The Thai Diaries: Phi Phi (3/6)

23rd January

After breakfast and bidding fond farewells to our lovely hosts (half the hotels we stay at on this trip are run by a European guy and his Thai wife) we take a minibus to the pier. The 45-minute bus journey plus two-hour ferry ride is 350 baht each (about eight quid). Despite being pretty well organised, boarding the ferry becomes a bun-fight, as nobody seems able to grasp the (apparently alien) concept of q-u-e-u-e-i-n-g. Highly annoying. Being terribly British, we refuse to push in…and are subsequently shoved out of the way by a bunch of Scandi Neanderthals who’ve clearly been sharpening their elbows all morning especially. Grrr!

The ferry to Koh Phi Phi
Phi Phi bound!
Samantha Walsh, De Mama and Luke aboard the ferry to Koh Phi Phi
The three Muska-Thais
ferry crossing from Phuket to Phi Phi
The 2hr ferry crossing from Phuket passes quickly

Nevertheless, we bag ourselves some prime seats on the front deck, slather ourselves in suncream, and begin to enjoy the scenery…which is not so much the view from the boat as the view on the boat: a swarthy, olive-skinned model-type dude with more of a 12-pack than a measly six-pack is slowly rubbing coconut oil into his rock-hard abs and taking endless chisel-cheeked selfies, turning this way and that with his selfie stick. How do you choose your best angle when they are all your best angles? I ponder his lucky predicament for a moment. However what starts off as drool-worthy soon becomes downright embarrassing…and when he’s still making love to the camera an hour into the journey we can’t stop simultaneously eyeball-rolling and cracking up at his narcissism. He doesn’t notice of course – he only has eyes for himself.

Phi Phi Dob beach and boats
arriving at Phi Phi Don

By 3.15pm we’re approaching Phi Phi Don, the larger of the two Phi Phi islands (the other, Phi Phi Leh, is uninhabited and visited on day trips) – and boy, is she stunning: smooth white sands, clear blue sea and limestone foliage-covered mountains jutting out of the ocean all around. She makes Mr Perfect over there look positively flawed by comparison. As soon as we disembark at Tonsai Pier I immediately detect a similarity between this place and Koh Tao, one of my favourite Thai islands, as it has a distinctly village-y feel: winding footpaths with bars, dive schools, bungalows and cute little stalls lining each side. Like Koh Tao, there are no cars on this island. We instantly fall in love with it.

We struggle with our bags in the intense heat and humidity, sweating our way along until we come to our bungalows.

typical bamboo huts with palm-leaf rooves
Chunut House: typical bamboo huts with palm-leaf roofs
outside our jungle bungalow
outside our jungle bungalow
Junglist massive: surrounded by wildlife

Chunut House is a little village of palm leaf-roofed bamboo huts, dotted haphazardly in a dense jungle setting surrounded by lush green undergrowth. We freshen up and head down to one of the beachfront restaurants, where I eat (what I think is) a delicious Panang curry. Little do I know that it won’t be the last time I see it (TMI, sorry). When I request that it not be too hot, I meant spicy…

Penang curry
Penang curry (garnished with a sprinkling of Campylobacter and a side order of Salmonella)
Samantha Walsh, De Mama and Luke on the beach under a rainbow
“Some-whereeee, over the rainbow….” Luke brings out his inner Judy Garland

Several hours later, and the rain arrives. And when I say rain, I mean RAIN. Epic amounts. I attempt to Facetime a contact in Athens about an upcoming blog booking, but it’s pitch black and deafening so we give up, arranging to speak when I get back to the UK.

a woman making strawberry and Nutella pancakes
making strawberry and Nutella pancakes

We head out to buy Nutella and banana pancakes (because, Nutella) and duck into one of the massage shops to escape the downpour. It seems everyone else has had a similar idea as the place is busy, so we relax into adjoining reclining seats and settle in for an hour-long foot and leg treatment. With the state of my trotters (disclaimer: retail wrecks your feet) the therapist has got her work cut out, and I half expect her to reach for an angle grinder instead of a bit of coconut oil.

Samantha Walsh and Luke having a foot massage in Phi Phi
enjoying a foot massage and a chat…until we’re sternly told to pipe down

Luke and I are gossiping away until his square-jawed ladyboy therapist scowls, tuts loudly, and tells us to shut up in a distinctly unladylike manner. Feeling reprimanded, we giggle and close our eyes and I drift off to sleep…

An hour later our feet have been sufficiently pummelled and the rain has stopped. We explore a bit more, stopping to watch the fire-dancing at Slinky’s and the raucous goings-on down at the Ibiza Pool Party. We make a note of the next pool party (Thursday) and vow to return.

fire-dancing at Slinky's Beach Bar
fire-dancing at Slinky’s Beach Bar
Ibiza Pool Party Phi Phi
Like Ibiza, only cheaper…and with lethal Thai whisky
Ibiza Pool Party Phi Phi
buckets + bikinis + slippery floor = carnage

Arriving back at our bungalow we are greeted by a cacophony of active wildlife: bullfrogs, birds and God-knows-what-else are conversing loudly in the trees and bushes. We need that moody ladyboy from the massage parlour to give them a talking to about the noise levels. Our neighbours in the next-door bungalow explain that the loud belching noises coming from the bushes are in fact trumpet frogs. There must be so many of them that it’s not so much one trumpet as an entire orchestra; we have to shout above the din to hear one another. That’s fine, I think – so long as they stay in the bushes where they belong…


24th January

Having been sung to sleep by the frog chorus, I am rudely awoken at the crack of dawn by similar belching and rumbling noises – only this time they are coming from…my stomach. Clutching my gut I lurch out of bed and into the bathroom. This is not good. We have arranged to hike up to the Phi Phi viewpoint this morning, and I refuse to succumb to Delhi Belly, so I force down an omelette at The Mango Garden restaurant (since it comes so highly rated) and off we go. Because hiking up a vertical incline in blistering heat at 11am with a dodgy tummy is the obvious thing to do, right? Right..?


It’s a stoopid idea. After staggering halfway to the top, I have to stop to throw up, drenched in sweat, in the bushes. When I reappear Mum is hunched over too. Thinking she’s also been struck down with the lurgy, I go over to see what’s occurring…and discover the reason she’s bent double is that she’s inspecting a dead snake on the path. Yuk! A family of curious macaques appear on the road, and they are somehow both adorable and menacing at the same time. I think it’s the human characteristics (cute) and the sharp teeth (menacing). Every fibre of my being is telling me to turn back; I’m so sick, but we’ve come this far and I’ve committed now, so I crawl to the summit like the hero I am (not).

Having hauled my sorry ass to the top, which takes over an hour in my pathetic state, I finally manage to stand shakily upright and survey the view. And what a view it is.

Phi Phi Don viewpoint
Worth the effort: the view from the top of Phi Phi Don
Samantha Walsh and De Mama at Phi Phi viewpoint
It’s tough at the top: me and my (mini) mum

You can see both sides of the skinny peninsula and it is absolutely breathtaking. We just about manage to get some amazing shots (I wear Mum’s straw hat to disguise the fact that I am decidedly green around the gills), and I find some wifi and upload the picture to my Instagram. Luke high fives me and cries “Doing it for the ‘Gram!” and this becomes one of our catchphrases of the trip.

Samantha Walsh at the Phi Phi viewpoint
Doing it for the ‘Gram: this view is worth the effort
Mum at Phi Phi viewpoint
De Mama strikes a pose

In the afternoon I’m still sick as a dog but refuse to be beaten by a dodgy curry and insist on going on a five-hour boat trip. As ya do. This is a big mistake. Huge. I spend most of the time with my head held over the side of the boat, butt-cheeks clenched, trying not to show myself up by allowing the offending bug to unwittingly escape from any orifice.

Monkey Beach does exactly as it says on the tin: it’s a beach full of monkeys. When our longtail boat chugs up to the island to join the other twenty or so boatloads of tourists already there, we can only see one monkey. One?! This one big macaque is taking full advantage of the fact that nobody has yet spotted the other hundred of them further up the beach and is sitting on a low tree branch, posing and mugging for the camera. Remember that macaque who nicked the photographer’s camera a few years back and started snapping selfies? It’s exactly like that. Too funny.

say cheeese: the monkey mugs for the cameras
Maya Bay
turquoise waters at Maya Bay

The trip continues: to Maya Bay (which will close May-Sep, click for details) where The Beach was filmed (if only Leo di Cap were still here, now that would be a sight for sore eyes) and various other stop-offs. We jump off the side of the boat to snorkel (yes, even me, butt-cheeks and teeth clenched), yet despite the clear blue waters and beautiful surroundings, there are precious few fish. Save for a few Nemos and the odd tiger fish, the sea is, well, empty. Given that there are about thirty other diesel-fuelled boats chugging noisily in the vicinity, each packed with whooping groups of sightseers, it’s hardly surprising that the fish are refusing to parade themselves for our viewing pleasure…

Samantha Walsh snorkelling off Maya Bay
But where are all the fish?!

Eventually, I concede defeat and the food poisoning gets the better of me. I leave Mum and Luke to continue on the boat trip. They are going plankton-hunting, keen to spot a phenomenon whereby the fish turn phosphorescent after dark to scare off predators (“Gotta do it for the ‘Gram”, says Luke), and I lurch off into the sunset in search of my darkened air-conned room and a long lie-down.

When they return, I’m twisting up the bedsheets and mumbling something incoherent under my breath, so they shuffle off for pizzas and leave me to sweat it out…

25th January

Thankfully, the next day I’m back in the game and game for a pool party. Well, whaddya take me for – a lightweight?! Having had an impromptu 24-hour detox, I decide that a retox is just what the doctor ordered. Hardcore, you know the score. We head down to the beach and sunbathe near the Ibiza Pool Party hostel until the giant sound system suddenly crackles into life at 1pm and the pumping house music fires up the party.

Phi Phi beach
the calm before the pool-party storm
Mum and Luke reading on Phi Phi beach
Mum reading Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and getting all emosh
Samantha Walsh and mum in the sea at Phi Phi
Mum warming up to throw some shapes

De Mama immediately springs into life and starts doing Big Box, Little Box arm movements in the sea, much to the amusement of a stunning twenty-something girl nearby, who gives her a thumbs up: “ Nice moves!” I taught her everything she knows, I think, having spent the past twenty-five years playing banging house music in her presence. Looking at me ploughing into the Thai whiskey and Red Bull buckets with gusto you’d never know that a few hours earlier I was lying on my deathbed, wailing in agony, about to dictate my last will and testament. Nice one, immune system, you did it. High five!

Mum drinking two strawberry shakes
De Mama sticks to the strawberry shakes
Samantha Walsh and Luke drinking buckets at Phi Phi pool party
pale from illness (and ghostly SPF50 facial sunblock), I still manage a whisky bucket 😉

We meet a couple of Londoners in the pool, black dudes from Tulse Hill: “But we’re thinking of moving: too many white folk in Brixton these days.” They hit on a couple of Russian girls over a game of ping-pong and disappear into the crowd. It’s starting to get fairly rowdy in the crowded pool – a congealed soup of buckets, testosterone and probably a gallon of wee (bleugh!) – so Luke and I climb out and flop onto the sand nearby like a couple of wonky walruses, before slipping into what we later describe as a Bucket Coma. After a while, I’m certain that I’ve killed off any remaining parasites in my gut with Thai whiskey and I think it’s safe to head home. Job done. Then it’s Luke’s turn to flatline in his room, whilst the (sober) Mama and I head out for pizzas – perfect hangover food at, ahem, about 9pm (listen, I’m not a lightweight, I’ve been ill, ok?). We stop by Kongsiam bar and listen to some live music (Bob Marley sung with a Thai accent is quite enthralling), then take the scenic route back home (not by choice; we both have an appalling sense of direction).

No woman no kwai…Bob Marley in Thai

Then it’s time for bed as we’re on the move again in the morning. I have a close encounter with a cockroach the size of a small child during the night; I’m awoken by a loud scuttling sound coming from the bathroom to find the bloody thing walking over my toothbrush. FFS! I reckon it’s chuckling away as it does it too, the filthy critter. I sure am looking forward to some luxury at the next hotel…

Next stop: Koh Lanta.

Published tomorrow: 

The Thai Diaries: Koh Lanta (4/6). 

Sam x

Sam’s other blogs:

If You Booze, You Lose
Costa Rica Chica 

Life: A Bird’s Eye View

No Emotional Thais: Sam Goes Solo
Mummy Mission
World Wide Walsh: Around the World in 180 Days
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