OT Travel Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Thailand's Phi Phi Islands

From local attractions, food, architecture and much more, find out all you need to know about the Phi Phi Islands before you visit
A view of the beautiful Phi Phi Islands
A view of the beautiful Phi Phi IslandsUnsplash

The Phi Phi Islands, nestled in the Andaman Sea between Phuket and the Straits of Malacca, form a desirable destination for avid travellers in the shape of a tropical paradise. Comprising six islands, the most famous of which are Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh, this archipelago is not to be missed out on. They have become a sought-after destination worldwide with turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, and lush greenery. Let’s delve into the details of Phi Phi Islands, uncovering its history, biodiversity, architecture, and every other detail that a traveller must know before embarking on a trip to the islands.

History

An aerial view of the blue waters of Phi Phi Islands
An aerial view of the blue waters of Phi Phi IslandsUnsplash

The Phi Phi Islands have a fascinating history, combining natural evolution and human settlement. Originally, these islands were part of a submerged mountain range formed millions of years ago. Over time, rising sea levels and geological changes sculpted the distinctive karst formations that we see on the islands today. Human history on Phi Phi dates back to prehistoric times, with evidence of ancient communities that relied on fishing and farming. The island's modern name, Phi Phi, comes from the Malay word "Pulau Api-Api," which means fiery tree, referring to the abundance of fiery red mangroves. In the 1940s, Phi Phi Don attracted a small population of Muslim fishermen from Krabi. However, it wasn't until the late 20th century that the islands gained international fame, largely due to the 2000 film "The Beach," which showcased the breathtaking Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh.

Biodiversity

The Phi Phi Islands are renowned for their diverse plant and animal species. The tropical forests on the islands host a variety of flora, including coconut palms, bamboo, and exotic flowers. The lush jungles are also home to wildlife such as monitor lizards, macaques, and various bird species. The surrounding waters of the Andaman Sea are teeming with marine life, making the Phi Phi Islands a popular destination for diving and snorkelling. The coral reefs are inhabited by colourful fish, sea turtles, and other marine creatures, creating a vibrant underwater ecosystem. Divers can even spot leopard sharks and blacktip reef sharks at Shark Point near Phi Phi Don.

Architecture

The architecture of the Phi Phi Islands is a mix of traditional Thai elements and modern designs. Amidst the natural beauty, charming wooden bungalows, beachfront resorts, and cosy guesthouses exist. The vernacular architecture blends well with the surroundings, allowing visitors to experience the island's laid-back atmosphere fully.

Places to Visit

An aerial view of Maya Bay
An aerial view of Maya BayUnsplash

Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh is famous for its crystal-clear waters and pristine sands. It gained recognition from the film "The Beach" and continues to be a top attraction despite its closure for restoration. Nearby, Viking Cave features ancient wall paintings and is important for bird's nest harvesting, a Chinese delicacy. On Phi Phi Don, the bustling Ton Sai Bay serves as the main arrival point, filled with shops, restaurants, and nightlife, providing a lively introduction to the island. Bamboo Island has powdery white sand beaches and excellent snorkelling opportunities in the surrounding coral reefs, offering a peaceful escape. Accessible by boat or kayak from Phi Phi Don, Monkey Beach is known for its resident monkey population, which visitors can observe up close.

Things to Do

Snorkelling in the Phi Phi waters
Snorkelling in the Phi Phi watersUnsplash

The Phi Phi Islands offer an array of activities, including snorkelling and diving in the vibrant coral reefs at popular spots like Shark Point, Bida Nok, and the King Cruiser Wreck. Island hopping tours allow visitors to explore Bamboo Island, Mosquito Island, and other smaller islets with unique landscapes and activities. The limestone cliffs provide excellent rock climbing opportunities for all skill levels, with guides available for assistance. Kayaking along the coastline of Phi Phi Don reveals hidden coves, beaches, and the famous Pileh Lagoon. Phi Phi Don boasts a vibrant nightlife with beach parties, fire shows, and numerous bars and clubs that stay open late into the night.

Food to Try

A look a food being prepared at a market in Thailand
A look a food being prepared at a market in ThailandUnsplash

The Phi Phi Islands offer a variety of delicious Thai dishes, such as Tom Yum Goong, a spicy and sour soup with shrimp, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and chilli, and Pad Thai, stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, tofu, shrimp, peanuts, and bean sprouts. Som Tum, a spicy green papaya salad with tomatoes, green beans, and peanuts, and Massaman Curry, a rich and mildly spicy curry with beef or chicken, potatoes, and peanuts, are popular. Fresh seafood, including grilled fish, prawns, and squid, is widely available and often prepared with a Thai twist using chilli, lime, and garlic.

Places to Stay

For accommodations on the Phi Phi Islands, luxury resorts like Zeavola Resort (INR 12,500 per night) offer beachfront villas and eco-friendly accommodations for a lavish experience. Mid-range hotels, such as Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort (INR 9,600 per night), provide comfortable rooms and a variety of amenities at moderate prices. Budget hostels, including The Rock Backpacker (INR 800 per night) and Blanco Beach Bar (INR 1,000 per night), cater to backpackers with affordable lodging and a social atmosphere. For those interested in sustainable tourism, eco-friendly options like Viking Nature Resort (INR 2,900 per night) feature rustic bungalows set amidst lush gardens.

Visa Requirements

Starting from June 10, 2024, Indian tourists can visit Thailand without a visa for up to 30 days if they arrive on or before May 10, 2024. After this date, they can apply for a Visa on Arrival (VOA) or a tourist visa. The VOA allows for a 15-day stay and requires a passport with at least six months validity, a confirmed return ticket, proof of accommodation, sufficient funds (10,000 Thai Baht per person or 20,000 per family), a completed application form with a recent photo, and payment of the VOA fee in Thai Baht. The tourist visa permits a 60-day stay, extendable by 30 days. It requires a passport with at least six months validity, two blank pages, eight recent passport-sized photos, return flight tickets, hotel reservations, and a bank statement or proof of funds (20,000 to 40,000 Thai Baht per person).

Getting There

The fastest way to get to Ko Phi Phi Island from India is by plane and ferry, which can take around 11 hours and 24 minutes. You can fly to Phuket City (HKT) or Krabi (KBV), which are the closest airports to Ko Phi Phi, and then take a ferry to Phi Phi.

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