Thai long tail boats on the beach at Koh Phi Phi

Phi Phi Island: Isn’t This Supposed to Be a Marine Park?



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From Bangkok, Steve, Alex and I decided to head south to Phi Phi Don Island via a super cheap flight to Phuket for only $30 (I think the 15 hour bus ride was only a little less than $20). The trip to Phi Phi turned out to be a reminder of the “you can’t go back” travelers’ rule. Steve and I visited Phi Phi Island in 2001, and it was probably the highlight of that trip. At the time, the island wasn’t excessively developed and still had an authenticity that made it feel really special. As in so many cases before, the “progress” got ahead of itself and as a result should probably be renamed to Phi Phi McDon-alds. It’s only a matter of time before an episode of beach MTV is taped there it seems. But despite the over exploitation, it’s still a beautiful place to see. I’d just like to point out that Phi Phi Island is the only protected marine park I’ve ever seen with a 7 Eleven on it.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    The flight we caught from the Bangkok airport left early in the morning, so it was time for another Burger King breakfast.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    After a couple hours of high seas motoring, the islands of Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Lei appeared on the horizon.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    Although both islands are supposed to be protected as marine parks, only Phi Phi Lei is uninhabited. They did use Phi Phi Lei as the set for the movie "The Beach" a few years ago though.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    Sitting up on the top deck of the boat was a lot nicer than sitting below decks with the bilge water smell. Photo by Alex Iams.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    I think all of us noticed that the crowd gathered on the top deck of the ferry looked more like they were headed to Ibiza or to try out for MTV's "Real World" than going to visit a protected Thai Marine Park.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    I doubt you'll find Alex or Steve hanging out in Ibiza anytime soon.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    Phi Phi Island looks a lot different than the relatively quiet and undeveloped island I remembered from several years ago.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    They still have the same beat up long tail boats to get around the island at least! Photo by Steve Iams.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    Across the island and opposite from the bay where we landed on the pier, things are a little quieter. (click here for a close up view of this photo).

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    We eventually found a hotel with a room open, and we were just in time to catch this sunset (click here for a close up view of this photo).

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    For dinner we went to a restaurant at one of the other resorts on the island. I ordered lasagne and got this yellowish pile of glop resembling...vomit. It didn't taste as bad as it looked, but jeez, just look at it!

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    As I walked up the stairs to the plane I could sense this crowd breathing down my neck, so I turned around and snapped a photo.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    Alex and Steve ended up with slightly better meals than my pre-digested lasagne, but I think all of us were starting to wonder if we'd made the right choice to come to Phi Phi Island.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    When we got back to our room, for some reason the toilet was spouting a jet of water up into the air. Yeah, we were really wondering about Phi Phi Island at this point.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    We awoke to the sounds of circular saws ripping through wooden beams and banging hammers. There was also this seething bonfire spewing acrid smoke all over the place. Now we definitely knew it was time to leave the resort that was also an industrial grade construction site. Photo by Steve Iams.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    The options to leave were many and leaving right away, so we caught a boat to nearby Koh Lanta where everything was just right.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    The plane we took from Bangkok to Phuket was enormous, the same type of plane I took from from San Francisco to the Philippines! For a flight that barely lasted an hour it felt kind of like flying the Space Shuttle to Denver, but it was tough to complain because the tickets were only $30 each one way.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    I think Steve, Alex and I all took comfort in the fact that the 42nd World Annual Convention of Loyalty was held in Phuket while we were there.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    At the pier where we were to catch our boat to Phi Phi Island, we met this charlatan cab driver who tried to take us to lunch and pick us up in Phuket for the exorbitant price of $20 round trip.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    Alex noticed that for some reason he had this miniature Spiderman riding in the back of the car that really wasn't a taxi at all. Photo by Alex Iams.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    By the time we were done negotiating with this fellow, the cab ride collapsed into one of those "stop the car right now" incidents that ends like an episode of COPS, complete with attempts to hide from the camera.

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    We had lunch at a good local place in Phuket that didn't seem too heavily touristed. Our suspicions were proved correct when we stumbled upon this abomination that we named "The Toilet from Hell".

  • Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004

    Koh Phi Phi Don Island, Thailand - October 2004
    After the adventures with the cab driver and lunch in Phuket it was time to get back to the pier to catch our boat to Phi Phi Island.