A Week on Phi Phi Island
UPDATE: Access to Maya Bay is closed until further notice, but Phi Phi main island remains open!
- A Week on Phi Phi Island
- How to Get from Phuket to Phi Phi Islands
- The Islands of Phi Phi:
- Phi Phi Don Central Area
- What to Do in Phi Phi
- Diving in Phi Phi Island
- Getting to Phi Phi Viewpoint
- Where to Eat:
- What to Buy in Phi Phi
- Where to Party
- What’s a ‘Bucket’?
- Where to get a tattoo?
- Diving Around Phi Phi islands
- Buying a typical day trip around Phi Phi:
- Who is it for?
- Useful information about Phi Phi Island:
- Where are the Phi Phi Islands?
Phi Phi islands don’t need an introduction, Leonardo DiCaprio took care of this in 2000 with the movie ‘The Beach’, and the place keeps on getting bigger and busier. As we all sadly remember, a tsunami wiped out Phi Phi islands in 2004. Since then and despite the promises of keeping Phi Phi small and manageable, Phi Phi just grew bigger and not always better.
However, the young crowd travelling to Phi Phi Islands all year round seems to love the islands so much, we decided to revisit it. The verdict? It’s crowded, especially at night, but the islands are stunning, and Phi Phi is a great place to party! (See some discounted prices for ferries between Phuket and Phi Phi)
The island is very popular and very easy to access. Any hotel in Phuket will be able to arrange this for you. Usually, the transfer includes pick up from your hotel, but double-check anyway. If you rented a car, you can also park at the Rassada pier in Phuket town and buy your ferry ticket right there. You also can check from this site for available discount tickets by Kohlife
- Ferries can be booked at Rassada Pier
- Speedboats costs around 900 baht but only takes 50 minutes
- There are also ferries and speedboat to and from Krabi and Koh Lanta
The Islands of Phi Phi:
Just in case you didn’t know, Phi Phi consists of several islands, but you can only stay on one of them.
- Phi Phi Don is where everything is: the main town, all the hotels and the party! The landing pier is on the Tonsai Bay, and the opposite side is Loh Dalum Beach. Phi Phi Don has several beaches, and if hotels are mostly around the narrow part of the island, there are hotels on other remote beaches. So if you plan to enjoy the party, you should make sure you picked the right beach! Of course, those remote hotels provide a free shuttle but if you party too hard, a boat ride might not be fun.
- Phi Phi Leh is where you will find the famous Maya Bay, Viking Cave and the Phi Leh Bay are. It’s just a few kilometres south and about 30 minutes by long tail boat.
- Further South are the Koh Bida islands, mostly famous for diving
- Up North are Mosquito Island (Koh Yoong) and Bamboo Island (Koh Mai Pai)
(Yes you guessed it, ‘Koh ‘means ‘Island’ in Thai, so it’s not always part of the name)
Phi Phi Don Central Area
Phi Phi Don looks like an overgrown maze squeezed between 2 bays: Tonsai Bay where ferries drop you and Loh Dalum Bay where the main beach is. To imagine how walking down that maze feels like, picture the following: a T-Shirt shop, a tattoo parlour, a bar, a dive centre, a tattoo parlour, a fast food, a bar, a travel agency, a massage parlour; repeat again and again. I’ve never seen so many tattoo shops per meter square! I’ve never seen so many cats either!
Most shops don’t open in the morning as they open until late at night. Possibly because a good part of the population of the island is out there exploring Maya Bay and the islands around. Another part is on the beach enjoying the soft sand and the beautiful scenery (if tide permits). The remaining tourists are probably still in bed trying to survive a massive hangover from one of these cheap ‘buckets’ that looked so cool the day before (read about it lower in the page)
In the afternoon the crowd starts to emerge to hang in the streets: shopping, drink too early or have some massage. There are plenty of small restaurants for all tastes and budgets, but most look somewhat touristy. We tried a decent beachfront restaurant called ‘Tonsai Seafood’ which was quite good and ‘The Point Restaurant’ which was below average. Our best dining experience by far was at ‘Le Grand Bleu‘ a long-established French restaurant serving an excellent choice of French and Thai food at reasonable prices.
At 9 pm Phi Phi explodes with life as bars start their fire shows, live bands and Muay Thai performances (Thai boxing). There are bars after bars after bars all along the main streets but for the best party, aim at Loh Dalum bay where those fire shows take place. Young people buy a ‘bucket’ on their way there and sit on the beach in front of a makeshift stage to enjoy or even take part in those small fire shows. Music is loud and pretty good, making people dance on the beach. Everyone seems to have the time of their life.
The general impression is that apart from some fantastic cliffs and bays, Phi Phi is not real Thailand. It’s a bit the Khaosan of the south, with a permanent Full Moon Party. Anyone who is not selling something on Phi Phi is a Farang (a foreigner). You will never see or hear of a Thai person saying “I’m going to spend a weekend on Phi Phi Island”. I found the young Thais working on the island very smiling and helpful.
Note that there are some mosquitoes here and there, especially once the sun has set, but there are so many convenience stores and pharmacies around, so there is no need to carry your repellent from overseas.
All around Phi Phi Don there are other beaches of different size, the best-known one is Laem Tong beach where Holiday Inn Phi Phi and Zeavola resort enjoy a peaceful but remote holiday and the beautiful Loh Bagao beach further down (see map at the end of the page)
On the following page are some of the best places to see in Phi Phi. Of course, you can expect these places and islands to be busy. It may be a good idea to stay overnight in Phi Phi and try to explore early morning to beat the crowds. Read more
Diving in Phi Phi Island is a unique experience you shouldn’t miss. Not many places in the world can offer such unique dive sites. If you never experienced diving before, remember that there is a very cool option called ‘Discover Scuba Diving’ that doesn’t require any training, just a briefing usually given on the deck of the boat on the way to the dive sites! I did it, and it was fantastic. Read more
Reaching Phi Phi Viewpoint is a bit challenging, but if you go at your own pace, it’s not too hard. Expect to sweat and maybe to be bitten by local mosquitoes each time you stop to breathe in a shade of a tree. Mosquitoes are smart as they ambush themselves in those strategic locations. At the end of the first long flight of stairs, you will reach the Viewpoint Number 1, and the ticket counter. It costs 30 baht from that point on.
Viewpoint Number 1 looks like a children playground with giant concrete chickens and kitsch hearts in case you like your selfie the cheesy way. Our advice? Move on and follow the signs to Viewpoint Number 2! It says 5 minutes walk, but it feels like a lot more. From Viewpoint Number 2 you will instantly recognise the postcard view of the two bays of Phi Phi. The place is superb, and there is a much welcome shop selling drinks, snacks and ice creams to refill your batteries.
The place is superb, but it can be busy or even crowded: there is not much to do on your own on Phi Phi island, so everyone ends up there at one point. Read more
Where to Eat:
There are hundreds of places to choose from on Phi Phi island, walk along the few pedestrian walkways, and you can pick as you go. It’s a lucky draw. It’s more fun by the waterfront, but this is just us, so we tried the following, and they were quite good.
- Le Grand Bleu (Great French restaurant famous since 1992)
- Tonsai Seafood (Good seafood and Thai food on the waterfront opposite Phi Phi Banyan Villa where we stayed)
- Ciao Bella (Italian restaurant on the Loh Dalum Beach where the party is!)
The day after:
- If your hotel doesn’t include breakfast, there are some bakeries near the pier, but Patcharey Bakery is better than Phi Phi Bakery just across the street.
What to Buy in Phi Phi
Have you ever heard the expression ‘Same Same but Different’? It was probably coined here. ‘Phi Phi island’ tee shirts, short pants and light skirts, swimsuits, bags… everything you need for a holiday on a small island. Don’t expect much originality but browsing is always fun, especially when there is not so much to do.
Where to Party
Beach party and street party, usually people walk from one bar to another and follow the music, the crowd and the atmosphere. Most popular places seem to be :
- Reggae Bar – this place is nowhere like a reggae bar and is somewhat famous for organising friendly Muay Thai fights between customers. As you wear head protection, it doesn’t seem to hurt (much), but it depends pretty much on your opponent. Seems to be a lot of fun.
- Dojo Bar
- Stockholm Syndrome – invites customers to some drinking games just outside the bar, games involve a hose and a funnel and how fast you can drink from these.
- Kong Siam Live Bar has a fantastic singer able to entertain the crowds with drinking songs.
- Slinky is a beach bar famous for its fire show and club music right on the beach
- Stoned is the same as above and is just next to it
- Carlito’s Bar in a waterfront bar on the other side of the bay. Also with club music and fire shows but with a better sitting area.
What’s a ‘Bucket’?
Buckets are extremely popular in Phi Phi, and you can find them everywhere after sunset. Usually a cheap mix of local whiskey (Sang Som), a red bull (you know what that is) and a mixer and ice in a small plastic bucket and a couple of straws. You can take this around as you party. As it’s sweet, cold and often uses cheap local alcohol, you don’t have the feeling you are drinking much, and the Red Bull gives you a boost. Most people get drunk much faster and much more than they think. Fun, apparently.
Where to get a tattoo?
That’s a tough one, they are everywhere, and they all claim the same thing: sterile environment and a new needle for each customer, also Bamboo tattoos available. Follow your instinct but let us know if you can recommend one shop. I had a look at a couple of standard size tattoos, they cost between 5,000 to 10,000 baht and take 3 to 6 hours to execute.
Diving Around Phi Phi islands
We collected on the next page the necessary information if you are interested in Diving in Phi Phi Island
Buying a typical day trip around Phi Phi:
Renting a boat costs around 1,500 to 3,000 baht depending on what you want to visit. Here are the usual places:
To Phi Phi Leh and around
- Maya Bay (currently closed)
- Viking Cave (it used to be open to the public, and I visited it several times in the past, but it’s now restricted)
- Loh Dalum Bay
- Monkey beach
Then to the north of Phi Phi Don
- Mosquito Island
- Bamboo Island
Who is it for?
Mostly young people, 25 -35 on average, coming here to enjoy the sun, the scenery, the beach on daytime and the PARTY at night!
Useful information about Phi Phi Island:
- There are lots of convenience stores, banks, ATMs, pharmacies everywhere. There are a hospital and a large modern clinic, so you know you won’t have to worry about these.
- There are no cars on Phi Phi, but you will hear “Peep-Peeeep!” dozen times as locals try to push carts loaded with all kinds of stuff.
- Phone signal coverage is surprisingly good all the way from Phuket to Phi Phi! But Wi-Fi in hotels is useless.