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Friday, December 9, 2011

Phi Phi Thailand

Phi Phi Thailand commands a magical place in the hearts of all those who have travelled there. The sheer beauty of the sea and landscape of the island is enough for you to just stop and gaze, stunned. When you round the corner of Phi Phi Don, coming from Phuket or Krabi, the ferry boat rails are full of one scene every day. In some of the smaller boats you can even detect the boat leaning over fractionally with the numbers of people all on the left side, taking in the scene of Phi Phi Don or shooting off a picture for memory. It's as if Hollywood has taken the most glamorous tropical setting ever and plonked it in front your very eyes. It is truly inspiring.

Phi Phi Thailand. Phi Phi Ley

And yes it is the place where Leonardo Di Caprio made his famous movie, 'The Beach'. It was set in the jewel of Phi Phi Thailand on Maya Bay. You can see why this one Bay has the pull that it does. It is a near perfect example of that Hollywood improbable landscape that is just too pretty to ignore. I like to visit before 9.30am and after 3pm as it is alot cooler then and the tour boats from Phuket have gone back.

The Best of Phi Phi Thailand
The best place to start is with a list of all that is great on Phi Phi, the must see, top activities to do, where to go and then take a deep breath. For such a small island it has a superb selection of attractions, activities and nightlife.

If you like diving then Phi Phi has some of the regions best dive sites and dive schools. Phi Phi is at the center of things good in the dive world in Thailand. Whether you are new to the underworld experience and need to take a PADI course, or whether you have just trained and needs some beautiful yet non technical diving, or finally if you need something challenging, Phi Phi has it within 1 hour speedboat trip. In fact 85% of all the reefs are just 20 minutes from Phi Phi Don main pier so there is plenty of opportunity to dive and still get to see the rest of the island. This is why Phi Phi island is a magnet for divers and there are over 20 dive schools on the island.

The image below is of Blue View Divers that has an interesting policy of going out with the traditional longtail boats rather than the large dive boast. This has a double advantage to the diver that make it unique. Primarily you are very limited to the numbers in the dive group as the longtail boat has a maximum loading limit. The other advantage is that it can enjoy a different surface time between dives. Where as the traditional dive boat anchors off a beach, a longtail can go onto the sand so you can have a bit of an explore or a lazy moment on the sand.

Blue View Diving Phi Phi Thailand

Similarly, snorkeling in the shallow reefs of Phi Phi Don Island and Phi Phi Ley Island, some 20km of reef are tremendous fun place to explore. My favourite time on Phi Phi is snorkeling with the sharks, see image below. These black tip reef sharks are harmless to humans and yet make a thrilling morning out down on Long Beach. There is nothing like getting your heart racing than having an encounter with a 1-2meter long shark. The Black Tip Reef Shark are timid and time in the water must be spent without disturbing the sea or thrashing around for the best success.

Phi Phi Thailand. Black Tip Reef Shark
Kicking Back
Many of those who travel to Phi Phi Thailand just need the beach, a place to sit and relax. There is nothing quite like sitting in a world beauty spot, maybe with a drink and a chance to be still, take it all in and just breath. It's no suprise that people love to do nothing on their holiday as it is the way to unwind. As my heart beat lowers to my minimum, I find true relaxation.

Phi Phi Don Village
The village at Phi Phi Thailand is a mesmerizing mix of restaurants, bars, dive schools, souvenir shops all connected by pathways. There are no cars on the island so you just walk around. If there is one thing that gets you slowed down into that holiday mode, it is walking. At 30 degrees C, a brisk pace doesn't cut it. You must walk slow or you over heat.

The village is a curious mix of tourist land and the village. Thai people work on the island and they have their market center, their mosque and life goes on in parallel and yet both sides of the tourist industry walk along the same paths going to the same destinations. The walking brings everybody down to the same level and this gives a great village feel, a shared experience.

The Muslim aspect of the village does not have a large impact on the tourist experience. The Phi Phi Thailand Muslims are very tolerant and used to holiday makers. In fact 95% of the population has an income from tourism.

Phi Phi Hotels and Resort

Most Phi Phi Accommodation is right on the beach and there are still many resort offering the bungalow / cottage or villa style so loved in Europe. However in the last 5 years there have been some new low rise hotels put up that have increased the number of quality rooms on the island (namely PP Palmtree Resort & PP Andaman Legacy).

Prices are quite high on Phi Phi but you can understand that there are real additional costs in getting all your provisions from the mainland 48 km away.

Thailand Phi Phi. Phi Phi Island Village Resort

If you are choosing a place to stay on Phi Phi it is good to work out how close you want to be to the main Phi Phi Don Village. Some people hunt out the beach party scene and wouldn't be where it is inconvenient to get late night longtail boat taxis. Others need the peace and quiet of the north of the island at Laem Tong. I love Long Beach as it is close to the village so you can get a 10 minute taxi boat but far enough away so you can really get away from the village.

In the days of yore
I first arrived here in 1992 and for me, the charm of the place is that not much of the scenery has changed. (sure the village has changed and the hotels have improved). I have spoke to many of the people who travelled to Phi Phi before me and they talk of the time when the Cabana Hotel was a few grass huts on the beach. This part of Phi Phi Thailand has changed out of sight but in many ways it has become more accessible to more of the world. It is a great shame if you get to Thailand and you don't get time to see one of the truly classic island get aways in the world.

Phi Phi Thailand. The Remote Lanah Bay

The spelling of Phi Phi Thailand.

Phi Phi Thailand is sometimes referred to as Co Phi Phi, Koh Phi Phi, Phiphi, PP or Ko Phi Phi. Co Phi Phi is the latest spelling for the island and the Co part of the Phi Phi has all that modern SMS texting, twitter and facebook spelling cache that might catch on in a big way. The Co is the spelling of Koh which means island. From Koh to Co is a short step so you can see why it's happening. The jury is out on this blog on whether Co Phi Phi is cool!

See more Aerial shots of Koh Phi Phi here.

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