The ferry to Ko Phi Phi looked like spring break. Tons of young Westerners flooded the boat in their sundresses and bright tank tops ready to party away the end of 2014.
Kara and I boarded in Ao Nang and hoped that the promise of picking up Kate and Garrett from Tonsai on the way would work out. As per usual, it did, just in a very safety third kind of way. We hovered in the open water as a dozen long tail boats brought passengers aboard from Tonsai and Railay. Eventually Kate and Garrett were in one of these boats. Phew, we were relieved that worked out.
When we got to Phi Phi there were tons of men standing on the pier with signs for hotels and guesthouses. They put our backpacks in a cart and pushed it ahead, winding through the maze of Phi Phi’s town, leading us to our hotel. After we dropped our stuff we went straight to the beach for lunch.
The beach at Ko Phi Phi was more spring break. There were bars and chairs lining the beach full of tanning bodies. After a very chill beach restaurant for lunch we found a patch of sand to call our own and alternated exploring the water. Kara and I walked out. And walked and walked and walked. How far does it go this shallow? Pretty damn far. The ocean bay in this part of Phi Phi is like a giant shelf. Eventually we got in to our waists and had to drop down to our knees to finally go under. And the water was hot, like bathtub temperature. We crawled back on our hands. Garrett went on a mission for a frisbee and came back with a mat to lay on and a few beers. We played frisbee in the water with a new friend from San Francisco. I hadn’t seen so many Americans in such a long time as I saw on Phi Phi for New Years (including an old college friend I hadn’t seen since graduation who was checking in at the same hotel at the same time as us! So random.).
It was almost time for the main event: New Year’s Eve. Our hotel had required a “New Year’s Eve Gala” dinner when we booked it so Kate and Garrett got tickets to join us. We were not prepared. Everyone got a boutonniere and welcome drink upon arrival. We ordered cocktails while we waited for the Thai buffet to start. In the middle of buffet time they announced there would be games. At first people were hesitant to join, but then they announced the prize would be a bottle of wine. Kate, Garrett and I were the first on stage. After a rousing game of “try to pop the balloons on your competitors ankles before yours is popped or you break your ankle” in which Garrett and I were the last ones standing (couldn’t let me have it could you Garrett?) we enjoyed Garrett’s victory wine with our fruit and fried banana dessert.
10:00 rolled around and we decided it was time: to the beach! We stopped on the way to pick up the traditional drink of Ko Phi Phi: a bucket. We started with one purchased before we got to the beach; it was cheaper, and all the bottles were sealed so we knew what we were getting ourselves into. Four straws please. We took our new giant beverage with us to the beach and our jaws dropped.
The beach was a rave. Bar after bar after bar was open to the water playing music for anyone who wanted to walk up and join. After years of paying ridiculous covers to get into bars on New Year’s (or avoiding them at a house party) the bars on Phi Phi’s beach were welcoming us in with open arms and bucket stands. Lasers projected out over the crowd and there were people spinning fire in front of most bars. We did see a fire stick go rogue and hit a few girls sitting not too far away – Kara’s “watch out!” warning did not do the FLYING FIRE justice – but they seemed okay and everyone moved on. I felt like I was back at Burning Man. People roamed free, happily bouncing from DJ to DJ, towing their plastic buckets around with them.
When it got close to midnight, and we were on our second and third buckets, Garrett noticed a bunch of people had moved out into the water. There was a sandbar. We joined the sandbar club, carefully avoiding the ocean, which had turned into a giant toilet for the male gender. From out on the sandbar we could look back and see the whole crazy beach party behind us. It was epic.
Someone started a countdown and 2014 was almost over. As it struck 2015 Kara and I shared a kiss on the cheek and yelled Happy New Year! Fireworks exploded literally above us. It was the coolest way I’ve ever watched fireworks.
We stayed on the beach for a couple more hours, jumping around according to what song we liked best, until it was finally time for us to call it a night. It was an awesome party. I was so happy to have friends in town to celebrate with; I think I can safely say that Kara, Kate and Garrett had a good time too. This New Year’s is going to be a hard one to beat.