and i love the quality of your pictures. 🙂

  23. Wowww… Speechless… I’ve ever been there just once. It was so nice ^_^. Your pictures are amazing indeed. It’s more than I can explain how much I love my own country by word.

  24. “This fish were a bit stubborn. They wouldn’t move out of my way.”

    Classic line. In any case, cool photos. Warmer, clearer water makes a big difference, doesn’t it?

  25. Your photographs are amazing! We went to Koh Pha Nagn a couple of years ago (on the other side of Thailand; we were there during the rainy season so it didn’t make sense to be on the west side), and I’ve been dreaming about going back ever since! Thanks for the virtual trip!

  26. You look like you had so much fun! I’m moving to Thailand (Koh Tao) for three months at the beginning of May, and your photos just made me so excited and anxious to get back to that amazing country. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  27. Pingback: Thailand: Day 6 (via Till We Have Faces…………………………) « GREEN KINGS's Blog

  28. Beautiful photos! I particularly like the boats and water, as well as the mountainous islands that shoot straight up from the water like towers. Looks like your’e having an amazing trip to Thailand. Thanks for sharing these awesome pictures!

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