One of my best travel moments was when I went travelling in 2008, and my friends had come to visit me in Thailand. What I didn’t know was that my friends had been plotting with my family for my folks to come and visit me for my birthday.
My friends and I had arrived on Koh Phi Phi and little did I know that, on the day of my birthday, my family was en route to the island to surprise me. When we woke up, we had breakfast and one of my friends went off to sort out a hotel for her friend that was arriving later that day, or so she told me, what she was actually doing was meeting my family off the boat.
A little while later, she called me to arrange to meet her at a bar for a few birthday drinks. When we got there, we ordered a drink and a few minutes later my mum, sister, brother and my brothers’ friend arrived. I had my back to them, so when I turned round and saw them, you can imagine my reaction. I was lost for words, in fact I recall saying “What the f…..g hell are you doing here?” My mum allows swear words in times of excitement!
I really had no clue that they were coming, it was such a fabulous birthday surprise, and after rounds of hugs and kisses, we all shared the most wonderful day. We had a fabulous week all together, enjoying boat rides, snorkelling in the blue sea around the islands, sunsets, and evenings of delicious food and drink.
All too soon, they were heading home, but it was one of the best travel moments of my life, and I will always remember it. I’m so thankful for my friends and family for conspiring in, what turned out to be, the best birthday I’ve ever had!
The Phi Phi Islands are absolutely stunning- picture perfect beaches, fringed with palm trees and beautifully clear water- all protected by National Park status. There are several islands in this area- Koh Phi Phi Don is the largest of them and this is where the accommodation, bars and restaurants are located. There is also Koh Phi Phi Ley where you can visit Maya Beach, and it is where “The Beach” was filmed. There are smaller islands around, like Monkey Island and Bamboo Island, where you can visit on a long tail boat for the day.
In 2004 Phi Phi was devastated by the tsunami and about 70% of the island destroyed. When I visited in 2008 most of the island had been restored although there were sandbags along all the paths, and they had put up signs to tell you which way to go if another tsunami were to hit the island.
The room we stayed in cost just £3.00 and, as always, you get what you pay for! There were three of us sharing- there was a double bed and single bed. The sink was in the bedroom and the water leaked onto our feet whilst brushing our teeth. The shower didn’t work properly, so the only way to have a decent shower was using the toilet hoses (which are typical in a Thai toilet). I might just add that the water was clean and as we were all on a budget we were prepared to put up with this alternative way of showering.
Koh Phi Phi Don is small and it is easily navigable so you can’t really get lost.
We knew of a bar called “Hippies”, where my friends had been lots of times the year before so when we arrived we made our way there and watched the fire shows. Hippies was the best bar on the island with great entertainment, nightly fire shows, the DJ playing pumping tunes, and occasionally he treated us to his guitar playing. I am not sure if it is even there anymore but that was our nightly entertainment venue and we had such a fantastic time there.
You can hire a boat to take you round the islands and they basically stop where you want so you can get off and snorkel so we went to Bamboo Island where we had lunch. We also went to Koh Phi Phi Ley, where we stayed for about an hour. We got to Maya Beach early enough so there weren’t many tourists around so we got the place to ourselves for a bit. It is simply stunning and we stayed there sunbathing and messing about in the crystal clear water before going onto Monkey Island- home to several monkeys who come down from the trees and try to get food from the visitors. They can be quite dangerous and tourists are told not to feed them because when they don’t get fed (they have become accustomed to being fed) they can start grabbing and inflict quite nasty bites and scratches.
The next day was my 40th birthday and we woke up, had breakfast and Hayley and Colette left me with Becky to go and try and sort out a hotel for one of Hayley’s friends who was arriving that day (or so I thought). An hour or so later Hayley called and told us to meet them at Hippies bar for a birthday drink. (At the time I sort of knew they were up to something for my birthday but I didn’t know what- and I am so glad I didn’t find out until I actually did). We got to the bar, ordered a drink and sat chatting just like a normal day.
And then I had the best surprise ever- I turned round and who should be walking towards us but my mum, brother, sister and my brother’s mate, Phil, their arms adorned with birthday balloons.
I couldn’t believe my eyes and I was stuck for words, for a change, in fact the first thing I said was “what the *&%$£$% hell are you doing here”? Apparently they had been plotting and planning this surprise since January. It was the most wonderful surprise and the best birthday I think I have ever had. My family had flown into Bangkok two days previously, had one night there, and then flew to Phuket for one night, and they had just arrived on Koh Phi Phi by boat. We spent the afternoon drinking beer and celebrating my birthday and my family’s arrival. It was a truly wonderful day and we all shared a wonderful experience in Thailand for the week they were there.