Thailand: Return to the Phi Phi Islands

One of the greatest parts of my trip was camping at Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Leh.  The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was actually filmed on this very beach.  Every night, Maya Bay Camping organizes an exclusive trip to the island.  Included is transportation, several meals, camping equipment (no tents, the weather is perfect and there is definitely no need), and lots of fun activities.  Of course, having the entire island to ourselves was the real draw.  My group had 17 people plus some staff, all on an uninhabited island.  In the daytime, the tourists come by the boatload and congest the place, but in the evening – it was ours.  Just after sunrise, the water was so clear we could see a small shark chasing a school of fish.  It was an unreal experience.

Our boat
To access the island, we had to swim to this location despite the choppy waves
Maya Bay
Sunset on Maya Bay

We also did some things on Ko Phi Phi Don, the inhabited tourist haven.  We decided to spend one more night on Hat Yao (Long Beach), as we had done before.  The next day we had to catch the ferry to Phuket so we could fly to Bangkok!

Climbing to the Phi Phi Viewpoint
At the Viewpoint.  The thin strip of land is Tonsai Village.
Killing time before camping… those are fish nibbling on my feet.  Good for your skin, supposedly?
Site of our post-camping Thai massage… a woman walked on Andy’s back! At Paradise Pearl, Hat Yao
Sunrise and Ko Phi Phi Leh (where we went camping the day before)

Read more about my trip:
Part 1 – Ko Phi Phi Don
Part 2 – Ko Lanta

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Camping at Geoje Island

Monday, May 28 was Buddha’s Birthday in South Korea.  It celebrates the date when Buddha came forward into this world, and is a federal holiday – meaning no work!

Rising to the occasion, I went camping with Andy and several of our friends.  We chose the less-frequented Geoje Island (거제도), two hours south of Daegu.  Geoje is the second-largest island in the ROK, after Jeju, and is home to most of Korea’s shipbuilding.  We spent a few weeks researching the locale, but little information was available on the internet.  Undeterred, we bought some bus tickets (and camping gear!) and were on our way.

Our group, sans Emily, the photographer from whom I stole this photo (left to right: me, Keir, Jenna, Claire, Andy, Deva)

We chose Gujora Beach as our campsite.  Gujora (구조라) is a sandy beach and is very close to a small town and harbor.  Possibly due to the holiday, the beach was very crowded during the day (with Koreans and foreigners alike), but at night it was mostly campers.  The Koreans all camped in a parking lot near the bathrooms, while the foreigners camped on the actual beach.  Wacky Koreans… We chose the wooded end of the beach, which was great for privacy and some scant shade in the daytime.  For firewood, we foraged through some construction site refuse.  All in all, I’d say it was pretty ideal.

Gujora Beach – we camped at the far end

The natural bay of Gujora Beach… the water was amazingly clear!
Tiny pink tent… my home away from home

After the first night, we trekked into the town to check out the boat schedules.  The boats fill up fast so I recommend buying tickets as soon as you arrive (this goes for the bus back to Daegu too).  We almost missed out on Oedo, but we were able to get some fancy tour in the nick of time.  At the harbor, there was a small seafood market with tables next to the water.  Across the road, there were many seafood restaurants as well.  Live seafood swam in tanks outside.

Oedo (외도), or Oe Island, is home to a large botanical garden.  It reminded me of the Bahá’í Gardens in Haifa, although not quite as impressive.  The owners of the garden tried to infuse as much Mediterranean influence as possible, so the flowers and shrubs were overshadowed by Greco-Roman statutes, amphitheaters, columns, etc.  It was chaotic and crowded, but the views of the sea were absolutely gorgeous.  I think Oedo would be much more enjoyable on a less crowded day, when you have time to wander at your own pace.

A pair of stone birds on Oedo

Mediterranean-style church

Partial image of the grounds

Most of the trip was spent on the beach, relaxing around a fire and talking with friends.  It was a perfect weekend escape from Daegu.  I love seeing more of Korea – I’m constantly surprised by how beautiful it is.

 Check out a short video I made of the trip here.

For fellow expats, there is more detailed information after the jump.

Expat Info:

  • Buses to Geoje were available at the Dong-bu bus terminal in Daegu.  Each way cost 13,600.
  • There are a few buses you can take to Gujora.  22 and 67 are two off the top of my head, but there were others.  From Gujora you must walk through the town to access the beach.  We just plopped down a tent and were not bothered by anyone.
  • Ferries to Oedo are 16,000 + 8,000 for admission, but we got some kind of special package for 23,000 which included both.  Definitely try to get tickets ASAP because there was a crowd of miffed Koreans who missed out.  Same for the bus back to your home city… we bought the tickets as soon as we arrived and were almost unable to be accommodated – although we had 7 people in our party.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to comment.  I know we struggled with the lack of information in planning this trip, and I’m happy to provide some.

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