It’s about as famous as an island can get, and it was just about the opposite of what I had imagined. From the viewpoint we could see the stunning natural beauty of Phi Phi: two bays surrounded by lush tropical hills.
But, in town we found bucket drinks for sale on every corner and plenty of risque entertainment in the form of fire dancing and amateur boxing matches. Around 10PM we knew the tides were changing when we began to see guys AND girls walking through the streets with black eyes.
Our arrival to the island was another story. We almost missed the ferry from Phuket to Phi Phi. The crew filled it up while our tuk-tuk driver tried to give us stickers indicating our final destination. We freaked out when we overheard several other groups commenting on the fact they didn’t have pre-booked accommodations (and not surprisingly, neither did we!). We also knew it was high season, so if we were to get stuck on the “late” boat that was a shipload of competitors getting the edge on us. Joshua tried to demand they let us on because we were separated from our “group.” The guy was not having it. Basically, his rationale was “if I let you on, I’ll have to let all these other people on as well.” Fair enough. Instead, I played good cop. We waited nearby, but not in the way. We knew there was still space for other destinations the boat was headed, so we waited until the last minute. Just as the boat was pulling away, we called out another beach that only a few people were going to and hopped on board. All the guards knew what was up, but they looked at us, saw how inconspicuous we were acting and were happy to accept a kiss on the cheek in return. Now we understand how things are done in Thailand! (No sudden movements or loud noises). The benefit to being the last on board was we were the first off the ferry. With our game plan in place, we were ready to attack Koh Phi Phi. We even paid the fake “trash cleaning” 20 baht fee just to save time, but future travelers beware. We skipped all of the nearby guesthouses (many with full signs on their doors) and other overpriced time wasters. We ran to the furthest street and ended up finding a guesthouse/room in a local home…it had 4 walls, a clean-ish bed and a bathroom. We ran into friends later that couldn’t keep up with our trail off the ferry and were still recovering from their $60 mosquito shed. I was surprised we were the only crazy (well-conditioned) travelers to see the reality of the situation beforehand.
We immediately knew Koh Phi Phi town was not the draw for us, but we guessed there was another reason that made this island so special. We found it on a tour of the nearby islands, beaches and lagoons and it proved its draw a hundred times over. The beaches we visited were some of the most incredible we’ve seen: turquoise water, soft sand, thousands of colorful fish and perfect temperature.
We visited a green lagoon, a monkey island (seriously there are so many monkey islands) and even the beach from The Beach (which happened to be the biggest disappointment of the day).
The only drawback was the amount of sun we absorbed. Even with 4 sunscreen applications and shaded seats, I still found a way to turn into a tomato.
We left Phi Phi in the same manner we arrived–with a visit to the viewpoint. It was a difficult hike (both times) that left us sweaty and breathless for a few minutes before we could even begin to acknowledge the scenery which was=pure bliss.