The popular backpacker party island of Koh Phi Phi is a short boat ride from Phuket. This is where the movie, The Beach, was filmed with Leonardo de Crap-io. (actually, it was filmed at Maya Beach just off Phi Phi and tourists flock here for day trips). A boat trip to the nearby Maya Beach, back in the day, was a trip to a once magical.…..simply paradise on earth. Maya Beach is still admittedly beautiful if you can catch it before the flood of boats start pouring in every morning. To put it simply, Maya Beach has been spoiled by the boatloads of day trippers.
Ko Phi Phi’s main port of arrival of Ton Sai Village, was an absolute tropical paradise 25 years ago. However, it has now turned into a colossal clusterfuck with the arrival of hard partying, vomiting backpackers along with mass overdevelopment. For some reason, travelers still swear by the beauty of this island but I can see no reason to back their claim. I can’t figure out why anyone would consider this paradise when there are tons of more appealing islands all over Thailand. If you want beautiful and unspoiled tropical islands, Ko Phi Phi is not the place for you.
Mother Nature sent a clear message to Thailand when the tsunami struck in 2004. Post Tsunami, Ko Phi Phi was basically leveled and more than 2,000 people were killed here. The locals had a chance to rebuild Ton Sai Village on the main island of Phi Phi Don in a environmentally friendly way, and what did they do? The greedy local developers, probably with no oversight, overbuilt the island to the point now that it’s bursting at the seams with really ugly buildings that do not fit into the islands landscape. It’s obvious nothing was learned from the tragedy. It really is a disgrace as Phi Phi could have been a real magical place but they rebuilt it way too quickly, without any true planning or regard to the environment.
Ko Phi Phi is good for one thing: Partying. It is this party scene that keeps Ko Phi Phi alive. If you are here to party with college aged backpackers, then Phi Phi is your haven as the alcohol and music flow continuously. However, for the rest of us not in that age category, I am sorry to say that the Phi Phi islands have been ruined. The landscape is still gorgeous from a distance on arrival but on closer inspection the negatives become clearly evident. If you leave the party central area of Ton Sai Bay, which is saturated with real young backpackers, you still can experience the quieter northern and eastern end of the island which has retained some of the island’s past serenity and beauty.
The following video visually highlights the beauty of Ko Phi Phi back in 1990. This video is before the rapid development to accommodate the ugly tourist invasion which has effectively spoiled these once pristine islands.