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Koh Phi Phi Lesson 1 – Always pack toilet paper. Always.

On Tuesday I made my way to Koh Phi Phi Don with Barbara and J. By longboat we travelled to Krabi, then by speedboat to Phi Phi. What a difference. While Yao Noi was so calming, Phi Phi is party central much like Cancun or Ibiza (ironically there is a bar here named Ibiza), and I believe it was House of Pain’s “Jump Around” that I heard blaring from a nearby bar as we stepped onto the pier.

After goodbyes with B & J, I made my way through throngs of tourists and backpackers to Bamboo Mountain View. All of one hour later I was out that door and on to find accommodation that provided doors with locks on them.

Koh Phi Phi Lesson 2 – Inspect rooms prior to handing over payment.

JJ Bungalow proved to be run by people with brains, so I called it home for the night. By this time (3pm or so) I was feeling frustrated and starting to question if coming to Phi Phi was the right decision. I’m all for a good bar and a good party, but my idea of responsible (and successful) travelling does not involve drinking myself silly and walking around half naked and barefooted to Paddy’s Irish Bar or John’s Pizza.

Hi, you traveled halfway around the world, why?

It was like spring break. A never-ending spring break.

I had intended to spend two nights on Phi Phi, but was ready to leave the next morning. After a terrible experience at Bamboo Mountain (the name should have given it away, really), and such a great few days on Yao Noi, I needed to find something to make my visit positive, and fast.

I had toyed with the idea of scuba diving, but certainly wasn’t making it my mission. In steps Tessa with Island Divers. Tessa sweeps me off the street and into the shop to tell me all about diving with Island Divers. Sensing my hesitation she even took me into the equipment room to show me how everything is stored and about how I would use it in the water. Feeling more comfortable with the idea I tell her I’ll think about it. After a walk around and some questionable food, I found my way back to the dive shop where Simon provided all the encouragement I needed to sign the dotted line.

Best decision.

By nine the next morning we were out in Maya Bay (helloooo Leo ♥) on Koh Phi Phi Leh learning how to use our equipment, clear our masks of water, and learning all the signs we needed to know in order to communicate under water. Adam, the instructor, was the best I could have hoped for on my first dive. With two other first timers in the group Adam took time to make sure each of us were in control and “OK” every step of the way. It took a few minutes to properly equalize my ears and get use to breathing not only under water but through my mouth only…and to stop widening my eyes so much that I’d look as though I was drowning, but once I got the hang of it I never wanted to go back up.

The four of us swam along the reef at 12 meters (about 40 feet) observing the marine life. We saw so many colorful parrot and clown fish, Moray Eels, beautiful sea turtles, a Leopard Shark (“No, I will not die today”), lots of coral, and more. At times Adam would even take my hand and lead me to some interesting marine life.

After two dives and lunch in Maya Bay we were back on Phi Phi Don. I had half a mind to complete my scuba certification as I was already $x dollars in and Adam said I did exceedingly well for my first time (gloat gloat gloat), but unfortunately I hadn’t budgeted for it. I’m certainly looking forward to my next diving opportunity and to get certified. If you haven’t tried it, try it!

Feeling better about Phi Phi I extended my stay an additional two nights, moving to an air conditioned, windowless closet space at BaanThai Guest House closer into town. Okay, okay, there was a window, but it led out to the stairwell, so does that really count?

Koh Phi Phi Lesson 3 – Don’t count on a mattress purchased within this decade

After spending the next two days searching for a quiet shaded spot and a good, inexpensive meal to no avail, I was more than ready to leave. Koh Phi Phi is fine I guess –  if you like that sort of thing. Everywhere I went someone was blowing cigarette smoke in my face, I was breathing suffocating fumes from the far too plentiful longboats along the shore, or was sweeping away trash on the sand for a clean place to sit. And I’m pretty sure I’m coming home with some sort of foot fungus. I was also heart broken when, while swimming along the reef, we saw a boat had dropped its anchor onto the reef and with each wave the anchor pulled at the coral, ripping it from the ocean floor. Although the area is technically a national park, it doesn’t seem to be protected, and those who visit don’t seem to have any consideration or respect for the land. Longboat operators flick their cigarette butts into the water and trash can be seen floating everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if all fauna and flora were bulldozed by 2020.

If you had good luck finding some serenity on Koh Phi Phi, let me know. I’d be willing to try again.

Until then, north by train to Bangkok. Cambodia awaits.