The Phi Phi Islands: So Much More Than Leo and “The Beach”

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I giggled as I Skyped with Elliot from my hotel room in Ao Nang.

“Yes, that's how it's pronounced!” I exclaimed through my giggles. “I swear to God! You really do say it ‘Pee Pee'!”

I was talking, of course, about the Phi Phi Islands, a collection of islands in Thailand's Andaman Sea. I was just getting ready for a full-day tour of the island group, and I was assuring my boyfriend that, yes, you really did pronounce them in a way that made you giggle like a 10-year-old.

Immaturity aside, I was looking forward to the tour. I only knew these islands as being the place where the Leonardo DiCaprio movie “The Beach” was filmed.

But I soon learned that this island group is about much more than Maya Bay.

 

After piling into a speed boat with a huge group of Thai tourists and a friendly Canadian couple, we set off across the turquoise water of the Andaman. Our first stop? Koh Mai Phai, or Bamboo Island.

Despite the number of speed boats pulled up to the white sand here, an easy 10 minute walk along the beach brought me to silence and some of the most amazingly-colored water I've ever seen with my own two eyes. I easily could have spent the entire day on this little spit of land and been perfectly happy.

But, after about 45 minutes, it was back onto the boat. Next stop: Monkey Beach. But first we stopped to do some snorkeling at Pileh Bay, off Koh Phi Phi Leh. The water here was a deep greenish-turquoise, and quite clear. And though I had heard that much of the coral and fish life here was still suffering after having been mostly destroyed in the tsunami 10 years ago, we were lucky to see quite a good number of colorful fish.

After some time spent splashing, we headed for Monkey Beach. This beach is famous for — can you guess? — its clan of very fat monkeys who are not the least bit afraid of people.

While it was fun to be able to get so close to monkeys here, it made me sick to see tourists (and tour guides!!) handing the monkeys junk food and cans of soda. YES, SODA. I saw one monkey tip back and entire can of Sprite. Please, for the love of God, stop doing this. It's wrong and not good at all for the poor animals.

When we finally left to monkeys behind, we went to Koh Phi Phi Don (the largest of the Phi Phi Islands) for a buffet lunch. Even though this island is one of the most touristy, I was still awed by the color of the water out in the bay.

Next up was the stop everyone was most looking forward to: Maya Bay, AKA “The Beach.” This small bay (not in fact fully protected like the movie makes it seem) can be teeming with tourists. Which is ironic, in a way, if you've seen the movie or read the book and realized that this is exactly what the main character wanted to escape from.

Irony and tourist crowd aside, though, I have to admit that Maya Bay IS pretty spectacular. The beach was clean when I was there, too, and the water clear and cool.

After exploring the bay a bit, we hopped back on the boat and went a little ways off shore for one more snorkeling dip.

All in all, it was a fantastic day trip, and I would definitely recommend it if you don't have a lot of time but want to see a good amount of the Phi Phi Islands.

 

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THE TOUR: I booked this through Krabitrek.

WHEN: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. daily

HOW MUCH: 1400 baht per person (roughly $43 USD)

WHAT'S INCLUDED: Pick-up/drop-off at Ao Nang and Krabi hotels; transport via speedboat; water and fruit on the boat; snorkeling gear; and a buffet lunch on Koh Phi Phi Don.

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*Note: I received a complementary tour through Krabitrek, but all opinions, as always, are completely my own.

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