We’d been warned that it would be touristy and crowded but figured HEY, they said the same thing about Ko Samui and it was a dream come true. Also, its southern Thailand, most of which looks like absolute paradise so how unfortunate can it be?
Well…if you stay in a gigantic resort (which is really all of Phuket from what we could tell) it will not be the most luxurious experience. Don’t get me wrong. The resort where we stayed, The Movenpick Karon Beach, was gorgeous. The staff was very friendly and professional, the room was large and well appointed, there was a nice pool bar available and lots of good food. But if you left the resort to go to the beach, which we only did once, you’re met with traffic, TONS of garbage on the sand, and unswimable off-season wave water. Womp womp.
So we resolved to get away from our resort as much as we could while still allowing for some relaxation time. Our first full day in Phuket was spent on a tour of the Phi Phi islands which was WHAT WHOA INCREDIBLE. It started at 6:30am, which in ruralish Thailand sounds and looks like this:
We made a trip down to the Royal Phuket Harbor and jumped on an hour speedboat trip to the first island. We entered Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh and were immediately in Leo’s mindset from “The Beach.”
We started with a hike through the jungle to stretch our legs after a long boat ride.
And then time for a swim! Just like Leo in the Beach! But sans-shark attack and dystopian island community vibe.
Back to the boat for a trip around the island. First we headed around the corner to Pileh Lagoon for another quick swim.
What was so fun about this particular moment was the Australian family on tour with us. It was a mixed family with kids/stepkids from the ages of about 16 or 17 down to about 8 and they were all perfectly close. Not too much that it was creepy, but enough that they had lots of fun together goofing off, taking risks and just making great memories. They almost seemed like aliens, unless all Australians are just this chill. They were all scary good looking (even the 8 year olds. I was not good looking as an 8 year old) and just…fun! The youngest two kids were a little spooked on jumping off the edge of the boat into pretty deep and dark water, but just after we jumped there they were, a pair of them, holding hands and exchanging nervous looks. The whole boat got into encouraging them to jump and eventually once they did they were hooked! A very fun memory.
We finished up swimming and made our way around to the famous bird nest cave (where bird nests are collected by a cave dweller who sells them for an unbelieveable profit but continues living in a cave on a tropical island. AKA the illuminati or something because he really has life figured out), and “Monkey Beach,” which was already overrun with tourists screaming at the monkeys, all of whom were like “WTF?”
The crew on this tour was amazing – they did everything with us (including snorkel diving) and as part of the tour they even brought along a hot lunch buffet, dragged it all onto the beach after this first snorkel gig and served it to us. What? Did Gilligan have it this nice when they were shipwrecked? We had one more snorkel sesh off of Bamboo Island, the clearest of them all, but also the one with a cloud of what originally looked like glitter but turned out to be SEA LICE HOW IS THAT A THING?
Apart from Wat Pho (forthcoming) and our happy vibes at Ko Samui, the day trip through Ko Phi Phi was the most memorable part of our trip to Thailand. There were so many unique experiences on that trip that we wouldn’t be able to find closer to home and we are very lucky to have made those memories.