Take me to the beach...

Koh Phi Phi Travel Blog

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Butterfly on the way to the viewpoint

People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Jill (Sweden), Fernando (Venezuala)

Ten minutes into our boat journey from Ao Nang to the Phi Phi islands, it suddenly dawned on Jill that she had lost her credit card, either having left it in the cash machine, or in the shop where she bought juice. Thankfully she had a cell phone to call her parents in Sweden, so as to cancel the card - i guess they must have received a bit of a shock to here the distressed sound of their daughters voice at 4am in the morning! With institutions such as FedEx and Western Union, such ordeals have now turned from holiday breakers into minor ordeals, and a week later with no real inconvenience, she would receive a replacement card on Koh Phangan.

Me at the viewpoint - Ton Sai Beach to the left, Loh Dalam Bay to the right

The Phi Phi Islands shot to fame when Alex Garlands book 'The Beach' was brought to the big screen, with Leonardo DiCaprio starring in what was to become a huge blockbuster. Ironically, Garland wrote the book about a completely different paradise beach that is said to be located in Palawan, an island within the archipelago of the Phillipines. The reason Garland had not wanted to disclose the true location, was for the threat that it would be ruined by tourism and commercialisation... instead he left this fate to the Phi Phi's!

The second destruction of the islands came on Boxing Day 2004, when the islands were smashed and battered by the now famous tsunami. Rather than look to sensibly rebuild Phi Phi Don with attractive buildings and thought to the surrounding environment, there was instead a foot race to see who could build the most ugly concrete buildings and then charge way over the top for all of us clamouring foreigners, all so desperate to get a look at this perceived 'paradise'.

Entering an alcove of Phi Phi Ley
The best description that i can offer to describe my feelings towards here is that the book/film pretty much sums up whats happened in real life - a beach paradise that received too many vistors and subsequently went 'tits up'. Thankfully the neighbouring island of Phi Phi Ley is a so called protected national park, meaning there are no hotels springing up there. This however doesn't stop 'The Beach' from been jam packed with all shapes and sizes of boats and holiday makers every day, but more of that to come!

Having said all thats bad about the place, let me stop my bitching and tell you whats good! The beaches are breathtaking, the surrounding topography stunning and the underwater life magnificent. There's obviously a reason why any place becomes so popular, other than people wanting to set foot where Leonardo has :)

The 3 of us managed to find the best budget accomodation on the island in my opinion - rock backpackers, where 200 baht got you a bed in a concrete dorm and was located centrally in the town.

Inside the alcove on Phi Phi Ley
When compared with wooden huts only big enough to put a double duvet on the floor that were going for 600 baht, i was happy enough with where we were! Supposedly before the tsunami, accomodation was dirt cheap, but like much of Southern Thailand, prices have sky rocketed to fall in line with tourists flooding in on budget airlines, to get drunk and cause mischief for 3 weeks - thats my impression of Southern Thailand anyway.

Our next accomplishment was to find a reasonably priced restaurant (for Thai prices), which was not as easy as it sounds. Again, prices were often triple what you would find in most other areas of Thailand. Thankfully Panda restaurant provided us with what we were looking for and we would eat there basically every meal time for the next 4 days.

Small beach where we went snorkelling
A common theme that you heard from backpackers on the island was that they were coming for 1 or 2 days just to get a quick look and then get the hell out of there whilst they still had some money left!

On our first afternoon, a walk along Loh Dalam Beach seemed the best option, before the 3 of us set off up a steep hill to a viewpoint overlooking the island. The heat was sweltering, but we took a pleasant break when running into a large amount of stunning butterflys, fluttering around the path half way up. Having stopped long enough to get some photos and catch our breath, we pushed on to the top and made it in a little over 30 minutes. The walk was well worth it, as the views at the summit were fabulous, looking down over Loh Dalam Bay on the right and Ton Sai Bay to the left, with Phi Phi Ley also in sight.

School of sergeant majors
Some time was spent admiring the views and enjoying the peace and quiet, as there were only half a dozen other people up there, before it was decided to make our descent back to the beach.

A cold shower had never felt so good as it did when we got back to the hostel! Invigorated and once again full of purpose, a walk around the island at dusk was taken. Dinner at Pandas was followed by drinks at our favourite Thai Bar - the ever affordable 7/11 :) There was a nice wall on the seafront calling our name, from where we could listen to one bars music and watch another bars fire show been performed on the beach. Now thats what i call budget travellers ingenuity :)

I had got news that Fernando was arriving on Monday, so the 3 of us went down to the pier to meet and greet him and show him to his home for the night.

Maya Beach
Rock Backpackers had given us a private 4 bed room for the same price as the 16 bed dorm, which i thought was pretty cool of them and further improved my liking of the place! A big day was planned, so we filled up our bellies before heading down to the pier to secure a boat to take us around the islands. The island is reported to have both a 'boat mafia' and 'dive mafia' and all prices are fixed - rather high may i say - so you are left to like it or lump it. Thankfully one boat driver was clearly more interested in making a large profit, rather than an obscene profit and knocked the price down on the sly and added an extra 30 minutes to our trip, free of charge. Sadly there were no dive shops willing to play ball like this and as a result i decided to boycott them in protest, rather than pay over the odds.
Jill walking along Maya Beach
I only wish more people would do this, as it would give everyone with different budgets a chance to enjoy the place. Well thats probably just me living in my little dreamworld again...

So, boat hired, sun screen applied and smiles on our faces, we were ready to go! The boat chugged out of Ton Sai Bay and within 20 minutes the tip of Phi Phi Ley had been reached. Our captain drove the boat around the island, pointing out the pretty Viking Cave, before entering into a bay, which had shallow cystal clear waters. The rock formations towered above us, making the boat look like a toothpick in a glass of water! After circling the beautiful inlet, we exited and continued our journey around the island. Our next stop was for a spot of snorkelling and there were plenty of sergeant majors, triggerfish and other colourful fish on display, to keep us entertained for half an hour.

Maya Beach
Rather than take the boat around the island, the 4 of us scrambled through a rocky opening that led to a walkway across the island and supposedly saved the boat driver from paying a national park entry fee - who were we to argue! The path led through some pretty forest for no more than a few hundred metres until we hit Maya Bay - 'The Beach'

Having seen the movie before, i expected a beach almost enclosed from the elements and was therefore pretty surprised at just how wide the opening between the cliffs really was. I watched the movie in Bangkok later in my trip and realised that it was all clever camera work and that they never actually properly showed the opening in the film - this satisfied me that i wasn't going insane - well not totally.

Jill, Fernando and Me on Maya Beach
.. My next disappointment was that on almost every conceivable entry to the water, there was a boat parked up and the jokes began about whether the film crew had to photoshop them out of the scenes and if Leonardo used the horrible toilets just behind the beach, or settled for the rocks where other people had clearly preffered to relieve themselves earlier in the day etc etc. Take away the boats, the people and the human waste and it really would be a wonderful place to begin a bonfire and camp out for a few days. As this wasn't possible, i'd say it was one of the more stressful beaches i've had the pleasure of visiting - but at least i saw it with my own eyes!

Returning to the boat, it was decided that we would make the most of our extra 30 minutes by stopping for a snorkel at Shark Point.

Maya Beach
Our captain warned us that the chances of seeing sharks were minimal, as they normally turned up early in the morning and then left when the shallow waters got too hot during the daytime. The 4 of us jumped in nevertheless and within a minute i saw about 6 black tip reef sharks swimming right next to me. I couldn't believe it! For the next 30 minutes or more i got to swim and chase the things all over, trying to get the perfect photos. There must have been over 20 of them, circling around, looking for food... Some may say that chasing sharks isn't the wisest of moves, but with all this talk of 'The Beach' and Leonardo's bravery, i just had to put myself to the test. I didn't manage to return triumphantly to shore with a butchered shark in my hand, but i was more than happy to have some pretty decent photos instead :)

Back on dry land and freshened up, our little posse went out for dinner and drinks.

Black Tip Reef Shark
The evening culminated in Hippies Bar, where the torrential rain kept us trapped for several hours. With little else to do than drink and eat donuts from the attached bakery, it wasn't a bad place to hang out and avoid the rain :)

The following day Fernando said his final farewells to us as he headed off to Ao Nang and then on to Kuala Lumpur. It was back to 3 again. Our plans of a day at the beach were scuppered in the afternoon, when it began to rain again. Saying that this was the west coasts dry season, i was becoming a little miffed by the amount of rain that we were receiving! The rest of the day was spent flitting between restaurants and reading a book. After a short walk when the rain held off long enough, Julia and I decided to call it a day and catch up on lost sleep.

Loh Dalam Beach

Wednesday would be our last day on Phi Phi Don, so the 3 of us were determined to get some more colour in our cheeks, but rather than a lovely golden brown, my freckly skin soon turned a lovely lobster red. At least i wasn't letting down the image of Brits abroad :) Mid afternoon and we were all aboard the ship back to Ao Nang, ending a topsy turvy time between the islands. Certainly the highlight of my time here was snorkelling with all those sharks and i'd say thats the real must do activity for anyone visiting this neck of the woods.

kelleeoo says:
One of my favorite movies AND a slight disappointment when I got there too.
Posted on: May 30, 2009
Deats says:
you should get it anyway, best investment ever!
Posted on: Dec 17, 2008
lee-81 says:
I was just thinking wow i'd like to take some underwater shots to, just had a look at prices for my canon 400d some of the housings are more then i paid for the camera in japan!
Posted on: Dec 17, 2008
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Butterfly on the way to the viewpo…
Butterfly on the way to the viewp…
Me at the viewpoint - Ton Sai Beac…
Me at the viewpoint - Ton Sai Bea…
Entering an alcove of Phi Phi Ley
Entering an alcove of Phi Phi Ley
Inside the alcove on Phi Phi Ley
Inside the alcove on Phi Phi Ley
Small beach where we went snorkell…
Small beach where we went snorkel…
School of sergeant majors
School of sergeant majors
Maya Beach
Maya Beach
Jill walking along Maya Beach
Jill walking along Maya Beach
Maya Beach
Maya Beach
Jill, Fernando and Me on Maya Beach
Jill, Fernando and Me on Maya Beach
Maya Beach
Maya Beach
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Viewpoint - Ton Sai Beach and Phi …
Viewpoint - Ton Sai Beach and Phi…
Fernando and me on the boat trip
Fernando and me on the boat trip
Jill and Julia on the way to Phi P…
Jill and Julia on the way to Phi …
Entering an alcove of Phi Phi Ley
Entering an alcove of Phi Phi Ley
Jill and Julia on our boat trip
Jill and Julia on our boat trip
Phi Phi Ley
Phi Phi Ley
Island that looks like a rabbit!
Island that looks like a rabbit!
Viking Cave
Viking Cave
School of sergeant majors and othe…
School of sergeant majors and oth…
School of sergeant majors and othe…
School of sergeant majors and oth…
School of sergeant majors and othe…
School of sergeant majors and oth…
Corals
Corals
Hard coral
Hard coral
Maya Beach
Maya Beach
Maya Beach
Maya Beach
Small beach within the cove of May…
Small beach within the cove of Ma…
Maya Beach
Maya Beach
Julia and her sandface of me!
Julia and her 'sandface' of me!
Me, Julia and Fernando practicing …
Me, Julia and Fernando practicing…
Me, Julia and Fernando practicing …
Me, Julia and Fernando practicing…
Me, Julia and Fernando practicing …
Me, Julia and Fernando practicing…
Maya Beach
Maya Beach
Maya Beach
Maya Beach
Walking across Phi Phi Ley
Walking across Phi Phi Ley
Phi Phi Ley
Phi Phi Ley
A view of Phi Phi Don
A view of Phi Phi Don
A view of Phi Phi Don
A view of Phi Phi Don
Black Tip Reef Sharks
Black Tip Reef Sharks
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Sharks
Black Tip Reef Sharks
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Triggerfish
Triggerfish
Triggerfish
Triggerfish
Triggerfish
Triggerfish
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark
Ton Sai beach
Ton Sai beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Beach
Loh Dalam Bay
Loh Dalam Bay
Phi Phi Ley
Phi Phi Ley
Karst rock formations on the boat …
Karst rock formations on the boat…