We arrived to the beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi Don (pronounced pee-pee, not fee-fee) early in the afternoon, just in time for the heat of the day! As the numerous tourists and locals collected their bags and disembarked from the ferry, heading for the island toll (20 baht per person to “enter” the island) a few things about the island became immediately apparent. First off, the views of this island were absolutely spectacular with steep cliffs jutting out from crystal blue and green waters. Second, this was DEFINITELY a popular tourist destination, even in low season. Third, the presence of cats on the island was immediately noticeable (seriously cat lovers would be in absolute heaven!!). And finally, despite having several walkways winding through and around town, there was no motor traffic… No cars, no motorcycles, not even bicycles!
Koh Phi Phi Don is the larger of the Phi Phi islands, the smaller being Phi Phi Ley, which boasts the famous Maya bay (made famous by being the location where they filmed “The Beach”). While it is possible to find plenty of accommodations on Phi Phi Don, it is not possible to stay on Phi Phi Ley (camping is also not allowed there!). Another little fact about Phi Phi Don is that in 2004 a tsunami devastated the island with waters rushing in from BOTH sides of the bay. It has since recovered, but still unfortunate it happened.
Since we hadn’t booked accommodations in advance, our first task was to find somewhere. We passed numerous tourist shops near the pier entrance that offered to assist us in finding a place, but we simply ignored them for the time and headed off on foot to try to find a place on our own. We walked aimlessly down one of the walking paths and eventually ended on the beach of Loh Dalam bay. Instead of being sensible and turning around however, we continued on along the beach with our backpacks in tow sweating our rears off trying to find somewhere. The scene on the beach was a rather confused one. On the one hand the bay and surrounding beauty was absolutely stunning!! On the other, loud party music thumped through the air, ruining the serene nature around.
None of the accommodations along the beach (or rather people who worked there) were helpful in any way in getting us information on where to go or even how much their places were. They simply kept sending us off in different directions to “reception” that ultimately lead us back to our starting point. Frustrated, tired, hot, hungry, thirsty and sweaty we decided to go back to the pier to the tourist offices and ask for help. The tourist info shop had a huge variety of accommodations advertised from the very reasonable to the extremely expensive! I had previously looked up potential places to stay on the island via Travelfish, so I knew of at least one reasonably priced place to stay (space permitting).
As mentioned on Travelfish, the Phutawan Bamboo Resort was one of our available options for cheaper accommodation. As described by the Travelfish post the resort was located a bit from the main town and up a steep hill. It was the cheapest of our options (400 baht per night) so we thought, why not? We booked at the tourist shop then waited while an employee came along, threw our bags into a trolley cart, and started heading through town. We walked at a rather clipped pace following our guide through town, around the bay and finally up and up and up and up the hill to a parked tuk-tuk. From there we were thrown into the back of the tuk-tuk and were escorted the short distance further up the hill to the bungalows.
At reception we were shown to our bamboo bungalow (which ended up not being in Phutawan, but rather right next door to Phutawan in a place called Phi Phi Hill Bungalows)… While the Phi Phi Hill Bungalows were technically livable, it was also quite apparent why they were so cheap. Put quite simply in the words of Anna: “beasties”!! While they weren’t immediately apparent, the bungalow did have quite a few cockroaches that also lived there. Thankfully for me, no spiders, but unfortunately for Anna, cockroaches! She fears cockroaches as I do spiders, so at least we had each others back in case of either appearing. Also, since we were properly in the jungle, mosquitos were also out and about in large numbers at dawn and dusk.
On the whole, Phi Phi Don was a strange mix. My favorite article about the island was a post I found on Travelfish (click here to read) that not only hit the nail on the head in its description of the place but was also hilariously witty to boot. In addition, the article also provided great ideas for our future activities on the island.
So on the whole, as an overview of the place, while the physical beauty was undeniably stunning, the party scene was annoying. The beaches in front of the bars were littered with straws, cigarette butts, cups and beer bottles which was also rather unpleasant. And again, the seemingly non-stop party music was out of place to me. Anna and I kept complaining about the noise pollution and then started joking about how “old” we must be getting in wishing they’d turn the music down, lol!! It wasn’t until we hiked to the other side of the island and to Long beach that we found the quiet and beauty we sought. More on those locations later, but first I have to share the most humorous event that happened while we were on Phi Phi Don…