Monday, September 13, 2010

Koh Phi Phi

It seems almost wilfully cruel to draw direct comparisons between Koh Phi Phi (pronounced Pee Pee) and Koh Lanta but a comparison is inevitable as I now find myself here in Phi Phi having just arrived from Lanta. Koh Lanta was utterly comatose - even allowing for low season - and not a pretty sight at all. Its beaches were as unspectacular as they were empty and the entire place gave off the air of an island living on former glories. Above all, Lanta’s in need of a bloody good clean up and probably some form of island viagra.
Phi Phi on the other hand is a younger, fresher and more vital place to be. This becomes apparent from the very second you step off the island ferry to join a queue of people paying Phi Phi’s ‘clean’ tax - your contribution to litter control on the island (3 days in and litter aplenty around me, it still isn‘t clear what they spend this tax on). Everything is more expensive here on Phi Phi from the basics like water and sun screen to beer and food but let’s face it, you haven’t come here for a cultural experience, you’re here for the sand and, oh yes, those buckets.
The village of Tonsai in which all the late night action happens is an uneven mixture of dive schools, massage parlours, overpriced and underpopulated bars and innumerable travel agencies all too happy to promise you more buck for your baht when you finally tire of Phi Phi. And tire of it you will. But now’s a good time to be here. Accommodation is cheap and plentiful - even the woman who made my banana milk shake today offered me a room. 400 baht seems to be the going rate and once you’re far enough away from the party zone - and I am - then it’s easy to kill some days here.
Each bar has a gaggle of gap-year British backpackers outside offering various inducements to get your baht which include free shots, 2 for 1 cocktails and, if pushed, probably hand jobs too. For this they get paid 300 baht and a free cocktail which is just about enough for them to get rat-arsed by the beach when the village bars are closed and naturally this they do with much more enthusiasm than which they hand out their flyers. The bars themselves are filled with bucket-slurping, 21 year old emo types with fringes sharp enough to cut through the coral in the surrounding bays.
But cut away all of the inevitable resort-type tat that surrounds this place and you genuinely do have a staggeringly beautiful beach. Encircled by limestone peaks and palm forests, the bay’s waters are that photoshopped aquamarine colour, the sand impeccably white and pleasingly empty especially if you don‘t have a hangover to sleep off. There isn’t a stretch of sand in the world like this that hasn’t become prostituted, and all because people like me want to see it of course, but the natural beauty of the beach here at Phi Phi manages to outshine the neon glow of its night bars and clubs.

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