Ko Phi Phi
Katie’s sister Alyson and her husband Billy had always planned to meet up with us at some point. The months that worked for them put us in SE Asia, so we figured Thailand was the perfect place for a reunion! So after Christmas in Bangkok, we flew to Phuket where we would meet them, then ferry together to the island of Ko Phi Phi (pronounced ko-pee-pee). Unfortunately, they had flight issues (that’s putting it lightly) so we ended up making the journey and met them on Phi Phi the next day. While poor Aly and Billy had dealt with all sorts of flight drama, they came ready to have a great time and we had fruit shakes in hand for them when they got off the ferry.
We spent our days on the island enjoying the sun, taking a longtail boat trip to nearby coves (including Maya Bay made famous in Leo DiCaprio’s movie ‘The Beach’), hiking to the viewpoint and throwing back drinks. Being Katie’s second time on the island and my third, we just enjoyed the ease of being somewhere we’ve seen before and showing it to Billy and Aly. It definitely is more touristy than the last times, but still a gorgeous and fun place to visit over New Years. How can you be mad at ringing in another year with toes in the sand, drink in your hand and surrounded by drunk backpackers?!
After Ko Phi Phi, our next stop was Railay Beach which is on the mainland but only accessible by boat. Because of the tide, the ferry stopped about a hundred feet out so we had the pleasure of wading through knee deep water with our luggage. Luckily we all had backpacks so we fared fine. In general we enjoyed Railay a bit better as we had a great little hotel and the area was less busy than Ko Phi Phi. This chilled out vibe was a nice way to relax. We also did another longtail boat trip and loved being out on the water. The landscape is beautiful as Railay is known for its towering limestone cliffs. Unfortunately, while in Railay the group got struck with a bit of sickness (we think from snorkel gear) as poor Katie and Billy both found the toilet and I was close. Only Aly managed to dodge the bullet and therefore kept her drinks coming. It was pretty funny though how the whole sickness thing unfolded. The four of us went to dinner at a nice restaurant where you pick your seafood from a fresh ice box and they cook it right up for you. So we all go up and order a large amount of food items and dishes, then went to sit down. Within minutes poor Billy got sick then excused himself for the night, then a few minutes later Katie did the same. Right then the servers showed up with a feast for four and it was just Aly and I left to try and tackle it all. I think they just assumed we loved to eat or were on the dating show “Next!”
We finished off our family time in the north of Thailand in Chiang Mai. This awesome city is a backpacker favorite but one that is growing rapidly. It has a ton of lodging options and you can rent awesome Airbnb’s for about $30 a night. While there we had some tasty meals including tons of street food and also went shopping, explored the local temples and managed to catch a movie at the baller cinemas. We also spent time at a highly rated elephant sanctuary. Due to many of these places getting a bad rap for animal treatment, we spent lots of time looking into which ones were actually good i.e. where they rescue elephants from cruel lives and actually give them a good safe home. We decided on the right operation and were extremely happy with it. We got to feed about a dozen elephants 100lbs of sugar cane and bananas, bath them and ride them (without bull hooks and bare back) for a short period if we wanted. The experience was very cool and seeing these amazing beasts up close and getting to see their personalities was such a treat.
Once we couldn’t convince Aly and Billy to ditch their flight home and keep traveling with us, we sadly had to say goodbye. Then we decided to spend a few more nights in the city to just relax. With fast wi-fi, great food and things to do, it made it a breezy couple of days before we headed into Myanmar where things would get a bit more…rustic.
While Thailand was a repeat country for us, I honestly can’t wait to go back. It is just one of those really special places which will always feel good to see again. If you haven’t been, I would highly suggest you add it to the bucket list.