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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 be clear: it's not an adventure, huh. All tourists worthy of the name make the ride to Phi Phi Leh (tourists of which we are obviously part, my girlfriend of travel and me, which we totally assume during this Thai mini-stay of 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.
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 stuffed with people, in addition, contrary to what I feared. It is rather a pleasant surprise. Even those that are within walking distance of Tonsai, Koh Phi Phi Don's tourist "village", can still find cozy corners, take pictures without fearing crowds.
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 would not want his pronunciation to make us confuse 15 minutes and 50 minutes. There would be no more that we prolong our aquatic frolics! Other than that, he's not a chatty guy or a jovial guy. Well, he works, he ... And tourist walker, it must not be folichon every day, as a job.
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.
Well, well, I was without illusion about what was waiting for us at LA plage. It's confirmed: there are so many people in Maya Bay that 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 2019: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 plans to reopen Maya Bay in 2021, limiting the number of people to 200 per day. To protect ecosystems, quotas are effective, we saw it in Sipadan in Malaysia. Rather a good initiative, so. In fact, two to three months after the closure of Maya Bay, the sharks returned: "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 started 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 illuminates more than the cliffs at the entrance of the bay. It would probably have been better to come very early, at dawn, before the daily crowd. Another option: you can also camp at Maya Beach, which allows, in principle, to enjoy a little outside of peak times.
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 ...
It's understood: Phi Phi Leh is neither a mysterious island nor a secret island. But we can act as if, the time of the crossing ... before falling on the other boats on the excursion!
And dream of the day, where, perhaps, Maya Bay will become as beautiful below the surface as above ...