The Phi Phi Islands are five small islands off the coast of Thailand and have long been revered for their beaches and water sports. The islands have grown increasing in popularity over the past few years, but have managed to retain their nature beauty.
Day 1 – Sunday, February 1, 2015
Ferries run to Koh Phi Phi Don, the only inhabited Phi Phi island, daily from several nearby islands. We took a ferry from Phuket. The ferry was a very large boat with indoor seating and outdoor decks. We enjoyed most of the trip sitting outside, but eventuality the heat got to us and we went into the air conditioned interior where the movie Avatar was playing. The total ride from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi Don took about 2 hours.
We had booked a room at the Sea-sky Resort in advance for a night. We had heard it was a bit of a walk, but that they will provide guidance from the dock. However, we had not provided the resort with any information regarding our arrival, so we were pleasantly surprised to see a young man holding a sign with the hotel name at the boat pier. He pulled out a sheet of paper with Jon’s name on it and asked if that was us. He led us through narrow twisting streets of Phi Phi Don Village. When the streets widened slightly he got a wagon like cart and put our bags into it and continued leading us through the town. He explained to us that at hightide the hotel would have been able to use a boat to take our bags from the pier but that it was currently low tide. He also told us how there are no cars in town, just bikes.
Phi Phi Don Village sits on a narrow strip of low land between two crescent shaped bays. Our hotel was slightly outside of town, but within walking distance. We had our own bungalow overlooking the Loh Dalum Bay and the village. It was a very hot day, I’d say the hottest to date of our travels in Thailand, and we needed a little time to cool off in our hotel room. Eventually we headed back out to see the town and get lunch.
We wandered through town and all the way to the other bay, Tom Sai Bay. We checked a few menus and even got a recommendation from a man in a dive shop while looking for lunch (he recommended the Noodle Bar). A lot of the restaurants advertised Thai dishes for 80B ($2.50), so we finally just picked one of those for lunch, Siam Inter. We ended up splitting what was an enormous portion of of pad Thai.
After eating we walked to the beach. The beach was still at low tide and boats were washed up on the sand. A local boat captain was laughing at the tourists on the beach saying ‘what are they going to do? its low tide’. We walked across the sand and waded into the water to feel it and to cool down.
When the sun started to sink in the sky, we headed towards what is known simply as the ‘viewpoint‘. The viewpoint is a rocky patch on the hill that overlooks Phi Phi Don. The hike there was mostly uphill on stairs. Near the top a 30B/person ($1.00) fee was collected. There are 2 viewpoints. We went straight to viewpoint #2. Lots of tourists were already seated there waiting for sunset. From the top you could see all of Phi Phi Don Village as well as both bays, Tom Sai Bay and Loh Dalum Bay. We joined the other tourists and waited as the sun went down.
Before descending, we continued along another path marked for Rantee Bay. We walked past some Thais who told us about a third viewpoint so we changed our direction and went there. The third viewpoint was a platform behind an old hotel, and wasn’t a particularly interesting view. We returned the way we had come, and skipped Viewpoint #1 because of the fading light.
That evening for dinner we decided to finally give in to our pizza craving and got slices from a street-side vendor. Although we both had Hawaiian pizza, Jon’s slice was decent while mine was overcooked. Then we went to Reggae Bar.
Reggae Bar is a bar, but more than that, it is a Thai boxing studio. We sat down at 7:30, just before the first fight started. We were surprised to see that the first fight was two boxing students who were probably less than 16 years old. They were interesting to watch, pretty good, and both of them showed a lot of sportsmanship throughout the fight. When they finished the bar’s real intent came to light; Reggae bar offers free booze to tourists who volunteer to box each other. The first match of tourists was two giggly girls. After they finished several guys boxed each other. Every match was getting better and better. I think a few of the guys may have had boxing experience. I hated to admit how much I was starting to enjoy the matches. After about 5 tourist matches, two very serious and scary looking men got into the ring. We could tell right away that these guys were the real deal. Their match was intense. Both of them were knocked down several times and a few times even fell out of the ring. It was a very exciting match to watch. We left when it was over before more tourists got into the ring.
We walked back to the beach to check out the music and lights that were there now. Several bars are along the beach and they had all come alive. Once on the beach, we could walk from bar to bar watching each bar’s various entertainment. The two main bars seemed to be run together and had fire jugglers, double dutch jump ropers (which the audience could join), and the limbo. A bar further down the beach tied balloons to people’s ankles and was having games to see who could protect their balloon from being popped. All of the bars were entertaining and we watched for a while as we enjoyed the cool night air.
Day 2 – Monday, February 2, 2015
There are a few things everyone does when they visit Koh Phi Phi. Mainly they take a longboat to some of the more popular beaches and go snorkeling. Throughout town are advertisements for half day and full day boat trips. We signed up for a morning half day trip through our hotel. After eating breakfast at the hotel, we were escorted into town by a hotel bellhop. We were taken to a travel agency in town and asked to wait as other tourists slowly arrived. While waiting, we were given one sandwich and one orange drink each. Eventually we were escorted from the travel agency to a longtail boat. Once we were all aboard, and moved slightly by the captain to balance the boat, we were off.
The first stop was Monkey Beach which is on Koh Phi Phi Don. Monkey Beach was a small strip of sand along the bay. Other boats pulled over signaled our caption that there were no monkeys there right now, so we continued on. The second stop was Viking Cave. I’m not sure what exactly Viking Cave was, but we were shown a cavern with some wooden platforms and ropes erected in it.
Next we left Koh Phi Phi Don for Koh Phi Phi Lee and the Black Lagoon. I would have to say that this was one of my favorite stops on the tour. The Lagoon is a small cove surrounded by tall cliffs. When we arrived we were slightly ahead of the crowd, so there were some boats already there, but not too many. We were told that we could swim, so we did. The swimming was nice, but what we really enjoyed was taking turns driving off of the bow of the boat. We left the Black Lagoon for Pe-leh Bay. Once again we didn’t leave the boat and just continued on after taking some photos.
Finally we got to the highlight of Koh Phi Phi, Maya Beach. Maya Beach is famous because it is where the 1990 movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed. Similar to the Black Lagoon, the natural setting of Maya Beach was beautiful; green mountains surrounding a beautiful blue water cove. Unfortunately, Maya Beach was packed with tourists. Before going ashore we docked to the side of the bay to swim again. Jon mentioned that the tour had advertised snorkeling, so the crew handed us masks and snorkels. I’m glad that Jon said something, because once the masks were on, we could see lots of fish underwater. There were a few huge schools of blue fish that would come by. After snorkeling for 20 minutes, the boat took us ashore onto Maya Beach. On our way off the boat we were handed meals of fried rice. The beach was packed with people and boats, but we were able to lay our towels out in the sand. We ate the rice and the prepared sandwiches which had been given to us earlier. It wasn’t bad, but I can only describe the sandwich as a ‘coleslaw sandwich’ if you made coleslaw with half onions. Since we were there, we took a quick dip in the water which was perfectly clear and beautiful and then walked around to make sure we hadn’t missed anything.
Maya Beach concluded the half day tour. If you take the full day boat tour, the tour includes Bamboo Island and Koh Bida as well. The ride back to Koh Phi Phi Don can only be described as ‘white knuckle’. Even thought it was a clear day, waves rocked the boat and crashed against it soaking us. As we neared Monkey Beach again, there were monkeys out, so our captain pulled over to let us disembark. The monkeys were fearless and came right up to people, many of which would feed the monkeys chips and cans of soda even though a sign posted said it was illegal to feed the animals. After a bit of engine trouble our longtail boat made it back around 1pm.
We had a little bit of time before our ferry to Koh Lanta, so we sat at the hotel restaurant and cooled down with some fruit shakes. When it was time to leave, the hotel bellhops loaded our bags into the cart and escorted us through town and too the boat docks.
Transportation: The Phi Phi islands can only be reached by boat. Ferries run between the Phi Phi islands and many of the adjacent islands as well as Krabi on mainland Thailand. The ferries are well advertised at travel agent booths across the region. Additionally, many tour companies offer day trips to the Phi Phi islands.
On Koh Phi Phi Don there is no transportation (taxis, cars, etc). Be prepared to walk, although many hotels offer escorts to carry your bags.
Tourist Tax: When you disembark onto Koh Phi Phi Done there is a tourist tax of 20B/person (less than $1.00). The signs say the tax is to account for clean up caused by the excess of tourists.
Money: The local currency in Thailand is the Baht. Credit cards are more widely accepted in Thailand, however cash is needed in smaller stores, restaurants, and street food. Some places may charge an extra 3-8% if paying with a credit card. I didn’t notice an excess of ATMs on Koh Phi Phi and recommend you bring the amount in cash you expect to need while there. The exchange rate was 34 Baht = $1.00 .
Visa Information: For American tourists traveling to Thailand for less than 30 days, the need for a visa is waived. This will be done at your entry point to the country, such as an airport, prior to arriving at Koh Phi Phi.
Water: Don’t drink it. Bottled water is widely available.
Malaria: Unless you are traveling to remote areas of northern Thailand, there is no need for malaria pills. We still wear bug spray often though.