Phi Phi Island Cruise – Of beaches, and THE beach.

Thailand. The word brought to me images of a hidden commune on an idyllic beach, where the waters were a shade of undiscovered blue, sands sparkly and fine, like mirrors ground up. After all, that’s where I’d seen Leonardo DiCaprio frolic in “The Beach”.

So when we reached Phuket, I was disappointed to say the least. We’d fallen prey to a scam hotel booking company, and then thankfully found a great last minute deal thanks to the friendly folks at Asia Web who worked even on a Sunday for us. But our resort wasn’t on the beach and when we finally took the 10 minute stroll down to the beach, the waters were grey, the beach was dirty and crowded. Apart from the fact that most tourists here wore bikinis, we felt like we were on the filthy Baga Beach, Goa, India.

My heart sank, as we trudged back to the hotel, as I replayed images of the blue waters of Mauritius in my head. We stopped by the hotel tourism desk, and picked up a few brochures on our way to the room. While walking up, we stopped in our tracks. Omigod! We have to do this, T (my best friend) and I screamed, jumping up and down while the guys stared at us. Half an hour later, all four of us were sitting on the bed, going over the brochures and comparing websites. After half an hour of laughing at T trying to communicate with the Thais trying to get us her travel agent discount, we were booked on a day tour to “Phi Phi, Maya Bay & Bamboo Islands By Speedboat Khai Island tour with Phuket Sea Island @ Royal Phuket Marina Service Guarantee Since 1997” (I swear that’s what the brochure said).

The brochure showed a young mother with a perfect body in a bikini helping her toddler walk out of a turquoise sea onto the sparkling almost white smooth sand, with two floating islands in the background. Yes. We definitely wanted to go there.


Phi Phi Island Cruise Route Map

The Phi Phi Island Cruise Route

Here’s how that epic day went:

8:00 am

We scarfed down a light breakfast and ran just in time to catch our van pick up. We were driven to one of the massive surf shops at Royal Phuket Marina Pier. Here, we were made to sign up, pay our 2500 THB (although the brochure said 3500) and were given seasickness pills, a chance to hire/buy flippers and other equipment, although snorkels and life jackets would be available on board for free. We felt sorry for a pregnant couple that were turned away, but really, 5 months in, what was she thinking? Choppy waters on a bouncy speedboat?

9:00 am

We walked down the pier and boarded our speedboat along with about 10 others. Our guide, aka Lady Gaga – a loud raspy Thai with an inch of make-up that was five shades too light had already scared the hell out of me by talking about the storm coming in from Vietnam, and how she wasn’t sure if we’d get to see much that day. I looked up at the sky, and it sure did seem downcast. After a bumpy 50 minute speedboat ride (most of which I spent clutching hard at whatever surface I could find), the skies cleared up and we reached the most beautiful beach I’d ever seen. Gasp.


Royal Phuket Marina Pier

The Royal Phuket Marina

10:00 am

Bamboo Island looked like paradise. Bright turquoise waters kissing a golden beach that surrounded a national forest. Unfortunately, my stomach rumbled and I spent most of the 45 minutes we had there trekking to and from the loo. It was great to see Charles enjoying himself in the sea, showing off his newly acquired swimming skills. We frolicked in the water a while, before Lady Gaga called us back to the boat. Good news, she said. The skies seemed to like us and we’d be able to snorkel after all. Half an hour later we pulled up in the middle of nowhere and dropped anchor.

Bamboo Island, Beach, Phuket

Our first view of Bamboo Island


Bamboo Island, Phuket, Thailand

Everyone was equally impressed by Bamboo Island

11:15 am

Hin Klang Coral Reef didn’t look like much from the boat, but once I did manage to get over my fears, slip on a snorkel, and lower myself into the water, it was a beautiful world down there. Colourful corals, and all sorts of underwater life. Beautiful. I looked in envy at a champ snorkeler who dove down to the sea bed to get a closer look at the corals. The corals came up pretty high in some places, and I could feel my feet kick them. Charles, who had just learned how to swim, prefered to watch from the boat. One Chinese guy on our boat came up with urchins stuck in his foot. (That’s gonna hurt a week or so, Lady Gaga told him) Poor fellow, he looked really pale. “Arrrr you hunglyy??” asked Lady Gaga as we set off in the boat once again.


Snorkel, Scuba, Hin Klang, Koh Phi Phi, Island, Phuket, Thailand

Snorkelling at Hin Klang

Snorkel, Coral Reef, Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, Hin Klang, Phuket

The champ snorkeller ready to dive into the coral reef


Laem Tong. As we pulled into our first beach with man made structures, Lady Gaga pointed to a whole lot of private villas in the distance. Those are for celebrities, Blad Pitt come here vely often. They no like crowds. Everyone gasped, star struck, peeling their eyes trying to catch a glimpse of some celebrity. Anybody. We jumped off and ran straight into a shack where a scrumptious buffet had been laid out for us. Fish curry, fried chicken, rice, bread, stir fried vegetables, soup, salad and more. We looked around while stuffing ourselves. This really felt like a tropical island, with exotic birds, trees and smells. Charles went nuts taking photos. We avoided the cocktails, because we didn’t want to feel drained and dehydrated for the rest of the day. A few people were frolicking on the beach, and I went to take a lovely nap in the sun on the sand. Soon it was time to get going again.


Sculpture, Thai, Laem Tong, Koh Phi Phi, Island, Phuket

Thai mermaid at Laem Tong


Thai sculpture, Laem Tong, Phi Phi, Island, Cruise

Thai mermaid joined us for lunch


Laem Tong, Phuket, Drinks, Cocktails, Island

Lunch hour cocktails at Laem Tong


Laem Tong, Phi Phi Island, Cruise

Tropical Island Laem Tong


Laem Tong, Birds, Phi Phi Island

Tropical Island Wildlife at Laem Tong

Laem Tong, Phi Phi Island

Doing nothing at Laem Tong


Laem Tong, Phi Phi Island

Beach bum lounging at Laem Tong


Laem Tong, Phi Phi Island

You see the bigger picture at Laem Tong


Phuket luxury cruise, Phi Phi, Island, Beach, Boat

Watching luxury cruiseboats passing Laem Tong


Phuket cruise, Phi Phi Island, Cruise, Boat, Longtail

Watching Thai longtail boats passing Laem Tong

Boats, Cruise, Phuket, Phi Phi Island

Everyone was welcome at Laem Tong


Nui Bay was a beautiful sight that we took in from our boat, as we went on to something that nothing could have prepared me for. Monkey Beach was famed for it’s crazy monkey population, brought here by locals as they were causing a menace on the mainland. The monkeys seemed kind of shy that day as I noticed only a couple of them scamper up the cliff before Charles could take a picture. Maybe because it has now been forbidden to feed the monkeys and tourists seemed to have messed around with their natural food habits. But the sand. Oh the sand. It was the finest softest sand I’d ever seen. This almost clay like white sand sank into the ground every time I stepped on it. I spent the longest time just playing with the sand with my toes. I didn’t want to leave. Ever.

Nui Bay, Phuket, Phi Phi Island, Cruise, Boat

Fellow travellers at Nui Bay

Rocks, Island, Phuket, Phi Phi Island

Cool blue waters, on the rocks

Nui Bay, Phuket, Phi Phi Island

Rock formations at Nui Bay

Monkey Beach, Kayak, Phi Phi Island

Kayaking towards Monkey Beach

Monkey Beach, Phi Phi, Cruise, Island

Hello Monkey Beach

Monkey Beach, Phi Phi Island

Playing with the clay-like sand at Monkey Beach


Phi Phi Island, Cruise, Monkey Beach

Goodbye Monkey Beach

2:00 pm

Phi Phi Ley was the smaller of the two islands, but by no means less insignificant. A half hour later we found ourselves at the mouth of a viking cave, which we didn’t have permissions to enter. From the outside, we could see an entire settlement of sorts in there, and were told Thailand’s bird’s nest soup industry thrives there. Moving on.

Phi Phi Island, Longtail boat, Cruise

More long tail boats cruising the islands

Phi Phi Island, Cruise, Boat

Up ahead in the distance

Phi Phi Island, Sail, Boat, Phuket

Sailboats around the islands


Boatman, Phi Phi Island

The boatmen of Phi Phi Island

Boat, Captain, Phi Phi Island, Cruise, Speeboat

Our captain – Mr. Schumacher

2:30 pm

Pileh Cove was a beautiful, tiny hidden cove that had a foot long beach. We stopped at the mouth of the cove to snorkel. Here, even Charles got lucky, for we could see the clownfish from above the water’s surface as well. There were bits of trash floating about in the water, which was a little heartbreaking.

Snorkel, Phi Phi Island

Snorkelling flippers


Phi Phi Island, snorkel, Cruise, Scuba, Dive

Snorkelling in crystal clear water

3:00 pm

Maya Bay was the bit everyone had been looking forward to the most. The beach, filmed in the movie “The Beach.” We had all seen this place before, imagined what life might be like here, and we were really looking forward to living it, if only for an hour. Nothing could have prepared us for what awaited. Tourist hell. We pulled into the cove, banging and bumping against other boats, there was literally no more place to anchor on that once desolate beach. There was no place to swim, sit or sleep. Every imaginable surface was covered with tourists, loud, noisy music, people taking photos and videos, kids screaming and crying, people making sandcastles, searching for lost ones and more. It hurt. It really really hurt to have that bubble I’d been carrying around for so long burst like this. We also needed to pee, really bad. So we walked deeper into the island, following a foot worn path between the trees. And suddenly, realised, we were whispering to each other. Why are we whispering, we whispered. Because this place is so quiet, I wouldn’t want to disturb it. And we just stopped and looked around. Yes, this was Richard’s beach from The Beach. Quiet, uninhabited, a small rickety handmade loo ahead, and the silence of trees and cliffs in the middle of an island in the middle of nowhere. We looked up, and around. It was calm. Quiet. Unbelievable. This is what life is all about. I walked back to the beach, and sat down on a tiny piece of land. I pulled my knees close in. And looked ahead, keeping my vision high enough to block out all the people. I could see the horizon, framed between two bits of island. This is what life is all about. Not us, and our cities and our wants and our needs. This. Us, tiny, inconspicuous, and the universe, infinite, beautiful, powerful. I wanted to cry. I wasn’t sad, I was happy. Happier than I’d ever known happiness without reason could be. I got back onto the boat, and on the way back, every single one of us was quiet. Staring back out at Maya Bay, we were all thinking the same thing.

Maya Beach, The beach, Phi Phi Island, Phuket

Maya beach from the movie The Beach

Maya Beach, The beach, Phi Phi Island

Looking up at the beach, as if I were alone


Maya Beach, Speedboat, Cruise, Waves

Watching the surf created by our speedboat with Maya Beach behind

4:00 pm

Khai Nok was an unbelievable tiny island, with a flat coral strewn beach with a couple of shacks that clearly made a lot of money from tourists. 150 THB to sit in one of their beach loungers. We paid. Another few THB for Coconut water. We paid. Our bill at the end, an unbelievable 600 THB. As Charles sat back and relaxed in the expensive chairs, I ran into the water to finally get a hang of the snorkelling equipment. Soon, it was time to return.

Khai, chairs, Beach, Phuket

Lounging on expensive chairs at Khai

5:00 pm

Tired, damp, hungry, yet satiated, we arrived at Royal Phuket Marina Pier, to a day that looked bright and sunny, completely unlike the day we left in the morning. We were deposited back to our hotels by 6:00.

The Phi Phi, Maya Bay & Bamboo Island (Speedboat Cruise) by Phuket Sea Island @ Royal Phuket Marina cost us 2500 THB per head. Transfers, Coffee/Tea, Lunch, Snorkels and Lifejackets were included.

Phuket Sea Island Co. Ltd.
63/ 202, Royal Phuket Marina,
Moo 2, Thepkasattri Road,
Koh Kaew, Muang, Phuket 83200,
Tel: (66) 076 360880/ 1
Email: phuket_seaisland@hotmail.com


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6 Discussions on
“Phi Phi Island Cruise – Of beaches, and THE beach.”
  • Wow that was strange. I just wrote an very long comment
    but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over
    again. Anyways, just wanted to say great blog!

  • Great pics again.

    Few things:
    – Partly agree that beaches in Phuket are, in general, a disappointment, which leads to…

    – Next time you are there, visit Kamala Beach, and if you can somehow gain access, Pansea Beach. Kamala is probably the best ‘big’ beach in Phuket – it’s the least accessed of all the ‘main’ beaches (Patong, Kata etc) and also has the best sand and water. About a 20 minute walk south of Kamala Beach are two smaller, even more secluded beaches (just southwest of Cape Sienna Resort), which are better still. Pansea Beach is, for all intents and purposes, a private beach shared by the exclusive and luxurious Amanpuri resort and the nearby Surin resort. It’s, by far, the best beach on Phuket. Another one worth visiting is Maikhao Beach, far up north near the airport. The water isn’t as clear as at Pansea here, but it’s not bad, and the sand is quite grainy and coarse. What Maikhao has going for it is that it’s a 9km stretch of beach (the longest in Phuket), with only a handful of resorts (it’s relatively underdeveloped)…I think there are only about 12 resorts on the entire 9km stretch, and most of those are boutique resorts with only 20-100 or so rooms/villas. If you’re staying at one of the resorts, you practically have a whole stretch of beach to yourself (and a couple of other couples at most). We stayed at Maikhao Dream Villa Resort and Spa – an all villa resort with just 22 (total) 2- and 3- bedroom villas.. This should give you an idea: http://www.kiwicollection.com/blog/tag/chinmoy-lad. Not a soul on the beach on any day we were there…

    If you have time, even further north of Maikhao is Natai, where beaches are better still than in most of Phuket (save for Pansea).

    – I LOVED the islands and wished we could have spent more time there. The beach(es) is(are) definitely better there, but at the same time, apart from the stunning rock formations and beautiful lagoons, the whole thing still feels like a tourist trap for some reason for me. I would love to find some secluded places in/near Phuket.

    – This sounds weird, but there are a few beaches in Hong Kong that are better than any beaches I’ve ever seen anywhere (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia…and this includes the Maldives). The softest sand (yes, even including Maldives), the clearest water (excluding Maldives), and very, very few people. If you are ever in HK, do be sure to get in touch and we’ll organise something.

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