Learning to become a bartender on Phuket will get you your EBS certificate just like any other EBS destination. But this tropical island is our most adventurous destination by far. And today, we’re embarking on our first island trip of the Phuket course – Koh Phi Phi. The island doesn’t “do” cars or motorized vehicles, so the only access is by boat.
Longtail boats are the preferred method of transportation
Like any adventure, a trip to Koh Phi Phi starts with a journey. And before we make it to paradise, we drive past hell. Our random collection of minivans and SUV’s drives us past the local prison, a dilapidated building decorated with guard towers, barbed wire and prison uniforms drying in the wind. The EBS convoy continues to the other side of the island, where we hop on a ferry and head into the Andaman sea. Due to the warm blue waters filled with rocky structures and screaming monkeys, Avatar comes to mind and it is ironic that this is the onboard movie of our Ferry.
On the ferry we find a weird mix of chrome poles, 4-point harness seats and an abundance of Chinese tourists watching Avatar.
While many of the students decide to sit out the two-hour crossing on the upper deck, I hide in the belly of the ferry, as the Thai sun is punishing and around noon it’s at its very worst. The Scandinavian students don’t seem to mind, even though half of them already started to shed their skin on their shoulders, their arms and the all-time classic; their noses. Our Southern European students seem to handle the sun that much better and instead of peeling skin they sport an impressive collection of tan lines.
Quick group picture on the stern – scream “Tequila” everyone!
Once we arrive at the pier of Koh Phi-Phi, we are surprised by the chaos of it all. A large wooden pier is full of people trying to sell you something, trying to guide you to their hotel, their restaurant, their boat or their bar.
Our hotel, the PP resort, is a nice oasis from the narrow alleys and their wooden shacks catering to anything you can imagine.
But no time to rest; within the blink of an eye we leave for a tour around the island group. The more seasoned travelers make sure they get a bite in their stomach, while we see other tourists around us carrying backpacks full of beer on their island tour…
Ten minutes later we discover how truly wild and beautiful Thailand really is. A small cove which is only accessible from the water is claimed by a local monkey population who mostly feed on berries and some sort of green seeds that float around in the sea.
Getting from the ferry the beach can be done swimming, or by one of the many longtails around.
Other than feeding themselves, the monkeys spend most of their time picking their genitals and checking if any of the strange white apes comes too close to them. In which case they flash their teeth and start throwing stuff.
Just don’t get too close, these guys are very nervous
After the monkeys, we visit two more coves, one that’s ideal for simply jumping off the boat and cooling off, while the second one features amazing wildlife under the surface, due to the rock formations and its inhabitants. Our captain opens a drawer filled with scuba masks and points us to the best spots, while he grumbles; “forty minutes only! We need to get to Maya bay before sunset! If you see a shark, don’t freak out – they are black-tip reef sharks and not dangerous.” Riiiight…
Say hi to the locals
Getting to Maya Bay in the late afternoon is ideal, as most of the visitors have already left (it’s only accessible by sea), and we get to enjoy the pristine beach and the jungle paths behind the tree line. I don’t know why, but the sand at Maya bay has a unique quality to it. It’s white of course, but made up of much finer grains than other beaches and almost feels like sawdust. I noticed several girls from our group scrubbing their legs and feet with it, ridding themselves of dead skin cells.
I walked around in amazement, trying to pinpoint anything I remember from the movie “The Beach”, but it’s been too long ago, and the Tsunami remodeled the entire cove in 2004.
Ironically, many people insisted Maya beach actually improved after the disaster and by the look of things, they might be right. Maya beach will always remain on top of my “must-see-beaches” list of all time.
Jumping of the stern of the boat is a great way to pass the time, and it’s an art to get the rotation just right to avoid the infamous bellyflop or even worse, falling on your back from two stories high. Several guys mess up their landing, and while they laugh it off, I can’t help but imagining what it feels like to have a sunburn and smacking flat on your back from 10 feet upwards.
Tim got extra style points for diving like a boss
With the sun setting, we head back to the safety of Koh Phi-Phi to take a shower, get some rest and prepare for dinner in one of the many little family-run restaurants that you’ll find all over. Cars are not allowed, so staff supplies their restaurants with handcarts that can quickly maneuver between the narrow gates and doors. Don’t be surprised when you’re playing with your phone and a Thai guy speeds past you with a handcart stacked with 5.000 eggs. On Koh Phi-phi, it’s the way to get around.
Tourist-heavy areas in Thailand are notorious for people calling you “friend, bro, brother” or simply just “You!”, while trying to peddle their wares or restaurant, but Koh Phi-phi has none of that. You see a restaurant you like, you sit down and eat.
When I requested some long beans to kill the burning sensation in my mouth (“Som-tam”, or Papaya salad can get very spicy), the cook stuck her head out the kitchen and wanted to know where I am from, what her food tasted like and if I was enjoying it. It was another weird and funny Koh Phi-phi experience.
The rendez-vous with the rest of the group in Stockholm Syndrome unfortunately had to be cut short. This bar caters to westerners who want to party on a budget, and their drinks are cheap, the staff is friendly and the music is loud. There’s a variety of games on offer and a sign warns its customer that “stealing the pool table will result in a fine of over THB 100.000“. That sign was a good indication for the general atmosphere, and while I would have loved to stay longer, a day long of swimming, hiking and taking pictures just came crashing down on me after a bucket of Vodka and Lemonade.
The infamous bucket smiling at me the next morning
Finding my way to the hotel seemed to be an impossible task but when I bonded with some Algerians, they helped me out in a big way. It turns out they were massive Jean-Claude van Damme fans and when I told them some training scenes of “Kickboxer” were shot in Ayuthaya, a temple city North of Bangkok we instantly became friends. “We do not know this hotel of which you speak of, but the pier is easy to find. Go to the pier and then ask someone!” It turns out the directions to the pier was all I needed and halfway through I rejoined some other EBS students who called it a night too and together we found our way to the PP Princess resort.
The next morning I slept right through the breakfast unfortunately, which I heard was excellent, but I managed to find some great Coffee, bacon and eggs at the Grand PP Arcade, which essentially is my fuel.
Good coffee simply makes a morning…
After a quick checkout from the hotel, I joined the others at the infinity pool overlooking the bay, and since the heat was scorching, I made a run for the shade and tried my very best to get to the viewpoint before we returned to Phuket.
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We made it up there drenched in sweat, but it was SO worth it. If you are into tropical islands and professional cocktail bartending, you should really look into the best bartending school in the world. Download a free brochure below.