Thailand: Joining the Koh Phi Phi Tourist Crowd

Coming from the laidback island of Koh Lanta, I was surprised on the chaotic Tonsai Pier as we docked at Koh Phi Phi Don. A hundred or so tourists rambled towards the narrow entryway tugging their huge luggage with them. Lost and dazed, I stood on one corner and waited for my buddy to wake me up from this dream, but no, it was real. The pandemonium was real that I could almost feel warm bodies surrounding me, and then someone instructed me to pay THB20 (US$0.57) for the entrance fee to the island.

Tonsai Bay Koh Phi Phi Thailand
Traditional Thai long-tail boats
Koh Phi Phi was our fourth stop in Thailand on our two-month Beach Hop Asia 2016 backpacking trip. After exploring Melaka, Langkawi and Penang in Malaysia, we headed to Koh Pangan, Krabi and Koh Lanta in the southern part of Thailand before our pit stop on the famed islands of Koh Phi Phi.

Tonsai Bay Koh Phi Phi Thailand
Tonsai Bay
After spending four days in Koh Lanta, we got an all-in songthaew+ferry transfer to Koh Phi Phi (THB200 | US$5.62). The company collected us from Soontreeya Lanta Resort and were dropped at Saladan Pier where we boarded the afternoon ferry going to Koh Phi Phi.

Saladan Pier Koh Lanta Thailand
Ferry from Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is a group of six islands with Koh Phi Phi Don as the main hub (the only inhabited one). Koh Phi Phi Leh is just minutes away from the main island by speedboat. The uninhabited island was made famous by the movie The Beach (released in 2000) which practically drew some hungry travelers for authentic tropical paradise to this part of Thailand. For sixteen years now (right after the movie), everyone, like almost everyone, wants to experience the supposedly remote island paradise, thus rapid developments on the main island were done to cater to the needs of the tourists (read:commercialism). Some minor islands includes; Koh Mai Phai, Ko Yung, Bida Nok and Bida Nai. Even after being badly hit by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, Koh Phi Phi Islands still proved to be one of the famous beach destinations in the world.

Tonsai Bay Koh Phi Phi Thailand

Tonsai Bay Koh Phi Phi Thailand
Swarmed with tourists
It was almost lean season when we visited Koh Phi Phi Don (April) but the island is packed with tourists; I could barely imagine it during high season. Motorized transportation on the island itself is close to none (except for some motorbikes owned by the locals) but almost every place is a mere 10-minute walk from the island center. We missed our free boat shuttle to the resort and treaded our way to Phi Phi Bayview Resort, our home for four days.

Starting from the pier up to the far end of Tonsai Bay, hundreds of shops, restaurants and hotels lined the narrow road; the organized chaos totally blocking the magnificent view of the picturesque landscape.

There are no motorized vehicles in Koh Phi Phi (except for a few motorbikes),
wheelbarrows are used to transport goods around the island
Shops Koh Phi Phi Thailand
Hundreds, if not thousands, of shops lined the narrow alleys
We were glad for the perfect seclusion we had at the resort. Perched on a hill, our villa provided a panoramic view of the surrounding islands.

Food prices are relatively expensive here compared to other parts of Krabi which is reasonable because of the island’s isolation. After searching for the best local eats, we found an eatery that sells Thai food at a reasonable price. Located at the market, Pa-Noi is a melting pot of locals and travelers alike for all-day hearty meals.

Pa Noi Thai Food Koh Phi Phi Thailand
Pa Noi Thai Food located at the island's market
Thai Food Fried Rice
Fried rice with chicken - THB70 (US$1.97)
Pad Thai Koh Phi Phi
Pad Thai with chicken - THB70 (US$1.97)
Fried Basil Chicken Thailand
Fried chicken with basil plus egg - THB90 (US$2.50)
There's no scarcity on beer as you can get it on mini marts for THB50 (US$1.41) per huge bottle (expect to pay more on bars and restaurants).

We did a sunset trip to the neighboring islands on our third day (which I will recount on a separate post) and mostly lazed around the other days (only leaving our bungalow for meals and beer run). We also did a lot of walking around the island and just followed where our feet led us, like getting lost on the alleys and reaching Loh Dalam Bay one afternoon.

Loh Dalam Bay Koh Phi Phi Thailand
Sunset at Loh Dalam Bay
On our fourth and last day, we decided to check out the Long Beach on the other end of our resort’s cliff. Longing for the perfect solitude, I imagined myself running on the creamy white sand, away from the maddening crowd, but that didn’t happen.

Tonsai Bay Koh Phi Phi Thailand
Tonsai Bay
Starting from the resort, we read a number of signs that was leading to the Long Beach (which you can actually reach by renting a long-tail boat). We hiked on dirt paths along some cliffs (and almost trespassed some of the resorts) and finally reached the last descent. We then saw a sign leading to the viewpoint which we thought was just near so we followed it, wrong move.

It started on a dirt road, and then we passed by a quiet community, and then a water reservoir, and then woods again, and then madness. The trail seemed to never end. And have I told you that I do not have any inclination to any form of hiking? I was cursing and almost went into crying when the signs led us to more uphill and downhill dirt paths.

Viewpoint Koh Phi Phi Thailand
Hike to the viewpoint
We trekked for almost two hours but it felt like half of the day. It also didn't help that the bottle of water we had was consumed five minutes since we commenced.

After the torture hike (well, that’s what it was for me), we finally reached the entryway to the viewpoint wherein we were asked to pay THB30 (US$0.86) for the entrance fee. Good thing was that I brought my purse with me which had THB100 (US$2.85) in it, imagine if we trekked that far only to realize that we didn’t bring any cash .

Viewpoint Koh Phi Phi Thailand
Koh Phi Phi recovered well after the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami
We climbed few more steps and reached the topmost part. I immediately went to the fridge of a store and grabbed the coldest Coke they had and finished it in one gulp. It relieved me for a while, and then I realized that I forgot to give some to my buddy. Haha.

The viewpoint was, well, a nice way to see the whole of the island that is suddenly becoming a huge tourist hub. We sat on one of the huge rocks and laughed on our predicament earlier; whether to go on or go back to where we started, either way, we’d still hike.

Going back to our resort, we found out that there’s an easier way to reach the viewpoint, there’s a hundred or so concrete steps from the main town. Laughter went on for minutes as we didn’t utilize our uber techie maps, we really are the best travel researchers in the world! Haha.

Koh Phi Phi Thailand
My secret swing at Koh Phi Phi
My memories of Koh Phi Phi left me tired as I think about the endless walks and hikes that we endured all throughout our stay. I love walking on quiet villages and infinite seashores; I did not get those at the island. Koh Phi Phi and its fast-paced life reminded me of Boracay in the Philippines. It’s beautiful, yes, but it is slowly losing its tropical paradise charm. I wish I’ve been here ten years ago to truly appreciate its raw beauty.

Check here for discounted hotel rates in Koh Phi Phi


  1. "Supposedly remote paradise" but filled with tourists! It looks beautiful, of course, but I suppose we really have to manage expectations. I guess it's good that tourism is giving work to the people living there, but I really hope the islands are still being taken care of. >_< Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. Honestly, I really don;t expect anything but was totally shocked with the influx of the tourists. Or maybe because I came from the laidback island of Koh Lanta :)


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