Taste Real Thailand, Travel Like a Tourist: Papaya on Phi Phi

I originally had high expectations for Phi Phi with it being the top of many people’s lists when visiting Thailand. I had been told by someone who had visited several times that the islands attract hippies and evoke a hedonistic vibe. But after one night I soon realized it was more about ‘Happy Hour’ than ‘Flower Power’.

Koh Phi Phi is swarming with 17 year old brits whose appearance instantly brings the word ‘rah’ to mind. These kids are keen on flaunting their beach bodies, downing as much alcohol in the shortest time possible and later, absorbing this by eating the many stale, anemic looking pizza-slices on offer up and down the streets near Tonsai Beach, a combination far more likely to cause morning-after stomach pangs than approaching street vendors. They  wouldn’t dare wrap their well manicured fingers around a pair of chopsticks.

Furthermore, as you first arrive on Tonsai Beach and witness the breath-taking Limestone Cliffs, you’ll also be taken aback by the eyesore standing centre-stage: a stone Penis, deterring you from immersing in the turquoise backdrop and reminding you of the island’s tourist tack.

Of course, with tourism, comes inflation and since Phi Phi has relatively recuperated from its 2004 Tsumani it has become a place more affordable for the flashpacker than backpacker.

I’m happy for a party as much as the next person, and dear God I guzzled down a whisky bucket, danced with the teeny-boppers and TRIED to join in. It just didn’t happen for me. I felt, old. And I’m in my early twenties??

The next day I took a trek through jungley terrain, windy dirt tracks, up-hill stone paths, isolated beaches and secluded beach huts adorned with spectacular look-out points and blessed with spirit houses, until I reached Long Beach. It’s all in the name…a very long beach, tourists are sparse and there’s plenty of swimming space to freely float about in the warm Andaman Waters. The whole walk and the beach were truly stunning, this being my first stop in Thailand, I felt I’d finally arrived.

A Spirit House on the Walk to Long Beach

Long Beach, Koh Phi Phi

The thing that really cured my tourist Claustrophia was Phi Phi’s only true authentic thai restaurant called ‘Papaya’. And the first place I tried a Green Papaya salad. I had heard of this dish before my trip, but naively assumed it was a fruit salad.

What I was served were thinly stripped crunchy  tart-tasting green papaya, doused in fish and soy sauce, unashamedly mixed with fresh chillies and a bountiful finish of salty peanuts and coriander. Soon to be a staple dish within my Thai diet.

Papaya Salad from ‘Papaya’

I also dined at the local food market for a heart-warming sea-food noodle Tom Yum for 120THB, a sour, spicy soup stocked with crunchy veg and an abundance of fragrant herbs to leave you filled at the stomach and hot at the mouth.

I would also have a starter of kebab sticks such as flat chunky slabs of BBQd chicken in a sticky red marinade and deep fried tofu, served crisped and ready to be soaked in sweet chilli for 40B each.

Local Food Market on Koh Phi Phi

Please note: this food is expensive as Thai Street Food goes, the further north you go, the cheaper it gets…

Also, if you are dining out, try to choose places which help the Tsunami relief programme such as ‘Garlic’ Restaurant worth a look for their beautifully hand-painted menus.

The owner of Sunset Bar lost his family from the Tsunami, his bar had to be re-built after the disaster so drinking here will ensure your money will go towards a worthy cause. Furthermore, you can sip on a cocktail at a prime sunset spot whilst relaxing with friends at a table carved from an old rowing boat.

Garlic Restaurant Menu- Helping the Tsunami Relief Programme

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3 thoughts on “Taste Real Thailand, Travel Like a Tourist: Papaya on Phi Phi

  1. Did you make it over to Raleigh Bay? It’s just along from Tonsai and less hippied out. I was there at the end of April/start of May. It is beautiful there and the vibe was to my liking. It’s not an island, but doesn’t have any roads and only accessible by boat so has an island feel. I read that Raleigh Bay was for flash packers: late twenty to early thirty year olds that miss the free spirited, messy and debaucherous backpacking days of their youth, though wanted a bit more comfort, but weren’t quite ready for resorts yet.

    • Yes I did make it to Rayleigh I was there a month after you! I remember wading through the sea and hauling my backpack into the long-tail boat from Ao-Nang. Stayed in some beautiful tree-house huts amidst all the jungly tree-life. I too preferred the vibe here, unbelievably chilled-out. I agree, this felt more like an island than Phi-Phi! Did you do the trek to Tonsai? I didn’t make it there as I had caught a bug :(!

      • We didn’t make it over to Tonsai either. Just a day trip out to Phi Phi and some other islands on a snorkel trip. We found it a bit too busy in the islands for our liking even though it was considered low season. Rayleigh felt more like a honeymoon for us.

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