Picture this: you are on a boat, gliding peacefully through clear, turquoise waters, between soaring limestone cliffs.
(This post contains affiliate links. See my full disclosure policy here.)
Yep, you are in southeast Asia. Thailand specifically.
The Phi Phi islands of Thailand are six small islands nestled between Phuket and mainland Thailand. It’s almost illegal to call yourself a backpacker until you’ve been to this little corner of southeast Asia.
Of these islands, Koh Phi Phi is the only one that is actually inhabited. Backpackers from all over the world come here to spend a few days lounging on the beach during the day, and then dancing on that same beach under the stars, while drinking a stupid amount of alcohol out of mini buckets.
Ok, fine. I didn’t actually do the mini bucket bit. I’m not a big drinker, and I don’t like having an open drink where anyone can toss whatever into it. Instead, I nurse a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, and cover the top with my thumb.
Hey, I’m a solo female traveler, we have to think about these things.
And, ok, fine. I don’t dance right on the beach. I dance up on giant platforms, while everyone else dances on the beach. In my defense, I was a go go dancer back in the day, so I was in my element.
Anyway. I’m trying to paint a picture here, stay with me…
Another thing I did, was spend a day exploring the islands on a boat tour run by a fellow Canadian (so obviously it was very reputable and a great time!). If you are on Koh Phi Phi, I highly recommend you look into Bob’s Booze Cruise (I am not affiliated in anyway, I just really enjoyed the tour and think it’s worth the money.)
Please note: Krabi Regional Police have introduced a new law where alcohol can’t be consumed on any boats while out on the water. So technically, Bob can’t call this a booze cruise anymore. But he does offer a pre and post party with unlimited alcohol to make up for that.
Either way, this was one of the best days of my entire southeast Asia trip. I had SUCH a fun day with Bob and his crew!
We started as a group of strangers on a strangers boat, but were laughing and joking like old friends by the end of the day.
Our first stop is Monkey Beach in Ton Sai Bay. I use the term ‘beach’ loosely, because the tide was high, so there is really no beach to speak of. The water is choppy, and I am automatically terrified because it also looks deep.
(I am terrified of deep water and can barely swim.)
I opt to take a life jacket and a kayak to the shore. The life jacket is 38 sizes too big and missing straps. Also, I have never kayaked in my life, so this seemed like a good time to try. What?
Myself and another girl are left to figure out the art of kayaking while everyone else swims. The distance to shore, by the way, is about three kayak lengths.
Perhaps I was a bit overdramatic by asking for a kayak.
Whatever. We make our way, but not before almost getting hit by another boat. I don’t even know how we end up in its path. Let’s just blame the other boat and move on.
When we get to shore and get off the kayak…I promptly fall over into the water. And cannot get back up. It is all sharp rocks, and the waves are tossing me around like a ragdoll and I just cannot get my footing.
(You have no idea how much I wish I was making all of that up.)
Guaranteed I’m on YouTube somewhere. I eventually manage to compose myself, and love feeding the monkeys, which by the way were way more docile than the furry little beasts in Bali (if you’ve been to Ubud, this will make sense!).
Then we have to get back to our boat. Oh goodie! Getting back into the kayak is a challenge in itself, and my partner almost tips us. We are definitely a fine pair. Once we are both situated, I think we are doing great and am honestly really pleased with our progress…until Bob tells us we are backwards.
Oh. Whatever. By the time we get back to the boat, we are basically banned from ever asking to use the kayak again. Fine. (I think I would have done the same.)
The next stop is one I had thought about and agonized over for months when planning this trip.
Do I do it? CAN I do it? I can’t really swim. Heights terrify me. And deep water. But how BADASS would I be if I could face those fears?!
No, I can’t. Yes, I can. No, I can’t.
I sit there and watch everyone else jump. I don’t know what comes over me but after everyone comes back I suddenly decide to do it.
You guys, I have never been so scared in my entire life. No joke. Nothing I’ve done in all of my travels to date equals these moments. I’ll never forget it.
I am absolutely terrified to even jump off the boat. What makes me think I can jump off a cliff?!
I don’t even remember getting into the water from the boat, but all of a sudden, there I am, doing some half assed version of a doggy paddle to the climb point. I naively expected a shore of some sort. But no. I literally have to climb right onto a limestone rock face sticking straight out of the water.
OMG, what am I doing?! I missed the kayak.
It issn’t the hardest climb in the world, but I am shaking like a leaf, so I have no coordination whatsoever. I’m surprised I didn’t fall.
After what seems like a hundred years, I make it to the top. I am shaking so badly, I literally cannot stand up, and have no choice but to stay crouched down.
Oh my god, IT WAS SO HIGH!!!
The water looks a million miles away. It’s only about 35-40 feet down (that’s nothing to some of you, but remember – fear of heights and water and I can barely swim!).
I crawl my way to the edge, and at some point I start talking to myself. I don’t remember what I was saying, but I do remember thinking that my voice didn’t sound like my own, and I sound a million miles away.
This is when I start to cry.
I have never felt fear like that! It was SO intense! Yep, a grown ass woman in a bikini crouched down on the edge of a cliff, crying and talking to herself. That is me.
I pause up there for a couple minutes. But I know there is only one way down, and I have a boat full of people waiting for me.
I remember closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, looking out at the horizon, and slowly standing up. I honestly don’t think my legs will hold me, and I will tumble over the edge in a most ungraceful fashion. But they did.
And then I jumped.
It takes so long to get down, I actually have time to think. I distinctly remember thinking, ‘wow, this is a long drop, where is the water?‘.
My plan is to plug my nose. Nature of course, has another idea. As soon as I hit the water, the force pushes my elbow causing me to let go of my nose, inhale three gallons of salt water…and punch myself in the face under water. All at once.
(I wish I was also making that part up. Graceful as always, you guys!)
It doesn’t feel like I went under water that far at all. But hey, what do I know, I was busy drinking the ocean. I am completely shocked when I pop up. Utterly shocked. I absolutely cannot believe I did that!!!
Back on the boat, I sit quietly by myself as we make our way to the next stop. I need to calm down, as the reality that I’d just faced my biggest fears, all at once, set in.
I am so incredibly proud of myself for doing that.
And I’ll never do it again.
The next stop is Koh Phi Phi Leh. This is the island where Maya Bay is, which is famous for that movie The Beach, with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Bob does things a little differently, and I thought it was very smart of him…
Instead of anchoring right in Maya Bay, and adding to the traffic and pollution of this fragile area, he anchors on the opposite side of the island in Loh Samah Bay. The area is surrounded by huge limestone cliffs, and is awesome for snorkelling. It is SUCH a cool scene!
In one of the cliffs, there is a rope ladder that we have to swim to, and from there, we can walk to the other side of the island, which is where the infamous beach is.
Life jacket please! I am finished being a daredevil for the day. This time I get a kids size and it fits me perfectly, which is good because the water had more of a current and my version of the doggy paddle will not suffice.
Shockingly, I manage to climb the rope ladder without incident. I am sure sure I will lose my grip, fall off and make a big splash.
Maya Beach is just stunning but sadly way too busy. Unfortunately, this popularity has killed a lot of the ecosystem. Maya Bay and Loh Samah Bay are now closed to tourists indefinitely.
Our last stop is at Wang Long Bay to watch the sunset between the Kissing Rock Faces. This is also where we learn about the Viking Caves in the area, as well as the thriving birds nest soup industry. I won’t say much on either of these topics, but will instead let Bob speak on these, when you go on his cruise. Sound secretive? That’s because it is.
After that, we slowly sail back to Koh Phi Phi Don and arrive around 7pm. This gives me just enough time to clean up, eat something, toss my things into my bag since I am leaving the next morning, and head to the beach…to dance on a platform and not drink copious amounts of alcohol.
Ahh, Thailand, I miss you and can’t wait to go back!
Now tell me, have you been to the Phi Phi islands? And, have you faced your fears on your travels?