Swimming in Caves and Binging on Curry in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand | Travel Diary

Our series about wanderlust-worthy, slightly off-the-grid vacation hotspots, with local picks (and gorgeous pics) from our intrepid Nordstrom crew.

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GLOBETROTTER: Emma James, Senior Web Designer

WHY THERE? My boyfriend was on an around-the-world trip and wanted me to meet him somewhere. Thailand was one of his stops, and I had never been there—plus the idea of lying on a tropical beach sounded amazing. I met him in Bangkok and we flew to Krabi Town (the gateway to the southwestern Thai beach resorts) and then went by boat to the islands of Ko Ngai, Ko Jum and Ko Phi Phi Don.

WHERE DID YOU STAY? On Ko Ngai, we stayed in a great place right on the beach called Thapwarin Resort. All the resorts are clustered in one area on the island, so you can walk down the beach to check them out. On Ko Jum, we stayed at the Joy Bungalow Resort. It’s really easy to move around among all the islands; there are always longboats waiting to take you anywhere for a flat rate, and you can sail right up to the beaches.

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DON’T-MISS ACTIVITIES: Diving and snorkeling at the Morakot (Emerald) Cave on Koh Mook. The boat drops you in the ocean outside the cave, which you swim through and come up into a beautiful lagoon in the center of the island. The water in the lagoon is the color of emeralds, and when the sun hits, it reflects onto the cave walls to make them glow. It was like being in outer space.

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IF YOU COULD LIVE THERE, WHAT WOULD YOU DO FOR A LIVING? I’d be a restaurant reviewer. I have never eaten such consistently amazing food. Everything is fresh from a tree or the ocean, and the noodles, rice and curries were the best I’ve had. I felt so healthy the entire trip!

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BEST FIND: I didn’t realize how much I’d be getting in and out of boats in the water. I had packed a lot of long sundresses, which just got in the way. I found some amazing Thai-style pants that were easy to roll up but still kept my legs covered and protected from the sun and the bugs. All of the textiles there are beautiful—and so inexpensive.

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FAVORITE MEAL: Green curry with rice and coconut tapioca for dessert. As I said, all the food we had was amazing; everywhere we went, there was always a food stand. We didn’t even know what we were eating half the time, but it was all good.

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PACKING TIPS: First of all, don’t bring any hard or rolling luggage; you need a bag you can easily move over sand and in the water. A duffel or backpack is best. For clothes, it’s super hot and muggy there, but it’s also a very modest culture so it’s important to be reasonably covered. I brought lots of light layers; I basically wore my bathing suit under my clothes every day. I didn’t even need shoes—everyone goes barefoot all the time. And, as I mentioned before, pants are better than skirts for getting in and out of the boats. I also was so glad to have my big floppy hat; the sun is really strong. And don’t forget bug spray—the bugs are brutal at night.

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FAVORITE MEMORY: The people. Every single person we met was so nice and accommodating. The local people take a very service-oriented, low-key approach to life. I felt safe everywhere I went.

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The Ko Phi Phi archipelago lies in the Krabi Province off the southwest coast of Thailand. To get there, fly from Bangkok to Krabi Airport and connect to the islands by longboat.

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