Phi Phi Islands, the Paradise of Thailand
Koh Phi Phi (หมู่เกาะพีพี) is a small archipelago in Krabi Province, Southern Thailand.
The six Phi Phi islands are:
- Ko Phi Phi Don, the largest and only populated island.
- Ko Phi Phi Leh (also known as Ko Phi Phi Lai), a smaller island to the south, popularised when parts of the movie “The Beach” were filmed there. Uninhabited apart from bird nest harvesters and a few Maya Bay wardens; expect plenty of tourists during daylight hours, especially in Maya Bay, the beach of the eponymous movie.
- Ko Phai (‘Bamboo Island’), a small low-lying islet to the north of Phi Phi Don with several good beaches.
- Ko Yung (Yung Island) is north of Ko Phi Phi Don. The island has a stone beach in the east and small sandy beaches at the foot of the hills. It is teeming with various kinds of colourful coral reefs.
- Bida Nok and Bida Nai, two small adjacent limestone karsts to the south of Phi Phi Leh, with near-vertical cliff walls rising from the sea.
Although rapidly becoming less and less attractive due to the masses of tourists as well as the construction on the island, it’s still a very beautiful place to visit, and is one of those places everybody should go at least once in their lifetime. Although the beaches are not the best in Thailand, the place has a good vibe and nightlife and there are 18 dive shops to choose from.
Most of the (over)development of Phi Phi Don is situated in or around Tonsai village, which is on the low, sandy isthmus that joins the two hilly spurs that comprise the rest of the island. There are also other, quieter resorts on Long Beach, Laem Thong, and at other less accessible areas of the island.
Koh Phi Phi was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, when nearly all of the island’s infrastructure was wiped out. Redevelopment has, however, been swift, and services like electricity, water, Internet access and ATMs are up and running again, but waste handling has been slower to come back online.
It should be noted that, while very laid back, many of the local islanders are Muslim. You will lose considerable respect if you walk around town in your skimpies (this applies to Buddhist areas of Thailand too!). While many tourists do in fact parade down Main Street in their Speedos or thong bikinis, to avoid offending your hosts, it’s usually best just to throw on a pair of shorts or a sarong; similarly, topless on the beaches, while grudgingly tolerated by most locals, is also probably best avoided.
Weather in the region is tropical – there are only two seasons: the hot season from January to April, and the rainy season from May to December. Temperatures during the year average 25ºC to 32ºC (77ºF to 89.6ºF) and the yearly rainfall averages 2568.5mm. Unlike in say Europe, the rain in this region comes down heavily over short periods.
From archaeological discoveries, it is believed that the area was one of the oldest communities in Thailand dating back to the prehistoric period. It is believed that this province may have taken its name after the meaning of Krabi, which means sword. This may have stemmed from a legend that an ancient sword was unearthed prior to the city’s founding.
The name Phi Phi (pronounced ‘pee pee’) originates from Malay, the original name for the islands were ‘Pulao Pi ah Pi. The name refers to the mangrove wood found there.
Ko Phi Phi is considered to be one of the most naturally beautiful islands in the world (in fact, there are six islands in Phi Phi). They lie 50km south-east of Phuket and are part of Had Nopparattara – Koh Phi Phi National Park which is home to an abundance of corals and amazing marine life. There are limestone mountains with cliffs, caves and long white sandy beaches. The national park covers a total area of 242,437 Rai.
Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le are the largest and most well-known islands.
There are two villages on Koh Phi Phi under administration of Ao Nang sub-district, Muang district, Krabi Province.
Koh Phi Phi comprises of 6 islands, 2 of them main – Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le. The islands are surrounded by the Andaman Sea.
Krabi is a melting pot of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims and even sea gypsies. The majority of the population in the rural areas is Muslim. Krabi however, does not suffer from any religious tension and the folk live in peace and harmony. Outside of the provincial town, the rural folk speak with a thick Southern dialect which is difficult for even other Thais to understand.
With this kind of mixture, Krabi is always celebrating something be it part of Thai Buddhist, Thai-Chinese or Thai-Islamic tradition. Visitors can also enjoy the annual boat-launching ceremonies of the sea gypsies and various long-tail boat races.
Even though it is Malay in origin, the art of batik has embedded itself within the local culture. There are also a lot of Krabi handicrafts such as pineapple paper.
Phi Phi is one of the most beautiful places in Thailand
Tourism on Ko Phi Phi, like the rest of Krabi province, has exploded only very recently. In the early 1990s only the most adventurous travelers visited the island, staying in only the most basic accommodation costing the likes of 50-100 baht a night. Nowadays, however, the place has turned into one of the major destinations for visitors to Krabi. The development however, is still nothing on a par with the likes of Phuket or Ko Samui. However, presently, budget backpackers can still get a cheap room away from the beach, up the hill a bit. The level of service and the friendliness of the locals had started to drop with massive inflow of backpackers and students who are not very demanding and choosy.
Ko Phi Phi has plenty of nightlife to drink and dance but if that isn’t your cup-of-tea, then there are lots of really quiet places to chill out and take it easy.
Getting Phi Phi
Traveling to Ko Phi Phi by boat is BY FAR the most frequent method used. Ferries leave from Phuket and Krabi daily (from Krabi two ferries a day 9:00 am and 14:30PM and from Phuket at 9:00 am, 11:00, and 14:30pm several times a day ( 11:00 during high season only). Tickets can be purchased online at PhiphiFerry.com or on the dock, from tourist offices, most local guesthouses and hotels.
600 baht one-way/1000 baht round trip when bought at the Phuket pier (as of 2009/09/15). Possible to get 300-350 baht one-way tickets as part of a deal with a guest house stay.
You can get from the Phuket Airport to Rassada Pier by meter taxi for around 500 baht. It’s about a 30 km drive and takes 45 minutes depending on traffic and weather.
From Krabi Town – 450 baht (Note: this price may be out of date). The normal passenger ferry does not leave from the center of town anymore, but from a new passenger port (Klong Jilard Pier Tel. 0 7562 0052) about 3 km outside Krabi Town. Free taxi transfer to the pier should be included in the price of your ticket. Many times they’ll take you to a travel agent near the Chao Fah Pier and sell you additional accommodations or services. Only ever buy the ticket you need. They add additional ferries during peak season.
From Ko Lanta – 300 baht (Note: this price may be out of date).
Not all ferries are of equal quality. Andaman wave master is the only company that will take you for free to the north of Phi Phi island after the stop at Tonsai pier. The Sea Angel ferries are quite nice with big flat screen tvs and refreshments. These are sold online as first class ferries. The ferries run by Chao Koh group, particularly the smallest “Pichamon IV” are often overcrowded and appear to be very poorly maintained, which does not inspire confidence, however they are launching a new mega boat beginning of 2010. In April 2007, a ferry operated by Andaman Wave Master caught fire and sank, and all aboard were forced to jump into the sea. Fortunately, nearby vessels were quickly able to rescue all the passengers, and no casualties occurred. The ferries run by PP Family are larger and seem more suited to the task. The ferries run by Phi Phi Cruiser may take a little longer but they include a movie, complimentary breakfast (if taking the morning crossing) and complimentary beverage service. For an additional fee, you can purchase a “VIP ticket” which also includes snorkeling and a buffet lunch on Phi Phi Don.
Other tour vessels visit the island from several Phuket-based resorts, usually on day trips, the price for a speadboat from Rawai Beach was quoted at 15,000 baht return(or one way) for up to 6 people(Dec 6 2007). There are many speedboats operating directly from the beach but it may be best to book the day before as most seem to be on away on trips during the day. Speedboats can also be chartered from other nearby locations, but at a very high price (in July 2007, the starting price for a speedboat to Phi Phi Don from Ko Yao was quoted at 20,000 baht).
Destination Air Shuttle www.destinationair.com – direct seaplane transfers from/to Phuket International Airport and other popular Andaman coast destinations. They often run a low season promotion for transfer from Phi Phi to Phuket Airport for only 2000 baht (high season is 6000 baht), and land at Laem Thong near the northern tip of the island – transport to Tonsai, if required, is about 30 minutes by longtail boat. This is a fairly good deal considering the ferry (400 baht) plus taxi (700 baht) to Phuket’s airport will run you around 1200 baht.
Krabi International Airport (KBV) is about 10 km from the city limits, 15 km from the city centre, 40km from Ao Nang and 23km from Had Yao. Thai Airways operates daily direct flights to/from Bangkok, likewise Air Asia from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Bangkok Airway flies direct to/from Krabi and Ko Samui nearly every day of the week and to/from. Nok Air operates daily flights to Krabi from Bangkok (Don Muang). Destination Air Shuttle, Thailand’s only Seaplane service also routinely flies in and out of Krabi (Lanta) from Phuket and to the numerous outer islands.
For more information, contact:
- Thai Airways International Public Company Limited: Tel. 1566, 0 2280 0060, 0 2628 2000, 0 2356 1111, 0 7570 1591 – 93 or visit www.thaiairways.com.
- Krabi International Airport, Tel. 0 7563 6541- 2
- Air Asia Airlines: Tel. 0 2515 9999 or visit www.airasia.com.
- Nok Air: Tel. 0 2627 2000 or 1318 or visit www.nokair.com
- Bangkok Airway 0 2655 5555, 0 2265 5678 www.bangkokair.com.
The international departure tax surcharge is 700 baht but is included in most tickets now; domestic departure tax is included in the price of the flight.
National Car Rental and Budget Car Rental have a branch at the airport; motorcycle taxi rides are available outside the terminal.
Krabi Limousine (tel. +66-75692073) has a desk inside the terminal and provides “limousine taxi” (using large air-conditioned sedans) transport to Krabi for 500 baht; Phuket for 2500 baht. Krabi.com offers taxi and minibus (minivans) for less however travellers have to make deposit payment of 200 baht online via credit card.
An air-conditioned Airport Bus service started in 2007, fares are 90baht to Krabi. The bus service meets all incoming flights and serves most outgoing flights (note: it is not possible to catch the first 1-2-go plane in the morning with the new airport bus service) A songthaew to Krabi town is 40 baht from the road outside. Going to the airport they will drop you right at the departure terminal.
Obviously, since Ko Phi Phi is an island, the bus will get you close but you’ll still need to cross by boat or plane at the end. Buses from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal (tel. +66-24351199) to Krabi take about 12 hours and depart as follows:
- VIP bus – 07:20 – 1,055 baht
- First class bus – 19:00 – 680 baht
- Second class bus – 07:30, 19:00, 19:30, 21:00 – 378 baht
Shuttle buses run between Krabi airport and Phuket airport several times a day. There are also regular buses that make the 2 hour run. There are buses to Krabi from every provincial town in the south.
Obviously, since Ko Phi Phi is an island, you can get close but you’ll still need to cross by boat or plane at the end. From Bangkok:
Proceed along Highway No. 4, passing Phetchaburi – Prachuap Khiri Khan – Chumphon – Ranong – Phang-nga, to Krabi. The total distance is 946 kilometers.
Travel along Highway No. 4 onto Highway No. 41 at Chumphon via Amphoe Lang Suan and Amphoe Chaiya, Surat Thani. Proceed towards Amphoe Wiang Sa, change to Highway No. 4035 for Amphoe Ao Luek, and switch back to Highway No. 4 again to Krabi. This route is 814 kilometers.
From Phuket: Proceed along Highways No. 402 and No. 4. The total distance is 176 kilometers.
Obviously, since Ko Phi Phi is an island, the train will get you close but you’ll still need to cross by boat or plane at the end. The nearest train station to Krabi is in Trang province which is just south of Krabi.