Snorkelling in Ko Phi Phi   (03/30/04)

Last updated 04/14/04                                                                                                                               

I have the fondest memories of staying in Ko Phi Phi and snorkelling and kayaking my way around this beautiful island. The only thing I could hold against it would be prices of accomodation, food and Internet access, which are double that of other beach resorts in the South (this place is pricier that even Ko Samui). However, after a gruelling hour and a half of walking around the developed stretch of Phi Phi Don in baking heat with heavy backpacks, we lucked out and found a nice guesthouse with reasonable rates; thank you, Mr. Jong's! And I suppose that meals could be considered reasonably priced if you calculate the additional joy of watching a movie with your Pad Thai. Nearly every restaurant on Phi Phi screens movies from lunch time onwards, which is not true of any other place in Thailand we visited. We got to see "Kill Bill" at the Pee Pee Bakery and much enjoyed this experience (uhm... Pee Pee is the more colorful way of spelling Phi Phi). Now ask me whether Phi Phi was similar to Samui or Ao Nang or any other beach community on our Thailand road map, and I shall bestow my new favourite response on you:



Local transport: songthaew                Longtail boat -- see tails in next picture                The tails of longtail boats                Boarding a big boat from a longtail one

Our trip from Ao Nang (Krabi) to Ko Phi Phi: first "songthaew" (we cannot pronounce the word, so we call it "bustruck" instead, by analogy with "ladyman" -- Thai name for transvestite dancers), then longtail boat which you board by getting hip-deep in the water, finally a big boat which, amazingly, you board right off the longtail one... In our case, the sense of adventure in this saga of transportation was even more pronounces, since our longtail boat either broke down or ran out of fuel, not having reached the AoNang Princess (big boat) by a few hundred feet. The expectations of being stranded at sea did not come to fruition; after 15 suspenseful minutes the big boat approached ours and we were allowed to board. What happened to the driver of the now-immobile longtail boat, is beyound our knowledge.

  A cliffs-edge view of central Ko Phi Phi                Lo Dalam Bay (right of the peninsula)                Tonsai Bay (left of the peninsula)                After a rewarding climb to Phi Phi viewpoint

Above: natural beauty of Ko Phi Phi. Phi Phi Don island consists of two large parts, connected by a narrow strip of land in the middle (5 minutes to cross from the beachbum-friendly Lo Dalam Bay to the boat piers at Tonsai Bay). Climbing either an endless staircase of concrete steps (boring), or a steep dirt track with tree roots for footholds and occasional arrows pointing you in the right direction, leaves you breathless and drenched in sweat but rewards the hiker with a picture-perfect view of the two bays separated by the beach-rimmed peninsula. We stayed closer to Lo Dalam Bay, with a 2-minute walk from the guesthouse to the beach. Swimming in Lo Dalam is absolutely safe, as you'd have to wade half a kilometer out to see water reach your neck. At low tide swimming may even be impossible, and kayaking rather difficult. Kayaks can (and should) be rented, and a short paddle (30 minutes maybe) will bring you to the smaller, much less populated Monkey Beach, a wonderful place for snorkelling around coral reefs and feeding neon fish right off your hands. On the way to this well-hidden lovely spot you will see some shell-lined rocks alive with crabs (photo below). Don't forget your mask, snorkel and fins!

  The beach at Lo Dalam bay                Rocks on the way to Monkey Beach                Crab on the rocks                Foreground: mask and snorkel. Background: Puneet.

On another snorkelling trip (a day's tour around the Phi Phi islands, including the neighbouring Phi Phi Ley, a protected natural zone) we also got to feed the fish with our bare hands and see the sea waters around coral reefs teeming with life: schools of tiny fish, fine specimen of large brightly colored fish, sponge-looking marine creatures, even a watersnake that sent us swimming back to the boat at record-breaking speed and was later pronounced harmless by our tour guide.

  Very common, neon-colored fish, well-trained to beg for food                Puneet's hand dropping bread to the fish                Daria's hand holding the bread while the fish bite off pieces                

Above: fish feeding time. Below: coast of Phi Phi Ley, including Maya Bay, recently made famous by the shooting of a Leonardo Di Caprio movie "The Beach", based on a novel of the same name by Alex Garland, set in Thailand. From what I've seen of the movie (about 1/3), it's by far not as good as the book, but then again I'm not a fan of Di Caprio whose looks are way too girlie for my taste. The book, on the other hand, is worth reading on a holiday.

  The coast of Phi Phi islands is lined with formidable cliffs                Some cliffs stand alone in the water, you can even kayak around them!                Maya Bay where "The Beach" was partly filmed                Pileh bay where we snorkelled and ran away from the watersnake