Ko Phi Phi is actually two islands joined by a massive big sandbank or sand bar, which was completely demolished by the Tsunami in December 2004
. Ko Phi Phi underwent a massive rebuild after the tsunami and apparently tourism is at an all time high, which we are very happy for on their behalf. Reports confirm that prior to the tsunami, the island was growing too rapidly for its existing infrastructure and fragile ecosystem to sustain. Immediately following the tsunami the Thai government put on hold any rebuilding on the island's sand bar in an effort to educate developers and residents about sustainable growth. Unfortunately, this area is reported to look exactly as it did pre-tsunami. This area, known as the Tourist Village, boasts street vendors, souvenir shops, dozens of booking agencies, restaurants and dive operators. We had most of our splendid evening meals in this "village".
We immediately fell in love with the island- the scenery around the island is simply breathtaking. It is more commercial with many more tourists than Ko Lipe, but less so than Phuket (which we visited in March 2007 as a stop over on-route to Kao Lak). Ko Phi Phi is fortunately vehicle free, luggage is transported by porters pushing wheeled carts and long-tail boats can be charted to some of the more remote and inaccessible beaches from land.
We stayed in a bungalow, unfortunately not air conditioned, which means that you cannot spend any time indoors during the day - it's just too hot
! We spend our days relaxing on beach chairs under an umbrella, with 30+ sun block and still managed to get a tan. We joined a sightseeing tour of the island on a long tail boat for a day-trip to the most famous and popular beaches where you can relax, snorkel and swim at each stop. We stopped over at Shark Point for a snorkel, but the visibility wasn't great and we did not see any sharks; then Bamboo Island - a beautiful beach with little yellow stripped fish swimming around us in the clear water; Monkey Beach which has some resident monkeys which are extremely overweight due to the food being fed to them by tourists; Ko Phi Phi Leh - where the movie the Beach was filmed in 1999 and watched the sunset on the way back to the pier at Ko Phi Phi Don.
The diving in the area is also apparently great, second only to the Similan Islands on Thailand's East coast departing from Phuket, which we dived in March 2007. Some dive operators stating that they've seen Manta Rays at a specific dive site each day of the past week. It is also apparently whaleshark season but we decided against diving there considering the cost and the fact that we just had an17 dive holiday in Borneo. In hind-sight, we probably should have considered a dive with manta's or whalesharks.
Ko Phi Phi truly is an amazing, relaxing and brilliant place to visit. It was also interesting to compare to Ko Lipe, which is so much less commercial and advertised, but lacks some of the natural beauty Ko Phi Phi has - we've experienced a nice island-combination thus far and we're looking forward to experiencing Ko Pha-Ngan on the West Coast.
We reluctantly boarded the ferry back to the mainland after a great 4 days on Ko Lipe and we knew when we left we were going to miss the quite atmosphere that is almost long gone on the other more popular islands we are about to visit. Back at Pak Barra pier our taxi driver raced to the bus stop so we could catch the 2 o'clock bus to Krabi which is about 3.5 hours north. We were just in time to hopped onto the ferry to Ko Phi Phi, 1.5 hours west. We originally anticipated that we'll miss the last ferry and would have had to stay over in Krabi, but it seems that luck was on our side. We were also very impresses by the public Thai busses in bright pink - they're spacious, on-time and very clean. We'll definitely use them again and any day above the Malaysian busses.