Ko Phi Phi: Mildly disappointed at first, but wowed in the end

First of all: I'm no longer shitting chunky brown-black water! Yay!

What a way to start a post, eh!?! Well, if you'd felt the way I did for the last couple of days, you'd want to shout it from every rooftop! My appetite hasn't returned in full force, but it's getting better every day. So I'm slowly getting back on track, and hopefully this unit will be running to full capacity in the next day or two.=)

I'm now in Ko Lanta after spending three nights in world-renowned Ko Phi Phi. The ferry between Phuket and Ko Phi Phi wasn't a thrilling experience. If you are feeling unwell, then being sick in a Thai ferry boat toilet probably ranks at the very bottom of places where you want this to happen. At least I felt better afterward...

Like many travelers, I've heard a lot of things about Ko Phi Phi. All of it wonderful, I must admit. Which is why it comes as a bit of a shock that Thailand's queen of islands isn't all that's cracked up to be. Probably because those who, like you, feel that they've been had to a certain degree, want you to make the same mistake so they don't feel like the only dumbasses in the world.

I was staying at another super nice guesthouse, this time The White. I had a spacious room with a huge bed and air-con for about 60$ a night at their second establishment, The White 2. Check out their website if Ko Phi Phi is on your list of upcoming or potential destinations! Click on this link for a pic of the sort of villa room I booked, all in white with its own little patio outside.

The problem with Ko Phi Phi is that after a few hours on the island, you realize that everything you've seen on postcards and brochures isn't actually on the island. Other than the viewpoint, which is well worth the climb (bring plenty of water, as it's quite a demanding hike in the high season's unbearable heat and humidity), it slowly dawns upon you that there is very little of worth on the main island, Ko Phi Phi Don. The soaring crests and limestone cliffs are gorgeous and out of this world, but the island itself has very little to offer. The beaches are nothing to write home about, again if you take away the scenery. Ao Ton Sai and Ao Lo Dalam are both lame beaches, and the long hike to Hat Phak Nam (Relax beach) isn't worth it. They say that Long Beach is better, but it's not like the bar has been raised too high. . .

Tonsai Village itself is nothing more than a labyrinth of travel agencies, restaurants, dive shops, internet places, and stores. Sort of a backpacker's playground, such a travesty has no place on what is supposed to be paradise on Earth. As soon as the sun goes down, Tonsai Village competes with everything it's got in the party department to dethrone Ko Pha-Ngan for nightlife. So if like most people, you are staying somewhere in the village, expect to hear music blaring on all sides (bars try to outdo each others) till about 2:00AM. Electricity is very expensive in Ko Phi Phi for they must rely on generators, so no restaurants, bars, or club offer air-con. Hence, having a drink at any one of these places feels like you are sitting in an oven. Ko Phi Phi is supposed to be a bit more on the glamorous side, but Tonsai Village turns into a cheap fratboy party every night.

When I went to bed that second night, I was wondering how so many people could be so wrong. Ko Phi Phi was said to be the paradise island, not a cheap backpacker's hangout. But I was giving the island one last chance. On the following day, I was going to take part of a snorkelling tour that would take us to Ko Phi Phi Leh, where the images from all those incredible postcards were taken. And that, my friends, was paradise on Earth.

That's the Ko Phi Phi you have heard so much praise about. The snorkelling was fantastic and cheap (450 THB for half a day, which is about 15$). But they took us to Maya Bay, and then the famous Maya beach (the paradise beach from the movie The Beach). Now that was something, even though you had to share the place with a few hundred tourists. Another lagoon, Pilah, was just as breathtaking. When I got back to Tonsai Village later that afternoon, I had finally experience the real Ko Phi Phi.

The problem is that you don't need to actually book an expensive room on the island in order to visit Ko Phi Phi Leh. You could easily book a one-day excursion from Phuket, Krabi, Ko Lanta, and a number of other places, and you would save a bundle. There is no need to stay in Ko Phi Phi, unless you wish to pay too much for everything. In terms of value, Ko Phi Phi is the worst place in Thailand. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad I went. It's just something I needed to do, even though it turned out to be a disappointment.

But Ko Phi Phi Leh is a must. Chances are I'll never lay eyes on more beautiful beaches, coves, and lagoons if I live to see one hundred.=)

The pics are mine. The first from the viewpoint, the second from Maya beach, and the third from Pilah. But they don't do justice to the real vistas they captured digitally. . .

P. S. If there are any talented tattoo artists out there, you should consider going to Sweden.
Swedes are covered with what I refer to as flea market tattoos, and they were running over one another to get those ugly cheap-ass tattoos from shops everywhere in Phuket and Phi Phi. Get a good tattoo artist over there, and he or she is bound to get rich. I mean, collectively, all the Scandinavians have the ugliest and cheap-ass tattoos I have ever seen. Get someone over there with talent and the right technology, and they could become a millionaire! Scandinavians seem to love tattoos, though I wouldn't be caught dead with anything they have on their skin!:P

9 commentaires:

Steve MC said...

I recognized "The Beach" from your photos - amazing that a place like that really exists.

Glad you're looking at nice green waters and not bathroom walls. Enjoy it.

Tree Frog said...

I remember getting gastroenteritis during a trip to the third world country I was born in.

I was completely out of it for a solid week, lost 20 pounds and kept fainting for a couple weeks.

Good thing you got yourself to a hospital, Pat.

Jebus said...

Wen to Kho Phi Phi on a day trip from Patong. Have to pretty much agree with you that the main island is basically a tourist shit hole. The beaches are dirty, the marina stinks, and the little village is just there to sell shite to tourists.

The snorkeling was awesome. Very glad I only did a one day trip there, the ferry ride boredom was alleviated by watching the lady boys flirt with clueless American frat boys - ha!

CJohnson said...

oh god I want to go back there right NOW

DD said...

Awesome photos. I have to get there someday.

martingriffy said...

Ah you should have went to long beach or beyond that on the east side of phi phi, it is beautiful and peaceful.

Anonymous said...

You were unlucky not to have seen it before the Tsunami. It was a lot more 'thrown together' but had grown pretty organically. Reconstruction work since then has to be in concrete and steel. A lot of smaller (back-packer) resorts haven't been rebuilt as a result, so many fewer people actually stay overnight. Rooms are consequently more expensive. Most of the new structures are built to service the vast numbers of day-trippers who come to do exactly what you suggest in seeing PhiPhi Le. Most of them even bring packed lunches. The island's shops are lucky if they sell them so much as a T-Shirt. Electricty on the island iy 7 times more expensive than it is on mainland Phuket, meaning everything electrical from air-con to internet access is considered an expensive luxury. I did my first dive lessons in Maya Bay in 1993. We saw 3 people in 2 days! Last time I was there, 2007, about 1000 Japanese tourists had lunch and went snorkeling there! Paradise lost.

Phuket Hotels Thailand said...

Very nice photos.Koh Phi Phi is an amazing place, beautiful beach & clear water! If you are looking for a romantic scape...this is the place!

Sbipk said...

Woww!!! nice trip. If you can’t decide for your next trip…Phuket is the best choice for you!!
I love here Surin Beach Resort This hotel is very nice clean and the people are friendly. VERY nice hotel with helpful staff.
And I really love white sand, crystal clear waters at Surin Beach too.
Thank again.