The Phi Phi Islands are the most iconic symbol of Thailand. They are featured on nearly every poster promoting the country. They are amazing pieces of rock with stretches of achingly beautiful white sandy beaches. They are located just off Thailand’s western coast in the Malacca Straits and only 50kms south-east of Phuket. For the vast majority of visitors, the islands are the main reason for going to Thailand.
Here are some interesting details about the Phi Phi (pronounced pee-pee) Islands.
- There are six islands in all. Most of them are just tall pieces of limestone rock sticking out of the fantastic blue waters of the sea and covered with scattered plants and shrubs.
Phi Phi Islands
- The two largest islands are Ko Phi Phi Don and Ko Phi Phi Lee. Only Phi Phi Don is inhabited. Ko in Thai means “island.” The name Phi Phi is Malay. An interesting derivation for the name comes from the original name “Pulao Pi ah Pi,” which translates to “Fiery Tree” and refers to the local Grey Mangrove tree.
- The islands first came to fame in 2000. The beach of Maya bay was the setting for the movie The Beach.
- The waters around Ko Phi Phi are fabulous for scuba diving and snorkelling.
- The entire Phi Phi archipelago region is a protected area and part of the Thai marine National Park set up. This has ensured that there is an abundant and varied marine life – and you don’t have to go far too out. You can see large schools of multi-coloured fish swimming around your legs in the shallow water.
- Ko Phi Phi Lee has many caves, one of which is world famous. It is known as “Viking Cave.” The caves are the source of the thriving and profitable birds nest soup industry.
- The Phi Phi Islands were the earliest inhabited parts of Thailand. Communities settled here as far back as pre-historic times. The local population is a good mix of Chinese, Thai and sea gypsies. There are also Buddhists and Muslims, which means that there is always some festival being celebrated.
- Longtail boat races and regular boat-launching ceremonies are held frequently, which are always colourful; a great time for music and traditional dancing.
- The Phi Phi Islands have only two seasons – hot (January to April) and rainy (May to December). The rain showers come in short but very heavy downpours.
- Ko Phi Phi Don was devastated by the Christmas tsunami of 2004. The restoration since then has been tremendous with the introduction of paved roads. The great thing, though, is that no motor vehicles are allowed. Bicycling is the most popular and rewarding mode of transport.