04.11.2010 - 07.11.2010 32 °C
Phi Phi was devastated by the Tsunami in 2004 and has since been significantly rebuilt. As our boat got closer we could see a green island with limestone cliffs and long golden beaches surrounded by tropical turquoise water. There were many boats in the marina, from passenger ferrys, modern speed boats to traditional wooden Thai 'taxi boats'. We could see crowds of tourists around the harbour and in cafes and bars either side of the jetty, crikey this looked like the busiest island we had seen so far and by some stretch. We walked through the alleyways in the town, passing markets, food stalls all busy with tourists and locals, locals on bicycles and local traders pushing carts with product to their market stalls / shops. Accents and languages of tourists and holidaymakers from many a country could be heard amongst the local Thai. As our Lonely Planet book had informed us, "backpackers may have discovered Phi Phi first, but Speedo wearing jetsetters have it firmly under their control now!"
After checking into our hostel we took a walk down the beach and stopped for an early evening beer at a beach bar with Thai 'triangle cushions', very relaxing!
In search of food we headed for the place that Lonely Planet described as being 'the only true Thai restaurant' on the island. Having walked around the town it was clear that many 'Thai restaurants' were offering 'steak and chips' or 'Spagetti' on their specials boards, catering for the tourists. The restaurant we chose specialised in Thai food only and had their chefs cooking on woks at the entrance of the restaurant, typical of the food stalls seen in cities and towns on the mainland. The food was fantastic and the atmosphere relaxed and fun. After we had eaten we took a walk around looking for a nice quiet bar by the beach, yet found that the beach bars had turned into really loud music bars, with young travellers handing out flyers promoting 'buckets' of spirits and events like 'fire shows', 'thai boxing' etc. One guy having tried and failed to get us interested in Thai boxing informed us enthusiastically that 'there was a wet T-Shirt contest afterwards'.... he must have thought Chris might enter! Disappointingly it appears that the demand for Faliraki/Benidorm chav resorts has also developed in Thailand. Having asked around we managed to find a more relaxed bar right at the end of the beach to enjoy the rest of the evening, where with every drink ordered came a free satched of mosquito repellent.
Next day we started with a European breakfast in the 'French boulangerie', before walking to 'Long Beach' along a coastal path. We went past remote beach hut accomodation with hammocks hanging on their balconies, stopped for a go on the beachside rope swings before arriving at Long Beach, which is exactly as the name suggests.
At 2:45am Chris was awake and watching FC United's TV debut and 'giant killing' of Rochdale (80 league places above them) in the FA Cup, with Nic being woken each time FC scored as Chris celebrated. Next morning we took a taxi boat to Maya beach (Koh Phi Phi Ley) to 'The Beach' (film). We expected Maya beach to be packed with tourists as like us, as the film (2000) has made this place a tourist hotspot. On our arrival at Koh Phi Phi Ley we could see the harbour was full of toursit boats and that 'the beach' was packed with people. However by luck, within twenty minutes of our arrival most of the tourist boats left leaving Maya beach to ourselves and a handful of other tourists to enjoy. We enjoyed a swim in the shallow bay and then relaxed on the beach enjoying the spectacular scenery. The film has certainly brought a huge amount of tourism to the area, however there was controversy when the film production team made changes, bulldozing and rescaping the beach/bay to make it even more 'paradise like'. The island is now part of the Phi Phi national park to protect it and the Tsunami is said to have restored the bay to it's natural state.
On our way back we asked our boat to stop at Monkey Beach. Once again the name is an accurate description and on our approach we saw monkeys taking food out of the hands of tourists on the beach. Loving animals we got close to them on the beach but not too close that they might scratch or bite us - as we had heard the warnings about rabies.
Arriving back at Phi Phi Don, we decided to walk up to 'View Point', a summit in the middle of the island. It was very hot and hard going, but once at the top the views were well worth the effort. Whilst having dinner that evening in a Thai restaurant, we saw a really cool cat 'chilling out'. A cat was actually sleeping in the beer fridge until the restaurant owners saw it and chucked it out!