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.
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Travelling in a tuk tuk through Bangkok at any time can be thrilling. Or it can turn out to be the nerve-wracking, white-knuckle experience of your life. Either way it won’t be dull. These three-wheeled motorised rickshaws, a World War II, throwback, is a fairly cheap way to get around the city. The drivers are somehow able to wriggle through Bangkok’s legendary stand-still traffic.
If you don’t have too much time to spend in Bangkok (a sacrilegious situation) then taking a half day (between 4 and 5 hours) tour of The Big Mango is the best way to get around and see the main sights and monuments. However, don’t try to randomly pick up one on the streets or at the tourist points or even worse let some friendly stranger (a tout in disguise) help you to hire one. The tuk tuk scams in Bangkok are legendary and can be quite distressing.
One of the best options is to walk into a large/brand name hotel and ask the concierge or the travel desk to hire one for you. The staff will get you a ‘reliable’ English speaking driver and the scam possibilities are reduced as they don’t want to get into trouble. The other option is to book the tour from your local travel agent before you leave home.
Anyway once you clamber aboard these iconic little Formula 1 wanna-be’s you will be in for an adventure. Weaving through traffic and the crowded lively back streets of Bangkok you will be taken to the Phra Sumeru Fortress, the Buddhist temple of Wat Po and the Golden Mount. Along the way you have to spend a little time in colourful Little India, the Amulet Market and that of Woeng Nakom Kasem, the famous “thieves market.”
During any form of tour in Bangkok stopping at textile/cloth, gem and jewellery shops is like a rite of passage. There is no escaping this part of the sightseeing in the city – unless you walk around on your own. Even the itineraries of world-renowned tour companies will have an obligatory showroom/shop stop.
Sightseeing Bangkok in a tuk tuk is a different kettle of fish. There are innumerable scams that are aimed at getting you into gem stores, massage parlours or the like. If you are trapped by one of these sweet talking tuk tuk drivers you could wind up having a harrowing time at a store and bullied into buying some cheap stuff that you don’t really want.
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There is more to do in Phuket than just lying on a sandy beach—not that there’s anything wrong with that! Take advantage of the island’s gorgeous surroundings with a scenic activity or tour. From Elephant Safaris to River Rafting, there are plenty of ways for you to get back in touch with nature. Here are some of our favourites:
1. Elephant Safari
What better way to explore the lush jungle than on the back of an elephant? You will travel from the elephant camp, situated at the top of a mountain, and get stunning views of Chalong Bay and Phi Phi Island as you descend.
2. Phuket Fantasea Show and Dinner
Family meal times will never be the same after this experience! You will be treated to a spectacular cultural show complete with dancing and an elephant circus while tucking into some Thai delicacies.
3. Buddha Cave Temple, Elephant Safari and White Water Rafting
Experience the most of Phuket on this all-encompassing tour! You’ll visit the Golden Buddha, trek through the jungle on an elephant, go swimming in a refreshing river and go on a thrilling white water rafting adventure, all in one day.
4. Thai Cooking Class
Want to bring a little of Thailand home with you? Learn how to cook traditional Thai dishes from a world-renowned chef and you’ll be able to relive your adventure in Thailand—by the mouthful—for years to come.
5. Phang Nga Bay by Long-tail Boat Tour
Go on a boat cruise around Phang Nga Bay on a traditional Thai long-tail boat. With no less than 42 islands, there are plenty of captivating sights. Highlights include the Gypsy Village, a village built entirely on water using stilts and the infamous James Bond Island featured in “The Man with the Golden Gun.”
If an Elephant Safari is your idea of a dream travel experience, vote for it in the isango! travel experience poll and you’ll be entered to win a brand new iPad and weekly vouchers.
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Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef (Flickr by Simon Starr)
During the summer months a holiday to a tropical destination is quite popular. There are several things to do while on holiday in paradise and one exciting activity to partake in in scuba diving. Scuba diving is a wonderful way to see all that the ocean has to offer up close. If scuba diving isn’t up your alley then perhaps just snorkeling would be better suited for you. But one this is for certain; with these scuba destinations you are sure to see the ocean at its finest. continue reading
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