Spectacular Ko Phi Phi, pronounced “PP,” 25 miles (40 km) south of Krabi town, is in fact two separate islands: Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Ley. Both islands belong to the Phi Phi-Hat Nopparat Thara National Park, which also takes in part of the mainland near Ao Nang (see p374).
The islands are famed for their spectacular landscapes. Rock climbers are attracted by the breathtaking cliffs , with tall sheer walls of limestone rising to 1,030 ft (314 m) on Phi Phi Don, and 1,230 ft (374 m) on Phi Phi Ley. Nature lovers will find a haven in the islands’ coral beds, teeming with sea life.
Phi Phi Don
The two sections of Phi Phi Don, the larger of the two islands, are linked by a 1,100-yard (1,000 m) isthmus of sand. Here stands the island’s original Muslim fishing village, Ban Ton Sai. This area was badly damaged by the 2004 tsunami but the reconstruction work was completed quickly. Since development began on Phi Phi Don following the arrival of the first visitors in the 1970s, the island has given itself up to tourism. However, there is still plenty of natural beauty to enjoy here. A pleasant one-hou coastal walk from Ban Ton Sai leads to Hat Yao (“long beach”), with tantalizing white sands, vibrant offshore marine life, and unhindered views of the soaring flanks of Phi Phi Ley, 2.5 miles (4 km) away.
It is also worth climbing the steep trails on Phi Phi Don’s two massifs, which afford wonderful vistas of the island. The eastern route is well marked and the least strenuous.
Superb coral beds at Hin Pae off Hat Yao, and at Ko Phai (“bamboo island”), to the northeast of Phi Phi Don, provide some of the best diving and snorkeling in Thailand. To the north is Ban Laem Tong. This village’s sea gypsypopulation still survives on fish caught in the isolated coves of nearby Laem Tong.
Phi Phi Ley
Unlike Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Ley remains uninhabited and unspoiled. Boats from Phi Phi Don bring visitors on day trips to see the paintings in Viking Cave. Another feature of the cave are the nests of the ediblenest swiftlet (see p345), which are used in bird’s-nest soup. Agile collectors climb rickety bamboo scaffolding to reach the nests, which are so valuable that the caves are protected by armed guards and staying overnight on the island is prohibited. There is excellent snorkeling at the coral reefs of Ao Maya.
Many of the islands in the area shelter endangered bird species such as the white bellied sea eagle and the mukimaki flycatcher. be found on the smaller, remoter islands. The ramshackle wooden port of Ban Sala Dan is the gateway to Ko Lanta Yai, a predominantly Muslim fishing island. Some 15 miles (25 km) long, this is the main island in the archipelago, and it is covered with undulating forested hills sweeping down to numerous west-facing sandy bays. The natural beauty of the island has attracted many resorts, and Ko Lanta Yai is now popular with tourists, although there are still some lovely unspoiled beaches to explore.
The Laem Kaw Kwang headland in the northwest of the island has views across to Ko Phi Phi. At the southern tip, a 2-mile (3-km) coastal trail leads to a solar-powered lighthouse on a steep promontory beside the park headquarters.
Sea gypsies inhabit the nearby village, Ban Sangka-u. They are renowned for their colorful rituals, such as the loi rua ceremony. As part of the festivities, a 6-ft (2-m) replica boat is sent out to sea to banish the ill fate built up throughout the past year