From speaking to many people on our travels that have been to Thailand, one place that came up again and again as a ‘must see’, were the Phi Phi Islands. Clearly these are going to be a big tourist attraction and there are plenty of tour agencies that can take you there and show you the various sights. We take the lazy route and chose the one our hotel has links with and enjoy a very relaxed and air conditioned transfer to the port.
Weather-wise there is a bit of a breeze which makes the 60 minute crossing on a speedboat doing 40mph at times interesting. Interesting meaning that it is bumpy, wet and causes a number of people to be sick into bags. Niki managed to complete the second half of the trip sat next to captain after she graciously gave her seat up to one of the seasick passengers, who then was promptly sick next to me. Lovely.
All this is quickly forgotten as you arrive at the islands. They are a group of almost unspeakably beautiful tropical islands located about 45km of the eastern coast of Phuket Island, that combine lush greenery, towering limestone stacks and picture perfect beaches with crystal clear azure blue sea washing up on them.
In fact they are so stunning that one of them was used as the set for the 2000 film “The Beach”. Sadly this highlights that at times the tourist industry can be a self-defeating one. The addition of this particular beach on every single tour to the islands means that any lasting impression of the locations beauty is replaced by the sheer shock at the number of tour boats and people can be crammed on to such a small area. In itself it creates an notable experience but one that is not that pleasant and we are glad that the scheduled stop here is only a short one.
From this point onwards however the visit to the islands improved as it appears that the tour agencies spread themselves out and you feel like you have more space and time to enjoy the surroundings and we get chance to swim off the back of the boat, snorkel and have some time to relax on a less densely populated beach – and at this last location you are swimming in the sea with tropical fish all around you in a magical moment.
Visiting these islands highlights the impact that the Tsunami had a decade ago as everywhere you walk along the front you see signs directing you to safe locations and guidance what to do in the event one occurs.
Sadly these were not present at the time of the event in 2004 and some of the images and information that you can see are truly shocking. The 18ft wave that hit the islands is though to have killed around 2000 people (from a population at the time of around 10,000) and destroyed 70% of the buildings.
In less than a year the authorities had worked wonders in getting the islands back open for tourism (critical for the local economy) and better protected against a repeat event. Visiting now a decade on you could easily miss the fact that this part of the world was subject to such a devastating natural disaster.