Was Ko Phi Phi an Amazing Destination or Our Worst Nightmare?

You betcha we were gonna make it over to the Thai islands at some point of this trip. You all know that we are total beach bums. We were totally looking forward to some time to basically do nothing but sit on a pretty beach and watch the waves roll in. It has been nearly four months since we got some good beach bummin’ in. We were obviously overdue.

Finding our perfect island paradise in Thailand proved harder than anticipated. First of all, there are the crowds. It seems like every person in the world wants to get their hands on a piece of beach paradise in Thailand.  Then there are the full-moon parties which we hoped to avoid because that’s not really our thing. Then there is the fact that it’s really hot at the moment and we needed a place with air-con.

We needed to find this... and we did! Sunset over Lana Bay on Phi Phi
We needed to find this… and we did! Sunset over Lana Bay on Phi Phi

Robert and I have really high expectations when it comes to loving a beach. This is mainly due to the fact that we had some incredible experiences at some of the most pristine and beautiful beaches in the world. Even after seeing the amazing pictures of the Thai islands, we knew it would be hard to top the Philippines and Australia’s beaches.

Choosing an Island

The first step in achieving our dreamy beach getaway was to choose an island. Did you know that there are like 34348305 million islands to choose from in Thailand? We set some criteria to narrow it down. We wanted an exceptionally pretty beach that we could swim and lounge on. It seems that’s nearly every beach in Thailand, but the Andaman Coast really stood out as a stunning destination. The Andaman Coast also worked out geographically, as it is closest to Malaysia which was our next destination.

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Once we narrowed down the region we had to choose an island. We found a perfect island, Ko Lipe, but turns out it was going to be quite difficult and expensive to get to, and budget accommodation with air-con was not easy to find. Bummer.

In the end, we ended up choosing two islands. Because, why not?  Both of them are popular with the backpacking crowd, but both had options to stay away from the main touristy area and in a more remote part of town. We were also able to find budget accommodation in area that were very attractive to us (i.e. like steps from the beach).

We chose Ko Phi Phi and Koh Lanta.

Ko Phi Phi

If you’ve ever been to Southern Thailand you might be wondering why, after the criteria just shared above, we would ever choose Ko Phi Phi. Most of the reviews we read made it sound like our worst nightmare as it is deemed the “party island’ and is severely overcrowded in the main part of town. It’s beauty has been it’s own demise after the movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio was filmed here.

But dang, I just couldn’t get past those beautiful photographs I kept seeing. The water was so stunning and the sand was so white; I know a perfect beach when I see one (and so does everyone else, apparently).

The world-famous Maya Bay
The world-famous Maya Bay

But where there is a will there is a way, and we were determined, determined, I tell ya, to find a perfect place away from the crowds. In our budget. With air-conditioning. Steps away from a pretty beach.

I’m happy to announce that after about two days of Google searching and familiarizing myself with the lay of the land I found a place that fit all our needs. It became even more attractive to me once I read that the only way to get there is by a 20 min. boat ride from the main pier. That will certainly deter people. It just so happens that this hotel is also a skip and a hop away to three nice and mostly empty beaches.

Called The Hip Resort. A short walk from 3 beaches and away from the main tourist drag (you have to take a boat to get there)
Called The Hip Resort. A short walk from 3 beaches and away from the main tourist drag (you have to take a boat to get there)

It only took us nine hours to get there. We legit took a tuk-tuk to a plane to a taxi to a ferry to a small boat to a motorcycle to get here. Yes, it was a long day but nothing could wipe the smile off my face because I knew from experience that difficult journeys deters crowds. Yeeesss!

Day 1 

On our first full day we made our way over to the “secret” beach. We only found it because we looked on Google Earth and it looked amazing and really hard to get to. Then we had to ask a local if it was possible to walk there. It was. “All” you had to do  was walk down a dirt road to a beach, walk through the rocks for a bit to a fisherman’s shack, and ask if he didn’t mind if you crossed his property. When he gave you the okay you climbed up a steep hill using a rope as leverage. You had to traverse over some large boulders. You then had to repel yourself down the other side of the hill using another rope.

Making the climb!
Making the climb!

That sounds fun. We made it the the beach without any injuries and enjoyed a full day of lounging around and swimming in the clear, warm water. When we had to made our way back home, we had to do the crazy rock climb/repel thing again. We managed to do it with only one minor injury that time around. It was an adventure!

Jungle-clad beach
Jungle-clad beach

Day 2 

On day two we booked a private boat to take us out to the famed Maya Bay and do some snorkeling. This is where the movie was filmed and it gorgeous, but gets incredibly busy everyday.  Our guide agreed to rise and shine bright and early and we were on our private boat by 7:10 am. We made it over to Maya and there were already about 10 boats there! I cannot even imagine how crowded it must get in the middle of the day. Even still, we enjoyed a dip in the perfect water and got our photos in. We stopped at three places to snorkel. The snorkeling was actually pretty decent. It’s no Great Barrier Reef, but there were a good number of fish. I even saw a large shark! It was really nice to be by ourselves on the boat, and our captain never rushed us. We were back home by noon.

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Day 3 

On day three Robert turned the big 3-0! We decided to be complete bums on this day. After a lazy morning we made our way over to the beach closet to our hotel. This just so happens to belong to a resort. But, all beaches in Thailand are public, so they technically don’t own the beach. Since it is low season, the resort seemed empty and there were plenty of perfect loungers to choose from offering stunning views of the sea. No one seemed to notice or mind that we weren’t actual guests of the resort and we were able to to enjoy a few hours soaking up the sun on the comfy beach chairs. It was perfect. We felt kind of bad for using their chairs (total rule followers here!) and so we purchased two overpriced smoothies from the resort bar.

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The Bottom Line

In all, our time on Ko Phi Phi was lovely. It was relaxing and uncrowded and the sunsets were fantastic. The beaches were all very nice, but let’s face it, it’s still a beach in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately that means excessive pollution and lots of dead coral. Even still, the water was pretty and the sand was nice. Just don’t be surprised if you see a plastic bag floating in the water, even at the fancy resort’s beach. The best beach was the one we had to hike to– it’s no wonder the locals made it hard to get to. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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Believe it or not, our time on Koh Lanta was even dreamier than our time spent on Phi Phi. Look out for our post about how went spent four nights in a secluded villa right next to the National Park on Koh Lanta.

 

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