Koh Phi Phi
Kitties, Monkeys, and Fish galore
The wildness of the Phi Phi Islands
On the way from Krabi back to Phuket, we stopped for a few days in the Phi Phi Islands. I was immediately struck by how small and busy the main island, Phi Phi Don. If the island is the shape of an uppercase "H," then the only real habitable part is the middle portion, a tangle of small yellow-brick streets packed with stands and flanked by beaches on either side. For this reason, are no cars on the island and the hotels pick up your luggage in a wheelbarrow and cart it to your room. Our hotel, Tropical Garden Bungalows, was a little up the road and nicely situated away from the hubbub. It has a large pool, treehouse reading nook, and makes a delicious green curry.
One of the first things we did was climb up into the peaks that flank the small town on seemingly endless stairs in the hot midday sun until we reached the viewpoint. The first part is a sloped manicured garden with a lower view of the town obstructed by some foliage. If you keep climbing higher, you'll get to a cliffside with some large rocks perched perfectly to allow you to take in the view.
And that's exactly what we did. We stayed for sunset, or at least until the sun dipped down below the mountains on the other side of the island.
After a delicious dinner, Dain and I followed the yellow brick road (the road is actually paved with yellow brick) and wander around the island for a while. Between the loud bars, tattoo parlors, and women nasally yelling out "massage," it soon became a game of cat spotting. Phi Phi has to have the highest cats per square foot of anywhere in the world, and I had to at least point out each cat if not pet them as we went by. Each and every storefront has at least one cat sleeping by the door, and they're all friendly and well cared for.
On our last day in Phi Phi, we hired a long boat to take us around the chain of islands. When we approached Monkey Beach, you could hardly tell that it was any different from a normal beach. As the boat docked on the sand, you began to see dozens of scurrying monkeys running along the sand. Without a word as to how to interact with the wild animals, our captain let us run free. Most people were very respectful and watched the monkeys from a safe distance but it didn't take long for them to find their own trouble. One grabbed a scarf dangling from a girl's neck and took it to a high rock and wrapped himself in it. A couple bags left carelessly on the beach were promptly opened and combed through for food. A scream on the other end of the beach signaled that being the subject of a close-up picture, one monkey had taken someone's iPhone and darted up into the trees.
Mostly, it was fun to watch the monkeys go about their days. Moms walked with babies hanging around their tummies and groomed intermittently. Bigger monkeys had little territory spats with challengers on their rock. I wondered if they minded so many people being there, or if curiosity and the prospect of food was enough to make them accepting of visitors.
Somehow that little longboat managed to get through some insanely choppy water (and more incredibly, I managed to not get seasick) as we puttered down to Phi Phi Lei, another small island in the chain that's home to Maya Bay. It's one of the most famous beaches in the world because its vast cove only has one small opening so it feels like you're completely enclosed once you're there. The beach is smaller than I was picturing it- it's actually tiny and would have been packed with tourists had there not been rain that afternoon.
After some beach time, we went out into the bay a bit for some snorkeling. As soon as I put on my mask and dipped my head in the water, I could see we were surrounded by a school of fish. It was the closest I've ever been to so many of them! Down below, there was much more life darting between the rocks. Dain even spotted a large blue eel making his way into a little cave.
We stayed in the warm water to watch the sun set beyond the cove and out into the Andaman Sea. It was such a magnificent moment that I watched for some time, blissfully happy and trying to cement into my memory how lucky I am to be seeing such a vast, wonderful world.