Posted: 9/22/2010 | September 22nd, 2010
This is a guest post by Sean Ogle, who blogs about location independence at locationrebel.com
When you think of dangerous islands, you might think of earthquake-prone and poverty-stricken Haiti. Or maybe it’s Australia, with its deadly spiders and snakes. Or perhaps it’s someplace even more remote, like the jungle wilderness of Borneo.
Every year, thousands of people flock to this island to relax in the sun, swim in the ocean, and dive the surrounding reefs. But despite its international reputation as being a world-class travel destination, for many young travelers it can often be the most dangerous place they visit on their trip through Southeast Asia. What makes Ko Phi Phi so dangerous?
Two words: buckets and fire.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Thai bucket, it’s a combination of Red Bull, Thai whiskey, and either Coke or Sprite. It gets its name from the small sand pails in which they are served and is a staple on the Thai tourist trail.
My personal bucket-and-fire story started seemingly harmlessly enough, with a burning rope landing on my foot.
Originally, I thought nothing of it. I cleaned it up and took care of it. Yet three weeks later when I had an infection half an inch deep and was forced to make my first visit to a Thai hospital, I realized it was more than nothing.
Others get it much worse, getting mangled on flaming jump ropes or falling on top of fiery limbo sticks. I saw one British guy forcefully removed from the activities because he was too drunk to feel the constant burns he was inflicting upon himself with the rope.
The combination of buckets and the fire antics that take place at beach bars such as Ibiza and Apache put inebriated travelers in a position to have the best nights they’ll never remember, yet leave them with scars that will never let them forget the nights they spent on Ko Phi Phi.
On any particular night, you can head down to any of these beach bars around 10pm and find an exciting display of poi fire dancers, fire jump-ropers, and even a fire limbo.
You watch in awe as you sip on your first drink, wondering how anyone could possibly have the nerve to participate in such an acrobatic display of fire mastery. The Thais doing these moves seem to be masters at it, catching balls of fire thrown at them from across the beach. They have real talent.
However, over time, something begins to change. The locals begin to invite tourists to participate in a little jump-roping, promising to go slow, and always ensuring you that you won’t get hurt.
Yet as the night wears on, the audience gets more excited, more drunk, and more daring. They want to go faster and sometimes two at a time. As they get drunker, their reflexes slow down — and that’s when people get hurt.
As the alcohol continues to flow, the fire seems to disappear, as you show off your flexibility and ability to dive head first into the flames. The next day, it seems like everywhere you look on Ko Phi Phi, travelers have bandaged arms or heads. They’re on crutches or perhaps have a couple casts on various appendages.
After your first night on the island, you’ll understand where those came from.
The time I spent on Phi Phi was among the best I’ve had in Thailand. I loved the beaches and the people I met. Yet it’s important to be aware of what goes on there and not to be influenced by your friends or your nightly “liquid courage.”
[Matt’s note: I did not like Ko Phi Phi.]
Sean Ogle is a location-independent entrepreneur who teaches people how to overcome fear in order to live the lives they really want.
Get the In-Depth Budget Guide to Thailand!
My detailed 350+ page guidebook is made for budget travelers like you! It cuts out the fluff found in other guidebooks and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel around Thailand. You’ll find suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off-the-beaten-path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, bars, safety tips, and much more! Click here to learn more and get your copy today.
Book Your Trip to Thailand: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
- Rock Backpacker (a walk-in only hostel)
- Hanover Hostel
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- Safety Wing (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Looking for more information on visiting Thailand?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide to Thailand for even more planning tips!