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Koh Phi Phi – Thailand

Written by LouiseElizabeth

21st April 2019

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Phi Phi Island was our fourth stop on our family travel adventure. I’d heard a lot about Phi Phi Island from friend’s who had been backpacking in their 20’s and was looking forward to seeing the island for myself. Being known as a party island, I wasn’t sure what Phi Phi could offer now I was my 30s with a family in tow, or if this is somewhere you could stay long term.

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Ferry from Krabi to Koh Phi Phi takes around 90 minutes

Koh Phi Phi

Phi Phi is made up of six islands, with the 2 main islands being Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Leh. Phi Phi Don the largest of the islands is a popular tourist destination, especially amongst backpackers. Koh Phi Phi is easily accessible, with regular ferry services from Phuket, Krabi, and Koh Lanta. Phi Phi Leh, Maya Bay (made famous by the Leonardo Dicaprio 90’s film ‘The Beach’) can be visited as a day trip only.

Missed our previous Family Travel Adventure blog post? Check out Ao Nang, Thailand – Third Stop

Getting to Koh Phi Phi

We travelled from Ao Nang, Krabi to Koh Phi Phi. Buying a ferry ticket was frustrating. On a budget, we also try and get the best price without going too far. Not for the first time, we discovered what we had negotiated for, wasn’t what we actually got.

The Tourist Information stand we had chosen for our travel to Phi Phi Island had used the word “ferry”. So I was expecting quite a large boat. We were also informed that there was air conditioning onboard for the children. However, upon boarding in the mid-afternoon heat, we soon realised we’d been mis-sold the air conditioning dream. In fact, there weren’t even enough seats to fit everyone inside. Many passengers on our overbooked ferry had to stand or sit outside to watch the stunning views and catch some breeze. We’d also been told the boat would be direct to Phi Phi Island, however it stopped briefly at Railay Beach. This didn’t affect our trip though as the stop-off was so quick. We had a total journey time of around 90 minutes.

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Dropping of passengers to Railay, on our way to Phi Phi Island

Travel Tip: No matter which island you are travelling from, you are required to pay a 20 baht Arrival Tax.  You pay this on the pier on arrival, so make sure you have the cash ready when you disembark.

Arriving in Koh Phi Phi

Phi Phi Island transport is non-existent, mostly due to its very small (12 km²) size. Therefore when it came to packing for our trip to Phi Phi Island we knew we had to pack tactically. There was no longer the luxury of Grab Taxis. This time we had to rely on our legs. Fortunately, it’s only a 15 to 20 mins walk from one side of the island to the other.

Travel Tip: You can find men with carts/trolleys on the pier (or at your hotels), who will transport your luggage for a small fee.

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There seems to be a mix of people staying on the island. With a split between the backpackers on one side of the island (away from the pier) and those visiting Phi Phi for a beach break (closest to the pier). The far side of the island also has a busy nightlife for those coming for a good time. This was something that initially put me off. In the evening, I felt like I was back in my early 20’s, frequently the likes of Magaluf. But this time with the lure of cheap buckets (not free shots) drawing me into busy bars.

Phi Phi View Point

One of the most popular things to do on the island, apart from boat trips to neighbouring islands and diving, is the trek to Phi Phi View Point. At a height of only 186 meters, it’s the highest point on the island. It’s a well-trodden path and will take roughly 20-30 to walk. I would recommend going up to the View Point on a clear day to catch the sunset over the island. Make sure you bring plenty of water and your phone. Obviously, you will want to take some great snaps for your Instagram page, but the trek back in the dark will be easier with the help of the torch on your phone.

In Case of Emergency

World Med Center

Before we went traveling Ross had an injury that intermittently seemed to flare up and we had talked about going back home if it continued. Even though Ross had sought medical advice prior to going away, he still had some concerns it could be more serious. To put his mind at rest we went to the World Med Center on Phi Phi Island.

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World Med Center – Koh Phi Phi

The World Medical Center on Phi Phi looks newly built and was everything you would expect from a modern-day medical centre. On arrival, Ross completed an online registration form and was seen by a doctor, within 5 minutes. The doctor and staff couldn’t have done enough and even kept Dylan and Orla entertained. The service Ross received was very professional and the consultation wasn’t rushed. Unlike the treatment, he’d received from his local GP in the UK. During this appointment, Ross cheekily asked the doctor’s advice regarding a nappy sore on Orla. The doctor was more than happy to take a look without charging an extra fee. Overall for the doctor’s appointment and the cream for Orla, it cost less than 1,000 THB.

Tsunami

Phi Phi island has been completely rebuilt since the devastating tsunami, which hit and destroyed the island on Boxing Day 2004. There are still faint reminders that you are at risk, with tsunami evacuation points signs visible around the island. Having read 80% of Thailand’s Tsunami warning system needs maintenance and two of the four towers weren’t relaying a signal on Koh Phi Phi. We decided during our trip to make ourselves aware of these points and discuss what we would do in case of an emergency.

Tsunami Thailand Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi Tsunami Warning System

Island Food

We mostly ate from street food stalls, as opposed to the restaurants along the seafront pier. The restaurants along the pier seafront are a tourist trap, providing stunning views, but this does come at a cost. Therefore, we would buy a selection of items from street stalls and sit on the beach, whilst Dylan played with the local children. A couple of our favourites were;

  • Cosmic by Bake Up – Freshly made stone baked Pizza for only 100 baht.
  • Monster Burger- Great friendly staff who pretty much babysat for us whilst we ate. Burgers were great with lots of choices and you build your own.
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Cosmic by Bake Up – Freshly made stone baked Pizza for only 100 baht

Travel Tip: On Phi Phi island make sure that you buy items (such as food) on the opposite side of the island from the pier. Prices are inflated right by the pier with so many tourists visiting on day trips.

Koh Phi Phi Accommodation

For such a small island Phi Phi has so many accommodation options for the budget-friendly backpackers, to tourists on a luxury two-week break from work/home. The luxury hotels and restaurants are all on the pier side of the island. With the budget-conscious having to travel a little further to the other side of the island, or up into the hills. During our stay on Phi Phi, we stayed in a few different hotels, booked through Agoda or direct with the hotel;

  • Pamnamee Hotel – This hotel was in an excellent location, within a 2-minute walk of the pier. The amenities were quite basic, but overall we had no real complaints.
  • Hotel Phi Phi – Again close to the pier, but came with a swimming pool. We booked here, although did not stay. The reception was adamant and became aggressive that we had to have an extra bed for Dylan (our two-year-old) at an extra cost of 700 baht per night. Avoid.
  • Gypsy Sea View Hotel – Further away from the busy pier and in the middle of the island. We had a nice room with a pool view. Although the breakfast was basic, it was nice to have and saved us some money. If you don’t mind the walk, I’d highly recommend this hotel for the price.
  • Phi Phi Chang Grand Resort – We booked this accommodation direct with the ‘Resort’. Quiet hidden location, close to Gypsy Sea View Hotel. We chose to stay in a large villa, up in the hills (they do have smaller rooms, which are cheaper).  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a pool or breakfast included. However, there was a horse, chickens and a cockerel, which was a bonus at sunrise! Don’t let the name fool you, Phi Phi Chang Grand isn’t a resort. Overall we had no complaints. Plus it was the cheapest place we stayed during our time on Koh Phi Phi.

Ferry Ticket to Krabi

Similar to Ao Nang, the pier at Phi Phi Island is overflowing with Tourist Information stands and Scuba Diving shops selling day trips to neighbouring islands. The ticket prices back to Ao Nang varied and weren’t necessarily what they had written on their boards. So once again, I would recommend trying to negotiate the price. We managed to get the price from 450 to 400 baht (children went free). This included our shuttle back to the Glow Hotel, where we would spend 1 more night before our flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Our Time In Koh Phi Phi

This was Ross’ third time to Phi Phi and my first. We had a lovely relaxing time on Phi Phi Island. The beach and sea were lovely, very warm and calm and a great place for Dylan and I to collect shells (although I did get very burnt). The atmosphere during the day on Phi Phi Island is very relaxed (with backpackers sleeping off their hangovers) and we settled in well to island life. On the beach, in the evenings Dylan has grown in confidence and would leave our sides to play with the local children, who welcome him kindly.

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Collecting Shells on Koh Phi Phi

If I was in my 20s again and without a family in tow, I would’ve loved Phi Phi’s party scene. With Phi Phi’s clear blue waters I can only imagine what the scuba diving must be like. It’s an ideal location if you’re someone on their gap year or on holidays/vacation for two weeks and want to let your hair down. As for staying long term, it has little to offer and would become expensive compared to other locations in Thailand

Next Stop – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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