Koh Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.

Phi Phi Leh, the beautiful island


  Cambodia and Thailand - February 2011

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text: 

Koh Phi Phi (pronounced pi-pi), it's actually two islands. The largest, Koh Phi Phi Don, where we live. And the smallest, Koh Phi Phi Leh, uninhabited. Who, despite the cargoes of tourists to land there, looks like a treasure island, a movie island.

Excursion in long-tail boat

Let's get one thing straight: this isn't an "adventure," is it? All tourists worthy of the name do the walk in Phi Phi Leh (tourists of which we are obviously a part, my traveling girlfriend and I, which we fully assume during this mini Thai trip in 2011).

The excursion is not an expedition. In short or long version, in speedboat or long-tail boat, chartered or private, in the morning or afternoon, it is sold by all agencies, all hotels and guesthouses of the island ...

Still. I love this landscape of spectacular karst cliffs ...

When, after walking along the cliffs of Phi Phi Don, we see Phi Phi Leh approaching, in the axis of the bow of long-tail boat, we have the impression of discovering a mysterious island, inaccessible, lost in the ocean ... An illusion that I savor with delight.

Excursion in long-tail boat. Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, February 2011.
Koh Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.
Excursion in long-tail boat. Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, February 2011.

So beautiful on the skyline

And then she's beautiful, Phi Phi Leh. Even from a distance. Before and after the trip, I never tire of photographing its unique silhouette, looming on the blue, from the beaches of Phi Phi Don.

Beaches not so crowded, too, contrary to what I feared. It's quite a nice surprise. Even on those that are accessible on foot from Tonsai, the tourist "village" of Koh Phi Phi Don, you can still find a lot of places to relax and take pictures without fear of crowds.

Koh Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.
Koh Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.
Long-tail boat in front of Koh Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.
Koh Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.

Ploufs in emerald water

So yes, I'm glad I did it again, the ride to Koh Phi Phi Leh. To have bathed again in the emerald water of its coves and plagues dominated by stunning cliffs. To have been able to observe some fish, already, in palms-mask-snorkel. And to have taken full eyes, again.

The rock faces plunging almost steeply into the water are dizzying. Their sight always gives me the same euphoric feeling, a little exhilarating. I have seen and reviewed many times in previous trips, it is not a discovery. But I am pleased to see that I am not jaded. The sensation does not become dull.

Of course, we are not alone. Of course, we jump when a group of Asian tourists, a few meters away, starts to shriek from his speedboat at the moment of the souvenir photo. Of course, we find it a little ridiculous, to have to wade in the water all at the same time, in the same places, on the order of boatman.

"Now, swimming and snorkeling. Fifteen minutes. One, five. » He wouldn't want his pronunciation to get us confused between 15 minutes and 50 minutes. Now we'd be prolonging our water frolic! Other than that, he's not much of a talker or a cheerleader, our guy. Well, it's true that he works... And as a tourist walker, it can't be a crazy job every day.

Koh Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.
Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.
Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.
Koh Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.

Maya Bay, the beach neither secret nor deserted

The last stop before the sunset is Maya Bay, aka THE Beach.

Yes, it's the famous beach where the (bad) film was shot The beach, with Leonardo Di Caprio and Virginie Ledoyen.

Maya Bay is a beautiful white sand beach, at the bottom of a bay defended by impressive cliffs. A real movie beach, a Hollywood dream. Victim unfortunately of his success ...

This time, we are entitled to more than half an hour. So nice.

Okay, well, I had no illusions about what was waiting for us at the beach. It's confirmed: there are as many people in Maya Bay as there are during my last visit, in 2007. I had warned the other girl, so she was not too scared ... The crowd is dense on the tongue of sand flour, so soft underfoot.

Update 2022: Maya Bay, suffocated by overtourism, was closed in 2018 by the Thai authorities, to allow corals and the seabed to regenerate ... The explosion of tourism from China, in particular, which now represents nearly a third of visitors to Thailand, has not helped matters. Thailand was planning to reopen Maya Bay in 2021, it will finally be the 1er January 2022by limiting the number of people. To protect ecosystems, quotas are effective, we saw it in Sipadan in Malaysia. Rather a good initiative, then. Besides, two to three months after Maya Bay closed, the sharks came back: "We've gone from 5,000 tourists to about 60 sharks." sums up a Thai marine biologist, specialist of the issue, interviewed in a report for Correspondent on France 2. The association Ocean Quest has begun replanting coral "cuttings" in the area. by fixing them to the glue, with success.

Fortunately for my friend and me, we are at the end of the day and the speedboats come from Phuket start to leave. Soon remain only the long-tail boatswho one by one ends up leaving, too. The beach finds a semblance of calm.

It is in the shade, the setting sun only illuminates the cliffs at the entrance of the bay. It would probably have been better to come very early, at dawn, before the daily crowds. Another option: you can also camp at Maya Beach, which in principle allows you to enjoy it a little outside the busy hours.

Crowds of tourists begin to leave the white sand of the famous beach of Maya Bay, in Koh Phi Phi Leh. (Thailand, February 2011)
Crowds of tourists begin to leave the white sand of the famous beach of Maya Bay, in Koh Phi Phi Leh. (Thailand, February 2011)
Maya Beach, Koh Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.
Iconic image of the emerald waters and karst cliffs of the famous Maya Bay beach, Koh Phi Phi Leh, with a "long-tail boat" in the foreground. (Thailand, February 2011)
Iconic image of the emerald waters and karst cliffs of the famous Maya Bay beach, Koh Phi Phi Leh, with a "long-tail boat" in the foreground. (Thailand, February 2011)
Maya Beach, Koh Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.

At the end of the day, we find a more serene atmosphere, reminiscent of what was Maya Bay, before the movie The beach and the tourist frenzy.

When we leave, the Moon is already visible and the shaving sun gilds the cliff. Ultimate looks for a beautiful wooden sailboat that we cross the road ...

Maya Beach, Koh Phi Phi Leh. Thailand, February 2011.

It is understood: Phi Phi Leh is neither a mysterious nor a secret island. But we can pretend it is, for the time of the crossing... before running into the other boats on the excursion!

And dream of the day, where, perhaps, Maya Bay will become as beautiful below the surface as above ...


  Cambodia and Thailand - February 2011

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  1. I had prepared myself, I had seen all the pubs, everywhere, for the excursions in Maya bay, you had warned me, I had imagined... Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! 😮 The crowd in Maya bay scared me!
    It spoils a little fun this concentration of tourists (which we are, neither better nor worse). It's worthy of Palavas-les-Flots anyway. Good, fortunately, the frame has nothing to do with that of La Grande-Motte!
    We feel that the scenery could be magical, we would like to play Robinson, but when I had both feet on the beach in the middle of hundreds of other people who had both feet on the same beach ... j Especially fascinated by all these people in jerseys, of all nationalities, all gathered on this island at the same time, (almost) all because of a movie ...

    There were those few minutes of calm once most of the other boats had already left. Well, that's good. We passed Ursula Andress! 😉 I saw the landscape differently.

    But it's true, I preferred Phi Phi Leh from the boat, turning around and despite the short jumps in the water that we were allowed! 8)

  2. @The other girl: Next time we will go to less crowded islands, promised!

    @Fabrice: You must not have read the paragraph above about Maya Bay... 😆 This is indeed the beach of "The Beach", where the movie was shot. That's why it's been a popular tourist spot ever since, at all hours of the day. Koh Phi Phi is probably the best known island of Thailand, especially since this film, and also because of the tsunami of December 2004.

  3. Imagine, Maya Bay, the first time I walked it was in February 2005. Due to recent tsunami (50 days ago), there was only one boat, ours, and a beach really deserted ... the foot not? 8)

    My daughter and I were trying to do the same dolly camera again when Leo was clearing the brush and seeing "the beach" for the first time. It worked well. It was exactly the feeling of living 5 seconds film 😆.

    I went back twice then and there... all the Taiwanese and Koreans wandering in South East Asia had given each other VR in yellow rompers... 😡

    @The other girl: Imagine that I ran into Christopher Walken, from the "Russian roulette" era in Journey to the End of Hell, in Maya Bay. She was in fact a middle-aged lady, a little muscular and with the same scarf tied around her head. 😮
    We laughed for a week ... just the appearance of CW in a turnip on TV triggers a laugh.
    Clearly Maya Bay attracts all the legends of the cinema. 😉

  4. Ah, but of course, I know this island. As you put Leh in the end, the local word for island, I did not make the connection. Well, I must not blog so late ...

  5. @ Wet & Sea / Ludovic: I love your memories of Maya Bay!!! 😀

    @Fabrice: Well, I'm starting my explanations again, so I must not have been very clear... 😡
    1 -> "Island", in Thai, is called "Koh". From where Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Tao, Koh Yao Noi, Koh Chang, Koh Bon, etc. etc. I even wrote a post on it discovering that there was a Koh Rin (Corinne):
    https://petitesbullesdailleurs.fr/je-suis-une-ile-corinne-koh-rin-20081117/ 😆
    2 -> Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh are two quasi-twin islands, one in front of the other, often referred to as the "Koh Phi Phi" or "Phi Phi", without distinction, to go faster. "Leh" is the name we add to that of the uninhabited island, the one where there is the beach of Di Caprio. "Don" is the name added to the main island where tourists stay.

  6. @Ludovic/Wet&sea Wow, Christopher Walken dressed as a woman! 😆 I love it. It must have been a nice meeting. 😉

  7. It is true that seen the trailer of the film ... it does not give too much desire to go to see a Koh Lanta with the Hollywood sauce.

  8. Frankly, Koh Phi Phi, that scared me.
    Too many people, too many tourists ghetto.
    Not too far, Koh Lanta has much more pleasant places ...

  9. @Pierre: Absolutely. It's a film that can not be seen without getting worse ...

    @Lemerou: Yes, it can be scary. Despite the crowds, I have a certain sentimental attachment to Koh Phi Phi, which I have known for a long time, well before the tsunami ... Despite the "ghetto to tourists" side of the village of Tonsai, we can find more calm towards the northern beaches.
    Koh Lanta is also touristy, and there, it is towards the beaches of the south that one must go to be quiet. And for my part, I find the island less beautiful, it does not have landscapes as amazing as the islands of Phi Phi, with these spectacular limestone cliffs plunging into the sea ...

    @Melissa: There are indeed beautiful corners in Thailand "tourist" (impossible to miss), but to discover a more authentic Thailand does not hesitate to think outside the box also ...

  10. Yes, I had the chance to spend 3 weeks in Phi Phi 15 years ago, I can tell you that it was something else ... I keep fond memories ..

  11. And there is also :

    Koh Ka Kola
    Koh Fi Dis
    Koh Péh Del Ump
    Koh Mé Dhie

    I could not help it ^^ Well what, it's almost we!

  12. @ Ducal57: You too... (sighs) 🙄

    @Piotr: You're doing great... 😆 And that reminds me, it's about time I got back to work. Weeks and months go by, and I still haven't finished recounting this little Thai trip...

  13. Hello, at the end of the year we want to go to Thailand and I would like to know the ideal is to stay how long PHI PHI LEH. I would also like to know the most interesting places to visit.