Dream of The Phi Phi Islands!
We had decided not to do it…we had left ourselves a little short of time in Thailand with everything we wanted to see and do and we made the decision that a tour of the Phi Phi Islands would be the thing which we let slide. We would be going to Phang Nga, Bangkok, Phuket, Phuket Elephant Santctuary, plus we wanted a little bit of time to chill out and unwind. So that was it…the tour we would miss out on would be of the Phi Phi Islands. I had read about how they had become a real tourist trap now anyway, especially since Leonardo Di Caprio’s film The Beach had been set there and it was overcrowded and had changed because of that…it wasn’t “authentic” anymore…I was going to be a travel snob and justify it that way….
But it was eating me away inside…
I had that feeling I was missing out…
It was nagging at me in the back of my mind…
We had one day spare, just one day… “Lets go and speak to the reception staff and see what trips they have running.” There it was…The Phi Phi Islands by speedboat! We couldn’t resist any more, those colours, the scenery…we had to go and see what all the fuss was about for ourselves, why were so many people still heading there? The staff at our amazing hotel in Phuket, the Movenpick Resort, Bangtao Beach, were so helpful and began ringing the tour companies for us. For a moment when we were told the first company called were fully booked we thought that we would have to miss it! Then luckily the second company called had space for the two of us… “We’re in!”
The next morning we were picked up and whisked away to the port on the east coast of Phuket. When we arrived we were told what the plan would be and shown to the speedboat we would be travelling in and then they asked the question “Does anyone want to sit in the front? It’s a little rougher and you might get wet that’s the only thing!” I looked at Katalin…I could tell by her face she wasn’t sure, nobody else was volunteering….”Yeah we’ll sit in the front!” We were on our own for most of the trip and it made it so much fun!
It was an exhilarating ride, the water was pretty calm but we were going so fast we were still bouncing every now and again, it was almost like a roller coaster ride amongst some of the most spectacular scenery in the world! It was awesome! The further we went the more the colours changed…this was what we had seen, this was that tropical dream destination.
Our first stop was Bamboo Island…was this where Tom Hanks was castaway? This place was like every beach everyone has ever washed up on and been stranded on in any movie! No buildings except for a lifeguard tower ad a couple of shacks. Just the most amazing blue sea, white sand, and deep thick tropical forest…awesome!
The beach was just dream like, and the colour of the see, there was no way I was not jumping in there. It was the most perfect colour I have ever seen…any where! Crystal clear, that impossibly perfect turquoise sea blue. It was worth the trip alone! This would of been the best beach day ever just staying here all day…but we had a lot more adventure to come!
We took a dip and soaked up the scenery, we could see the fishes swimming around our feet where we were kicking the sand up, so clean, and not crowded at all. We could make out the Phi Phi islands in the distance as well which was making us even more excited, with the first stop being so cool we were excited to see the other destinations…but it was also a little but of a wrench to drag ourselves off the beach when the time came!
Next up we were taken out to sea a little way over some coral where we could snorkel and watch the tropical fish swimming all around us. I love snorkelling and wherever we go if I have the opportunity to do this I do, this other world under the water is filled with wonder for me, a brilliant experience. We found Nemo here too…loads of Nemos!
Phi Phi Don
We got back aboard the boat and this time set sail for the Phi Phi islands…and lunch! Phi Phi Don was the island we were heading for. Phi Phi Don is the largest of the Phi Phi islands and has a population of 2000-3000 people. This is a big backpacker haunt, and is also where the party is in the Phi Phi Islands!
It’s the only one of the islands which has accommodation built on it and since the tourism boom following the release of The Beach in the 90’s has become an increasingly popular place for people to visit and stay. With all this in mind though…it still wasn’t overcrowded, and it still has a beautiful coastline.
Lunch was O.K, buffet style and the normal kind of standard you would expect when on one of these kind of tours, nothing special. We didn’t really have enough time for this place to really sink in with me, maybe if you stayed here for a few nights you would get a better feel for the place but for me Phi Phi Don didn’t give me a special feeling, maybe that tourism boom has had a negative effect here, I’m not sure. It definitely has the feel that development has happened too quickly here in an attempt to milk the increased tourist trade. There was still a chilled out vibe to the place though despite this, but everything really is aimed at tourists.
After lunch again we returned to the boat, it wasn’t as much of a wrench leaving Phi Phi Don for me! I was ready to be back surrounded by the natural beauty of the place, and I wasn’t to be disappointed. As soon as we got back out onto that blue sea I couldn’t help but smile!
Our next stop off point was going to be the Pi Leh Bay…an amazing blue lagoon, and one of the highlights of the trip! On the way we had a couple of sights to take in which were pretty cool. The first was Viking Cave…a big cave at the bottom of a huge cliff on Phi Phi Leh. It gets its name from paintings which are drawn inside on the walls, one of which resembles a viking long ship. Don’t get too excited though…the vikings never made it this far! The paintings are pretty recent and thought to of been drawn by sailors who were stranded there during a storm.
The cave is almost famous for the bird’s nests. There are a colony of Swiftlet birds which have made the cave their home and it is their nests which are harvested and used in Bird’s Nest Soup the Chinese delicacy (I don’t think I’ll be trying it!). The nests are built by the birds using their own saliva which then solidifies….and it is a really lucrative business…it sells for around $2500 a kilo!
Next we sailed up to Monkey Beach, a strip of sand beneath huge cliffs a troop of monkeys chill out on. Call me cynical but I’m guessing they are attracted there by all of the tourists and the food they have to offer, despite all of the “Do not feed the monkeys” signs. It’s a cool stop though and with some tour companies you can get off the boats and be on the beach with them…but I am a little wary of these cheeky monkeys after an incident in Ubud where of the little blighters opened my back pack and ran off with my Ray Ban’s!
There was a funny scene here with a woman on the beach in a flowing summer dress trying to get close up photos of the monkeys…one of them decided they’d had enough and ran at her and grabbed hold of her skirt…she screamed and ran for it! They are still wild animals and there have been reports of them biting people. They are really cool to watch though, and this is a beautiful spot, the water again is crystal clear.
Pi Leh Bay
Also known as Ao PiLeh, Pi Leh Lagoon, PiLeh Cove or the blue lagoon, this really was incredible. The approach in the boat was absolutely stunning, surrounded by cliffs on all sides it felt like an adventure, even though there were quite a lot of other boats, it felt like we were discovering some kind of hidden secret!
It was like entering some kind of prehistoric landscape. Regardless of how many boats and tourists there are here, this is the kind of place where you just look and stare open jawed at the natural beauty.
The deeper we go the more the colours changed. The water changed from dark blue to an amazing green colour, a hush descended as everyone soaked up the scenery. One of the most beautiful places I have been to…ever!
The boat was anchored and we had some time to swim in this awesome place…who could say no to that! We were jumping in off the front of the boat, it was such good fun! The most fun of the entire trip for sure. Yes there were other boats there, probably around 10, but everyone had their own little spot, it didn’t fell overcrowded, it was brilliant!
This was special…one of my fondest memories of our time in Thailand, again this was a place I could spend the day, just enjoying being surrounded by this beauty. 100 metre high limestone cliffs surrounding us on all sides, just totally awesome.
Eventually we were called back onto the boat, I felt like a kid being told it’s bedtime! I didn’t want it to end! Next though we were going to be going to our next and final stop…you got it…Maya Bay…the beach made famous by Leo Di Caprio in his film The Beach in 1999, and the main reason for the crowds arriving.
When we approached Maya Bay having read what I had I was expecting a scene similar to that of Benidorm or somewhere. Not the actual scenery, I knew that much, but I mean like people struggling for space on the beach, absolutely packed…but it wasn’t at all! It was busy, but again by no means would I describe it as overcrowded. OK I can imagine what it would of been like before this explosion of visitors, and yes I’m slightly jealous of anyone who made it there then…but for me it is no reason not to go now…it is still a stunning place! The major negative, and tragedy really, is that the increase in tourism and visitors is having a bad impact on the environment here.
There isn’t much in the way of facilities here, there is a shack tucked behind palm trees at the back of the beach where you can get drinks, there are also some toilets, the attraction here is sun, the incredible blue sea, the amazing powder sand, and the beautiful scenery.
This was a fun place to be and everyone was there for a good time. We had a drink from the shack and then the day caught up with me! It had been a magical day with so much packed in…I was in a daze! Only one thing for it…beach and chill! We found a place in the shadow of the cliffs and relaxed, it was a great way of ending the day.
To Phi Phi Or Not To Phi Phi?
Ok so if you had been before the boom and went now you may be a bit disappointed by what you are met with and how it has changed. There is the environmental tragedy caused by the tourism boom including coral reef dying…this really has to be addressed. There are also some negatives…I didn’t really enjoy Phi Phi Don (could you tell?). But overall I am so so so happy that we did this trip! The natural beauty is still enough to take your breath away and for me it isn’t overcrowded to the point that it spoilt our experience at all. If you did not get the chance to travel before the boom, you will still be amazed by this place. I would definitely recommend still taking in the Phi Phi Islands…after all…nobody likes a travel snob!!! 😉
Movenpick Resort Bangtao Beach Phuket
This is where we stayed during our time in Phuket…it was amazing…can not recommend it highly enough…find out more about our stay here.