As the ferry trudged on through the waters of the Krabi Province, the noises at the bow of the boat grew louder. Screaming backpackers were making a racket, only growing louder the drunker they got. With their bronzed muscles, backwards caps, skimpy one-piece swimsuits and photo-shoots galore, they looked like a boozy cast from Ex On The Beach, more suited for a Sun holiday in Ibiza.
Looking at the rowdy group, I remembered with dread everything I’d read about Phi Phi: overcrowded, overrated, and overly shit. I was beginning to think we’d made a mistake.
Koh Phi Phi, like so many other SE Asian islands, suffers from mass over-development. After being struck by the 2004 tsunami, the island rebuilt itself, with a bigger pier, bigger hotels and bigger parties. The island is simply too small to handle the huge amount of backpackers flooding off the boats.
This was pretty evident as soon as we hopped off the ferry and into the rabbit warren streets of Tonsai. Dive schools line the streets with Americans and Brits working their best sales pitches on you. Makeshift stalls sell buckets at all hours of the day and everywhere you turn tour groups offer over-prices boat rides to see the aggro monkeys and dead coral.
It’s grim I know, but that’s the reality of travelling the Thai islands. Hordes of longtail boats ship backpackers around the island to the popular places, where beaches are just a mass of bikini-d posers and flying drones. While hanging with friends we met on the island, we all hopped on a boat to see the monkeys of Monkey Beach, ten minutes from Phi Phi. As we approached the tiny stretch of sand I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. People crowded around the few small monkeys that braved the beach. They poked Go Pro sticks at them and lured them with food and then lashed out and sulked when the monkeys became aggressive.
Everything I had been looking forward to on Phi Phi was beginning to seem a bit of a dream. I was dying to see Maya Bay, where Leo famously starred in The Beach. But any backpackers we talked to said it was crowded, dull and particularly underwhelming. In order to enjoy Phi Phi to its full extent we were going to have to think outside the box…