Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Phi Phi Islands: Part 1

After idling in Phuket for a couple of days, Angela and I took a ferry to the Phi Phi Islands, or Ko Phi Phi as they're known in Thai. This small archipelago is touted as one of the most beautiful island groups in the world, and was made especially famous after scenes from the 2000 movie The Beach were filmed there. The islands' infrastructure was almost completely devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, but since then they have swiftly redeveloped, with the main island of Ko Phi Phi Don filled with restaurants, travel agencies, tattoo parlours, ATMs, and other modern amenities. There are parties in the main village of Tonsai every night, with fire shows on the beach and dance music blasting until 4am. Despite the flocks of tourists arriving every day, the natural beauty of the islands remains intact (though we've heard they're currently building a mall there, which seems a bit much).
Here are some pictures we took during our time there.

Our route from Phuket to the Phi Phi Islands.
We decided to stay on the top deck during the ferry ride, which may have been a mistake since it was scorching hot outside, even with a sea breeze! We both got pretty sunburned.

Everyone's bags were piled up at the back of the boat.
As we cruised the Strait of Malacca, we caught sight of many rocky islands jutting out of the sea.
After two hours or so we were close to Ko Phi Phi Don, the largest and most populated of the Phi Phi islands.
We also saw Phi Phi Leh, the island where several scenes from The Beach were filmed. We would be taking a taxi boat there in the coming days, but our main base would be on Phi Phi Don.
The closer we got to Phi Phi Don, the more we began to see how beautiful its scenery is.

There are no roads on the island, so most people get around by these taxi boats.

Approaching Tonsai Village, where most of Phi Phi's population lives.

The pier.

Once on the pier, a member of staff helped us bring our stuff to our hostel.

He led us through the mazelike streets of the village, which were lined with all sorts of colourful, tourist-orientated shops and establishments. There was a very breezy, laid back vibe there, though we were also very overcome by the extreme heat. It was already extremely hot in Bangkok, and we had somewhat adapted to that, but we never really got used to the temperatures down here in the south, not even after a week.

Our hostel was located in a quiet area of bungalows and farmland just outside the village.
Our own balcony, overlooking a landscape dominated by the loud sounds of insects and frogs.
As has become our usual routine, after settling into our hotel we went immediately back outside to explore our new surroundings some more.
We once again met up with Christine and Lucy (two friends we knew from our teaching days in Korea, and who we also met up with in Chiang Mai). They also brought along a Dutch friend, Ed.
After some food, we headed to the beach as the sun began to set.

That evening, we watched a fire show on the beach. These take place every night on Phi Phi Don, except during inclement weather. These young men do all sorts of tricks involving fire-based objects.

They let people in the audience try out a few of the tricks as well. Here's Angela jumping over the fire rope. I was very impressed with her bravery, especially given that we know some friends who were burned trying this!

I decided to try the a-little-less-risky fire limbo.

I also jumped through a ring of fire.
The next day, we mostly relaxed in and around Tonsai Village. We found a local hospital to clean and redress the wound on my leg, and chilled out on some of the nearby beaches.

At one point we passed the local mosque. About 80% of the island's population is Muslim, owing to the close proximity to Malaysia.
The beaches close to the pier seemed a lot cleaner than the ones near the clubs and fire shows, which had been defiled by drunken partygoers.
Some local kids playing football.
Later that night, we experienced an extreme downpour that only lasted thirty minutes, yet managed to flood many of the streets.

Click here to continue the adventure in Part 2!

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