“And me, I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for, ’cause it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment… it lasts forever…” – The Beach, Alex Garland.
It was a couple of years back when I first watched the movie that tickled my wanderlust and made me add Maya Bay to my travel bucket list. I didn’t know when I’ll be able to travel there, but I knew for sure that I had to visit it, someday! Later, when a friend gifted me the book, I would return back to those pages when Richard and his friends decided to swim across the high sea to reach ‘The Beach’ they had heard of.
That day, we boarded a speedboat from Krabi for Phi Phi Don, and I could feel butterflies in my stomach! The emerald water dazzled with the sunshine – the waves splashed against the boat, sprinkling water on us – the breeze soothed our senses – there were happy (and excited faces) surrounding us in that speedboat, where everyone waited to land at Phi Phi!
“If I’d learned one thing from traveling, it was that the way to get things done was to go ahead and do them. Book a ticket, get a visa, pack a bag, and it just happens” – The words from the book kept echoing in my mind, as I could see the thin strip of golden sand from a distance!
Get To Know Koh Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
I couldn’t think of a better description than this – so, to put it in the words of Lonely Planet, “With their curvy, bleached beaches and stunning jungle interiors, Phi-Phi Don and Phi-Phi Leh – collectively known as Koh Phi-Phi – are the darlings of the Andaman Coast. Phi-Phi Don is a hedonistic paradise where visitors cavort by day in azure seas and party all night on soft sand. In contrast, smaller Ko Phi-Phi Leh is undeveloped and hotel-free, its coral reefs and crystal-clear waters, overseen by soaring jagged cliffs, and visited only on the day or sunset cruises.”
Tucked between the bustling tourist hubs of Phuket and Krabi, Koh Phi Phi has surely been popularized by the movies and documentaries that have been shot here and for years now, this cluster of islands has become a favorite destination for travelers because of the legendary nightlife, laid-back vibes and, of course, the stunning islands including the mysterious Maya Bay.
Located at a distance of about 43 KM west from Krabi coast, towards Southern Thailand, this small archipelago consists of six islands – Koh Phi Phi Don, Koh Phi Phi Leh, Koh Bida Nok, Koh Bida Nai, Koh Phai (Bamboo Island), and Koh Young (Mosquito Island). However, the only inhabited island – and the largest one in the group is Koh Phi Phi Don, where you’ll find all the fancy resorts and budget hotels, backpacker’s hostels, night markets, tattoo parlors, street food stalls, fine dining restaurants and much more!
Things To Do In Koh Phi Phi In Just 48 Hours
The islands are pretty small and there are no motorable roads – you’d either have to walk around Phi Phi Don (the main island, where people stay) or take a longtail boat/ speedboat to explore and hop around different islands. Here’s what we did in 48 hours around Phi Phi Islands!
Once we reached the pier, we figured out that there are representatives of all the resorts, holding placards having the names of the guests written on it. Amidst the crowd, we did find our person who had come from The Cobble Beach Resort, that we had booked for our stay!
The resort is about 15 minutes’ walk from the pier and I was already loving the vibes of the island, as we walked down this narrow alleys with shops selling everything – from beer buckets to freshly caught lobsters & prawns and fancy souvenirs! Our resort was on a cliff (which required a bit of uphill walking) and the view from the restaurant was breathtaking.
Note: If you wish to stay closer to the market & the pier, then there are several options which you can check in booking.com – Most of them are high-end resorts. The pocket-friendly ones are located around the cliff, away from the market area. Phi Phi Island Beach Resort, Villa 360, Holiday Inn Beach Resort, Phi Phi Banyan Villa are some of the best ones on this island!
Leaving our luggage at the resort, we hopped out for lunch and to explore the streets that were already bustling in broad daylight! Walking into this tiny cafe, we ordered Pad Thai Noodles and stared at the Coconut Ice-cream store on the other side of the road. There was a Mexican couple sitting next to us, who invited us for the Ibiza Pool Party (one of the most happening party places on the island!). Clearing off the Pad Thai in less than 5 minutes, we got our bowlful of Coconut ice-cream as well.
We started walking towards the beach, all set of a dip in the turquoise waters! To our surprise, we landed up at Ibiza beach, just next to the place where the pool party was happening, but that place seemed too loud (and overcrowded) – so we choose to spend time at the beach itself.
Note: If you’re a party animal, then I would surely suggest you to walk into Ibiza! Featuring a pool with a gorgeous view of the sea and the beach, and with outrageously cheap drink options, the Ibiza Pool Party lives up to the hype and encompasses the spirit of the island it was named after!
After spending some time at the beach, we walked back to the resort, chilling by the poolside for a while. Later in the evening, we decided to explore Tonsai Bay, which was about 20 minutes walk from our stay. A fancier part of Phi Phi Don, this is where you’ll find all the upscale resorts and fancy restaurants! The souvenirs sold around this part of the island is also more expensive, and there’s no scope of bargaining!
We sat at Unni’s, one of the best restaurants on the island and charged ourselves with freshly brewed coffee! Unni’s Restaurant is spotless and offers a menu that contains an outstanding choice of international fare: think Thai (obviously) to Mexican to Swedish to English, there’s something for everyone here. Also, it’s one of the most Instagrammable restaurants!
Stepping out, we thought to try out some street food, which looked tempting – and they were being freshly made. To say the least, street food in Phi Phi Don is delicious, (super cheap!) and something that you can’t miss out!
And when you’re in Phi Phi, you gotta be at the beaches when the nightlife kicks in! With fire shows and Muay Thai fights, buckets full of alcohol and craziness in the air – Phi Phi Don gets decked up at night.
Head off to Carlito’s Beach Bar and Nightclub which is known to be being Phi Phi’s first bar, and definitely one of the oldest party places on Koh Phi Phi Island. At Carlito’s, people can enjoy the famous buckets, watch a fire show and can also dance on the very big dance floor. Carlito’s captures Koh Phi Phi’s vivacious atmosphere and is worth checking out.
Then there’s Slinky, hosting one of the wildest parties on Koh Phi Phi. It is a large open-air disco/club set right on the beach of Loh Dalum, offering people a choice of entertainment opportunities, including dancing, a mechanical bull ride, face and body painting, fire shows, fire skipping and fire-limbo. The 10 PM fire show is an extravaganza and probably the best fire show on the island!
We wrapped up our first day in Phi Phi on some crazy notes, looking forward to next day’s adventures!
Time for Island hopping!
The best way to do this is to book a day trip that’ll cover all the islands of Koh Phi Phi, and bring you back by the evening. I did my share of online research, but it’s definitely more pocket-friendly when you book it with a local tour company, while on the island. We decided to go with The Only Morning Trip who had a small kiosk in the market. It was for 2000 TBH (4700 INR approx) for 2 people, including breakfast and lunch.
We had to reach the pier by 8′ O clock in the morning – and till then, we had no freaking idea of what we were gonna see!
The speedboat was there at Tonsai bay, waiting for us – and there were around 12 people including us, and 2 guides on board. We hopped on and kick-started our journey to explore the paradise hidden in this part of the world.
Crossing the Viking Caves on the way, our first stop for the day was at Bamboo Island, located at a distance of about 5 KM (approx) from Phi Phi Don. Known as Koh Pai in Thai, this is the most north-easterly island of Phi Phi Archipelago in the southern Thai province of Krabi. A tropical paradise, the island is entirely surrounded by a strip of white sand, and its central part is covered with lush vegetation including Bamboo trees that gave its name to the island.
After spending about an hour or so, we again started off – sailing through the high seas that kept changing its color – every now and then! Sometimes blue, sometimes turquoise, sometimes emerald – it felt like someone is pouring different shades in the water, leaving us speechless! There were huge rocks amidst the sea, covered with lush green forests, making the whole thing look surreal.
At every turn, there was something new to be explored… the color of the sea kept changing, and the clouds played hide and seek with the sun! The boat danced along with waves and people inside were shouting out of excitement, until we reached Loh Samah Bay, where the boatmen asked us to get off and swim with the fishes!
From Loh Samah Bay to Pileh Lagoon, Mosquito Island & Monkey Beach – every place made us feel ‘Wow’, as we stopped and wondered at the beauty of nature, that’s kept as a secret from the world! We stopped at places to snorkel, mesmerized to see the corals and spotted baby sharks, zebra fishes, clown fishes and more! Not to forget, we saw baby sharks too!
We were served lunch after we snorkeled enough, and it was a delightful meal to be enjoyed while floating!
And of course, we did see Maya Bay too! With clear crystal waters, white sand powder, and lush tropical vegetation, Maya Bay gathers all the postcard clichés in one place. My heart skipped a beat while I stared at the thin stretch from a distance, wondering how it would have been there on the island!
It’s sad to realize how we, the humans, often forget our limits and ruin what nature has blessed us with! It’s said that after “The Beach” released, millions of people flocked to see this gorgeous island, destroying the ecosystem of this place. Tourists have been banned from visiting Maya Bay for an indefinite period, and now, you can only enjoy its beauty from afar!
It was around 5 PM when we returned back to Phi Phi Don, and I was still drooling over the sights that I had witnessed throughout the day! Stepping off the boat, as I walked on the pier, I felt as if those rock structures will suddenly pop up in front, and I’ll probably have to steer my way through the pristine waters! It all felt like living in the dreams!
Heading back to the resort, we quickly took a bath and got ready to set out again, to catch a glimpse of the sunset by the beaches! We walked along the shore for a while, talking about the day’s experience – the sea and the cliffs, the marine life, the beaches, and our sunkissed cheeks!
And then, all of a sudden, it felt like the sky was having a conversation with the sea! There were shades of orange and purple, with a tinge of scarlet & crimson, making the sky look like a palette of some famous painter. Sitting by the beach, I & my friend talked about life – and how, knowing each other for 24 years felt like! It was like a perfect moment for both us – a time that probably got us closer, and it’ll remain etched in our hearts.
We had lost the sense of time, and when it got absolutely dark, we realized that it was already 8 PM! The beach clubs had already started playing their music, and people were gearing up for the fire show.
Grabbing some sushi from a street-side stall, we walked around the market, picking up postcards and magnets. And then, we went for dinner at one of those fine dining restaurants, to celebrate our happiness of experiencing something like never before! And as the hangover from the island hopping lasted longer, we went back to the resort and winded up our journey in Phi Phi Don.
The next morning, we had an early breakfast by the poolside, and carried on with our journey! 48 hours in Koh Phi Phi passed by the wink of an eye – and the experiences will always be very close to my heart ❤