I didn't know it going in, but Koh Phi Phi is an absolute haven for snorkelers, beach bums, party-goers, photographers and scuba divers alike. The grouping of small cliff islands is connected by crystal blue waters full of colorful and vibrant sea life, over which long tail boats shuttle both tourists and locals from departure to destination. Quiet and lazy by day, but full of energy and music at night, Koh Phi Phi seems worlds away from Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
After settling into our hotel room and spending some relaxing hours on the beach, we headed into town. There are no "roads" through town - only walking paths - although the occasional motor bike may zip down the street between pedestrians. There's no need for roads on the island, since most long-distance travel is done by boat. Because the island is mountainous, it's often quicker to take a boat ride from one side of the island to the other, as opposed to hiking up and over.
We did, though, take quite a hike to reach the Koh Phi Phi viewpoint. After climbing what felt like thousands of stairs, passing hostels and restaurants most of the way up, we reached the famous viewpoint where both bays nearly come together, separated only by a narrow strip of land. Though it was a tad cloudy for an October afternoon, it didn't make the view any less spectacular.
Exploring what's below the surface of the turquoise water was just as unforgettable as all that's above. I'm by no means any kind of snorkeling expert, but I've had the chance to snorkel on a few occasions near Mexico and around the Caribbean - and the abundance and rarity of the wildlife I saw is only rivaled by my snorkeling experience in the Galapagos. I saw a reef shark and countless jellyfish, sea anemones housing little clown fish, skinny needlefish and fat starfish, and vibrant rainbow parrotfish, surgeonfish and coral groupers. Not to mention the casual macaques lounging on the aptly named Monkey beach.
We boated around the islands from one snorkeling location to another, finishing our day at Koh Phi Phi Le's Maya Bay. The secluded bay is famous for its appearance in The Beach, but could still easily be world famous for its beauty even without providing a background for Leonardo DiCaprio. With craggy cliffs framing soft, white sand and a jungle-esque interior, the little island was awe-inspiring. It didn't matter how long we actually spent there - whether fifteen minutes or three hours, it felt as though we left too soon.
Those few days in Koh Phi Phi soaking up the sun was the perfect end to an already incredible trip. We relaxed in the sand, but we also hiked to see a sunrise, and swam through schools of colorful fish, and meandered the walkways of town and listened to the frogs and bats make themselves known at night. The Thai islands more than just live up to their label of "paradise" - they surpass it in every way.
For more pictures of Phuket and Koh Phi Phi, click here!