With our batteries well and truly recharged we took the ferry over to Koh Phi Phi islands. James and I visited here 4 years ago, one year after the tsunami, to do our PADI diving course. We had a fair idea of what it would be like when we got there, so were excited about getting some more R and R.
As the ferry engine lulled into a dull hum and we manoeuvred into the bay, we immediately noticed the pier side of the island looked very different. Instead of a little wooden jetty protruding into the waters, there was a big concrete structure! As our porter whipped through the crowds with our bags packed into his trolley, we could tell the whole dynamics of the place had changed. There were far more bars, hotels, travel shops, internet cafes and shops than before; foreigners stood in every available space in their swim wear, even though we were still in low season. Previously the main interest here was the surrounding diving sites, now it seemed all the tourists were here on package deals for the drink, sand and sun!
However, saying all that, it still is a pretty nice place to go! It was interesting to see the still on going major development of the main town and beaches come out of the destruction left behind in 2004. Of course, the beaches are just as beautiful, if not more so! The dive sites are still there and we planned to go out with our old dive instructor.
Again we had a gorgeous infinity pool at our hotel, overlooking the beach and sea. We managed to squeeze in some more chilling out at the pool and beach. We had a good night out and sat on the beach in the evening, watching the ever present fire dancers. The bars here have got more adventurous with their customer participation and had a fire skipping rope and fire hoop! As Vicky and I cowered near the back, James was eagerly pulling Dave towards the ring of fire, convincing him to follow suit by jumping through the ring! Me and Vic had to be official photographers while the boys larked about with fire! Thankfully, they both remained unscarred, but I'm sure it won't be long before some terrible accident happens.
The next day we headed out fairly early to catch our dive boat out to 2 tiny islands called Bidah Nog and Bidah Leh. Vicky and Dave tried their skills at snorkelling, while James and I headed 20m below the surface. Our first dive was fantastic! The visibility was good for the time of year, at up to 15m, and within about 10 minutes we spotted a leopard shark sleeping on the sea bed. With our new underwater camera we managed to get photos of us knelt beside it - very cool! Although, the second dive wasn't as good as the first, we still went on to see more leopard sharks, turtles, black tip reef sharks and an octopus! Not forgetting all the small, colourful fish, in amongst the coral.
We had planned to stop off at Maya Bay (where the movie 'The Beach' was filmed), but unfortunately, as we came up from our second dive we were caught up in a storm. Instead, we headed out to 'The Beach' the next morning on a long tail boat. We managed to there about half an hour before all the speed boats, out of which endless amounts of tourists seemed to pour out. Within an hour the beach was packed out! Of course, this beach is stunning and all, but when you can't move one metre without bumping into another person it kind of loses the effect!! We asked our boat man to take us home via another beach, that we had heard about, where there are lots of resident monkeys!
As we pulled on to the beach we could see a few monkeys sat around in the sand. They looked extremely cute and we had been assured we could go out onto the beach to see them. We ventured out and took a few photos, oohhing and ahhhing the baby ones! However, once the monkeys realised we had no food for them, the scene turned into a rather different scenario. 'Attack of the Monkeys' pretty much describes what happened next!! Suddenly, they were growling and clawing out at us, chasing us in to the water. Luckily, as we crashed in to the sea they seemed to lose interest in us and they stalked over to the recently arrived speed boats. We took the opportunity to jump on our boat and tell our driver to hightail it out of there!
There is definitely a lesson to be learnt here about feeding wild animals. To our amazement as we safely sailed into the distance we saw lots of tourist, including children, reaching down and feeding the monkeys, trying to touch them. The beach and its occupants faded away before we could see what happened when all the food had gone. But, at the end of the day, these monkeys are wild animals and they shouldn't be fed by humans as they become dependent on it. Sadly, this is just another sign of tourists interfering with the way of the land and only making it worse in the long run.