We wrapped up our stay in Phuket with a pretty unique bow on our Sea Canoe Excursion…but it was time to say goodbye to Phuket and goodbye to Cindy’s family at the villa next door… Now we were headed off to Phi Phi Island! It’s pronounced “pee-pee” and believe me, we were hoping it wasn’t. But after talking with all the locals, we just went with the flow. Ha! Get it? I’m such a child sometimes.
So, you’ve got to take a ferry to get there from Phuket, for which you can book tickets online in advance or risk purchasing when you arrive. There are two ferry ports in Phuket and also two ports in Phi Phi – Tonsai Pier is the main port though and the one where we arrived. There are many many ferry boat companies traveling to Phi Phi so there are a few different times you can travel, BUT they don’t run every hour or anything like that so a bit of planning in advance is needed. We booked our tickets and shuttle pick-up at the villa through Phuket Ferry. I accidentally booked twice and was charged twice because there was no final confirm/submit button, but I was able to send them a message to get it corrected. After a fairly painless check-in process, we grabbed some seats and settled in for the 2 hour journey. Our ferry boat going was quite comfy with lots of cushy chairs and Avatar playing on big screens – there was also an open air top deck where you could get a nice view of the journey, but it was not covered and that sun was HOT. The boat also offered a limited selection of snacks and drinks for purchase. TIP: Their sales people will come around asking if you’ve got return tickets booked and try to sell them to you then – the price is better or the same as the price on the web, so book at your own discretion, BUT we waited and found a better deal and better time for us with a different ferry boat company in port on Phi Phi. So don’t listen or panic when they try to warn you about certain times filling up.
About 90 minutes in, the islands start popping up on the horizon. Everybody was doing the same thing, grabbing pictures from the front of the boat. We FINALLY dug our luggage out of the massive pile in the front of the ferry and made our way onto the island (after a SURPRISE fee of 20 baht each to “keep the island clean”), but the journey didn’t stop there. Longtail boats were waiting to take everyone to their respective hotels – so just look for the sign for your hotel. After being loaded on the boat, it was another 10 minute ride to our hotel. And the first thing we did after checking in was eat. On the beach. With this view. Food pictured below is Pad Thai, Pineapple Fried Rice, and Thai Fried Noodles with Oyster Sauce. Honestly the food was okay, not outstanding, but not bad. The Pineapple Fried Rice was the best thing between those three dishes. We stayed at Phi Phi the Beach Resort and it was as nice as it could be. Certainly not as clean as say….an American hotel, but c’mon you’re on a remote island in the Andaman Sea, so…don’t sweat the small stuff. Or the bugs. Try as you may to keep them out, they will find their way in. Just accept it and realize it’s really not that bad. But hey, quite a view.Phi Phi the Beach Resort was one of the nicer, but still moderately priced places to stay on the island. We booked a mid-grade room, but they have more expensive options with the best views. The service was generally good, but I wouldn’t say that the Ritz has anything to worry about. The food options at breakfast were plentiful, but some were odd for a Western culture minded person – however, you could get an omelette made to order or eggs, several bread choices, bacon and fruit so I was happy. The resort also offered a small “spa” where you could get Thai massage, which we couldn’t pass up after our first experience in Phuket. We may have spent more on massages than we did on food this trip and that’s saying something for how much we love to eat and how cheap a massage was in Thailand. Spoiled is putting it lightly. 😛Our resort offered prime real estate for watching the sunset. After the jam-packed schedule we had in Phuket, it was nice to have a few hours to just soak it all in and relax on the beach. We had to have ice cream on the beach. What would a day of relaxing be without a fried banana sundae? Yum!! So glad the resort had these on the menu and would serve it to you right on the beach!And to keep Tony Horton at bay, I had to strike a crane pose.The sunset was amazing as it settled down behind the other side of the island, it gave off an ethereal light, as if there was a flaming wildfire just on the other side.Ko Phi Phi Don is the biggest island, and the most populous. The biggest town on the island is Tonsai Village (the capital, and location of Tonsai Pier) and if you’re thinking it’s some quaint little beach town, then you are in for a big surprise. It was positively bustling. Tonsai Village is the bustling heart of Phi Phi. Here, there are no cars or roads, only footpaths. It’s located on the isthmus, for which Phi Phi is famous, with Tonsai Bay on the south side and Loh Dalum on the north. We were NOT passing this opportunity up. Crepes in Thailand? Treating a crepe like an ice cream cone? Yes please!It had banana and Nutella in the crepe, then the crepe was rolled into a cone and stuffed with ice cream, chocolate sauce and sprinkles. YUM!You can shop to your heart’s content, eat until you explode, hike, swim, or head out for a taste of the crazy night life. We did all of the above. And when I say crazy night life, I mean it. If you fancy a smoke, this gentleman will light it for you.
But the night life doesn’t really get started until late so this is a relatively family friendly place in comparison to say parts of Phuket. TIP: While not everything here to buy as far as souvenirs was a great bargain, a lot of it was and if you see something you want don’t wait to buy it in Bangkok or somewhere else – they may not have it, especially if it’s beachy type stuff like sunglasses, flip flops and kaftans. The elephant pants as we referred to them (thin, super soft pajama like bottoms) were a MUCH better deal in Bangkok.
Yes, but what about the food?! We went into town for dinner both nights we stayed on Phi Phi since the resort only offered one restaurant (but it did have an extensive menu). We read good reviews about Anna’s Restaurant and decided to give it a try the first night – then we went back just the two of us for lunch the last day. This actually ended up being the best Pad Thai dish of the whole trip. I made an effort to try Pad Thai everywhere we went. I know it’s a bit touristy of me, but it’s their national dish and it was fascinating to taste the different spins each region had. And while the american version of Pad Thai is usually swimming in peanut sauce, in Thailand it was actually a very light dish.
So we can HIGHLY recommend Anna’s considering we were willing to go back a second time. It is owned by a Brit Expat and his Thai wife so they serve up no-nonsense solid Western and Thai food, the service was excellent, the restaurant was clean, the prices are reasonable and food comes out fast. The penang curry was outstanding, but I did not get a picture of it. Pictured is the Refresher Mocktail, the bacon and egg Spaetzel and the Pad Thai. We also ate at Pum Thai Restaurant and while the food was pretty good, the service was incredibly slow because it is such a TINY restaurant, we had to remind him multiple times to bring our drinks, it took at least 30 minutes for our order to even be taken. So the food was not worth the hassle in my opinion. Pictured is the Cashew Heaven and Phad Siewe. What else is there to do on Phi Phi Don besides lounging on the beach, eating Thai food to your heart’s content, and soaking up crazy nightlife that you should not miss?
Something that is absolutely a CANNOT miss is hiking up to the viewpoint for the sunset. Our resort was the furthest away, but we are adventurous and love a good challenge. Our plan was to hike to the viewpoint, and then hike down into town and meet up with our crew for some dinner. The trek itself took us through parts of the island many visitors may never see and we may have seen one other touristy looking couple.We walked through the housing complexes for the locals, through the woods, through the “villages” up in the hills. At one point there was a fork in the road and we had no sign of which way to go, but later learned we could go either way to arrive at the same point, but we stayed right by the reservoir.
At the next turn there was a sign telling us we were headed to the viewpoint. And finally….arrived at the steepest, ricketiest, set of wooden stairs I’ve ever seen. There is a small fee of 30 baht you pay here to go up the stairs to the point.Thankfully, they lead you to here and you know for sure you’ve landed in the right spot.The view from the top was completely worth it. This is the main viewpoint, which is viewpoint #2. There is a shop, a restroom (for a few baht per person) and a BIG crowd. So, claim your spot and watch the sun go down. The trek down into town was super unique. Houses, hotels, and shops were built into the side of the mountain along either side of an incredibly steep concrete staircase that seemed almost never-ending.The other thing you shouldn’t miss is a sunrise. How often will you get to see a sunrise in Thailand? Exactly! So, get to it! Fortunately, our resort had it’s own sunrise locale which was a short 5-10 minute walk from our room to the other side of the very thin island where the Monkey Bar is located – don’t fret there are signs to guide you – just head toward the Monkey Bar. Good thing about sunrises though? Very few people. So peaceful. But don’t forget your bug spray, like I did.
Something that we weren’t able to really find out through research, was if there was a way to walk to town from our resort. The main method of transportation is by longtail boat and most resorts have some on standby to shuttle you back and forth, but we wanted to explore! So, we set out again…and it turns out that the “walk” into town ends up being a multi-terrain hike. You’ll walk along the beach until it ends, then climb the side of a hill while holding onto a rope, then you’re trekking through the jungle, with the water below, and finally spilling out into the very edge of Tonsai Village. All in all, it took about 30 minutes, and from time to time offered some great views. A lot of the “hike” is easily managed on paved paths and walkways. So rest assured future Phi Phi visitors, you can get there on foot! We highly recommend a walk to town at least once to see all of the different views and resorts – it was a fun little adventure – but it was hot and rarely shaded. Just take some chacos, sunscreen, a hat, bug spray, and LOTS of water.
What else is there to do? Well, you can visit one of the many other islands. We spent half a day on a rented longtail boat exploring Ko Phi Phi Ley, which gets its very own blog post. So, stay tuned for that one next!
In the meantime, check out our other Thailand posts here: