“Koh Phi Phi is the true interpretation of an island experience“
– Abhilash Mithren
Every once in a while, we dream about such a setting- the sun.. shining, an almost deserted beach, crystal clear water, holding hands with our loved one; a dream that can put a troubled mind to sleep.
After a decade of being together, I finally got hitched to my college sweetheart- Herwin D’souza. No, lets not go there…
“Most of the women, be like- Hey! Can you tell us the story of how you met?“
Although a dream come true, we needed a vacation- somewhere off the grid, somewhere we can’t be found. That’s when I noticed many of my friends travelling to Phuket and the twin islands of Koh Phi Phi. I quickly Google-d Koh Phi Phi and (believe me) started to visualize pictures of me and Herwin at this exotic location- that is how the idea of a holiday popped in my head. I contacted my friend Ajesh who had been there recently and slowly but steadily our holiday started to materialize. We decided to make the trip to Phuket and Phi Phi Islands in October (the ideal time would be between January and May).
We did our part to research (with no little help from our friends) for a good 6 months, ensuring we got the best deal on flight tickets, scanning websites for the best deals in accommodation and noting down tourist locations/sites that cannot be missed.
We boarded the Air Asia flight to Bangkok from Chennai at 11.30 pm; the flight duration is 3.5 hrs and we arrived at Don Mueang Airport at approximately 4.30 am local time. Next flight to Phuket was in 2 hrs, that gave us ample time to apply for our on-arrival tourist visa. To ensure the visa process goes smoothly, here is what you need- 2000 Baht/person for the visa, a valid passport (like duh!)
This is unlikely but at times immigration folks are known to ask for a copy of the return ticket, accommodation slip/confirmation and approx. 20,000 Baht cash-in-hand. If you have all the above documents, the visa process is hardly anything, especially when there are volunteers who will guide you from the time your arrive, all the way to the lounge where you will be waiting for your next flight.
We boarded the Air Asia flight to Phuket and arrived at Phuket International Airport at around 8.30 am (local time). The moment our flight touched down, we were tourists on a mission- to reach Rassada Pier as soon as possible, to catch the first ferry to Phi Phi Don.
There are two ways you can do this- the less-expensive way- look out for passenger vans (can accommodate up to 10 passengers) which will take you to Rassada Pier, cost would be 200 Baht/passenger OR the slightly expensive but faster way- hire a taxi/cab and you will reach in 30 mins- cost would be about 600-800 Baht; we chose the latter.
Rassada Pier is approx. 30 km from the Airport and travel time is about 25-35 mins; the route you would take to the pier is almost the same that leads to the most happening part of Phuket – Patong. After reaching Rassada Pier, we hurried to book tickets for the first ferry ride to Phi Phi Don- at which we were successful. The ferry ride costs 1000-1200 Baht/person and if you opt to book the return ticket, the price is slightly less expensive. Ferries to Phi Phi start at 8.30 am and goes on till 2 pm in the afternoon but their frequency is what you should be concerned about (there is one at 8.30 am and the next will be at 9 am, but after that its at 11 am)- long story short plan accordingly.
Gulp ‘n’ Munch recommends choosing the ferry over the modern speed boat if you tend to get sea sick or are taking children along- ride tends to get bumpy on choppy waters in the case of the latter.
“It gives you a sense of elation when you see the perks of hiring a taxi over a passenger van- when your ferry disembarks and the passengers that were on your flight just arrives at the Pier- I even waved at them!”
The journey to Phi Phi Islands begin…
The distance of approx. 55 km from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi is normally covered in about 2 hrs on a ferry and less on a speedboat. On the ferry- alcohol (beer only), hot beverages, sandwiches, pickled exotic vegetables, fruit plates are available. Some of us might get a little skeptical about the 2 hrs on a ferry in the open sea, but, believe me the entire journey you will be in a state of awe at the picturesque limestone formations all around. The ferry takes an interesting route- it actually circumnavigates around Phi Phi Leh and even stops for a few minutes for passengers to take selfies, videos (see the video above and below) before finally docking at Phi Phi Don.
Phi Phi Don is the larger and the most populated island of the two that constitute Koh Phi Phi- the other being Phi Phi Leh. The island from an aerial view, looks like two crescent-shaped land masses paired adjacent to each other. It is with a heavy heart that I have to say- the below picture (clicked by Rove Mathias) was taken prior to the devastating 2004 tsunami– an event that affected every country around the Indian Ocean. When we visited the island in October of 2014, Phi Phi Don’s overall infrastructure was probably in its last stage of construction (rebuilding).
Despite being a relatively small island, Phi Phi Don houses more than 140 hotels/resorts and as far as I remember- around 15 resto-bars, all serve lip-smacking Thai food (more on the food later). Just as my friends did, I recommend booking your accommodation via the website Agoda. Even if your not planning to travel any time soon, go ahead and create an account on the website- why? Agoda.com has this feature wherein they send out ‘Insider-deals‘ via emails to customers who have registered on their website (if your gonna save money, why not?)
Personally, I opted for Phi Phi Hotel for many reasons- first, it has a panoramic view of Tonsai Bay– which includes the dock. Secondly, its at close proximity to the dock and above all- it is the more lively part of Phi Phi Don; always bustling with activity, higher concentration of restaurants and if your interested in scuba diving or snorkelling, most of the adventure sports outlets are right outside the hotel entrance.
If you are planning to book your accommodation at Phi Phi Hotel, Gulp ‘n’ Munch recommends you to opt for the Sea View rooms for a stunning view – in our case we chose the Sea View Twin Bed. For 2 days, I.e Oct 3rd – Oct 5th including complimentary breakfast, price came to approx 8200 INR or $120. The rooms are comfy, hotel staff was very courteous and the complimentary breakfast is great. If you really want to know what is served for breakfast, ask me (post a comment at the bottom).
After we checked-in to our rooms, we hit the sack to take a power nap- to get over all the travelling since the previous night, up until the time we arrived at Phi Phi Don. We were completely energised by around 5 pm and decided to step out and explore the island. Just outside the hotel is a small walkway which spans along the entire coastline- surrounded by restaurants, bakeries, trees provided shade when the sun is out and a little further restaurants with a beachfront. (here are some pics)
As you can see there are many restaurants and you don’t need to be picky to choose which one to visit- all serve amazing Thai cuisine. As far as I know, all restaurants rely on high-quality fresh produce and in addition to that, they would be on display- Yes, you can also choose which fish you would like to try and they would also have 2-3 varieties of cooking it. Enough said?
Personally, I would recommend this bakery which served amazing cheesecake and Herwin surprised me with what she would call a cheese-birthday-cake.. If your wondering? Yes ! it was my birthday (now you know why I chose October in spite of knowing that it may not be the best time to visit Phi Phi).
We called it a day, after I cut my birthday cheesecake (sounds funny, right?). The next day we visited the adventure sports outlet and booked our slot for scuba diving (9 am – 2 pm)- it is expensive (approx $105/person- also includes lunch), I must add, but then again justified because of the equipments/gear used such as the O2 tanks, the wetsuit, regulators, the BC (Buoyancy Compensator), weights and accessories. By the way, if you wanna know more about Scuba Diving- I have an entire blog post coming up on that.
Day 2 was entirely spent on scuba diving and chilling out with the amazing professional divers who ensured my first-experience was a one to remember. As sunset approached, I couldn’t help but feel gloomy- the thought that this would be our last night at Phi Phi Don and the following morning was our ferry back to Phuket was inconsolable. We spent the night gulping and munching, raised a toast to the 48 hrs of amazing, mind blowing time that we had here.
Koh Phi Phi is an experience that no one should miss, I believe at least once in your lifetime- make it a point to visit. The twin islands are, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful islands in the world and has become a traveller’s Mecca since the release of Danny Boyle’s movie The Beach (which was shot in Phi Phi Leh, Maya Bay).
“To me, it was the first get-away with my better half, after our wedding. To many more!“