Trip Pulse: Phi Phi is for the young of heart. Our round the world trip continues.

Ko Phi Phi is a must for your round the world itinerary

Average visitor’s age is late twenties, it has amazing beaches, cheap yet delicious cuisine and excellent, inexpensive scuba diving. Oh yeah, and no mopeds or cars:)

Tsunami and Leo

This small, 28 sq km paradise island on the Andaman Sea, even though it is advertised as one of Phuket’s main attractions, is in fact 50 km away from it. The 2004 tsunami and some say, the production and aftermath of the famous movie “The Beach” devastated the island. The character’s experiences and Leo De Caprio’s wide appeal contributed in making this paradise one of the most sought after travel destinations where travellers search for the quintessential zen-like freedom.

Ko Phi Phi beach sunset during a looming storm - Round the world with kids

Unlike Phuket, which is full of leash-less dogs, Phi Phi Don is the opposite with hundreds of cats in its valleys. Its Muslim background and Ladyboys’s prevalence and acceptance also add to the unique nature and distinct vibe of this island.

Phi Phi for families:

Even though it was scorching hot, the crystal clear turquoise waters, white sand beaches, jungle fauna and flora and amazing views make this island one of our favourite destinations! The car and moped free alleys filled with dive shops, street food vendors and tourists still managed to deliver a laid back atmosphere that was very enjoyable.

Hotels are more expensive yet sub-standard to Phuket. For a good reason; it is paradise after all.

Our toddler Niko playing with the fish at Maya Beach-Round the world with kids

Needless to say, our son Niko loved the warm waters, his endless search for the most beautiful seashells as well as his first experiences swimming with the colourful tropical fish. He did also perfect a new saying while strolling with us in the alleys full of vendors: No thank you!:)

Maya Beach Island is a must see

We decided to visit the infamously beautiful Phi Phi Kah (Maya Beach) Island where “The Beach” was filmed. It is located just a short boat ride away from the main island. The trip itself is an adventure as we rented a long-tail boat with a personal driver ($40 or 1200 Baht). We  explored the island’s amazing topography, Monkey Beach (with monkeys running freely), a mini cave village and a stopover at a few amazing snorkelling spots.

The Maya beach itself is letdown with hundreds of visitors and boats covering up its beauty. We opted out for a tiny beach without any other visitors to enjoy the magnificent views.

Close encounters with fellow Torontonians

Big shout out to Mike, a zookeeper and dive master from Toronto whom we met on a bus ride to Surat Thani. He told us some unreal stories about his Phi Phi adventures living with a family deep in the jungle. At times he had to defend the fort from monkeys attempting to steal food from the house. He also gave us invaluable and practical tips on how to behave around animals including monkeys, potentially aggressive dogs or other freely roaming animals on the streets of Thailand.

For instance … to tell  if a dog is potentially dangerous, look for his tail between his legs when approaching. This suggests a non-confident dog that could potentially attack when frightened. His suggestion is to walk around the dog, while looking in his direction to avoid direct eye-contact, as it may be interpreted as provocation.

We would love to hear your thoughts? Anything on Phi Phi, other favourite beach destination or Leo De Caprio? Please share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

Here are some of our photos from our Phi Phi (Thailand) visit:

Trip Pulse: Phuket is a good transit point. Our round the world trip continues in Thailand.

You quickly realize all of Phuket’s major attractions are not on Phuket. James Bond, Similan and Phi Phi Islands…This makes Phuket a great transit point on our round the world adventure.

Phuket is Thailand’s largest island on the Andaman Sea. The island formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber, and now tourism. This island remains a major tourist attraction but not for its climate, nice temples and beaches but rather its proximity to the true wonders of the world including Similan or Phi Phi Islands. Places like Patong also give it the infamous title of one of Thailand’s sex trade capitals which, we can happily say, we didn’t experience at all.

Tsunami warning signs act as permanent reminders of the tragic 2004 tsunami at every beach entrance. We spoke to our taxi driver whose family was spared as they were on their lifetime trip to Mecca at the time of the tragic event.

Compared to other islands in Thailand, we welcomed a well developed infrastructure of roads along many affordable food joints. It is here, we learned the new definition of ‘spicy’. Even the canned, Thai flavoured tuna was delicious and lip-burning. We even found one of Thailand’s best french-thai restaurants, one of our favourite culinary highlights thus far.

Phuket for families:

We didn’t know what to expect coming here except for some preconceived notions that Phuket is not for kids Temple in Phuket, Thailandnor families. However, our journey took us to a less touristy east coast of the island, Rawai Beach close to amazing beaches like Nai Naharn Beach, which we found perfect for Niko and kids of all ages.

Stay tuned for the next post about Phi Phi!

What do you prefer? The touristy or the road less travelled on? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks!

Here are some of our photos from our Phuket (Thailand) visit:

Final Thoughts: Beijing – Capital of the North – Round the world with children

An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger. – Confucius

Let’s face it, I had many preconceived notions about China, one of the few remaining world’s communist regimes. I expected to see much poverty and difficulty my parents experienced in communist Poland in the 1980’s. The reality seemed quite different when we arrived here on our around the world stopover. When we first arrived in mainland China in Shenzhen, Natasza and I had opposing first impressions. Natasza noticed people who looked far poorer than in Hong Kong, while I was impressed with the well-developed infrastructure and presence of western brands including some reserved for the ultra rich. Perhaps, with a country of 1.3 billion people and over 100 billionaires my notion of modern communism was completely wrong.

Isn’t China one big contradiction with its political authoritarianism on one hand and a global capitalistic power on the other?

As much as you can feel the capitalistic play in motion here, much is still in question: Personal Freedom.

Beside the street hustlers who took only a few seconds to approach us at the train station selling the latest ‘brand’ goods and services, we saw empty Gucci stores, overpriced Starbucks cafés (coffee costs more in China than a full meal at a decent restaurant) and deliciously unhealthy KFC’s with more workers than they know what to do with.

  • We found taxi drivers who preferred to play cards than take our money.
  • We couldn’t call a taxi from our hotel, the hotel clerk had to run out to the main street with us to hail one.
  • We also had lamps in our hotel rooms that served as decoration only producing no light.
  • At first we thought we had poor weather with a haze and cloud cover for the entirety of our stay. It turned out, it was heavy smog hovering a few hundred meters above the city.
  • These are just a few reminders that somethings are just OFF in China.

    1. What we enjoyed the most or the least:

    The city is home to over 19 million people with its most-deserving name meaning ‘capital of the north’. Beijing is the historical and cultural centre of China. We have never felt so much history and culture passing through other Asian cities, as we did here.

    Top attractions of Beijing we were able to explore on our trip around the world:


    we loved these narrow alleys in the old part of the city with local shops, best local cuisine, cafés and street vendors selling handmade goods including the famous Beijing buttermilk or deep-fried scorpions.

    Old lady sitting on one of Beijing's hutongs

    Forbidden City

    was amazingly huge and brilliant with its imperial architecture. This World Heritage Site consists of over 9,000 rooms of an area of 720,000 m2. For almost 500 years this large palace complex, built in 1400’s, was home to emperors and served as a centre of major political ceremonies and events. It took us a full day to see it. It’s a must-see.

    Tiananmen Square

    this enormous square serves as the symbol of the mixture of traditional values, historical greatness and ‘success’ of new People’s Republic of China (PRC). The prominent placement of Chairman Mao’s picture on the north gates

    Entrance to Forbidden Palace of the Forbidden City is proof of that. To me, it served as a reminder of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, and possibly hope for a fully democratic China. Ironically, Tiananmen Gate also means the Gate of Heavenly Peace

    Temple of Confucius

    you may be unable to find this cultural gem on many of the tourist maps handed out in tourist centres. The reason? Confucius was the great thinker 500 B.C. and his philosophy, Confucianism, for centuries has defined the core of the Chinese society. The main dogma behind its teachings? Humanism, communal endeavour including self-cultivation and self-creation. As you can imagine at most times it is at odds with the existing regime. Hence, the quote in the heading.

    Traditional costume in Beijing

    This is a very complex issue but nonetheless worth exploring if you wish to know more about the Chinese inner psyche.

    Great Wall of China

    is enormous and makes an amazing impression. This grand project started in 500 BC to defend against enemies from the north (it didn’t work by the way) and may have cost 1 million lives to complete. Nonetheless, it’s an amazing symbol of human ingenuity. Another must-see.

    Niko was treated like a superstar or maybe an alien in China. Many locals would just stare at him, want to take pictures with/of him or even touch his hair. The truth is there are many Chinese tourists here from rural China who most likely haven’t seen a Caucasian child before in person.
    People obsessed with Niko in China

    People obsessed with Niko in China

    Beijing Roast Duck

    I had it and to be honest, it wasn’t any better than the one I tasted in Chinatown in Toronto. If you haven’t tried, it’s a must.


    2. Activities our toddler Niko enjoyed the most:

    Beijing Zoo and its Giant Pandas

    This Zoo is just massive with 450 animal species, The lion's statute at the Beijing Zoo14,500 animals and the main attraction Giant Pandas. Niko loved to see the Pandas as they fooled around on the trees.


    3. Our average expenses: China is very affordable but not as cheap as you may think

  • Accommodations: $70-100 for a 3 star-type hotel
  • Restaurants: 10 – 30 dollars/visit for 3 of us
  • Food, transportation (car rental) and entertainment: $30 /day
  • Note: $ refers universally to US/CA/AU that trade all within 5-10% of each other

    4. Our first impressions of locals, their culture and customs:

    Social Etiquette and Customs in China

    Chinese follow many etiquette rules that include avoidance of; direct eye contact, sneezing in public or public affection. Yet some of the Western conventions of good etiquette (as we know it) are not observed here and often include loud speaking, spitting in public, loud eating, disregard for public property, no respect in lineups and even loud public flatulence. It was frustrating at times trying to get through the door with the stroller, so don’t expect anyone to let you through.  Shove or be shoved.
    Comprehensive Management - Lost in Translation

    Here is an interesting post about social norms in China

    General tips for travelling in Beijing

  • Taxis at the airport should not cost more than 100 yuan. We received quotes up to 400, so ask the driver to turn the meter on (they may refuse)!
  • The cheapest way to get from Beijing to the Balding Great Wall of China is to take the 919 bus from east of the Deshengmen Arrow Tower bus station. There are people who look like bus terminal employees discouraging you from taking a bus instead of taking a cab. Not sure why, but we felt a stake in it for them to have tourists take cabs and not public buses.
  • Great Firewall of China – it does exist, forget about being able to use any social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Tripadvisor or other review related sites that may review China. I fully expect our BLOG will become censored after this post!
  • Crossing the street is an art in China. Cars will never stop for pedestrians regardless if you are an official crossing or not. Driving style is very aggressive and I would recommend against driving here!
  • That being said, we found all places worth visiting, for their rich cultural heritage and social customs.

    How do you perceive world’s cultural differences, do you welcome them in open arms or not? Is it about acceptance or about tolerance? Let us know in the comments section below. Thanks!

    Here are some of our photos from our Beijing visit: