Getting to Koh Phi Phi
If you’re following a typical backpacker route then you’re probably on Koh Tao looking for a way east. Look no further than the slave ship. A big wooden boat with two floors and very low ceilings overcrowded with sweaty, sea sick backpackers sleeping on thin, narrow mats on the floor as it makes its way across the choppy water back to the mainland. Hilarious and wrong all at the same time, it’s a great addition to those stories you tell your friends to impress them.
It leaves Koh Tao at 9pm, arrives at Suratthani at 5:30am and you have no choice but to wait in line as expensive mini buses slowly take everyone to the main bus station. You then catch the bus to Krabi and hop on a boat to Koh Phi Phi Don, the largest and most popular island, for 400฿ (£7).
*Update: there is now another option for the night boat which is just a regular ship with decent bunk beds, they even give you pillows and blankets to keep you cool in the relentless air conditioning, so you don’t have to ride the slave ship anymore!*
On the island
Arriving to the island is manic. You will be surrounded instantly with people telling you they have the cheapest rooms, or the nicest rooms, you can either go with any one of these people or even pre-book ahead of arrival. We ended up hunting high and low around the island for something affordable and found it at Gypsy Village, cute little bungalows not too far away from all the action.
There are some beautiful beaches with enough bars and restaurants to keep you entertained for a week. I would definitely recommend Stones Bar for some mellow dub-step and trippy decor. We partied a lot on Phi Phi, there was something happening every night and most evenings we would start out relaxing by a bonfire on the beach and end our night dancing in the rain or on tables or relaxing with a fruity sheesha.
Around the island
One of the main reasons people come here is to visit Maya Bay on Koh Phi Phi Leh, where they filmed “The Beach” starring Leo DiCaprio . It’s easily accessible by boat, you can visit any tour operator on the island to book yourself in for a boat trip to all the best, and most crowded, spots.
Our first stop was the disgustingly over crowded Maya Bay to see where Leo DiCaprio himself strolled along the white sand and swam in the turquoise water. You also realise that a lot of special effects were used in creating the cliffs around the bay, there is actually a huge gap into the ocean.
We also visited some less well known but equally beautiful spots like Bamboo Island, Monkey Island and Mosquito Bay with a lot of snorkelling at each stop. It was a fantastic day, great value for money and you can enjoy the beauty of Koh Phi Phi and the surrounding islands which are not much more than giant limestone rocks.
Diving on Koh Phi Phi
I met the crew at Visa Dive Center and they booked me in for two dives with a chance of seeing turtles, rays and even sharks. We had a small boat with a small group of people, both my dives were just me and the guide, Konrad. Our first dive was to a beautiful reef where we saw sea snakes, scorpion fish, puffer fish, clown fish and barracuda among the usual parrot fish and angel fish.
Our second dive was to a popular spot for sharks, but I was told they hadn’t been spotted in a while so not to get my hopes up. We floated along with the current for a long time without seeing anything but sand. We were about to give up when Konrad tugged on my fin and I turned around to face a group of fully grown black tip reef sharks emerging out of the murky water. He told me I was very lucky to see so many, 20 in all, and they came within a meter of us, circling us before getting bored and swimming away. It was an incredible experience and surprisingly not scary at all! I just wish I’d had a GoPro back then.
You can view the full album here.