Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is known for being a very popular tourist destination in Thailand. I had consciously chosen to skip Koh Samui and Phuket, massive islands with similar reputations for being overdeveloped and crowded. I decided to still spend a few days on Koh Phi Phi to experience its beauty that it is known for, as well as do some more diving at a few of the many dive sights located nearby. (If you haven’t caught on by the past few posts, I really enjoy scuba diving!).
Koh Phi Phi is a 2 hour ferry ride from mainland Thailand (Krabi). A unique things about Phi Phi is that there are no cars on the island. Large or heavy items are transported via sidecar attached to a motorbike. Anything else has to be transported via boat. Everything in the main town is within walking distance and is very densely packed, people were everywhere! Phi Phi is also known for being more of a party island, another factor that draws the crowds in. After checking into my hostel and settling in, I went to find more information about the two things I wanted to do on Phi Phi-island hopping on a longtail boat and diving!
One of the girls at the dive shop recommended a fire show held outside of Carlito’s Bar on the beach every night. Intrigued, I decided to check it out. I arrived a little earlier and chose a seat in the front row, I choice I would soon regret. Soon it was time for the show to begin. One by one the performers took turns showcasing their skills and tricks with fire. Some juggled flaming batons while others twirled them around. One guy would toss his flaming stick high in the air-dropping it once only a couple meters away from my feet! A few tricks involved members of the audience, including lighting cigarettes held in the volunteers’ mouths, while the performer spun the flaming fire rope dangerously close to their faces. Luckily, the only thing that caught fire were the cigarettes! It was a very entertaining show, and I got a bit of an adrenaline rush just based on the proximity of the action!
This is something that about 95% of the people who come to Phi Phi end up doing, and there are countless different options available from choosing the type of vessel: traditional longtail boat, luxury boat speedboat, to choosing the length of the tour: morning, half day, full day, sunset. As I wanted to see all of the major surrounding islands, I booked a full day on a longtail boat. The price is cheap (450 baht) but the downside of this is that the companies cram as many people as possible into the boats (around 25). If you have slightly deeper pockets and are with a small group, I suggest looking into renting a private longtail boat for the day, allowing you more control over the trip. I’ve heard these run around 2,000 baht for 4-5 hours (split between your group).
Since we had 6-7 planned island and snorkeling stops, we didn’t have the luxury of spending a lot of time at each stop. It was a good taste though, as each stop was slightly different. I have to admit that snorkeling has lost a bit of its luster after scuba diving, but I was able to get up close to some of the fish who were unfazed by my prescence.
Monkey beach was probably my least favorite of all of the stops. Monkey beach gets its monikor from the many monkeys that populate the beach. Unfortunately, it has turned into a mini zoo, sans the cages. Tourists touch and harrass the monkeys, while other feed them soda and other junk food. The monkeys fight each other for the treats, guzzle them up, then promptly discard the trash, which leads to a very unsightly beach.
Our last stop before sunset, and the most anticipated one, was Maya Bay, or “The Beach”. The Beach is famous book written in the 90’s by Alex Garland, and later made into a movie starred by Leo DiCaprio in 2000. Even though the events in the book are supposed to take place in an island off of the Gulf of Thailand, the site chosen for the movie version of the beach was Maya Bay, located on the island of Phi Phi Leh. The premise of “The Beach” revolves around the main character searching for a legendary untouched paradise, unspoiled by tourists. It is a bit ironic that the popularity of the movie has turned Maya Bay into the exact opposite! I was still able to appreciate the beauty of the beach and the surrounding area and was able to find a spot of sand to relax and continue reading “The Beach” Sidenote: I definitely recommend the book as well as the movie, just make sure you read the book first!
While a very touristy and busy day, I did get to see and do a lot, and I was able to appreciate the experience for what it was worth.
I met at the dive shop at 7am bright and early, eager to go diving again. Our first dive was at Koh Bida Nok, one of the best sites in the area. Immediately upon descent, we found ourselves in the midst of hundreds of fusiliers! They were content to stay where they were, and didn’t seem to mind us swimming right through them. We had an excellent dive, coming across porcupine fish, lion fish, moray eels, and scorpion fish. Near the end of the dive, the divemaster, Phillip motioned that we should hide behind some rocks. He pointed in the distance, and there we could see about 10 blacktip reef sharks, each about a meter long, swimming back and forth in the shallow water. Sharks prefer to avoid humans and usually see you before you would ever see them, so we remained hidden behind the rocks, excited for this great opportunity. Unfortunately we were too far away to get any good pictures from my go pro. It is rare to see one shark, let alone 10 of them!
During our break on the boat, one of the other divemasters suggested us going to Hin Bida, commonly referred to as “Shark Point”, for our second dive. Philip explained that they don’t go there often, as there needs to be calm waters, no current, and good visibility for it to be worth the effort. Luckily, it was a good day for all three factors! The other divemaster told us that she had never dove there without seeing a leopard shark, and I hoped that luck would continue to be on our side!
We donned our gear again and headed into the water. About 15 minutes into the dive, Philip pointed out a leopard shark resting on the ocean floor. We were able to get very close to it, about one meter away, careful not to make any sudden movements to scare it away. It patiently sat there, staring back at us for a few minutes before getting up and swimming away in the opposite direction, its powerful tail swinging back and forth. It was incredibly cool to be able to get so close to it, as this is something that is not possible with many wild animals on land. We then continued the remainder of the dive, still on the high for getting to see the magnificent leopard shark up close!
The Island Hopping tour and diving were the two highlights of my time on Phi Phi because unfortunately I contracted food poisoning from eating chicken pad thai of all things (after having it about 10+ times in Thailand already). These things happen from time to time and luckily I didn’t have anywhere to be and was able to tough it out at the hostel. Hopefully it isn’t a sign of things to come for India, as I’ve heard tales of the infamous “Delhi belly”!