Every other storefront on Kata's main drag advertised trips to Phi Phi Island--from all-inclusive getaways to simple ferry transfers. It's obviously THE destination. So we were delighted when Katrina's stepbrother and girlfriend sent us an email with the details of their wedding gift to us: a luxurious stay on Phi Phi Island with itinerary recommendations from their 2006 trip. (Thanks Josh and Nicole!) Three and a half months into our trip, it was a lovely reminder that this is not only a fantastic adventure but also our honeymoon, and some pampering is definitely allowed.We figured we'd start out frugally by getting to Phuket's pier on our own and buying ferry tickets there directly instead of paying for an agent in Kata to reserve our tickets and arrange a transfer. Big mistake. A sawngthaew (pickup truck turned public bus) took us to Phuket Town, and from there a taxi driver informed us that the pier was several kilometers away and he would take us there for a small fee. Once deposited at the in-the-middle-of-nowhere pier, we were appalled to learn that tickets go for twice as much as the travel agents were asking--and the agents were offering free, air conditioned, direct transfers to boot! We sulkily forked over the cash, since at that point we had no other option, and boarded the crowded, stuffy boat.
But things got back on track two hours later when we arrived in Phi Phi. We were whisked from the boat to the tourist information center at the end of the pier, where an employee personally escorted us to the hotel of our choice to check out the rooms. The first attempt was a winner: our bungalow at Phi Phi Bayview had an elegantly outfitted room and a private deck with cushy lounge chairs from which we enjoyed uninhibited postcard views and the soundtrack of soft lapping waves against the shore mixed with the hum of longtail boats as they crisscrossed the bay. It screamed honeymoon.
The ideal thing about Bayview's location is that it's on the far end of town from the pier, just beyond where the paved sidewalk ends and the remote beach hideaway feel begins. Bungalow B114 was just steps down to a small cove with a patch of sand, some shade trees, a wooden swing, and a handful of beach chairs. The water was crystal blue and just cool enough to be refreshing. We never had to share the beach with more than ten other people. And it definitely ranked as one of the most amazing beaches we've ever visited.
Phi Phi is actually a collection of islands, with Phi Phi Don the largest and only inhabited one. Neighboring Phi Phi Leh was an impressive silhouette from our balcony, and we hired a longtail boat to take us there for an afternoon trip. The snorkeling around the boulder-like island was fantastic: fish in cartoonlike colors against a lattice of dramatic coral. The fame of Phi Phi Leh, however, is the beach from the movie "The Beach" tucked into a fold of the island's cliffs. Leonardo, as the locals refer to him, doesn't know what he did to the reputedly idyllic hideaway: while the setting is dramatic, the crowds coming through make it noisy and littered. It doesn't help that it's the last stop for day trips before boating out to a sunset viewing spot; visitors seem mostly to be killing time. Our boat driver was surprised when we asked to leave earlier than he planned. "But too long until sunset!," he protested. We said that was OK, we were happy to watch the uncut version. And thus we closed out our Phi Phi adventure with the sun slowly settling on the horizon with a show of pinks, purples and blues, and a similarly hued moonrise lighting up the Halloween sky.View more pictures from Ko Phi Phi here.