...be prepared to share it with lots of other (often loud and obnoxious!) people :
Phuket, 4th of February 2017
Today we visited Phi Phi islands, including the famous Phi Phi Leh Island where 'The Beach' movie was filmed.
Read below about our experience or scroll down to see the photos from our trip.
We never go on the organised package tours because we hate feeling like we are on a school trip, waiting around for who-knows-what and squishing through the crowds of people who constantly take photos. Usually we do some local research and find cheaper and more pleasant ways of seeing the touristy places that we feel are worth visiting. Sometimes we totally let go, if something is not our cup of tea, like this time in Sri Lanka, where we chose not to go up the Sigiriya mountain.
But, being so close to what's described as 'one of the most beautiful places in Thailand', we felt we'd both regret if we didn't visit the islands near Phuket.
We just had to find out how to see the Phi Phi islands without spending 3 days' of our budget and avoiding obnoxious tourists.
First we tried to google things. There was some pieces of advice on Tripadvisor, but all of them came down to hiring a private longboat with a guide.
That would mean we would have to get to Phi Phi Don island, stay there for a night, and from there, book another tour to Phi Phi Leh (because you can't stay there overnight as it's free of human inhabitants). So that's the cost of:
- the ferry there and back (1500 baht),
- night there (the cheapest room for 1000 baht)
- and a private/small group tour to Phi Phi Leh (1500 baht) for both of us on a longboat.
The total cost would equal to 4000 baht ( 115 USD / 92 GB ).
That was too much for us to spend so we kept asking the locals. But everyone just gave us the leaflets of the local boats that do day trips to both of the islands.
We found a day trip for 1300 baht each, with lunch, snorkelling equipment and transfers to and from our hostel included.
Since we couldn't find any other option, we decided to give up and book the package tour with a company called Sea Angel.
There weren't supposed to be any other fees, we asked about 10 times.
Well... We should have known better. The first thing they announced when we got on board was an additional fee of 400 baht per person for everyone who wants to go swimming or snorkelling in Monkey Beach... At the end of the day, it really wasn't a big deal. 400 Baht is not a lot of money, but when you are told repetitively that there are no extra cost, it is really annoying. Especially when the 400 Baht is a government tax that you have to pay no matter which tour you take!
We chose that particular tour because it stopped at Monkey Beach, so we were really angry that the fee suddenly came out of nowhere... we thought that there was a fee to pay only if you want to get off at Maya Bay (which is a national park and where 'The Beach' was actually filmed).
We thought it's best to judge the situation once we got to Monkey Beach and decide whether we pay and snorkel, or save the money, and sunbath on the boat before we get to the bigger island, Phi Phi Don, for lunch.
In the meantime we remembered one of the reasons why we don't really like the package tours: it seemed that the fellow passengers have never heard of queuing, and pushing through was a widely acceptable act.
Just when we thought that the tour company won with us and they tricked us with their lovely brochure, the islands emerged...
In the end it was worth it.
The views were simply stunning. It was a shame that there were lots and lots of tourists everywhere, but on the other hand we were one of them - we came to see the natural beauty of Phi Phi islands like all of the other people.
When we got to Phi Phi Don, we changed to a smaller boat that would take us around Phi Phi Leh and stop around Monkey Beach for snorkelling or sunbathing on board. Once the boat stopped near the beach, we though we would forever regret it if we didn't pay the extra fee and skipped on snorkelling. So we just bit our lip and spent the extra 800 baht for an hour of swimming between the colourful fish and at the beach, where to our content, the water was still pristine clear and the sand super fine and white. There wasn't even any rubbish around (except one can of coke we spotted throughout the whole swim) !
The only saddening thing were the monkeys. We did want to see them, but we imagined they would be somewhere in the distance, in the trees or in the bushes. But we may have been lying to ourselves!
Even before the tour, we saw some of the brochures saying "Visit Monkey Beach to feed the monkeys"... Once we got to the beach, there was one worn out sign that said not to feed them, but everyone seemed to pretend it wasn't there. Our fellow passengers were standing around them, especially entertained by a monkey drinking yoghurt from a plastic bottle that someone had given him.
So if you do happen to be going to Phi Phi islands, the first option is staying overnight in Phi Phi Don and going by a longboat to Phi Phi Leh which might be more enjoyable - the price difference in the end (after paying the extra snorkelling fee) wouldn't be that huge and you might have more time and actually get off the longboat at Maya Bay in Phi Phi Leh, as we only got to see it from our boat.
The second option is to do what we did. A day trip in a large group with pretty much everything organised for you.
Or the third option - swimming yourself all the way to Phi Phi Islands :)
The views are stunning irregardless of how you do it. It's amazing to see that places like this still exist, even with the amount tourists going there everyday.
Thank goodness there isn't a way for people to go up these beautiful tropical cliffs...they would have been long gone otherwise!