The Phi Phi Islands (Thai: หมู่เกาะพีพี)

The Phi Phi Islands (Thai: หมู่เกาะพีพี) are located in Thailand, between the large island of Phuket and the western Andaman Sea coast of the mainland. Phi Phi Don, the larger and principal of the two Phi Phi islands, is located at 7°44′00″N 98°46′00″E. Both Phi Phi Don, and Phi Phi Leh, the smaller, are administratively part of Krabi province, most of which is on the mainland, and is located at 8°02′30″N 98°48′39″E.

Ko Phi Phi Don ('ko' (Thai: เกาะ) meaning 'island' in the Thai language) is the largest island of the group, and is the only island with permanent inhabitants, although the beaches of the second largest island, Ko Phi Phi Lee (or 'Ko Phi Phi Leh'), are visited by many people as well. There are no accommodation facilities on this island, but it is just a short boat ride from Ko Phi Phi Don. The rest of the islands in the group, including Bida Nok, Bida Noi, and Bamboo Island, are not much more than large limestone rocks jutting out of the sea.

Phi Phi Don was initially populated by Muslim fishermen during the late 1940s, and later became a coconut plantation. The Thai population of Phi Phi Don remains more than 80% Muslim.But the actual population if counting laborers, especially from the north-east, from the mainland is much more Buddhist these days.

Ko Phi Phi Leh was the backdrop for the 2000 movie The Beach. Phi Phi Leh also houses the 'Viking Cave', from which there is a thriving bird's nest soup industry. There was criticism during filming of 'The Beach' that the permission granted to the film company to physically alter the environment inside Phi Phi Islands National Park was illegal. The controversy cooled down however, when it was discovered that the producers had done such a decent job of restoring the place that it finally looked better than it had done before.

The Phi Phi Islands were also the setting for the hide-out of Scaramanga in the James Bond Film 'The Man with the Golden Gun.'

Following the release of The Beach, tourism on Phi Phi Don increased dramatically, and with it the population of the island. Many buildings were constructed without planning permission.

Ko Phi Phi was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, when nearly all of the island's infrastructure was wiped out. Redevelopment has, however, been swift, and services like electricity, water, Internet access and ATMs are up and running again, but waste handling has been slower to come back online.

The province of coal mines, Fossil shell beach, towering mountains, beautiful streams, an abundance of islands, palm plantations, sandy beaches, wonderful sea world, Emerald of Andaman, and heavenly Phi Phi Islands.

History
From archaeological discoveries, it is believed that the area was one of the oldest communities in Thailand dating back to the prehistoric period. It is believed that this province may have taken its name after the meaning of Krabi, which means sword. This may have stemmed from a legend that an ancient sword was unearthed prior to the city’s founding.

The name Phi Phi (pronounced ‘pee pee’) originates from Malay, the original name for the islands were ‘Pulao Pi ah Pi. The name refers to the mangrove wood found there. They were incorporated into the national park in 1983.

Geography
Ko Phi Phi is considered to be one of the most naturally beautiful islands in the world (in fact, there are six islands in Phi Phi). They lie 50km south-east of Phuket and are part of Hadnopparattara-Koh Phi Phi National Park which is home to an abundance of corals and amazing marine life. There are limestone mountains with cliffs, caves and long white sandy beaches. The national park covers a total area of 242,437 Rai. Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le are the largest and most well-known islands. Phi Phi Don is 28 sqm: 8 meters in length and 3.5 meters wide. Phi Phi Le is 6.6 sqm

Administration

There are 5 villages on Koh Phi Phi under administration of Ao Nang sub-district, Muang district, Krabi Province.

The villages are:

* Ao Maya
* Ban Laem Tong
* Laem Tong
* Ban Ton Sai
* Hat Yao

Boundary
Koh Phi Phi comprises 6 islands, 2 of them main – Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le. On Koh Phi Phi there are 2 villages and under administration of Ao Nang sub-district, Muang district, Krabi Province. The islands are surrounded by the Andaman Sea.

Climate
Weather in the region is tropical - there are only two seasons: the hot season from January to April, and the rainy season from May to December. Temperatures during the year average 25°C to 32°C (77°F to 89.6°F) and the yearly rainfall averages 2568.5mm. The rain in this region comes down heavily over short periods.

Transportation

Roads
There are no actual roads on Koh Phi Phi, just paths.

Air
The nearest airports are at Krabi, Trang and Phuket. All three airports have direct road and boat connections. Krabi Airport, the most popular one for travel to Ko Phi Phi, is approximately 10km from the provincial town and operates international flights to several foreign destinations.

Destination Air offers private chartered seaplane service to and from Ao Nang and Ko Lanta in Krabi and Phuket.

Bicycle
Bicycle is the most popular form of transport in Ton Sai.

Ferry Boat
There are frequent ferry boats to Ko Phi Phi from Phuket, Ko Lanta and Krabi Town. These usually carry passengers as well as vehicles across the sides.

Boat
There are numerous companies on the island offering boat services around the islands and for those going diving.

Tourism

The islands feature beaches and clear water that have had their natural beauty protected by National Park status. Tourism on Ko Phi Phi, like the rest of Krabi province, has exploded only very recently. In the early 1990s only the most adventurous travelers visited the island, staying in only the most basic accommodation. (Wikipedia:VERIFY) Nowadays, however, the place has turned into one of the major destinations for visitors to Krabi. The is still significantly less developed than the nearby island of Phuket, or Ko Samui, on Thailand's opposite coast.

Island Geography
* Phi Phi Don - This island is the largest of the 6 Phi Phi islands and consists of two main sections. It is on Ton Sai where the original inhabitants settled and is now the home of the main accommodation area. Nowadays though, with development, the beaches have had to pay a cost and so they’re not quite as spectacular as they were in the days of yesteryear. The landscape however, has not been ruined.

* Phi Phi Leh - The second largest of the Phi Phi Islands is pretty, and pristine, but authorities in charge do not allow visitors to stay overnight, with the exception of limited camping with one company. Besides the beach, other attractions include the Phaya Naak Cave with its prehistoric paintings and edible-nest swiftlets.

* Ton Sai Bay - Phi Phi Don Ao Ton Sai is where most of the tourist activity is centered. The area contains restaurants, bars, hotels, and guesthouses.

* Yao Beach - Phi Phi Don Yao Beach, just south of Ton Sai, offers visitors some scenic views and coral reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving.

* Laem Tong, Phi Phi Don Laem Thong is located at the very north of the island.

Activities
Diving & Snorkeling Ko Phi Phi is a popular place in Thailand for diving and snorkeling. There are plenty of excellent sites with crystal clear water and colourful coral. There are dozens of places on the island organizing trips. There are numerous operators and dive shops open on Koh Phi Phi catering too all levels of divers. The area is well-known for its coral and one of the most favoured dive and snorkeling destinations in Thailand.

Kayaking Many tourists use a kayak to see the natural environs and the island’s impressive features.

Cliff Jumping Cliff jumping is fairly new to Tonsai Bay. There are cliffs from 6 to 16m that are ideal for cliff jumping due to the depth of water below.

Bird Watching Many rare birds are to be seen there: Gurneys, Finfoots, Bigwinged Brown Kingfishers, Egrets, Bitterns, Herons and more.

Sailing & Cruising Krabi has plenty of anchorages, usually deserted and all so pretty.

Fishing Fishers can catch the likes of marlin, sailfish barracuda and tuna.

Spa Spa service is available at the top hotels and resorts.

Shopping
Most stuff is brought in by boat, so most things are less original and more expensive than on the mainland. However, there are a few shops that manufacture their goods on the island. Rising commercialization and inflow of tourists throughout the year has also been a major factor for the rising costs. Products and paraphernalia sold on Ko Phi Phi are just the same as what is found at the main beaches of Phuket or Krabi.

Nightlife
Ton Sai Bay has a variety of nightlife. Jazz, Blues and Classics can be found at the leading hotels. Or for those wishing to enjoy the nighttime air they can have a cocktail under the stars.

Down on the Ton Sai Beach there are lots of bars where visitors can have a drink while swinging in a hammock. Away from the beach there are bars playing the latest techno sounds from the West with an area for dancing. The law states that such bars must finish playing loud music at 2am, however there are some bars who have informal permission to stay open later.

Local Culture

Culture & Life-style
Krabi province the home of Ko Phi Phi is a melting pot of Buddhists, Thai-Chinese, Muslims and even sea gypsies. The majority of the population in the rural areas is Muslim. The province however, does not suffer from any religious tension and the folk live in peace and harmony. Outside of the provincial town, the rural folk speak with a thick Southern dialect which is difficult for even other Thais to understand. With this kind of mixture, the province is often celebrating something be it part of Thai Buddhist, Thai-Chinese or Thai-Islamic tradition. Visitors can also enjoy the annual boat-launching ceremonies of the sea gypsies and various long-tail boat races.

Events and Festivals
* Krabi Boek Fa Andaman Festival (งานกระบี่เบิกฟ้าอันดามัน) This is annually held in November to inaugurate the province’s tourist season. Water sports competitions, cultural shows, and good-natured fun are the schedule.

* Laanta Lanta Festival (เทศกาลลานตา ลันตา) The festival is usually held in March every year at the Old Community in Ko Lanta called Ban Sanga-Au, which has a very old history of more than 100 years. Ancient Chinese style houses can still be seen here. In this festival, tourists can see the traditional culture, previously unseen ceremonial demonstrations, Southern local performances, folk games, water sports competitions and enjoy the tastes from various kinds of food booths which are provided by prestigious hotels on the island.

* Sat Duean Sip Festival or Festival of the Tenth Lunar Month (งานประเพณีสารทเดือนสิบ) This is the southern traditional merit making occasion to honour one's ancestors. Food offerings such as Khanom La, Khanom Chohu, Khanom Phong, Khanom Ba, and Khanom Kong or Khai Pla, are made offer to Buddhist monks.

* Chak Phra Festival (งานประเพณีชักพระ) The original waterborne procession, where Buddha images are put on elaborately decorated pulpits on boats are pulled along on the river, has been replaced by a land procession. The festival was formerly accompanied with a performance of traditional boat songs. However, the traditional waterborne songs have since disappeared.

* Loi Ruea Chao Le Festival (ประเพณีลอยเรือชาวเล) This old ritualistic tradition takes place on Ko Lanta during the full moon of the sixth and eleventh month in the lunar calendar. This is a religious rite performed by the sea gypsies of Ko Lanta, as well as, from other neighbouring areas, who gather on the beach near Sala Dan Village. They dance their famous 'rong ngeng' round the boats of misfortune to be set adrift. Ceremonies feature singing and dancing. This festival is expected to bring prosperity and happiness to the participants.

Art
Even though it is Malay in origin, the art of batik has embedded itself within the local culture. There are also a lot of Krabi and Ko Phi Phi handicrafts such as pineapple paper.

Learn

Rock-climbing
Experts have climbed up many rock faces both on the mainland and Ko Phi Phi. Railay and Phra-nang Beaches are renowned with climbers as one of the most favoured rock-climbing destinations in South-East Asia. A countless amount of schools have sprung into business over the past decade or so, most of which are located at Railay, with some on Ko Phi Phi. There are now more than 600 routes.

Diving
Krabi has turned into one of the most popular dive spots in Thailand due to its clear water and colourful coral. Ko Lanta is known to be (amongst divers) as the best spot in the province. There are an abundance of diving schools with courses for all levels of diving.

Local Food
In general, Southern Thai food is renowned for its spiciness. Much of the cuisine has its origins in Malay, Indonesian and Indian food. Favourite dishes from the south include Indian-style Muslim curry (massaman), rice noodles in fish curry sauce (Khanom Jeen) and chicken birayani.

As for Ko Phi Phi, reasonable priced and tasty seafood is obviously what most tourists long for when visiting a coastal province like Krabi. In this connection, the wing shell (หอยชักตีน) is the province’s famous cuisine. In addition, stirred fried Spotted Babylon (หอยหวาน), which is found in mangrove forests, with chilies and basil is also famous. This cuisine is common in Ko Phi Phi’s restaurants. Another great provincial taste is seafood.

Medical Health Care
Ko Phi Phi has a couple of clinics and pharmacies. There are no hospitals on Ko Phi Phi.

Retirement
There are currently more than 1,000 foreigners living in Krabi, many of them retirees. Ko Phi Phi however, since it is very tourist-orientated is not a retiree’s favorite destination.

There are some other retirees though, who reside in extremely quiet locations well away from the tourist scene.

2004 tsunami

On 26 December 2004, much of the inhabited part of Phi Phi Don was devastated by the Indian Ocean Tsunami. The island's main village, Ton Sai (Banyan Tree, Thai: ต้นไทร), is mainly built on a sandy isthmus between the island's two long, tall limestone ridges. On both sides of Ton Sai are semicircular bays lined with beaches. The isthmus rises to less than two metres (six feet) above sea level.

Shortly after 10 am on the morning of 26 December, the water from both bays receded. When the tsunami hit, at 10.37 am, it did so from both bays, and met in the middle of the isthmus. The wave that came into Ton Sai Bay was 3 metres (10 ft) high. The wave that came into Loh Dalum Bay was 6.5 metres (18 ft) high. The force of the larger wave from Loh Dalum Bay pushed de tsunami also breached low-lying areas in the limestone karsts, passing from Laa Naa Bay to Bakhao Bay, and at Laem Thong (Sea Gypsy Village), where 11 people died. Apart from these breaches, the eastern side of the island experienced only flooding and strong currents.

At the time of the tsunami, the island had an estimated 10,000 occupants, including tourists.

Post-tsunami reconstruction
After the tsunami, approximately 70% of the buildings on the island had been destroyed. By the end of July 2005, an estimated 850 bodies had been recovered, and an estimated 1,200 people were still missing. The total number of fatalities is unlikely to be known however local tour guides cite the figure of 4,000. Of Phi Phi Don residents, 104 surviving children had lost one or both parents.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the island was evacuated. The Thai government declared the island temporarily closed while a new zoning policy was drawn up. Many transient Thai workers returned to their home towns, and former permanent residents were housed in a refugee camp at Nong Kok in Krabi province.

However, January 6, 2005, a former Dutch resident of Phi Phi, Emiel Kok, set up a voluntary organization, Help International Phi Phi. Hi Phi Phi recruited 68 Thai staff from the refugee camp, as well as transient backpacker volunteers (of whom more than 3,500 offered their assistance), and returned to the island to undertake clearing and rebuilding work. On February 18, 2005, a second organization, Phi Phi Dive Camp, was set up to remove the debris from the bays and coral reef, most of which was in Ton Sai Bay.

By the end of July 2005, 23,000 tonnes of debris had been removed from the island, of which 7,000 tonnes had been cleared by hand. 'We try and do as much as possible by hand,' said Kok, 'that way we can search for passports and indentification.' The majority of buildings that were deemed fit for repair by government surveyors had been repaired, and three hundred businesses had been restored. Hi Phi Phi was nominated for a Time Magazine Heroes of Asia award.

On October 31, 2005, Deputy Prime Minister Pinit Jarusombat proposed an upgrade to the hotels and restaurants on Phi Phi Don, and a limitation to the number of tourists visiting. 'It'll help us preserve its environment,' said Pinit. However, after consultation with residents and land-owners, many of whom opposed the plan, the Bangkok Post reported on February 17, 2006, that the proposals would not affect Phi Phi.

As of 6 December 2005, nearly 1,500 hotel rooms were open, and a tsunami early warning alarm system had been installed by the Thai government, with the help of volunteers.

Media/Contact
National TV, cable TV and satellite TV are available on the island, as well as International newspapers, books and magazines

Landline telephones, mobile phone systems and internet are (ADSL) available. There is a post office in Ton Sai.

Web References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Palace
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phi_Phi_Islands
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phuket_International_Airport


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