We arrived to Koh Phi Phi island after our two hour ferry ride from Phuket. The island of Koh Phi Phi (pronounced Koh Pee-Pee) was made famous in 2000 from Leo’s blockbuster hit, The Beach. Ever since that movie Koh Phi Phi has transformed from a small fisherman’s island with exotic and lightly discovered beaches to one of the biggest party island’s on the planet. We were traveling in January, the high season, so the ferry port in Koh Phi Phi was complete madness.
As we ushered off the ferry with hundreds of other backpackers we paid a 20 baht tax (recently new) to gain access to the island and walked the short distance to our home for the next few nights, Phi Phi Hotel. We were all thankful that our hotel was close to the ferry as it was hot, sweaty and the streets filled with hawkers. Your bags feel twice as heavy in mid-afternoon tropical heat and humidity.
We checked in and were pleased that both rooms had views of both the pool and the Andaman Sea with the iconic limestone cliffs in the horizon. The vibe on Koh Phi Phi can only be described as “backpacker.” Its filled with young budget travelers from all reaches of the planet trying to explore themselves and the world through one common tool….partying.
I had been to Koh Phi Phi before so I directed us to a restaurant I really enjoyed for a late lunch, Papaya Restaurant.
The food was as good as I remembered it. The dish that dons the name of the restaurant, Papaya Salad, was a crowd pleaser amongst our group. Jen’s favorite masaaman curry also impressed. The cashew chicken stir-fry along with the Tom Kai Gai (chicken coconut soup) were also delicious. We found ourselves in food heaven.
After refueling on popular Thai dishes Peter suggested we check out a more remote part of the island where he had stayed in the past called Long Beach. We grabbed a long-tail boat to take us to Long Beach and arrived to a much quieter and relaxing haven. Long Beach is known for having the softest and finest white sand on the island. Perfect for lounging.
We finally got the opportunity to lay on a beach and enjoy the water with the eye candy scenery in the background as day turned to dusk turned to night. The island of Koh Phi Phi Lek in the distance.
Before taking a long tail boat back to the madness of Ton Sai, where we were staying on the island/party central, we sat at a picnic table on the beach and toasted to the island life, the good life.
We cleaned up and headed out for dinner at a place I had found on TripAdvisor that was known for great Mexican Food and a fun rooftop bar called Banana Bar. The restaurant is downstairs but we decided to check-out the rooftop scene before dinner.
Upstairs we stumbled into an interesting myriad of people laying around watching movies on a big screen projector shoveling fried food into their mouths. The food was being shoveled in a way that was slow and methodical but never ending, almost if they couldn’t stop. Strangely, no one was talking or mingling as you’d find in most bar scenarios. It was like we had entered some sort of zombie apocalypse. Peter and I looked at each other with confused looks.
It was just seconds after those confused looks that a light bulb went off and we simultaneously let out a collective, “ahh, I get it.” Everyone was smoking pot. Joints were being passed around and the bartenders seemed to have the drug on their secret menu. We felt like we had intruded into someones private movie-screening and smoke out party so we turned around and retreated to the downstairs restaurant.
We changed the cuisine pace and went for Mexican. With our California roots, Mexican is always a desired option albeit rare to find quality options abroad. But its hard to mess-up chips, salsa and margaritas which is one of my many versions of nirvana.
We figured since we were in Koh Phi Phi , the “party island,” we might as well see what the buzz is about.
We wandered over to the Reggae bar where a boxing ring is located in the middle of the establishment and foreigners are encouraged to box other foreigners. Participants are rewarded with a free “bucket-drink,” a huge cocktail served in a bucket.
Who would do that…?!
Well I did actually. On a prior trip in 2012, pre-Peter. It has remained one of my most illogical decisions I have made in my life. I was punched in the face and was rewarded with a bloody nose. I luckily wasn’t too hurt, except for my dignity, but it could have been much worse. At the time I thought it would be fun, funny and adventurous. I didn’t think my opponent would clock me in the face. I’m too trusting. Its the Alaskan in me. Needless to say I will never to that again. Boxing gloves retired. And please don’t ever do this.
Note: I was told that I was winning the match until the face-punch.
So this round I took great joy being in the stands observing foreigners learn their own life lessons.
We watched the tourists fights and sat with some other travelers who shook their heads at the maniacs in the ring. Chris had fun telling them how I, his sister, all of 5’2 and 108 pounds, was once one of those maniacs. Peter shook his head at me. Unfortunately, this wasn’t my worst ill fated and self guided decision made on that trip. Three words: fire-jump-rope.
This is not the jump rope but rather the fire limbo. Just to give you an idea. Thank God Peter saved me from myself.
Next up was a roaring party on the beach at a place called Slinky.
The beach club was raging with people getting turnt. Pumping music, sweaty dance floor, some half dressed people. Possibly due to the sweatiness. I don’t know. I didn’t ask. A mechanical bull that I tried desperately hard to get Jen to ride. I didn’t want to be the only one making bad decisions on this island. There was also fire dancing, fire limbo, and body face painting. I had to refrain from all three. Bad habits die hard.
We abstained for the time being and grabbed some seats outside the madness and people-watched. At one point a young male traveler, not a day over 19, deeply inebriated, climbed up Slinky’s tall bamboo pole and started to dance on top of the elevated platform. He started to grimace while his friends were encouraging him into something. He looked around, smiled, and then dropped his pants and initiated a dance that consisted of him swinging his hips back and forth in a manner to show the audience what he was woking with. We stood in disbelief and then all erupted into laughter. My Mom just closed the browser.
We eventually decided to join the mix and create our own dance party amongst the crowd. We dove into the dance floor and I’m fairly confident we owned it. Peter brought out one of his signature dance moves that can best be described as playing with an imaginary ball. You can juggle the ball, toss it in the air, roll it down your shoulders, between your legs, whatever you want as long as you can mime it well enough. After awhile, you toss the imaginary ball to the next person who then makes up there own ball moves. After awhile, other party patrons were were dying to get their hands on the rock. Its a point of contention between Peter and I because he never passes me the ball. He claims my game “needs work.”
We were in the zone, or so we thought. At one point a girl wearing flowers in her hair with colorful face paint strolled through our dance party. I dug her vibe so I gave her a big bear hug. Later on during the walk home Peter asked me, “Why did you hug that topless girl?” Apparently she was covered in body paint that I mistook as a colorful top. I answered, “I felt like she needed one.” Peter shook his head at me.
On occasion I believe it’s good for the soul to abandon normal and get weird with family and loved ones. This night gave us that opportunity.
End of night one of Koh Phi Phi madness.
The next day we finally slept in. It was glorious and really needed. In 10 days we had traveled to 4 different destinations and slept in 6 different beds. And we aren’t spring chickens. Well, Peter is a millennial.
Day 2 in Koh Phi Phi was all around relaxing. We took in another lunch at Papaya Restaurant and then took a hike to see the island from Phi Phi Viewpoint. It’s about a 40 minute hike with many steep stairs in intense tropical heat but you’re rewarded with an inspiring view from the top.
Afterwords we retired to the beach where we enjoyed happy hour, sheesha, recapped conversations of the night before, and watched people play serious games of hackie sack and frisbee catch (so backpacker). It was nice to lounge around for a bit. We weren’t really a crew that was good at not doing anything. I think we were finally forced into a designated beach day due to the exhaustion level that had finally crept upon us.
For dinner that night we went to Anna’s which might have the best Thai food on the island. The curries of all varieties (red, green, panang, massaman) are all excellent. We called it a night shortly thereafter. We wanted to get to bed at a reasonable time due to our early wake up call to go boating in the morning.
On our last day on Koh Phi Phi we hired a private boat to take us to the various nearby islands. We had nine hours of island hopping, snorkeling and dramatic scenery.
We started our tour at Maya Bay on the island of Koh Phi Phi Lek which is famously known as the actual filming spot for the movie “The Beach,” staring Leonardo DiCaprio, making it very popular and busy. The island is completely undeveloped and only open for tourists from 8am to sunset. We started here first as the crowds only get crazier throughout the day as boats from Phuket make their arrival. But there is a good reason why everyone flocks here -its breathtaking and beautiful.
Up next, Pileh lagoon, where we cooled of with some graceful swan dives off the boat. The emerald green and crystal blues of the Andaman sea crashing against limestone precipices makes for a beautiful contrast of colors in nature. So much beauty aggressively coming at you at once.
Next we glided over to a snorkel spot by next to Camel Rock (pictured below). Jen and Chris enjoyed the rainbow of colored fish over coral reef while Peter and I took it easy on the boat enjoying the peace of being on the sea. Or we were both still trying to wake up.
Next stop was Monkey Beach on Koh Phi Phi Don.
I use to like monkeys. Then one day Peter explained to me his complete disdain for the animal as they’re responsible for deadly diseases, have evil beet red eyes, are full of distrust and are quite mean to one another. Shortly after this discussion a psychological fear ensued inside of me. Well, its not psychological, I just don’t want them on or near me and am constantly nervous they are going to climb, bite or kill me. Peter’s convincing.
Whatever you resits persists and Monkey Beach was our designated spot for lunch so we got some extra time with our monkey frenemies.
After lunch the wind really picked up and we took a rough boat road to Bamboo Island. The waters were chopping and there was an occasional person being thrown off their seat, but we were in good hands.
Bamboo Island was our last island of the tour so we lazily wandered and lounged on the beach. To Chris’s dismay he lounged around too long without sunscreen and the sun took a beating on his back. That equatorial sun. But not to worry, he later had a ladyboy massage aloe into his back for an hour. Sorry Chris!
Bamboo Island has a gazebo that is being swallowed by the sea (remnants of the tsunami) so we stopped for a photo shoot.
Peter and I did get our opportunity to snorkel again at our next stop, Loh Samah Bay. I am so glad we did because it was absolutely incredible. Our guide gave us bread to feed the fish which brought them over to us in a frenzy. It was a blanket of brightly colored fish. I remember at one point that a large school of fish was swimming in a circle around us, engulfing us in a rainbow ray of colors and different species of fish. It’s something that easily puts me into a place of zen. A highlight of Koh Phi Phi for me.
We were suppose to head back after the snorkel stop but by the end of the day we had made friends with our boat driver so we kindly asked him to take us to a spot on the sea for a perfect sunset viewing. With a bit of hesitancy, he ultimately obliged.
He took us into our own private cove that was protected from the wind where we could enjoy a brilliant sunset in peace and solitude. We had the entire cove to ourselves for most of the sundown. As the sun glistened it’s last moments on the emerald sea and the island sky came to an end we all knew how lucky we were to share it together. A perfect close to our time on Koh Phi Phi.
For dinner we went back to Anna’s because the restaurant cooks up mouth watering curry dishes. We ordered one of each and split everything up family style. Well according to Chris, Jen and I devoured most of it and I think he was right.
Afterwords we did one last walking tour of the night scene. We stopped at one of the bars where the scene is thick and people watching on fleek. When we soaked in as much as we could we took the long route home so we could bypass Slinky’s and observe some final uninhabited dancing and fire shows. This island never sleeps.
The next day we were heading to the much calmer and serene Railay Beach to close out our island tour.
We came, we saw, we partied and conquered Koh Phi Phi.
So grateful to have these flurry of moments and memories shared with family. There are no other people I’d rather get weird with.