When I was here last fall, I spent a few days on Phi Phi island, which is one of my favorite places in Thailand, and I usually go there every time I’m over here. This trip, my friends from Seattle, Rande and his wife Kim, were here for a few weeks in March so I went with them back to Phi Phi island. They go there every year, and in fact were married there six years ago so it’s a special place for them. As a side note: based on my raving review of my trip last fall to Myanmar (Burma), they decided to go there for a week before heading down to Phi Phi island. They loved Myanmar! So if you’re thinking about going somewhere very different, go back and read my Myanmar blog posts and then book your tickets. J
One of the days on Phi Phi, we took a longtail boat out for the day to cruise around to some of the surrounding islands. There are actually two Phi Phi islands: Phi Phi Don, which is the larger island that has the village, hotels where we stay, bars/restaurants, etc.; and Phi Phi Leh, which is a smaller island that is entirely a national park and uninhabited. Phi Phi Leh is primarily famous for being the location where the late-1990’s movie The Beach was filmed (starring Leonardo DiCaprio). Phi Phi Leh is truly a stunning place, and the beach where the movie was filmed is beyond postcard-beautiful. Additionally, there are several other bays and beaches around the island that have amazing green-turquoise water, white soft sand, and are surrounded by towering limestone rock pillars.
The first few years that we went there, starting in 2000, there were very few other boats/tourists there. I hadn’t been to Phi Phi Leh for at least 6 or 7 years, so I was excited to go back this trip. While the beauty of it is still there, I was a bit let down by the sheer number of tourists there. Moreover, it’s tourists in large speedboats that cruise over for quick daytrips to the island. I don’t mind the tourists in the traditional longtail boats, but seeing a beautiful bay full of shiny new 30+ foot speedboats, each equipped with 3 big Mercury outboard engines on them, takes a lot away from the nostalgic and natural feel of the place. It’s one of those things where people love to see unspoiled places, but in doing so those places get spoiled by the crowds of people. Progress isn’t always a good thing, I guess…
Despite the speedboats and other tourists, we had a fantastic day. We stopped by a beach where a pack of monkeys live and you can feed them bananas or fruit, although they will also happily take your sunglasses, cameras, water bottles, or anything else they can get their grubby little hands on.
There are two other nearby islands, Mosquito and Bamboo islands. These are basically uninhabited, although I think on one of them there may be a small group of sea gypsies that live there and fish nearby. The last time I was at Bamboo island, we had the entire island and beaches to ourselves. This trip we had to share them with other tourists, but the beach and water are still stunningly beautiful.
After a fun day island-hopping, we had a great dinner at the hotel. They had a “traditional Thai” night, where some of the staff from the hotel dressed in traditional Thai dance outfits and performed various dances to Thai music while everyone had dinner. As always, Phi Phi island delivered another fantastic experience for me!