Phuket & Phi Phi: With the Spices

It was a rainy journey from Krabi to Phuket on an old rickety bus. We’d initially been loaded onto a minivan with our bags dumped on the roof without any rain cover so we hastily got off the van and told the driver we wouldn’t be travelling with him. The old rickety bus would do, even if it did take longer at least our bags would be dry. Once we arrived into Phuket town we wasted no time in going to the market for some food, we were warned that the dishes were spicy but we shrugged it off- eight months in Asia and we’re getting a bit cocky with the spices. However this particular market food knocked us back into place and we both left with fiery mouths. Luckily a big portion of mango sticky rice was on offer to help soothe our pain.

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When reading up about Phuket there was one thing in particular that caught my attention, a Gibbon rescue sanctuary. Throughout our travels we’ve gone on various jungle walks that have led to us to witness a variety of wild animals in their natural surroundings and it’s something that the both of us have loved to do. We’ve also witnessed a number of wild animals that are not in their natural surroundings and are instead used for entertaining tourists and spend the rest of their day chained up, this is something we both hate to see. The Gibbon rescue centre houses Gibbons of varying ages and species that have been taken from their owners due to mistreatment. Bearing in mind that it is illegal to keep a Gibbon as a pet in Thailand. The Gibbons go through different stages of rehabilitation, weening them off human dependency and pairing them up with a mate in the hope that the family will be able to be released back into the wild. Unfortunately there are some Gibbons who cannot be released and have to spend the rest of their lives in the sanctuary. For example there was one Gibbon who had been attacked by her owner, the wounds that she received got infected and the owner took her to the vet. The wounds were that bad that she had to have a leg and an arm amputated, the vet called the police and she was handed over to the rehabilitation sanctuary. Some Gibbons are also brought into the country illegally and their species is not native to Thailand, it is for this reason that they cannot be released into the wild. It was nice to be able to see some of the Gibbons up close and hear their loud calls to one another, they are such amazing animals! It was also sad to see them in cages because of the way in which humans have treated them.

Nearby stood the tallest waterfall in Phuket, at a staggering…15metres tall. It wasn’t the most impressive waterfall we’ve been to but it was tucked away in a quiet spot of the jungle which made it a nice place to sit for a while. The rest of the day was spent loitering around the fancy marina which made me want a yacht and a cocktail then we visited ‘big buddha’ which was still under construction but offered amazing views out over Phuket and the surrounding islands. That night we had a stroll round the colourfully lit old town and found ourselves another night market where we sampled more local dishes.

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From Phuket we got an early morning boat to Phi Phi Island, for those of you who are familiar with the film “the beach” this is apparently where it was filmed. It was also one of the worst affected Thai islands by the devastating 2004 tsunami. We’d decided to stay for just one night and I think we managed to pick possibly the worst place to stay but this tourism hub of an island is so overpriced that we were left with little other choice. Imagine the island as a ‘H’ shape with the two sides being tall jungley mountains connected by a shallow strip with beaches at either side. The middle strip is so congested with guesthouses, bars, souvenir shops, overpriced restaurants, dive shops, resorts etc. I think we walked the entirety of the island a million times over as we got lost in the maze of all the buildings. We escaped onto one of the beautiful beaches and had a stroll along until we found a little cove with only a few other tourists. It was such an escape from the mad town, peace and quiet teamed with stunning views. We even managed to find a couple of sunloungers and have a snooze!

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We strolled down the busiest beach at hectic lunch time when all the package tourists stop off at the island for lunch. We were horrified to see men holding Gibbons. Baby Gibbons on leads, wearing nappies and clothes being kept as pets by stupid people and used to entertain the package tourists as they stopped for lunch. The package tourists were having photos taken and holding the Gibbons just spurring on this animal cruelty. In total we saw 3 different men with different gibbons. We also noticed that one of them wasn’t a native species to Thailand, something we learned at the Gibbon sanctuary in Phuket meaning that it had been brought into the country illegally and was being kept illegally. This made us so sad and angry so we reported it to the police on the island. I imagine the police are already aware that this goes on and they won’t do anything about it but it’s all that we could do to help. Maybe if enough tourists complain something may start to be done.

That afternoon we had a sweaty walk up to the Phi Phi viewpoint which was possibly the most impressive viewpoint we’ve been to yet. We were a little skeptical as to how good it would be due to how built up the island is but we weren’t disappointed. We sat on the rocks and looked out for an hour or so before making our way back to town.

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I’m glad that we decided to visit Phi Phi but I’m also glad we decided to spend only one day there. It’s a beautiful island but it’s too touristy and expensive to stay any longer than we did. The following day we left on a boat which would take us to our last Thai island of the trip, Ko Lanta.

Until next time!

Photos here

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