Railay Beach / Koh Phi Phi

Railay Beach

After spending time on Koh Tao I moved to the other side of the mainland to check out Phi Phi, Phuket and Railay beach.

I decided not to stop on Krabi beach, but to head straight to Railay as it is meant to be a much nicer area.

When I got to Railay beach I was slightly under whelmed. Straight away you can see where it got hit by the Tsunami and they are still rebuilding. All the buildings are brand new because the entire area got raised by the tidal wave. The new resorts are very nice, but there are still areas that need cleaning up and rebuilding, but I am sure this will all be sorted over the next couple of years.

Railay beach is separated into 2 main beaches, East beach and West beach. West beach is by far the nicer side with a great beach and more upper class resorts. The East side is cheaper, and the beach is not suitable for swimming as it is a mangrove and smells quite bad in the evenings! The east side has 2 or 3 bars that are the main evening entertainment. I spent pretty much every night in these 2 bars, starting in Bamboo bar for a couple of cocktails and chilled out music, then moving on to Gecko Bar for a more upbeat night and gfreat fire shows. The guys performing Poi (fire dancing) were pretty good here, but nothing compared to the guys in Koh Tao. In fact, I like Poi so much that I bought some Poi ball/chains and have started to learn it myself. For those unfamiliar with Poi, check out this link: http://www.homeofpoi.com/

It looks fantastic and is actually a really good workout.. my shoulders hurt after an hour practising. Oh, and I am so not setting them on fire for a long time yet!!!

I didn’t really do much else on Railay. It was a case of sitting on the beach in the day and drinking in the evenings.

When I first arrived I stuck with Gordon and Jamie, and bumped into Lee and Chris who I travelled through Cambodia with. That was a nice surprise as I wasn’t expecting to see them here and hadn’t seen them since the Full Moon Party. On their boat to Railay they met a couple of English girls called Hannah and Katie who I got on fantastically with.

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After Gordon, Jamie, Chris and Lee left a couple of days after I arrived I spent most of my time with the girls.

I also made a bunch of new friends here, such as Karina and the Scottish Girls that I met on the long tail boat to Railay; Rhona, Anna and Susan (and I promise not to get your names mixed up again…. especially a week after meeting you!!!)

I really really liked Railay beach, more than I thought I would at the beginning. So much so that I ended up staying 3 days longer than I planned. Good times!

Koh Phi Phi

When I finally managed to tear myself away from Railay beach I headed for the beach Paradise of Phi Phi. I have been pretty excited to get here as the diving is meant to be awesome and I have been down in a couple of weeks.

On my way to Phi Phi I got talking to a nice girl on the ferry who recommended some good basic bamboo bungalows on the other side of the island, which is only 5 minutes walk away.. it’s not a very big island! She even walked me over there to make sure I didn’t get lost. Unfortunately she wasn’t staying the island, but going straight over to Phuket. Oh well!!

The bungalow I am in is very basic. A small bamboo structure with a mattress on the floor. That’s it. Well, there is a fan and a light, which helps!

Almost as soon as I arrived on Phi Phi all I have had is rain. Almost all day ever day. The first day or two was pretty nice… but the rest of the week has been horrible. But for

some reason I still love it here. It is a cute little town with narrow streets and cute little shops. There are also a lot of dive shops around.. Great! The afternoon I arrived I booked a dive trip for the very next day as I have been so eager to get back in the water.

An 8am start and an early night for me.

Walking around town I bumped into about 4 groups of people I know! The Irish girls; Jamie, Susie and Claire, the Scottish girls; Rhona, Susie and Anna; another Irish group; Rory, Katie, Fiona and Leone. So, even though I thought I would have to meet a whole bunch of new people, I didn’t! Later on I bumped into another Iish group that I knew, Jenny and Claire.

I met up with the guys in the evening for a couple of quiet drinks, with the expectation of going home at about midnight, so I would be up in time for my diving and not hung over. The idea of being sick underwater is not very appealing!

I started off so well… then Katy talked me into dancing. Then sharing a bucket and before I knew it I was outside a tattoo shop with Jamie at 3am… bumped into another mate, Cam from Canada and when I finally got home, trashed at 6am I realised I was not going to make the boat!!!

I got up at about 10am… still drunk I managed to get the dive shop to swap my trip to Friday, 2 days later for no extra cost. It appears it is quite a common occurrence for people to miss the boat over here! I blame the buckets! I also found a dive shop that was going out that afternoon so I booked onto that and went back to bed for a couple of hours.

The afternoons dive was pretty good. The first dive was cool. A drift dive. The current underwater was pretty strong, so you just hovered in the water and let the current carry you along the wall with everything passing in front of you. Lazy diving.. I liked it! The second dive was much the same and we saw some pretty cool marine life. No turtles or sharks though, which are normally quite common there.

Life in Phi Phi has been much the same as the rest of the islands. Lots of partying… normally in Apache bar, lots of buckets (Samesung, Coke and Redbull…. Lethal!) lots of late morning and diving.

I had a chilled day after diving (and another night out!) and stayed in bed all day. Not going into any more detail there!

The next night I did manage to get an early night, a bit of dinner then home to read a book and watch a DVD.

Friday morning, was back to Island Divers for a second attempt! The first dive of the say was a bit boring, there wasn’t much to see down there and the visibility was only about 4 meters at the start, so you couldn’t see much at all. The second dive was amazing. The vis cleared up a lot and we spotted a turtle. We ended up following the turtle for most of the dive. At one point it came up and tried to eat my dive masters fin! Crazy stuff. I think this was probably my best dive yet.

The next couple of days have been quite chilled out. Because it is constantly raining there is not much to do. The weird thing is that even though it is peeing down with rain, I still love this place. It has been a lot of fun and I can imagine that with bright sunshine it would be one of my favourite places that I have been to.

Yesterday (Saturday) I joined the Scottish girls on a boat trip around Phi Phi. You go to Monkey Island, do a bit of snorkelling off Phi Phi Leh (we saw a small black tipped shark) and then a trip to the famous beach where the movie The Beach was filmed.

When we first got on the boat we went out to Monkey Island… then the guy came round and checked out tickets. When I gave him mine he said “This isn’t for my boat”. ***… we got on the wrong boat! I tried to talk him into letting us stay on his boat as it was much nicer than the one we were meant to be on (which was exactly the same boat I was on the day before for diving!) He wasn’t having it and we had to get a dingy over to our boat.

Rather embarrassing… but funny.

To get into the beach you get a boat up to some rocks, then scramble over them to a small tunnel that you climb through and then access the beach from the back. When the waves are strong it is pretty dangerous! You have to time it right so you don’t crash into the rocks. Fortunately we were fine and there were no injuries.

The beach itself was pretty nice. Not the paradise I was expecting. You can see where all the trees at the back of the beach where cleared with the Tsunami and the sea is full of rocks. There was also about a million people there. Again, I imagine that with some nice sun it would be a much better experience. As we left the beach and got back on the boat the heaves just opened with some of the hardest rain I have seen since I have been out here.

It is quite scary when the winds build up. I think that my little bamboo bungalow is going to blow away! I can feel it shaking in the wind.

So, I have been here just under a week and am over the rain. It is time to move on. My friends are all starting to leave as well. I did get told about a 4 day trip on sailing boat where you get to do some actual sailing and lots of diving. I was going to do my advanced diving course here. The boat would have left on the 23rd, which is when my Thai visa runs out and would have meant me having to do a visa run to Burma to get it renewed. Way too much hassle, cost and with the rain I am over this place. I hear the diving is great in Malaysia so I am going to go straight there instead.

I need the sun again.. my tan is fading fast and I don’t like it!! 

Koh Samui / Phagnan / Tao

There isn’t an aweful lot to talk about for the last week or two (I don’t even know how long I have been here!) that I have been in the Islands. It has been a fantastic time, but has basically consisted of beaches, sunbathing, diving, and a bit of drinking but a whole lot of chilling.

Koh Samui

I flew into Koh Samui from Siem Reap (Cambodia) and was too late for teh last ferry over to Koh Phagnan so I only spent a night here. First thing in the morning I got the ferry over to Phagnan. I wanted to get to this island as soon as possible as it was building up to the Full Moon Party and the island get very booked up in the days leading up to the party.

Koh Phagnan

Koh Phagnan is the party island. This is where the Full Moon Part is and Haad Rin is the centre of it all. A very built up Kao San road type of resort and the type of town I really didn’t want to stay in. Fortunately I had some friends staying in a place called Bottle Beach on the North of the island, so I went up and met them there.

Bottle Beach was a little bit of Paradise. It was a fairly quiet beach, but a gorgeous one at that. There were beach parties every night, but these were very laid back realxing affairs with everyone just sitting on the beach, drinking and watching fire shows; guys twirling stich or balls on chains that are on fire… very impressive. I’ll try to get some decent footagfe of them at some point.

After a few days in Bottle Beach we decided to move one cove around to a new resort (although the name escapes me now!) which was similar but had a slightly more upbeat athmosphere.

I managed to get in two dives from this beach, going out to a dive site called Sail Rock. it was a pretty cool dive site and great to get some action after my PADI course a couple of weeks ago. I had no problems with the dive and feel very comfortable in the water. I think this is something I am going to enjoy! And I have a LOT of opportunities to dive over the coming months.

The 31st July….. Full Moon Party night.

Some of our friends had moved over to Haad Rin a couple of days before the party so they were closer to the action, but the rest of us stayed where we were. We liked the chilled athmosphere and had also heard of rooms and bungalows being broken into and cleared out while travellers were at the full moon party. We felt much safer in the North.

The Full Moon Party was a really good laugh. You have such high expectations of it because it is so infamous with travellers. It is THE party in South East Asia. I had a feeling that something coming with such high expectations ran the risk of being similar to a New Years Eve party… they never quite live up to the hype.

We got a boat around to Haad Rin from our beach and arrived around 11pm (still early for this party). It was already in full swing and a half hour after arriving , just enough time to get a Samesung bucket and some body paint, I managed to loose everybody! I was fairly drunk at the time so spent a couple of hours just walking up and down the beach taking it all in… them maybe an hour asleep on the beach outside a bar playing Johnny Cash and other music from this Genre. When I woke up again I had a bit more of a walk down the beach and stopped to dance in some of the more dancy tents. I got chatting to quite a few people and eventually met up with a couple of my friends, who had also lost everyone else!

We all converged at the point where we were meant to get our boat home (about 3 hours earlier) and found everyone else… and even a few other friends who were there. We finally got a boat home around 9:30am.

Koh Tao

It is well known that people sleep all day after the Full Moon Party and then on the 3rd they head over to Koh Tao, and it can get VERY tough to find decent accomodation. We had decided to toughen up and go the day after the party. So after 2 hours sleep, still drunk and feeling terrible, Gordon, Jamie and me got on the Cat to the island. Is was pretty busy with other people having the same idea, so I ended up sitting on a stool at the back of teh boat next to smelly toilets and a smelly bin. I was so close to throwing up for the first time on this trip, but managed to save it.

We finally made it to Koh Tao and headed straight for the main traveller beach of Sai Ri. We found some nice bungalows, checked in and slept!

The rest of teh time in Koh Tao has been much the same as life before the party. Chilled out, sunbathing in the day and tehn hitting Lotus Bar in the evening. I have to say I have never ever seen so many HOT.. and I mean gorgeous women in one place.. and on a beach. I really think I am in heaven here. In fact, I may never leave!

Gordon and myself have managed to get 4 dives in while we are here as well. 2 days of 2 dives each in the morning, giving us chance to get the tan going in the afternoons. The first dive was a Chumphon (probably spelt wrong) where I was buddied up with a nice dutch girl and our group also had a couple from LA. I had met the couple before on one or two occasions and they were very LA… very high maintenance. They hadn’t dived in about a year, so had been through a refresher course the day before, but they were terrible. The girl couldn’t get her buoyancy sorted at all, so we spent virtually our whole dive waiting for her to sort herself out. The instructor said afterwards that we only got to see about a third of the dive site. I was mightily pissed off. I did still get to see some Grey Reef Sharks which was pretty awesome. Diving with sharks, who would have though it!

Fortunately instructor didn’t let the LA couple dive again as they were unfit to be in teh water (his words, nto mine) so I buddied up with Gordon. The second dive was much better and we got to see some pretty cool marine life (no sharks this time though!)

Our second day diving was pretty much the same as the first day (apart from the LA couple). The first dive of the seond day was a bit dissapointing as there wasn’t much to see down there, but the second dive was much better with a whole range of fish and coral to look at (notice how I am not telling you what they are… I might need to learn my fish!) I bought an underwater disposable camera and got some shots… so if I can get them put on CD in the next few days I will upload them. They’ll probably be rubbish though.

I think that I will go for my Advanced diving certificate as soon as possible, so I can go on some deeper dives and have a bit more flexibility. I am already at 10 dives and should get a LOT more over the coming months. I might even try to build up my diving qualifications. The idea of snowboarding in the winter and diving in the summer is rather appealing right now.. but it would be HARD to give up the well paid city job! The lifestyle would SOOOO suit me though.

Tomorrow I am heading over to the other side to see Phi Phi, Phuket and Crabbie beach.