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One of the most popular places to visit in Krabi are the Phi Phi islands (หมู่เกาะพีพี mòo gòr-pee-pee). This is an archipelago of six small islands located in the Andaman Sea (ทะเลอันดามัน tá-lay-an-daa-man). Only one, however, is inhabited and has tourism infrastructure – Ko Phi Phi Don (เกาะพีพีดอน gòr pee-pee don). This small island chain is known for its natural beauty which draws in nearly 1,000 tourists per day.
Tourism to the area exploded after the movie The Beach was filmed on Ko Phi Phi Leh (เกาะพีพีเล gòr pee-pee loie). This is certainly the greatest problem facing the Phi Phi islands. It has developed incredibly fast and many worry this has and will continue to have an adverse affect on the natural environment. The main island was devastated by a tsunami in 2004 but it has been vastly rebuilt and developed since then. Let’s take a look at what you can do with a trip to the Phi Phi islands:
This is where you’ll stay when visiting the area. It is the only island with a permanent population, which is about 2-3,000 people. There are no major roads so everyone gets around by bicycle or on foot. Goods are transported by large wheelbarrows. Most people come here looking for an island vacation. Whether it be wild and crazy or quiet and relaxing, both options are possible.
The main part of the island is Ton Sai village which sits on a little sand bar that connects the two sides of the island. This is where you will find most of the bars, restaurants and nightlife. There is a beach on either side of the sand bar where most people hang out during the day.
For some exercise head up to the Phi Phi viewpoint. It is 600 meters above the sea and has amazing views of both Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh. As the island has several limestone cliffs rock climbing is possible in many places. A lot of the coral was wiped out thanks to the tsunami but they are growing back and diving is becoming quite popular again. There is a ship wreck that is very popular with divers. Monkey Beach is full of, you guessed it, monkeys. It is also known for being very beautiful, but the monkeys can be aggressive.
As mentioned above, many parts of The Beach were filmed here so any day-trip from Phi Phi Don includes a stop here. The snorkeling in Maya Bay includes many fish and you may even be lucky enough to see a shark. There is nowhere to stay here, though, but you can camp. That is the best way to experience the seclusion of this small island minus all the crowds. The only other thing of interest is the ‘Viking Cave’ where they harvest edible bird’s nests – an ingredient in some delicacies in China. This could be playing a role in the vast amount of Chinese visitors to the area.
Four more islands make up the Phi Phi archipelago. All can be visited on a day trip from the main island or even Phuket. Ko Mai Phai (Bamboo Island) has a beautiful, white sand beach where you can relax away from the crowds. It is home the the coral garden Hin Klang so the snorkeling here is quite good. There is also some exploring to be done on this uninhabited island. Ko Yung (Mosquito Island) has a stone beach as well as a sandy one. Bida Nok and Bida Nai are simply vertical cliff walls rising from the sea, so you’ll just see them from the boat.
Have you ever been to the Phi Phi Islands? What did you think of them? Do you think they’ve become too developed too quickly? What can/should Thailand do to protect these beautiful islands? Leave us a comment – we’d love to hear what you think!