The Phi Phi islands are a must see in Thailand. They are just a short ferry ride away from Patong, but seem like a different planet. Phi Phi Don, the larger of the two islands, is full of scuba shops and open-air bars playing reggae music. The water is bright blue, and framed by stunningly gorgeous cliffs. Phi Phi Leh, the smaller of the two islands, is where “The Beach” was filmed, and is a very popular day trip destination. It is a state park, so there are no overnight accommodations there.
Many people warned me that during high season, it gets unbearably crowded, which really bummed me out. But after some internet sleuthing, I found a way to have Phi Phi Leh to myself – camping! There is one tour group that contracts with the Thai government to bring nightly camping groups out to Phi Phi Leh, giving campers a chance to see “The Beach” after all of the other tourists have gone home.
After ferrying over from Patong to Phi Phi Don, I stored my backpack with the tour operator and hopped the boat to Phi Phi Lei with only a bathing suit and a change of clothes. After a quick pass by the Viking Caves (primitive caves inhabited by people who collect bird nests to sell for bird nest soup, a Chinese delicacy) and a snorkel stop, we boarded a longtail boat and arrived on The Beach around 6 p.m., just as the day trippers were departing.
After an hour of exploring the island and watching a spectacular sunset, dinner was served and we sat around the campfire talking and and sipping Chang beers. Most of the campers were in their mid to late twenties, and were travelers from all over the world, so the conversation was easy.
When the moon was in the right position, we took a dip in Maya Bay, which has phosphorescent plankton that glow when you move around in the water. It was a little chilly, but we splashed around for a while because it was so beautiful to watch the water light up.
Later on, after a few more beers, one of the guides did some fire dancing, which was cool to watch. It was even more entertaining to watch some of the braver (drunker?) campers try to fire dance. (And then check out their burns the next morning.) In the wee hours of the morning, we collected our mats and sleeping bags and laid them out on the beach to sleep under the stars, waking as the sun came up. After a quick cup of coffee we were on the boat headed back to Phi Phi Don. It was an amazing experience, and a beautiful way to see Phi Phi Leh.
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