Ko Phi Phi Ley

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Ko Phi Phi Ley, Phi Phi Don’s little sister, is a popular day-trip once your hangover is over. Pretty much all of the travel agencies in town sell a half-day boat trip to the small island for 250 baht (about $8). Still curious to see why people liked the area so much, we signed up for it.

When we showed up at the pier a little bit before 2 p.m., the meeting time, there were only four of us. I chatted a bit with two Canadian girls, who raved about Ko Phi Phi Don, “best place in Thailand so far”. Ouch. Seriously?

Suddenly, hordes of day-trippers started to show up and next thing we knew, there were about 50 people waiting to jump on the long-tail boats, all lined up and ready to go. While we didn’t dare to hope for a small group, the crowd was way too big and we ended up being 14 in our boat.

Our first stop was “Monkey Beach”, a tiny strip of sand unimaginatively named for the many monkeys around. The boats stopped close to the shore and dozens of day-tripper jumped into the water and walked to the small beach to have their picture taken with the monkeys. I felt sorry for the poor animals.

We climbed back on board and made our way around the island. I was feeling quite cynical considering the atmosphere—I’m not quite used to taking organized tours! —but I must admit the scenery was nice. The water was a deep emerald-green color, the sun gave the cliffs a warm hue and the sky was deep blue. We stopped here and there, to swim or to snorkel. The coral reefs around Phi Phi Ley were really damaged and nowhere close to what we seen in Australia, but there were hundreds of colourful fishes around us.

Eventually, we reached Maya Bay, the “highlight” of the trip: this is where the 2000 movie “The Beach” with Leonardo Di Caprio was set. Oh, the irony! The movie is the story of a bunch of backpackers who want to escape the boring world and look for paradise, starting their own community in a remote and secret location. Trust me, there is nothing secret about Maya Beach. About 30 boats were parked at the shore and the beach was jam-packed. Asians were in the shade, taking hundreds of pictures, while Westerners were in the sunny corner, sun-bathing and drinking. The whole place was a caricature.

On our back to Phi Phi Don, we saw a really nice sunset, which was pretty much the highlight of the day for me.

I’m not the most environmentalist person around but I can’t help wondering if anyone in Phi Phi realizes that the place is being over-developed and destroyed by greed. There are so many “tourist” boats around that all you see on the beach is dead coral reef, washed upon the shore. The water may look great in the distance but up close you can clearly see all the dirt and waste floating on the surface. Looks can be deceiving… Phi Phi was definitely not paradise for me.

You can see the complete set of pictures taken in Thailand on Flickr.

Limstone Cliff

Blue Sky and Cliff

Monkey Beach

Long Tail Boat

Our Shadows on Maya Beach

A Bit of Green

Feng on Maya Beach

Maya Beach (The Beach), Packed

Blue Sky Blue Sea

Sunset on the Boat

Watching the Sunset

Sunset at Sea

Sunset at Sea


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Whoa! You’ve walked on the same sand as Di Caprio did! Only joking!
    For today, I’ll keep my rant about greed and environment for myself, but you can imagine what I think…

  2. There is a good point you are making regarding the paradox between conservation and tourism. Yes, there’s beautiful places to be seen, and yet when people go and see it, it destroys the scene. I share your sentiments in being a little off-put by crowds, and when I saw your pictures, my immediate thought was that I would not want to be doing just what everyone else is doing.

    But at the end of the day, crowd or no crowd, the more important thing is to have fun, right?

  3. @kyh – Yep, I agree, it’s just the hype. Definitely NOT the best beach in Thailand!

    @Em – Do share your rant! Like I say, I’m usually more into social issues than environmental ones but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Mother Earth here.

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – I usually try to not be that snotty person that consider a place is “spoiled” as soon as there are people around. but yeah, Ko Phi Phi was just ridiculously jam-packed.

    @khengsiong – I’d say so. The problem is it’s over-exploited by locals (there are wayyyy to many boats!) and everybody wants a piece of it.

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