The virtues and vices of Ko Phi Phi are hotly discussed by travellers and travel writers alike. The natural beauty of the island is unparalleled, even in a region of the world renowned for its stunning destinations. Limestone cliffs, turquoise waters, white sand beaches and miles of trackless forest make Phi Phi a perfect tropical island in anyone's book.
But developments over the past 20 years have made it the subject of controversy, with those who wanted to preserve its natural character, pitched against those who wanted to make it a world-class holiday destination and profit from the trade. To understand the dispute, you have to imagine what the island was like, 20 years ago, when it was first 'discovered' by adventurous backpackers looking for Eden on earth. They found it on Ko Phi Phi Don -- a long, wide sand bar gracefully arching between two magnificent islands, creating two placid bays ideal for swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving, surrounded by cliffs waiting to be climbed and forests to be explored. Back then there were only a scattering of bungalows, which was populated mostly by a community of sea-faring gypsies, who call themselves the Chao Ko -- the Island People. There was no pier and only one public boat each week made scheduled trips out to the island.
The once-idyllic Ton Sai Beach became a port, clogged with boats and debris, with a pier to accommodate the large vessels needed to bring the growing number of visitors to shore enmasse. The sandy isthmus is almost unrecognisable now, blanketed with guesthouses, luxury hotels, bars, restaurants, tailors, internet cafes, travel agents, banks, CD shops, jewellery stalls and clothing markets. Here, price gouging is the norm and tourists are hounded by Thais and resident foreigners alike touting diving trips, boats for hire, places to stay and bars to drink at. Those who remember what it once was, and what it could have been, find it impossible not to shed a tear when they see the place today. It exists, after all, on what is partially national park land. Thailand might have created a well-managed park with walking trails, rock-climbing, caving, unspoilt diving and snorkelling sites ... From that perspective, it is a paradise lost.
On the bright side, the island has been cleaned up considerably from the festering sore it was a decade ago, when construction marred much of it and filth covered the beaches. Through a combination of a growing emphasis on ecological preservation, and, ironically, the tsunami itself, today the sand and waters are fairly clean, there are no private cars or macadam roads and no plans to introduce any. A few dozens saleangs -- motorcycles with side cars -- pick their way over sand and dirt roads, transporting passengers and their bags to their hotel when they first arrive, but they are mostly used for getting goods and equipment from here to there. Other than that, modes of transport are limited to push carts, bicycles and flip-flops.
HERE you can find map of Koh Phi Phi
The closest airports to Ko Phi Phi are Phuket and Krabi. Both are international airports, but Phuket has a far higher frequency of both domestic and international flights. All Thai domestic carriers fly to both airports. Check their websites for detailed pricing and schedule information. If you don't want to get a ferry to Phi Phi, Destination Air uses small seaplanes to fly direct from Phuket to the island -- the flight takes about 16 minutes!
Krabi - The price to and from Krabi is 350B. Boats leave Krabi at 10.00 and 15.00 and the journey takes 90 minutes. The ferry port is about 5km out of Krabi town so most operators will collect you from your accommodation/booking office in Krabi (usually about 45 to 60 minutes before departure time). Boats leave Phi Phi at 09.00 and 14.00.
The price to and from Phuket is 350B. Boats leave Phuket at 08.30, 13.30 and 14.30 from Ratsada Pier, with the journey lasting 90 minutes. In the reverse direction, boats leave Phi Phi at 09.00 and 14.30.
Ko Lanta -
The price to and from Ko Lanta is 300B. Boats leave Ko Lanta at 08.30 and 13.00 (high season only) and take 90 minutes. Boats leave Ko Phi Phi at 11.30, 14.00, and 15.00.
Ao Nang -
The price to and from Ao Nang is 390B. One boat a day leaves Ao Nang at 09.00 and takes 60 minutes. In the reverse, a boat leaves Ko Phi Phi at 15.30.