The busy streets of Phi Phi at night was completely emptied and dark before the crack of dawn. We were the first few ones at the pier for the early morning longtail boat tour to the famous Maya Bay at Phi Phi Leh island. I booked a private longtail boat as there were 6 of us so it was almost the same price as a shared boat tour but at our own pace and not need to be crowded with other strangers. I booked online through Five Star Travel and Tours. As other tour companies came to pick up their guests, no sign of our tour company!!! Other tour operators came to ask, I showed them the booking confirmation and they were very nice to help us call the number on the paper but couldn’t locate them 🙁 We waited and waited more and I decided to walk to their office through the dark roads…sure enough, their office was not open yet! At last, I said to Brian and Sokunna that they should catch another tour because their ferry departing later than ours that they have time to join another tour. We asked the guys who helped us if they have a boat available to go to Maya Bay and he said yes. Brian and Sokunna’s group followed that guy and went on the tour. Another guy who helped us asked if we would like to go on a tour too? We told him that we need to be back by 9 am because our ferry leaving Phi Phi will be at 11 am. He said with his broken English like oh, where you want to see? I told him that we only need to see Maya Bay. He talked in Thai and found a longtail boat driver to take us on this quick tour for 2000 Baht. We followed the boat driver and got on his boat and off we go….
I was a little nervous of this tiny longtail boat crossing the ocean, luckily the sea was calm that morning that it wasn’t as scary.
Then the boat driver stopped in the middle and turned his boat toward the sunrise so we can watch the sunrise. His English wasn’t great but he was a nice boat driver who tried to show the best of the island! Watching the sunrise over the horizon on our longtail boat 🙂
We saw Brian and Sokunna’s boat but they were quite a distance away from us that they couldn’t get a photo of us watching the sunrise like the photo I took above of another couple.
After the sunrise, we continued our way to Maya Bay passing through those rocky cliffs!
We made a turn heading to the beach surrounded by the rocky mountains, it was time for photos!
Our longtail boat driver offered to help us take photos with our camera, he wasn’t great with composition but hey can’t complain about his kindness.
We “docked” as close to the beach as possible and he took out a ladder for us to get off the boat and then walk to the beach. We stayed overnight in Phi Phi because that was the only way to be able to get on a sunrise tour to Maya Bay without many crowds. You can see there were a few longtail boats there but nothing crazy compared to the morning or afternoon packed with tourists.
The only downside of being early to avoid the crowds was the lighting….the sun hasn’t light up the bay to bring out the turquoise color of the water; the bay was still in shadow. However, the bay still looked pretty, yay finally see the infamous Maya Bay!
We met with Sokunna and them and helped each other to take photos. It was a nice beach without the crowds 😀
Our boat #9 on the back! Our driver climbed up this huge rock on the beach and Jason climbed to for a higher perspective.
The beach isn’t big by any standard so it’ll definitely feel crowded with hundreds of tourists; we made the right decision by taking the sunrise tour. Any option that I thought about was the late afternoon tour when the daytrip from Phuket boats left, I wondered if the beach will be as quiet then; I bet the lighting would be better for photos!
By that time, I felt much more comfortable in the longtail boat, it was wider and much more stable than I thought!
We told our boat driver that we are ready to leave….we thought we are heading back but instead he brought us to another lesser known bay!!!
OMG we were the only ones there and it was so nice!
He helped us with the photo again 🙂
We had this bay all to ourselves for photos!!!
And we weren’t done yet, he brought us to a lagoon!
The turquoise and clear water of the lagoon!
We saw Brian and Sokunna’s boat at the lagoon too as we were about to leave hehe.
Finally, we were on our way back and the driver said that cave is closed for visitor, they are harvesting “bird’s nest” (saliva). If you are Chinese, you know what I am talking about, that expensive thing that they make the soup!
We were very satisfied by the last minute private longtail boat tour but we didn’t even know the name of the company who helped us! We arrived Phi Phi Don at 9 am and the sun was shining on the row of longtail boats parked on the beach; the boats were decorated by colorful ribbons.
We walked back to the hotel, rinsed our feet, packed up, and went down for a quick breakfast. The breakfast was at a separate building toward the other side of the bay and the food choices were almost not edible! It was the worst breakfast of our Southeast Asia trip. The only good thing about it was the view of the other side of the bay >.<
We quickly stuffed ourselves with the made to order omelet and tasteless noodles! Once done, we went to check out the other side of the beach, a much quieter beach with some longtail boats parked there:
Then, we walked to Five Star Travel and Tours’ office and a lady with a kid was there. I told her the situation and she said the owner is not there but will be back soon. I said we have a ferry to catch so can she call the owner and let me speak on the phone with him/her? She called and the owner said that since I paid via a credit card, she can only refund to my credit card. I said okay and left. Note: after the trip, I waited another week for the refund but nothing! I contacted the tour company via email and no response so I finally submitted a dispute with Paypal (payment through Paypal) and then they finally refunded me!!!
We went back to the hotel to check out and ferry back to Phuket pier where our pre-arranged driver dropped us off at Phuket Airport. From Phuket Airport, we flew to Koh Samui on Bangkok Airways. Bangkok Airways is a boutique airline and even for an hour flight, they served food!
Landing Koh Samui, we saw many, many villas:
Also, the Buddha and Guanyin statues:
Koh Samui Airport has those cute trolleys that I never have seen any airport use those before, very lay-back atmosphere already!
In Koh Samui, we booked Conrad Koh Samui for three nights with our weekend certificate and Hilton points. The hotel is located as far as you can be from the airport so transportation cost is expensive. After reading Flyertalk and TripAdvisor, Mr. Samui is highly recommended for reasonable transfer and tour prices. I contacted Mr. Samui through Facebook and he recently has a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mrsamuitaxi/
He sent direction on where to meet at the airport the day before our arrival and we just followed his instruction and found our driver with my name on the paper. The van was luxiously comfortable for our one hour ride to the hotel. We passed through many towns that majority of the tourists are staying with local eateries like this one:
After an hour of drive, we drove up this private mountain and arrived Conrad Koh Samui!
We made it after the sun has set but there was still some colors oer the “five islands”:
The reception area is very lovely as well:
We were greeted by a welcome drink, it was a lime based drink that I don’t like sour drink. My orchid bracelet was pretty!
Jason is a Hilton Diamond so we got a room upgrade to a 300-series villa which has the better view of the five islands. The receptionist called a buggy to brought us to our huge villa, more on our room later….
As all the villas are on the cliff of the mountain, the zig-zag roads are very steep and places are so scattered away so the mode of transportation at the hotel is by buggy. I called one to bring us to dinner at Zest. The free appetizer was shrimp chips that we usually had during Chinese New Year, same taste. The dipping sauce was a spicy shrimp paste that goes well with the shirmp chips.
Also, as Diamond member, we got 4 free drink coupons to use, thank goodness for those drink coupons because the drinks in the hotel are expensive! I can say the price reminded me of Cambodia where they are out of price ratio to the cost of an entree! For example, the mango smoothie and Thai Iced Tea were like 250 Baht (around $8 USD) each while the Tom Yum soup was 290 Baht and Mhee Hoon Gaeng Poo (Southern style crab curry with rice vermicelli & bean sprouts) was only 350 Baht! $8 for a Thai Iced Tea was more than double the price at home and the drinks weren’t that great either!
My expensive Thai Iced Tea:
Our dinner, the Mhee Hoon Gaeng Poo was very spicy and I love it! The Tom Yum was good – sour and spicy. Jason ordered a steamed seabass, a little bit overcooked but the taste was good.
Our dinner cost with the free drinks:
Around $46 USD at a Conrad; it was already pretty cheap in a 5* hotel! Service wise, the staffs were all friendly and helpful except for our waiter – his English wasn’t great and he doesn’t seem to be familiar with the menu. Each time, we had to point to him on the item in the menu and he had to copy the name word to word -.-.
After the dinner, we called a buggy to shuttled us back to our villa…now our villa! Conrad Koh Samui was the only hotel that you can redeem Hilton points for a villa as a standard room; now they added Conrad Maldives where you can redeem the “standard room” as the water villa as well. Our villa was huge and very luxurious modern. The bathroom was a full-sized room itself!
Remember at the Conrad Maldives they ran out of Shanghai Tang toiletries? I emailed the hotel to confirm the request and there they are….in refillable big bottles that I can use all the lotion I want!
There are more Shanghai Tang in the walk-in shower!
Our bedroom: like I said before, Conrad’s beds aren’t as luxurious as the rooms!
Our infinity pool, can’t wait to take a dip tomorrow!
Welcome fruit plate and macaroons. We had our logans so of course I’ll go finish those first 😛