Posted by: Richard Marshall | September 27, 2010

Southern Thailand: Koh Phi Phi and Railey

Southern Thailand

Well, this is my final day in Thailand and I’m sitting at the most useless computer at the hostel so let’s hope this post sees the light of day…

After Chiang Mai I took a plane to Phuket. My flight was pretty late so I  had to spend the night there and not really knowing anything about the island I stayed overnight at Patong beach. I only spent a morning wandering around the place but it was there where I was most struck by how sleazy Thailand can be. In the north most of the other foreigners I encountered were young people like myself (no doubt I wasn’t visiting the right places) and at Phi Phi and Railey they were mostly backpackers or young couples and families. Here, in my brief observation, the demographic was quite notably fat, sweating middle-aged men with little Thai girls hanging off their meaty paws. I encountered one such on the long (it seemed endless) bus trip to the pier. He was a German, stout and perspiring in shorts and a Panama hat. He tried to engage me in conversation but I replied to him with my normal pace, volume and accent so of course he couldn’t understand a word I said. Instead, he turned his attention to an Aussie surfer, also with little Thai girlfriend in tow. After discussing the merits of various countries as tourist destinations (South Africa is too dangerous and they all try to rip you off if you “look like a tourist”) and where to buy gems and gold (not Turkey apparently, as the Turks are “zo tricky”) the German began to reminisce about his previous trips to Phuket: “Last year I haff a girlfriend. My luff for her vas not zo zat I vanted to marry her – ho ho – but I sink she could not haff afforded a holiday like zat so she vas very greatful…”. I was happy to leave Phuket.

Phi Phi

 The trip across to Phi Phi was very beautiful and so too is the island itself, though initially I was a bit underwhelmed. The town is very touristy, which I don’t really mind but but it can get a bit monotonous. Also, it’s a small island and clearly struggling desparately to cope with rapidly growing human impact. Garbage, water, sewage and power were all obviously problematic. It was, in a word, a bit dirty. The sea, at least near the town, was also a bit disappointing being, as it was, shallow, tepid and slightly smelly. On my last day, though, I took a boat trip round the islands and I began to understand why people rave about the Andaman. The day began inauspiciously enough with a stop to feed monkeys at a nearby bay, thus adding to the environmentally harmful practices I’ve been party to on this trip.  Next stop was Maya Bay on Phi Phi’s “uninhabited” neighbour. This was apparently where The Beach was filmed though with the lines of motorboats churning up to a palm-fringed beach, offloading crowds of people and then churning out again it reminded me more of a scene from The Pacific. After that though we went snorkelling which even though pretty contrived – they chuck out bread for the fish which swirl up enthuastically – was really lots of fun. It was great to be in slightly deeper water and to see fish in the sea which I’ve previously only seen in dentists’ waiting rooms. We also went to some of the further islands which really lived up to the classic images of Thailand – great expanses of white sand with the turquoise and acquamarine ocean stretching away beyond…


After Phi Phi I headed to Railey beach on the peninsular. I really liked Railey – there are half a dozen relatively expensive resorts which nevertheless have been as tastefully designed as one could expect, as well as a pretty relaxed backpacker scene – bars playing (endless and ubiquitous) Bob Marley rather than gargantuan full moon parties. But above all it was really beautiful. The landscape is a pretty dramatic one of limestone karsts similar to Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. The beaches are white and much cleaner than Phi Phi and the swimming is better. I also had some pleasant company for the first few days having met a very nice Swiss girl on the boat. In Phi Phi half the people I’d probably have preferred to avoid!  So all in all I was happy to hang around there for a few days. I probably should have tried to check out Koh Lanta but I’ve spent a lot of time in transit – and not a single bus, train, plane or boat has left on time so far! – so I decided to leave that for another day. I’m ready to head back to Vietnam but I’m also planning my next trip in the back of my mind… After all, this has been the first major trip I’ve done on my own and although Thailand, especially the places I went, is pretty easy, and though I didn’t get everything right, I feel emboldened to set off on a more ambitious journey as soon as I can. I just have to work for another year first!

Railey Beach

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