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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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: