Monday, April 6, 2009

Paradise Found on Koh Phi Phi Island

As we make our way through Southeast Asia I am quickly learning the difference between actual nooks of privacy and overdeveloped backpacking enclaves. While I can enjoy a stroll down Kao San Road (road featured in the movie The Beach in Bangkok) just as much as the next person, I have come to realize that I really appreciate finding quieter areas off the beaten path. That being said, my heart dropped a bit when we arrived at Koh Phi Phi Island.  How is that possible you ask?

What originally seemed like every travelers paradise surrounded by impressive stalks of island growth speckling the surrounding Andaman Sea wound up being just another backpacker haven

As soon as we disembarked from the ferry we were greeted by flyer distributors advertising free Thai booze buckets all around town. The reality fairy whispered in my ear and I agreed - I was a bit out of my element.

I was unwilling to relinquish my dream of a peaceful island paradise. My feelings of disappointment quickly turned into those of absolute resolve. I was determined to find the paradise I envisioned and with help from our new friend from the ferry, Damien, this vision would soon become a reality. 

While traveling from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi Island we had the opportunity to review lists of hotels and hostels and make a selection. While reviewing the hotels we befriended a Frenchman named Damien who was traveling solo. The majority of the hotels were located right on the main strip. After passing a couple of places along the shoreline we decided that our options were certainly sub-par. Damien mentioned that he saw one that seemed pretty nice and reasonable – Tropical Gardens. The only drawback was that Tropical Gardens was a 25-minute uphill walk into the

Island. To me this sounded ideal. As we walked further and further into the island the crowds diminished and our surroundings became increasingly tolerable.  We arrived at Tropical Gardens and took a small tour of the grounds and reviewed a few rooms. Paradise Found!!

The small hotel consisted of several private bungalows built up on stilts a good 15 feet above ground. After taking a walk up a smooth stone staircase to the platform of the bungalow we were welcomed by a hammock tied up on the porch.

The teak exterior opened up to a sweet room, complete with rattan rugs, bamboo furniture, low lying pendants for ideal lighting, an indoor/outdoor bathroom with intense water pressure and a bamboo roof to boot. After settling in I ran up to cool off at the hotel pool and came across a lagoon-like pool area, complete with Buddhist statues, relaxing waterfalls, meditation mats and a poolside fried rice and beer stand.

It felt just right… in a biblical sense. After pinching myself I dove right in, head first.

Michael and Damien quickly followed suit. Smiles were gleaming from all of our faces. We splashed around in the pool, trying to take in how perfect our surroundings actually were. I swam up to the grub hut and ordered a large platter of chicken fried rice. After three minutes it was ready and I swam the platter and a few Singh beers to the other side of the pool where we all dug right in.

Lesson learned: When traveling, do not give up on your vision of paradise. With a bit of hard work and determination you will surely find it!

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