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Phi-Phi Island Travel Guide | Accommodation | Get Around | Ferry | Restaurants | Sightseeing

► Overview

Phi Phi is in fact two islands: Phi Phi Leh and Phi Phi Don. The latter is the main barbell-shaped island whose central isthmus (the barbell handle) was hit badly by the tsunami. Ko Phi Phi is a popular choice for day trips, snorkeling, and scuba junkets from Krabi. Crowds of noisy tourists also descend upon Maya Bay on Phi Phi Ley, where filmmakers shot the Hollywood film "The Beach" with Leonardo DiCaprio. Visitors arrive at the busy ferry port in south-facing Tonsai Bay. The beach is quite attractive but the constant coming and going of boats makes it unadvisable for swimming. Most people just walk the 300m (984 ft.) across the barbell handle to north-facing Loh Dalam Bay, a spectacular, horseshoe-shaped crescent of blinding-white sand. Small beachfront outfits rent snorkel gear and conduct longtail boat tours to quiet coves with great views of coral reefs and sea life for as little as 1,000B for an all-day trip (packing your own lunch). You can rent kayaks and do a little exploring on your own, or hike to one of the island viewpoints and soak up the memorable view of back-to-back bays and rugged limestone cliffs. Phi Phi Ley is famed for its coveted Swallow Nests and the courageous pole-climbing daredevils who collect them (the saliva-coated nests fetch a hefty price as the main ingredient in a much-favored Chinese soup). This smaller island is protected as a park, but can be visited as part of most day trips. Before the 2004 tsunami, many of the settlements and hotels on Ko Phi Phi had been built illegally by squatters on land belonging to the once-pristine National Marine Park. These facilities were -- almost literally -- wiped off the map by the tragic disaster. With the help of many international volunteers who cleared the land of refuse, the crowds have returned to the island, but unfortunately so has the unplanned chaos of pre-tsunami days. Beaches are once again crammed with hotels, low-end guesthouses, and backpackers. In the aftermath of the tsunami, the government had hinted at earmarking Phi Phi Don as a luxury destination (indeed Phi Phi already supported a number of high-end resorts on more remote beaches), but amid the unregulated rush to make as much money as possible from this once-sublime location, the plan failed. In terms of wholesale environmental degradation, we are, sadly, right back to square one.

► Hotels

HOLIDAY INN The Holiday Inn has a lot of things going for it -- a great location on beautiful Laem Tong beach, lovely manicured lawns, hammocks gently swaying under beachfront palm trees. The bungalows are comfortable enough, with spacious balconies, though the rooms lack local touches to give them character. There are plenty of activities to keep guests busy, such as a dive center, game fishing, and cookery classes, and the restaurants offer decent fare.

PHI-PHI ISLAND VILLAGE Accessible only by a 30-minute boat ride (regular shuttles are available from the ferry pier), this is a top choice among the islands' more far-flung resorts. Deluxe bungalows offer private balconies and unusual open-plan bathrooms (shower only); with such unrivaled ocean views, it's not surprising this place proves a popular choice for families, couples, and honeymooners. A luxury spa, two large pools, fine-dining options, and an in-house tour program service and scuba school complete the picture. There's obviously a need to be self-contained with this location; apart from a few nearby jungle walks, it's all about relaxing. The beachfront at high tide is lovely and sunset is inspiring.

ZEAVOLA Many Thais long for a return to their rural village roots, a time when life was simple. That is what Zeavola, tucked away in the northeast corner of the island, is trying to create -- a return to traditional Thai living. Sand walkways cut through palm trees, leading to free-standing thatch-roofed teak suites. Each is luxuriously appointed with polished teakwood floors, oversize daybeds, and both indoor and outdoor rain showers. The living areas extend past glass doors to covered teakwood patios, where privacy is supplied by electronically controlled bamboo blinds. What makes the suites truly unique, however, are the rustic flourishes: old-fashioned copper piping, wooden taps, pottery sink basins, and mon khwan cushions (the traditional triangular Thai pillows) for the patios. This rustic theme extends to the fine hillside spa but not, for obvious reasons, to the resort's first-class PADI dive center and private dive boat. Tip: The beachfront suite trades privacy for the sea view; some garden suites have partial ocean views without the loss of privacy.

► Restaurants

Phi Phi Don is packed with eateries. In downtown central Tonsai, look out for Mama's Restaurant, Pee Pee Bakery, Le Grand Bleu, McPluto Burger, Ton Sai Seafood, Little Britain Café, Hibachi, Cosmic Pizza -- and Papaya for Thai food. You'll also find a few little halal food stands and vendors with wheeled carts making Southern-style sweet roti (pancake) with banana. Over on Loh Dalum, check out Ciao Bella for tasty Italian fare. Once a Muslim village, Phi Phi now parties into the night at such places as the Reggae Bar (with a Thai boxing ring), Hippies Bar (with a nightly fire show), Apache, and Carlito's; there's even an Irish pub and a sports bar. Don't miss the laid-back, beachfront Sunflower Bar on Loh Dalam Bay.

► Travel to Phi Phi Island

The easiest but costliest method to get here is to take a flight from Phuket on Destination Air (Phone: 07632-8637-9 whose fleet of amphibious Cessna's fly regularly in high season to resort islands such as Phi Phi. The journey takes just 16 minutes. Boats from the pier in central Krabi Town run at least twice daily (10:00 and 15:00 and more in high season) and cost from 350 THB. From Phuket, there are a number of ferry services leaving from the Ratchada (Rasada) Pier near Phuket Town, at 08:30 and 13:30, with rates around 450 THB for the 2-hour trip. Be sure to check out where the life jackets are stashed, as several Phi Phi ferries sank in the last few years, fortunately with no serious injuries.


Friday, April 23, 2021