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Phi Phi Islands and Around, Thailand

by admin on May 20th, 2010

Ko Phi Phi, pronounced “pee pee”, are made up of 2 islands: a bigger one (Ko Phi Phi Don), with its main village Ton Sai – home to most tourist accommodation (Ton Sai means “tourist” in Thai!!!), and a smaller one (Ko Phi Phi Lei), with basically nothing on it, famed for the filming of Leonardo Di Caprio’s movie “The Beach”.

The islands were devastated by the 2004 tsunami – basically no building in the main village of Ton Sai on the big island was left standing when waves hit it from both sides (from one side with about 800km/h). However, everything on Phi Phi Don seems to be back up and running. And RUNNING. Someone was writing on a website that it’s impossible not to “shed a tear” if you saw the big island in the early 90s and you are returning now. The beautiful village bay, with perfectly clear water full of colourful tropical fish on both sides of a tongue of fine white sand was taken over by a jetty, and noisy boats and restaurants (with the entailing garbage of course).

Ko Phi Phi Don and Lei are part of a Protected Marine National Park and apparently, before the tsunami, the government was making progress in limiting development and setting up more rules for the existing one, but with the chaos following the natural disaster (and perhaps connected to the high levels of corruption in Thailand), groups of interest have managed to regain control of Ko Phi Phi Don and development has re-exploded with no restrictions.

Most places to stay (of reasonable prices) are in Ton Sai village, but this is no quiet or relaxing place. Its few narrow streets have turned into a giant bazaar with merchants trying to sell you overpriced cheap-souvenirs and ladies calling you in(to) dubious places for massage.

In spite of all this, Phi Phi and the surrounding area are of such an amazing tropical beauty, that when the boat first brings you here, your jaw will drop. Even stepping down of a ferry, at the jetty, with tenths of noisy motor boats all around, we saw a colony of “Nemo fish” making their way through somehow still clear water.

Also, if you sleep in Ton Sai it doesn’t mean you have to spend the day there; you can take snorkeling trips or taxi boats to the Phi Phi Lei, the northern less developed beaches of Phi Phi Don or a few other uninhabited islands around that look better than any perfect tropical-beach post cards!

Village road, by where we stayed:

By Ko Phi Phi Lei (the small island) this is where they collect swiftlets’ nests, which are used for the Chinese delicacy “bird nest soup” and make for a profitable business (probably a reason why Phi Phi Lei has escaped development):

By the bird nests, in our snorkeling boat:

Ma ya bay, where “The Beach” was filmed:

The next 3 are at Ma ya bay:

Bamboo Island, an uninhabited island close by. The beach and water here are of unbelievable beauty. We arrived early and had it all to ourselves for 30 min, after which hoards of tourists came in speed boats:

A beach further from the village on the big island:

At our breakfast coffee shop, very hot:

Practical Advice

Where to sleep: White (about 1200 BT/night), in Ton Sai Village; clean, air con, private bathroom

Where to eat:
Only one good place to eat in Ton Sai – oops! we forgot the name (to come later)

Must see: Bamboo Island, Ma ya Bay

— Ma ya bay gets awfully crowded during the day – the bay fills with boats.

— Do not be worried about a new tsunami if you go to Phi Phi. When the 2004 tragedy happened, the tsunami notion was foreign to Thai people, and thus caught them totally unprepared. Now, every place has well set up evacuation routes and alarms that are set up to sound one hour before a wave would hit the shores. This being said, chances that something similar happens again are close to zero.

  1. okieh permalink

    So much beauty :) and you guys seem to have fun.

    … but the really stunning part is the picture with the rain clouds. The light on the water surface, the shade of the boats in the background, and the atmosphere with the dark clouds are just amazing.
    I love this picture.

  2. i am extremely happy for you – it looks awesome. have great fun, enjoy life, keep the good spirit up!

  3. Gerald McLaughlin permalink

    You guys are looking great and so does the water. I envy you (in a nice way). What kind of dubious places Alex?

  4. alm permalink

    v cool

  5. admin permalink

    Well, these ladies are just sitting on the floor in front of their place and call “massage” when you walk by. Sometimes the inside looks just like a mysterious dark cave so you can’t see anything. The funniest was one that we could actually see inside of, that had about 10 beds aligned (with no separation between them) with white people on them, all getting massage at the same time! Production line massage I guess!
    Maybe “dubious” wasn’t the right word, but for sure didn’t seem too relaxing. I am sure the really great places are there somewhere but not off the main village street.

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