Made famous in part by the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, “The Beach,” Ko Phi Phi (pronounced Ko Pee Pee) is a beautiful island that has felt the full effects of tourism. If you're expecting a quiet island getaway, similar to what you might see in a Corona commercial, this probably isn't the spot for you. But if you're looking to enjoy the beach and it's related activities during the day, and a bevy of nightlife options when the sun goes down, this island would suit you well.
The island itself has no vehicles and is only navigable by foot and/or bike, which properly reflects the relaxed feel of the island. Among meandering, narrow streets you'll find an array of bars, restaurants and guesthouses that cater to tourists (that's me!) from all over the world. In all, I spent 4 days on and around the island and enjoyed my time there. Some highlights:
1. About a 10 minute boat ride from Ko Phi Phi, is Maya Beach, which was made famous by the movie “The Beach.” While undoubtedly beautiful, it loses some of its allure and tranquility with the numerous speedboats parked in the bay during the day. That said, I guess you can camp out on this beach over night, which I think would be a really good way to experience the place after the tour boats have left.
While snorkeling out at Maya Beach, I saw some cool “fishys” including a black tip reef shark and a clown fish (like Nemo). Also nearby on my tour, we visited “monkey beach” (where you could feed monkey's bananas in the trees) and some tucked away caves with cave paintings that were more than 800 years old.
2. One thing I was surprised to see was the resilience of the island. In 2004, Koh Phi Phi was in the crosshairs of a tsunami that destroyed over 70% of the island's infrastructure and left an estimated 4,000 people dead/missing. Visiting it today, you wouldn't have thought it went through such an impactful event less than 10 years ago.
3. If I were to describe the nightlife on Koh Phi Phi, I'd describe it as a “shit-show.” After dinner, many tourists and backpackers hang out in bars within the town center (including one where drunk enough tourists get in a boxing ring and fight each other in muay thai), until the party slowly flows out to the bars on the beach. And when I say bars on the beach, that is exactly what they are: a row of 10 straight bars blasting music, enlisting fire dancers and feeding tourists buckets of alcohol...yes, I said buckets.
4. Fire shows abound at beach bars throughout the night and it is pretty impressive to watch. These guys are pretty talented at what they do and basically get out there night after night and enjoy it. There were “fire-tossers,” “fire jump ropes,” “fire rings (that drunk people jump through like Will Ferrell from Old School) and all sorts of “fire” related jobs that I don't think the US would ever allow.
Check out this video to see how to properly light a cigarette: