Koh Phi Phi – the party island of the Andaman Coast, and now a famous destination for holiday makers, backpackers, honeymooners alike, largely down it being the chosen location to film Danny Boyle’s infamous 2000 cult classic, ‘The Beach’. In Alex Garland’s novel, the original setting of the isolated beach was allegedly somewhere in the Gulf of Thailand, however Koh Phi Phi was chosen for the film adaptation for its idealistic crystal blue waters and towering island cliffs.
With this in mind I guess I had high expectations. On arrival a 20 baht fee (approx 40p) is requested off all passengers towards upkeep of the island, which is listed as a National Park. Koh Phi Phi is actually made up of 6 different islands. Phi Phi Don is the main island, Phi Phi Leh is the smaller, uninhabited island used as a location in the film. The others, such as Bamboo Island and Mosquito Island, were probably once picture-perfect white sand beach islands but have now become overrun by tourism.
Back on Phi Phi Don, I walked straight through the narrow, market filled streets up towards the viewpoint and was instantly met with stunning 360degree views over Phi Phi Don, with Leh clear to see on the horizon not far in the distance. It was easy to stay up there for hours.
The next afternoon I got on the boat to take me out to Phi Phi Leh. Maya Bay is the famous hidden bay tucked round the back of the island and this was our destination. As this island is totally uninhabited, many people take a day trip to the small beach there. It becomes over crowded and the essence of the location is lost. Everyone gets back on their boat at about 5pm to watch the sunset and head back to the main island.
However I was on a sleeper boat, so when the masses left, I was left on the beach alone, except for my 10 or so fellow passengers, and enjoyed one of the most peaceful and spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen.
After this there was the waiting game. As beautiful as this was, the real reason we were all staying a night on the boat was to see the phenomenon of luminous glowing plankton in the night’s dark water.
Come 11pm, we left the beach and made our way back out to the boat and got our underwater masks and gear on. I didn’t quite know what to expect. The more rigorous your movements are under water, the more the plankton react and more glowing green orbs float from around you.
I hung back from the group and watched as my fellow travellers kicked, thrashed and swam in the distance. The sky was black, the water was black, the boat had shut its lights off and the sight was like nothing I could have imagined. It was as if a perfectly clear night of a thousand stars had been transferred under water.
It was the single most amazing thing I have ever seen.