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.
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.
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.
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.