Summary: Phi Phi Island is known as one of the most beautiful islands in Thailand—maybe in the world. Check out our crazy “one-day trip” to Phi Phi to avoid the mistakes that we made, and make your visit a really good one.
After almost three weeks working in a hotel room or lobby, going out only at night to get food (just like vampires!), we finally decided that it was time to have some fun. So we checked out the prices for Phi Phi Island, as it was the only trip where they offered snorkeling and that’s usually what we’re looking for. The girl at the booth was really nice and she told us that we could go with a speedboat or with a cruise boat. For some reason we chose the cruise boat (maybe it sounded nice to us to be going on a cruise, or maybe because we already knew what a speedboat trip looks like).
The next day, we were up at 6am and ready at 6.45am, waiting in the lobby for the minibus. We were very lucky with the weather and picked the only day without rain. It was even not cloudy (October is still in the rainy season). After half an hour ride we arrived on the “cruise boat.” The boat was in fact closer to a giant bus carrying people more than the cruise boat we’d imagined. There were more than one hundred people aboard, mostly Indians. We went downstairs to take a glimpse at the air conditioned room, but it smelled like the toilets so we decided to stay outside. We sat on plastic chairs and discovered that there was another air con room at that level (one that didn’t stink), but we stayed outside.
The first thing I did was to order a coffee (my first one of the day), and immediately drop it right on my pants after I’d put it on the armrest of the chair (plastic chair and plastic cup don’t stick together, that’s what I’ve learnt). “Dropping coffee brings luck,” as they say in Egypt. We sat just in front of the coffee booth, which made it difficult for us to sleep, having people constantly coming and going in front of us. The trip was in fact very animated with all these people aboard.
After maybe an hour and a half the guide announced that we were almost at the island and that we should prepare for snorkeling and get our equipment—that the boat wouldn’t stop on the beach, so if we wanted to go there we should go swimming or rent a canoe. If we didn’t know how to swim, we should just “relax on the boat,” as he said. While he was speaking I was trying to imagine a hundred people snorkeling at the same place around the boat and I thought we should have taken the speedboat. I didn’t know if I wanted to snorkel anymore.
Bassel came back with the equipment and told me he’d rent the canoe too. I was doubtful at first because we had only an hour for snorkeling and I didn’t want to spend it on a canoe. We were the first people in the line (thanks to the canoe). Bassel took his camera in a waterproof bag, we had the snorkel equipment they gave us and a few minutes later we were on our own boat! At that time I was not happy, as I was thinking, “What are we gonna do with this boat when we go snorkeling?” So we went to the beach to tie the canoe and were welcomed by half a dozen monkeys! Bassel was very inspired to take both the canoe and the camera so that we could take pictures, though the monkeys were looking at it wondering if this could be something to eat. But a few minutes later a speedboat came (they can access the beach) and the people fed the monkeys (which I think is wrong, but at that time I was happy that the monkeys didn’t focus on our camera anymore!). We then left the boat and went snorkeling. The good thing is that we were far from the crowd—but it was not the best snorkeling we’ve experienced. We decided then to paddle our canoe, which was now invaded by monkeys who had taken possession of it. Thank God they went away easily when we reached the beach, so we could take the boat. I love animals, but I also know that one should always be careful with wild ones, especially monkeys.
We wanted to give the boat back and continue snorkeling, but we discovered that it was just impossible to come back through the crowd of snorkelers without hurting someone with the canoe. So we waited until people went back to the boat. I was surprised to suddenly find a huge amount of fish under the water, and found out that the reason for this was that people were feeding them with bread (but without jam!). I think this is wrong, though I saw that many times in Thailand. I think they should feed them with fish food. I don’t know what the impact is of hundreds of people feeding wild fish daily with bread, but I don’t think this is good.
The next and last stop of our trip was lunch at Phi Phi Island itself. We paid 20THB each for the entrance (not included in the trip), and guess what we had for lunch? Indian food, of course-thanks to all these people with us on the boat. I almost felt I had gone to India. We walked after lunch to the paradisiacal beach of Phi Phi Island. We had the chance to be the first to have lunch and first to finish, so there were very few people on the beach when we arrived. We took some nice pictures then had coffee, went back to the boat and left at 2.30pm.
We were back to Phuket at 5pm. Upon arrival we found a crowd of taxi drivers holding papers with hotel names, and it took almost 15 minutes before we found ours.
So in the end, the trip was pretty bad. The high tourist season hasn’t started yet (it extends from November till February), but it was already so crowded! I would definitely recommend avoiding this touristic pit that will make your trip turn to hell for sure. I also think that the speedboat would have been a better choice, and that it might have taken us to other snorkeling spots. However, all of that being said, Phi Phi Island is a place one should see while in Thailand—just be aware that it is very touristy.