Koh Phi Phi, the little smudge of an island made famous by the film The Beach (the one where there’s a beach and Leonardo DiCaprio is cute as hell) sits in the Andaman sea next to Phuket and is where our journey took us next. It’s one of the most beautiful little places I’ve ever seen – clear waters, soft light sand and lined with colourful long tail boats – the poster image of idyllic island life.
If you’re a normal tourist, once you get off your boat, you’ll likely walk through the beautifully simplistic traffic-less streets to your guest house and then you’ll enjoy dinner and drinks in one of the many beach-side bars and restaurants, enjoying the laid-back atmosphere and thriving nightlife. But for Tom and I, who seem to unnecessarily over-complicate things on most occasions, a little different experience was in store.
We’d booked, because I’m a wanker, a bamboo hut on a cliff-side beach resort. It wasn’t long before I’d realised my mistake. In fact, it was just a few minutes into the puke inducing boat ride we endured from the peaceful harbour, taking us against the tide around the side of the island to our ‘secluded’ (you’re telling me!) resort. I think this was a secluded step too far already. The boat continued up and down practically vertical drops for a very long time considering the island is the size of a pin.
Once the far off destination was finally reached, we found there was no harbour, so in order to get off this god forsaken boat, two men got into the water and attempted to hold the bloody thing still while we were told to basically roll our clothes up to our waist and holding our bags over our heads and walk through what was practically a tsunami to get to the shore! I don’t like water, I can’t swim and I felt sick. The over dramatic alter ego had set in and if there had been time I would have asked for a paper bag to breathe into or vom! Luckily there wasn’t so I had no choice to get on with it and stop being a baby.
After that horrific ordeal was over and my feet were safely on dry-ish land, I was looking forward to getting some food in my belly and good night’s sleep. There were approximately two things on the menu. Of course, there was! Who was going to want to make that journey with the weekly shop! A bag of rice was all they could probably manage! Still, it was food and it tasted good and they also had large bottles of cool Chang! Thank God for beer!
We were then taken up a stony path to our bamboo hut. I don’t know what I’d expected but I was really surprised how bambooey it was! Literally everything was made out of bamboo! There was a bamboo bed, bamboo shelf, bamboo balcony with bamboo chairs. The only thing that wasn’t bamboo was the bathroom – good shout I feel. Bamboo is all well and good and indeed we had bought into the concept of the bamboo but it’s just very holey! – I lost a lot of hair grips and an eyeliner lid in this hut which was a slight inconvenience.
Once we’d had the first night, adjusted and I’d stopped moaning, this new environment was actually quite nice. It was peaceful and quiet (which I now know, the rest of Koh Phi Phi is not) and the feeling of being far away in simplistic surroundings was rather splendid!
One day, when we were enjoying our island life to the fullest, we were sat on our balcony with a few Chang’s in hand looking out at the endless and very choppy sea. We could see and hear the waves crashing up against the rocks that our hut was perched on and I was thinking of blissful things having stopped being a miserable cow. It was a perfect peaceful moment. Then suddenly in the distance, I saw something black floating in the water beneath us. It took a moment of wondering what on earth it was until we’d realised that Tom’s favourite black t-shirt, which had been hanging on the make-shift washing line, had gone! Oh God. Tom, a man of few t-shirts and few possessions in general actually come to think of it, was very attached to this t-shirt in particular. It was almost like there was no thought process. Just pure instant reflex. In a split second he had gone, ran out the door, off to save his beloved and trusty tee. I look down at the water and he’s dived straight in to the crashing waves gallantly battling against the current, he swims towards his t-shirt. I’m on the edge of my seat watching as the action unfolds when finally, he reaches it, pulling it out of the water in victory! I then see his face drop followed by a cry of laughter. ‘It’s a fucking bin liner!’ he shouts!! Both of us can’t contain ourselves and fall about in absolute stitches! What an idiot! Best thing I’ve ever witnessed in my whole life! Tom’s real t-shirt had just dropped off the line and fallen straight on the floor beneath our hut. Thank the Lord! To be honest after that I couldn’t moan about anything anymore. No matter what I did, I would never be the man who jumped in to the sea to save a bin liner!
We thought we’d try our hand at a spot of snorkelling. I’d never done this before and it seemed like a dream. The resort people had snorkelling gear to hire so we got some goggles and a breathing tubey thing each and made our way to the beach. This was another thing that in reality was not how I’d imagined. It had never occurred to me that snorkelling would be any more difficult than just walking out into the sea and sticking your head in the water. Which is exactly what we tried very hard to do. The water was choppy and the waves made it nearly impossible to see anything, salt water went in my mouth and rocks on the seabed hurt my feet! Why would anyone do this? How are you supposed to do this by the way? Walk out in to the sea when you’re on a stony beach? You can’t go bare foot – ouch! And you can’t wear flip flops because they spend their time trying to float to the top, making things very uncomfortable and then you’re back to bare feet again – ouch! What’s the answer? I suppose you just have to buy those horrible wetsuit material weird slipper things making you look like some weird human seal hybrid… or just a dick head. I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet.
After we’d finished our pathetic attempt at snorkelling, we were at a bit of a loss as to what to do. We’d eaten all the rice, drank all the Chang, done enough sun basking that we could possibly do and so now we’d run out of ideas. We’d heard there was a viewpoint – one must always jump at the chance of a viewpoint. So, in our shorts and flipflops we climbed up the muddy banks behind our hut to the top of the hill. Once at the top, you could barely see anything. The only way I can think to describe it was like a rundown rainforest. More twiggy than leafy. But there was definitely no point at which to view from. We looked out through the trees to try and see the view we’d been promised but it was all very disappointing. We walked around for a bit to see what else we could see and eventually came across three signs saying Viewpoint 1, Viewpoint 2 and Viewpoint 3. Oh man! We went from zero viewpoints to a choice of three! To be entirely honest I can’t remember which viewpoint we chose or how we went about it, but we picked one and it was the right one. Once at the top we were met with the picture perfect clear view of the twin bays of Koh Phi Phi beneath us. I have yet to find a viewpoint to beat it and to think we nearly missed it!
By this point we were now surrounded by a lot more tourists to see the same thing as us! We soon realised that there was a much more well-trodden path from the actual town below up to the top of this hill. This whole time we’d thought we were so far away from everywhere else, secluded and isolated and really the town was in bloody walking distance! I could not have been any more excited – we went looking for a viewpoint and found a town giving us the chance to explore, albeit briefly, the rustic streets and soft sand that we’d thought we’d never see.
There was another downside to this bamboo hut that I hadn’t originally realised and only became evident a few days in. I’d begun to feel uncomfortable in bed but to be honest I was a nightmare to travel with so didn’t think much else of it. There was always something wrong – I got bitten a lot, I got travel sick, I got sick in general. I think I’m just allergic to life to be honest. So Tom wasn’t surprised at all when I started whinging about being itchy (This was only about a month in – poor guy had another 14 months left of this). But the itchiness continued and then he started to feel the same. Cutting to the chase – effing, bastard, bed bugs! We weren’t sure to start with because I’ve never had to think about it before so didn’t really know anything about them. But after a lot of googling and comparing bites with pictures on the internet, bed bugs was definitely what it was! I’d originally thought I was getting bitten by mossies’ in the night and so had worn many many clothes to try and combat this. We’d had a mosquito net of course but this, being in Thailand, had holes in (Just FYI – they always have holes in. One time I ended up with a cockroach in my face in the middle of the night. But that’s a story for another time) and so I’d thought that this was just a result of that.
It hadn’t become clear that this was the issue until we were about to leave and so we couldn’t really do anything about it. I was thankful for the experience but mostly just happy to get out of our not so perfect paradise. Paradise is subjective. The idea of what I’d thought would be paradise was not. Even though I imagine the same place in different circumstances would be. In fact, we did return a year later for a much more typical trip here which involved proper snorkelling without jagged stones stabbing our feet and without being slowly eaten alive while we slept. However, it also did not involve the greatest moment of madness by a man attempting to save a t-shirt I’d ever seen. I’ll tell you what paradise isn’t though and that’s sitting in a Burger King in Phuket airport and scratching the shit out of your legs about to board a flight with leather seats! Leather seats and bare legs are a terrible situation at the best of times, but with the added bonus of intense irritation, I can’t even explain the discomfort that was had! Luckily though Tom still had his t-shirt which I was able to place under my legs to ease the ride. Small wins!