Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ko Phi Phi

Some 40 km from Krabi, off Thailand’s south western coast, Ko Phi Phi is a group of limestone islands that just sharply from the surrounding turquoise sea. Phi Phi Don is both the largest and the only one with a permanent population. Phi Phi Leh is much visited but uninhabited. Phi Phi Dondivides into two sections joined by a narrow isthmus on either side of which are two superb sweeps of white sand. It is stunningly beautiful with green hills combine with astonishing cliffs plunging down to the water. They also part of the National Marine Park.

During the 1940, Phi Phi Don was populated by Muslim fishermen, and even now a good 80 per cent of the inhabitants are Muslim. Later, coconut plantations were introduced, but by the 1970’s travellers had got wind of this remote and delicious paradise. The good news is that as diving and snorkeling are so popular, the fishermen no longer use dynamite and the surrounding coral is in better shape it might be. Conversely, attempts to limit the number of tourists, to better preserve the nature of the place, have failed due to greed.

Phi Phi Leh is all towering cliffs, caves and sea lake. Tourists visit for a day to swim, but it is also famed as a centre of the birds nest soup industry. Swiftlets nest high up in the rocky hollows, and licenced collectors climb three times a year, to harvest these nests, made of saliva.

When to go: November to April. Population: 1,500. How to get there: By boat from Phuket or Krabi.

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