November 2008: After diverting to Singapore and a brief stop-over in Kuala Lumpur, I finally arrived in Phuket, Thailand.
Phuket & a familiar face…
Now, if you’re staying in Phuket, you ideally want to be by the beach. But being a backpacker on a shoe-string budget, I opted for a hostel in bustling Phuket town instead. Not exactly the most glamorous location, but it was fine as a base.
Straight away I got online and arranged to meet up with some Aussie guys I’d met in Singapore. Over there for more of a holiday than to travel, they were staying in a hotel by the beach, so they invited me to join them for a day by the pool.
Arrangements made, I headed back to my room and bumped into a familiar face along the way. Nathan (the very first person I met when I arrived in Singapore) had just checked into the hostel and was looking at things to do the next day. So I told him of my plans and he decided to join me.
The next morning we set off on a tuk-tuk headed for the beach. It probably wasn’t all that far away in reality, but in Thailand time seems to stand still when it comes to getting around so it took us around an hour to get there. We used the time getting to know each other – Nathan told me about his adventures travelling around Oz and offered advice about everything from bus tickets to which sim card to get for my phone – and I told him of my plans to head to Ko Phi Phi in the next few days.
By the end of the day it felt like we’d known each other for years and so my lonesome trip to Phi Phi became a trip for two…
A little background knowledge for you before I go on to Phi Phi…
Around two weeks before I set off on my travels, I was having a drink (or two) in my local pub with my friend Jen. Having a cheeky little glance around the pub, as you do, I spotted a guy across the bar. Brown eyes (check), brown hair (check), stubble (yep, definitely my type!) so I gave him a little smile and not long after he headed over to ‘dazzle’ me with his amazing one-liner…
Dave – “You’re gorgeous, I’d ask you out but I’m going travelling in a couple of days”.
Lauren – (Blushes) “Funny you should say that, so am I. Where are you headed?”
Dave – “bla bla bla…Thailand”
Lauren – “Me too!”
Plenty of flirting later, we swapped details and added each other on Facebook the next day. So, for the next few weeks we flirted away over instant chat and it turned out we were both headed to Phi Phi at roughly the same time…
Phi Phi Don
Nathan and I set off early the next morning to catch a bus, a tuk tuk and a boat (with plenty of standing around waiting in between) and then, finally we were there…Phi Phi Don.
On arriving, we were bombarded with offers from the locals for accommodation, but not wanting to get ripped off, we made our own way around with our luggage in tow, until we found a guest house that suited our budget. (Unless you’re staying in a luxury resort, accommodation in Thailand tends to be pretty basic, but on the whole I found everywhere to perfectly clean and well maintained and for around $30 a night for a guesthouse by the beach, there isn’t much to complain about!)
We quickly dumped our bags and headed off for a tour of the island. Now, although it is the mainland, Phi Phi Don is still very small, so this took all of about 15 minutes and en route we bumped into Dave, with a girl.
Dave and I had a quick catch up and arranged to meet that evening for dinner & drinks – it would be the four of us, plus Dave’s friends Ben and Lauren (we were soon nicknamed ‘Big Lauren’ and ‘Little Lauren’ – very imaginative). As soon as we left them, I turned to Nathan;
Lauren – “They’re not together, right?”
Nathan – “I wouldn’t be so sure”
Lauren – “But she has dreadlocks!”
Turns out they were.
So, I was fairly pissed at Dave for not telling me before I arrived and he was pissed at me, because he knew he’d been a dick. We spent the majority of the next few days bickering and making snide comments at each other, but on the whole we got along fine considering.
Our days were spent lazing on the beach, occasionally swapping a bottle of water for a bottle of Singha (the local beer). Then in the evening we’d all meet up for a group dinner, sampling the local cuisine – mainly Pad Thai and Thai Green Curry, before heading to the Reggae Bar to watch the locals perform Muay Thai boxing (with the occasional backpacker attempting to have a go too).
Once we’d had enough of the fighting, we’d head down to the beach for another bucket – a lethal combination of vodka/whisky, your choice of fizzy pop and super strength red bull – it’s no wonder we could party until dawn every night.
Phi Phi Leh – The Beach
After a few days bumming around on Phi Phi Don, the eight of us (Dave, Kylie, Big Lauren, Ben, Tom, Ross, Nathan and I) decided to head over to Phi Phi Leh to see the stunning Maya Beach where much of the filming of the film The Beach takes place.
The boat docked a few hundred metres from the beach, so we all dived off the side and made a beeline for the shore. Naturally a massive tourist attraction for anyone visiting Thailand, the beach can get quite packed but luckily it wasn’t too crowded when we arrived, so we had a game of throw and catch and amused ourselves posing for photos. Most people do the standard ‘jumping in the air’ shot, but being an ex-cheerleader, I decided we should attempt a pyramid…
Probably one of my favourite memories from Thailand, the boat trip was the perfect end to our week on Phi Phi. It was sad to leave the group but we all had our separate travel plans – Nathan and I were heading to Koh Samui then Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party, whilst Lauren, Ben and Dave were about to start their Oz adventure. (We’ll meet them again later in the story though).
Read more about my Thailand Hopping in Part 2…