I never really had huge expectations for Ko Phi Phi, the small island about an hour away from Phuket that seemed to be so popular with backpackers.
As always when travel planning I turn to the blogging world for advice and all of the advice about Ko Phi Phi was telling me to run in the other direction. Nomadic Matt said it was the most overrated island in Thailand and Adventurous Kate, while acknowledging its beauty labelled it dangerous.
I actually wanted to skip it altogether but Maddy was adamant she wanted to go and because I’d planned most of the trip I had to let her have that one.
However Phi Phi wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be- probably because I never expected it to be beautiful or paradise or have an amazing beach- that’s what Koh Lanta was for. Instead, Maddy and I both arrived on Phi Phi with the idea that this would be where we would let our hair down.
Maddy and I aren’t huge party girls. People our age often flock to Asia in pursuit of cheap cocktails and fun nights out with other backpackers.
However until Ko Phi Phi we had probably only had a handful of cocktails. We were far too busy exploring all that Thailand has to offer- we didn’t have the time or even desire to spend all day in bed nursing hangovers.
However we had both acknowledged that Ko Phi Phi was going to be the place where we went a bit crazy and it was definitely the perfect place to do so.
Ko Phi Phi- well at least Tonsai Bay on Ko Phi Phi is not the place for a family holiday, or a relaxing honeymoon, or a week long beach holiday (for that you need to check out one of the secluded resorts on the other side of the island or somewhere like Koh Lanta).
It’s full of young drunken backpackers who spend all night partying at the clubs and pop up bars on the beach and then all day lying on the beach.
It’s no wonder that a large amount of the people that work on this island are actually expats from countries like Australia, USA, UK and Canada- I’m not so sure the Thai people want too much to do with it.
Our trip to Ko Phi Phi went something like this….
We arrived on Ko Phi Phi and jumped head first into our ‘go a bit crazy’ attitude by booking a tour on Bob’s Booze Cruise for the following day. I’ll talk more about this later but in short it involved five hours of unlimited beer (and spirits for the ladies) as well as visiting some of the areas around Ko Phi Phi on a sail boat.
We decided to head to the beach which was a big mistake. The British friends that we met on Ko Phi Phi actually thought the Ton Sai Beach was great but to us it was absolutely disgusting.
I think growing up on the beautiful beaches of Australia we had greater expectations about what makes a great beach.
Ko Phi Phi is a small island with a lot of people on it- therefore the beach was riddled with pollution. You could see oil slicks from all the long boats and after being in the water for about 30 minutes our skin felt absolutely disgusting and I was almost getting itchy.
I guess if you are someone that thinks the purpose of the beach is to lie on a towel in the sun then you won’t be as disappointed with this beach but Maddy and I like to swim. Thus our beach adventure didn’t last very long at all before we headed back to our hotel to wash all that grim off our skin.
When we booked the booze cruise, the British girl working there recommended a rooftop bar called Banana Bar. From 5pm every night they show a movie. This coupled with the great buckets and Mexican food they serve meant that Banana Bar was the perfect start to any night out on Ko Phi Phi.
After this we ran into the British people that we had met on the ferry and this is where our night got a bit crazy. It started quite innocently with more buckets from a street vendor (easily the cheapest way to drink on the island) and some pizza.
However then, already tipsy we headed down to the beach pop up bars. At this point in the night I was clearly more tipsy than Maddy but that all changed with limbo.
One of the bars was playing limbo and everytime you made it through you were rewarded with a shot. Long story short- Maddy is really good at limbo and we ended up having to postpone our booze cruise the next day, and as a consequence extend our stay on Ko Phi Phi because she was too hungover to make it.
The next day we did the thing we had vowed not to do in Thailand- spend the whole day in bed at our hotel with the air conditioner on.
I watched The Shawshank Redemption while Maddy slept most of the day- she couldn’t even make it to the beach because it was too hot outside.
I usually hate wasting a day like this but I think at that point in our trip we both needed it.
We made another trip to Banana Bar to watch another movie that night- although this time we did it with non alcoholic shakes and returned to our hotel around 9pm for an early night.
Our final day on Ko Phi Phi was the day of our booze cruise. I’m not usually into something so absolutely clichéd but we figured we had to try it once.
The cruise cost us about $100 AUD but for us this was worth it as we got to sail around lots of the awesome spots around Ko Phi Phi which would probably have cost us around $60 even without the unlimited alcohol.
Bob left Canada in his sail boat about 20 years ago and for the last 8 of those he has been living on his boat on Ko Phi Phi and taking drunken backpackers around on a booze cruise everyday. On busy days, like the day we went, he also books a speedboat to create more spots. We were lucky enough to be on the sail boat!
Sailing around the beautiful coast of Ko Phi Phi I had to acknowledge how beautiful it looked away from the busy and polluted area of Tonsai bay. The water is an awesome blue and the huge cliffs coming out of the water reminded me of the beauty of Halong Bay.
On this cruise we got to feed monkeys on monkey beach, jump off a cliff which left me with a sore bum for a whole 2 weeks afterwards and snorkel in water that was so clear we could see 5 metres down.
We also visited the beautiful yet completely crowded Monkey Beach- the beach from the film ‘the Beach’ and went into a cave to see cave drawings that are meant to be thousands of years old. It was an awesome trip and I didn’t regret it at all no matter the cost in both my money and how sick I felt the next day.
The Booze Cruise was my turn to be messy. Lets just say I don’t actually remember getting off the boat. I don’t remember going out afterwards and by the end of it Maddy wanted to kill me.
The most important thing I want to note is that there is no perfect way to travel-enjoying clichéd activities like going on a booze cruise and getting drunk on Ko Phi Phi doesn’t make you any more or less of a traveller. We had lots of fun on this island while acknowledging that our bodies probably couldn’t have handled another night.
The other thing I want to note is that drinking overseas can be dangerous if you don’t have someone you completely trust looking out for you. Maddy and I took our especially drunk nights in turns so that we could make sure we all got home safe.
Getting to Ko Phi Phi
Ko Phi Phi can be easily accessed from Phuket for around $20 one way. There are also ferries from other islands and places like Krabi. Ferries can be booked from the desk of any hotel or hostel. If you aren’t a big party person you can also do a day trip to Ko Phi Phi from islands like Ko Lanta so you can visit some of the beautiful spots we went to on our booze cruise.
Where to Stay in Ko Phi Phi
We stayed at Phi Phi Insula for $60 a week. But there are plenty of cheaper options on the island such as a range of hostels.
AirBnB is also a great option if you are on a budget or looking for a bit of space.
For all of your bookings, whether hostel or hotel I always recommend Booking.com, specifically because most of the time you can make a reservation without a deposit and many bookings are fully cancellable and refundable. I love being able to lock in my accomodation early, but then shift things around if my plans change!