Ko Phi Phi is my guilty pleasure. Yes it’s unauthentic and overdeveloped but it’s a great beach and party island. It’s just a shame our visit coincided with being under curfew.
Upon arrival at Tonsai bay you are greeted by heaven or hell, depending on your point of view. As soon as you leave the pier there are travel agents, convenience stores, bars and dive shops everywhere. Everything is built for backpackers.
I settled down in a restaurant for a fruit shake with the bags, happy because it was Katy’s turn to find accommodation. Before I had even been served, she was back with a room key. She is efficient!
Phi Phi Don (where all the accommodation and amenities are) is shaped very similarly to Railay, with a narrow strip of sand housing Tonsai village, a bay on either side, and mountainous terrain to the sides. The vast majority of budget accommodation is in the small village, while more upmarket hotels are located in more remote areas, a boat ride away.
So why do I like Phi Phi? It’s just a no hassle chill destination that’s why. Because everything is so close, wherever you are staying in Tonsai you can be at the beach/bar/restaurant in no more than 5 minutes. I had a great time there when I went travelling in 2009 and so had great memories of the place. Not a lot had changed.
Most of all it’s a great place to party…well it was until the military curfew was announced on our second day. We’d stupidly had an early night the first night….the only night when we could have stayed out late.
The next day come 10pm or roundabouts, almost all the bars were closed, which surprised me as I thought it would be non existent on a small island. It wasn’t enforced very strictly but it wasn’t ignored either. There were still a couple of backpackers walking around with buckets, but with nowhere to go.
It sucked. In all honesty we’re not great party animals anyway, so it didn’t ruin our stay. But we had fancied a good night out.
During the days we’d buy some pineapple pancakes or some cakes from the bakery to eat on our balcony, before strolling down to the beach for a fruit shake and a swim.
One day we did something I never got round to last time I visited – trek to the Phi Phi viewpoint. We slightly underestimated how hard work this walk is, especially in the intense May humidity. There are 3 sections to the viewpoint, each better than the last – well, we only made it to the second one, and the view was good enough for us.
On our last full day we took a walk to Long Beach, which was a lot quieter than Loh Dalum (Tonsai) beach. The water wasn’t quite as good but it made for a much more relaxing day. This is why I like Phi Phi, it is always possible to get away from the main drag, albeit usually requiring a long walk! (or a longtail)
The island certainly isn’t perfect. It is overdeveloped without a doubt and the infrastructure can barely cope. There are much better, more authentic and far more idyllic islands in Thailand but Phi Phi is what it is. I’d still rather visit there than Ko Samui or Phuket.
Where We Stayed
Katy chose Marine House for us to stay. Phi Phi is not known for great budget accommodation but this really wasn’t bad. For 700 baht a night we had a compact but comfy room, with a large balcony (only overlooking a food stall sadly) with a TV. Couldn’t ask for much more. We panicked a bit because Tripadvisor was rife with reviews saying it had bedbugs, but after some extensive checks of the mattress we were relieved that they must have solved that problem.
By the way, 700 baht is definitely a low season price – it may well be double or triple in high season. I personally wouldn’t fancy visiting in high season for this reason alone.