I visited Thailand in March/April 2013 with 5 friends (although we met others along the way). Below is an account of my time in Koh Phi Phi.
Keen to escape the ladyboys of Pa Tong, Phuket we booked the 2 hour ferry to Koh Phi Phi. The Phi Phi (pronounced pee-pee) Islands are part of the Krabi province and situated between the island of Phuket and the west Strait of Malacca on the mainland.
The islands have been made internationally famous by Alex Garlands novel ‘The Beach’ which was turned into a blockbuster hit starring Leonardo Di Caprio of the same name which actually takes place on the smaller of the 2 islands, Koh Phi Phi Leh. Because of this, Phi Phi, alongside Koh Pha Ngan for the full moon party is one of THE places to visit in Thailand. Looking at pictures of the islands, you can understand why!.
Koh Phi Phi Don is the larger an inhabited of the two islands. It is hard to believe that the island was devastated in the 2006 Boxing Day Tsunami and hit by 2 waves. The island is a great mix of peaceful island vibes and hardcore island partying. We stayed at the Apache Beach House on the northern beach. Prices on the island are slightly more expensive than the rest of Thailand but still extremely affordable.
Phi Phi life was very enjoyable, combine sunbathing with swimming and the odd trek / excursion to the shop and let the world pass by. The most daring aspect of our day was trying out various illegible brands of red-bull and the natural speed they contain. The beach has quite a large tidal range (ooo geography) so in the evening at low tide the water went all the way out of the beach.
By night, the whole island flip reversed and some of the best parties we experienced in Thailand were focuses on that northern beach (next to a giant statue of an erect penis). My favourite spot was actually the club in the town itself which had a giant boxing ring in the middle. In between exhibition Muay Thai fights, punters were invited to wage civil war on their friends (or complete strangers) in exchange for a free bucket.
Some, who all seemed to have tribal tattoo’s took this far to seriously but others took it in good faith. Neil and Goon who lived together at the time decided to fight one night, well Gooner did because it was Neil’s birthday (and something about a washing machine not working).
The fight was fought in good spirits and Neil came out fighting but it was ultimately stopped in the second round. A valiant fight (although Neil did come off with a broken nose….) Happy Birthday.
One night we decided to go all out with the high-vis vests and neon paint. We also decided to play the Smirnoff Ice game. This is a game that some of the lads had introduced in previous trips where Smirnoff Ices are placed in hidden but unimposing locations (under laundry / in a bag). If someone discovered the Ice unwillingly they had to get on one knee and down the Smirnoff Ice. Due to the cost of the imported drink, it is a game we only played once but it was enjoyable nevertheless.
Koh Phi Phi Leh
Whilst in Phi Phi you have to visit ‘The Beach’ or Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh. The beach can, however get very crowded due to the number of tourists that travel over from the mainland. We therefore decided to book a trip with Maya Bay Tours and spend a night on the island. The trip was around £35-£40 per person which, if you considered it also consisted of a night away was well worth the cost.
The tour, which left the main island at 3pm arrived as the day trips left and allowed private access to one of the most famous beaches in the world. The tour started by travelling around the island and exploring the hard to access coves and swimming spots. Liam and Pete who are former gymnasts also got the opportunities to show off their back flips off the top of the boat whilst the rest of us simply jumped in haha.
From here we entered into the Bay and viewed the beach for the first time.
Due to the size of the boat and the presence of swimmers in the bay, the boat docked here and a longtail boat came out to taxi guests to the island. For the brave (aka me ;)) we were asked who wanted to swim to shore (approximately 400m) and I took the challenge. After 2 weeks of beer and little exercise I thought I would struggle but sssh, you could touch the bottom in many places haha.
Whilst the beach remained packed with other parties, we explored the depths of the island and the alternative entrance to the beach through a passage in the jungle.It is only a 5 minute walk to this part of the island and well worth tearing yourself away from the main attraction.
Finally, with the crowds leaving, we had the chance to truly experience the beach to ourselves aswell as the obligatory jumping shot which I have seen from many travelers and friends alike.
Dinner was a home cooked BBQ which was included in the price of the ticket. We had chicken with local veg.
After washing dinner down with a beer or two came my favourite moment in Thailand, and probably my favourite moment in all my travels ever (yes, seriously).
As night falls and the island descends into total darkness there is a chance to swim in the bay with the bioluminescence plankton. These invisible wildlife emit a strange blue hue as they are disturbed which means the whole sea erupts into life when you swim. The colour is not quite as defining as Leo in the Beach but it is a truly magical experience and one I was delighted to share with the 5 friends that made the trip. A truly remarkable experience which, in itself is worth the cost of the trip.
I must admit that this trip was primarily focused on older travelers or couples who didn’t mind missing the crazy Phi Phi nightlife. However we still made a party of it and drank the small shop on the island dry before heading back down to the beach to enjoy the stars and sleep on the beach
Note: soon after this trip, the Thai government decided to restrict overnight access to the beach. You can still do this trip but you do have to sleep on the boat moored in the natural harbour.
Morning came and we came round with groggy heads to the most spectacular of sites. The bay during sunrise is simply breathtaking and something we will always remember. We were able to have breakfast and enjoy the beach for a few more hours before the day trippers rolled back in.
The 4 days we stayed on both islands were remarkable. Many people debate which is the best island and this is usually a battle between Phi Phi and Koh Tao. For me there is only one winner!!