Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi may be the most beautiful place in the world, but it there is definitely trouble in paradise. However, I’m not going to focus on this theme, as it is pretty much the most cliche thing I could write about when it comes to Phi Phi. It’s stunning, it’s overdeveloped, it’s overcrowded, it’s filled with riffraff, it could have been so different, blah blah blah. The same could be said for Phuket, Boracay, Maui, Ibiza, or any other beach resort island in the world.
I suppose what sets Phi Phi apart from these other places is the lack of locals. Phi Phi was devastated by the 2004 tsunami, half the local population was killed. Thus, it is not a popular place for Thais to visit. I presume at least 84% of the local population now is involved in the tourism/tourist industry, if not more. Boats I’ve taken to other islands in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other places have either been a mix of locals and foreigners, and sometimes a mix of locals and Jaehak. My boats from Krabi to Phi Phi and from Phi Phi to Phuket were 100% whitey, save the captain and the bartender.
One effect of this was a phenomenon I haven’t really experienced before in Asia – white touts. While it was nice not hearing “hey you, where you go?” every five minutes, “hey brah/dude/mate/buddy/broseph, check out our dive shop!” wasn’t much better. The major beach bar/clubs all had an army of touts as well, handing out fliers all over town every evening. These touts were hilariously bad at their job, as they would tend to congregate in groups of 2-6 and just talk amongst themselves and drink buckets while giving a flier to every 14th person or so who passed.
I suppose this brings us to Phi Phi’s other main draw beyond the beach – the nightlife. There are large club/bars on the beach with fire shows and dancing, each club playing the same 14 songs that one would hear at any club in the world right now. Still, the clubs are hopping and some of the bars are fun. I kept finding myself at Reggae Bar, which thankfully played no reggae but instead played mainly the sort of 90s rock that forms the backbone of my iTunes collection. The big attraction at Reggae was nightly Muay Thai boxing matches, featuring fights between a handful of semi-pros that worked at the bar as well as fights between patrons.
The nightlife in Phi Phi primarily revolves around the bucket. Buckets, for the uninitiated, are a pint of whiskey (or whatever), a red bull, and a can of Coke (or whatever.) They are expensive in the bars and clubs (sometimes over 600 baht, which is like $20) and laughably cheap on the street, basically to the point that it doesn’t make economic sense to drink anything else. The cheapest buckets run 120 baht, which is mind-blowing considering the cheapest bottle of whiskey at 7-11 costs 130 baht. In front of the Reggae, they sold buckets for 150, and it was kosher to bring it in to watch the fights. At the beach bars, since they are large and sprawl out onto to the beach (to the water at high tide), nobody cares if somebody brings in an outside drink. Between street buckets and convenience store beers, I never once purchased a drink in a bar the whole time I was there unless I wanted to nurse a drink for wifi purposes in the afternoon.
The main attraction in Phi Phi is, of course, the views, so I’ll get to that now.
The Korean beach! To the west of the pier, there are massive hotels filled with identically dressed Chinese package tourists, and beyond this is Phi Phi’s version of K-town. Korean girls in Phi Phi were funny, because they would do things like wear bikinis or smoke openly in public, which is rarely done in Korea. However, they would still do super Korean-y things like wear sandals (slippers) with socks. I miss Korea.
This is the entrance to Maya Bay, aka “The Beach.” This is the only picture I have though, as we had to swim up from the boat, and I didn’t have anything waterproof to keep my camera in. Just as well though, pictures wouldn’t really do it justice anyway, particularly with my aged camera.