Discovery Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

by Richard Phipps from United Kingdom

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Thailand,a secret view on Phi Phi Leh by Richard Phipps

My aim when I think of travelling is to see the unknown, the unexplored and the rare. I want to visit oases of nature that aren’t on the tourist map, the towns and villages that retain their uniqueness and are often overlooked by the larger metropolis only an hour away. Finding these gems in the modern age is becoming an experience that few have had the chance to relish so therefore I’m going to share with you such a place, right? Wrong! This is my first blog post for the kind people at Hoboh and I’m going to start off by sharing what I (and 5,000 tourists a day) find when they venture to the Phi Phi Islands, just an hours boat ride South East of Thailand’s Phuket Island.

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Thailand, crystal clear waters around Phi Phi Don by Richard Phipps

The reason I start with such a tourist honeypot and not stay true to my aim as an aspiring travel writer is simply, even as an amateur photographer it’s hard to come away from these two islands without any visually stunning shots. I’m looking forward to the delving into the stranger places soon but for now I hope you enjoy reading about my day in the Andaman Sea and witnessing a bit of a taster of Thailand’s not so secret paradise.

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Thailand, hidden caves hide bird’s nest by Richard Phipps

‘Take just one. If you take two you’ll still have the pleasure of going to the Phi Phi Islands but your snoring will disturb the other guests’. That was our guide’s advice while handing out complimentary sea sickness tablets prior to departure. After a quick run through of the day’s agenda with the English speaking guide we took a quick family photo and hopped aboard our speedboat docked in Phuket’s Boat Lagoon and set sail into the early morning sun. We were one of a number of tours operating that day out of Boat Lagoon, any decent tour operator around the island will no doubt offer some variation of this trip with the pricing around 1000-1500 TBH, a fair price for a full days tour with a buffet lunch included. As we motored our way through the mangroves that hugged the shore line the Andaman Sea approached and it wasn’t long before we realized that the sea sickness tablets were a shrewd idea. Although the sea was generally calm, the odd wave caught us by surprise and as we were sat at the very front we felt every impact. Given the choice at the time I’d have possibly traded my pill for a cushion!

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Thailand, admiring-Ko-Pu by Richard Phipps

After approximately an hour the ever growing Phi Phi Islands were alongside us, having grown like a mirage on the horizon to towering sea cliffs topped with tropical greenery. The theme tune to Jurassic Park hummed in my mind as what seemed like a lost world had risen up out of the azure waters. The limestone cliffs were imposing to say the least, abruptly reaching for the sky, with crevices and crags adding mystery to a natural wonder. In reality, these caves that penetrate the cliff face aren’t so mysterious at all; they are home to the starling whose nests are collected by local Thai traders who scale the cliffs for this Asian delicacy. The nest, a mixture of the bird’s saliva and plant debris, is broken down to form a soup dish that is highly prized. I can honestly say that although I have eaten some odd food in this part of the world the idea of birds saliva doesn’t seem so appetizing, I was happy to stick with the Thai Green Curry.

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Thailand, Maya-Beach-Entrance by Richard Phipps

The tour took us to Phi Phi Don first, the largest island in the group, where mischievous primates swam up to the boats in search of food. We were able to snorkel among the most vibrant shoals of fish and wonder at the cathedral like cliffs that overhung our position in the warm Thai waters below. My favourite view was not of the island itself but of Ko Pu, a distance island across the Andaman sea who’s silhouette could be seen from a secluded beach on Ko Phi Phi Don’s East coast. Maybe this was partly to do with the fact that I’d just drunk a Singha or three and had gorged on a lovely spread of food, all part of the tour package. The beach was the kind of place that makes you consider purposely attempting to get shipwrecked, such was its aura and tranquility. After a few hours on the big island it was time to explore Phi Phi Leh and Maya Beach.

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Thailand, the impressive cliffs of Phi Phi Don by Richard Phipps

Maya Beach is the kind of location that you’d expect to find on a David Attenborough Planet Earth documentary, a place that the word ‘paradise’ was coined for. As you follow the island’s coastline, the bay begins to emerge, the cliffs start to rise and like medieval castle walls leads you in to a turquoise bay with golden sands, sparkling in the tropical sun. We climbed ashore, the sand pleasantly cool underfoot as the waters calmly lapped the beach. No wandering salesmen or women flogging ice cream, massages or cheap knock off glasses, just a small bar to serve a refreshing coconut or Chang.

There is one, not so secret place with a beautifully nature frame in which to take a photo just 200 or so yards inland from the main beach. Sneak between the trees behind the bar and cross a shelly pool, climb the wooden step ladder and enjoy the views of a hidden bay with rocky promontories jutting out of the ocean; it’s like entering a portal to another place. The downside to this tour, as we soon found out, was that the Phi Phi Islands weren’t such a secret destination for day trippers. In the time it took us to have a quick can of Chang in the shade among the palms, countless tours and boats had pulled up in the natural harbor. At least 30 boats, each carrying around 20/30 passengers had arrived within 10 minutes of each other and packed the small bay, putting a downer on what had otherwise been a fantastic day (I appreciate this sounds ironic as I, being a tourist, was part of the problem). The Thai government is looking at ways in which to protect these outstanding islands from the increased demands of tourism at the present time.

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Thailand, rocky shoreline,Phi Phi Don by Richard Phipps

The Phi Phi Islands were one of my first experiences of Thailand. They inject a sense of wonder and paradise in an ever more accessible world. Thailand has always been shrouded in mystery from its rainforested hills, its hermit like religious followers and its natural fauna and flora. Phi Phi offers a glimpse of what the country has in store for the adventurous explorer and gives you a taste of Mother Nature can create.

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Thailand, secret cove, Phi Phi Leh by Richard Phipps
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