KOH PHI PHI
While enjoying Koh Lanta’s mellow vibe for a week, we could not wait to make it to the island across.
We had been hearing a lot of things about Koh Phi Phi. Unlike other islands though, some of the things we heard were not as positive.
Over the past decade, the island had become a major tourist destination and had undergone massive amounts of development.
What once was a tropical island for adventurers had become a populated island filled with bars, shops, restaurants and tattoo parlors – or so they said! A lot of people seemed to be complaining about this, to the point where we were advised to “skip” Koh Phi Phi – in favor of calmer islands in the region. So, although our expectations were high for the island’s natural beauty and landscape, we weren’t quite sure what to expect in terms of “quality of life”.
As our speedboat was approaching the archipelago, my excitement level jumped through the roof.
The baby blue water that I was used to seeing in Koh Lipe was there again, and this time it was surrounded by rock formations and coral reefs that made for stunning views.
As we stepped off the boat, we decided to spend the day in Tonsai Bay before heading to Holiday Inn Resort, our final destination on the island.
Tonsai Bay is where the pier is. It’s where you land when you come with the boat. It’s also the busiest area in Koh Phi Phi.
To my surprise, both Emir and I loved the “busy” atmosphere of Tonsai. Besides the bars and nightclubs, the boom in tourism also brought a multitude of cafes, restaurants, and shops – which all looked very attractive! Unlike Koh Lanta, where everything was so spread out; it felt good to have everything available at a short walking distance.
One of the things that caught our attention was to learn that Phi Phi had no motorized means of transportation. There are a few motorcycles but most transport on land is mostly done by foot or bicycle. As we could get to any place within a 10-minute walk, it caused us no problem.
Following a few hours spent in Tonsai, it was now time to head out to our resort. We took a longtail boat from Tonsai Pier which we paid 1200 THB for. The ride was absolutely phenomenal as we passed a few different bays before reaching our destination. To my amazement, the island seemed a whole lot bigger than I expected. We’d been on the boat for over 15 minutes, going full-speed and we had not yet reached our resort. The scenery was so nice, I wouldn’t have minded a longer trip either 🙂 The further we went towards the north of the island, the calmer it seemed to be.
HOLIDAY INN KOH PHI PHI
We’d finally made it to the resort, which was situated on the north end of the island. A friendly staff member quickly reached out and carried our bags out off our boat while we made our way to the reservation desk. We were offered refreshing drinks upon arrival. I was exploring the scenery, while Emir was handling the check-in procedure. We’d been told the resort was running at full occupancy before our arrival, yet I couldn’t see the crowds anywhere. The environment and the staff’s friendly yet courteous approach instantly gave me a sense of “joie de vivre”. In those moments, I simply want to pause time, live in the moment and make it last as long as possible.
Following the check-in, we were escorted to our beautiful beachfront bungalow. Our room was literally 10 steps away from the beach. The bungalow also had large sea-view terrace with 2 chairs and a sunlounger. The room was spacious, modern and well-taken care of. The AC which was much needed on the island worked perfectly fine.
The bed however, was by far the rooms’ best feature. Still, to date, it’s one of the best beds I’ve slept in. There were 2 pillows for each, one soft and another firm one. The thick and comfy duvets made it difficult to get out of bed in the mornings.
One thing that caught our attention was that the mini-bar was empty. Not because they had forgotten to fill it up, but because guests were encouraged to buy affordable local produce sold right next door. We thought it was a thoughtful initiative. Mini-bar items are usually priced much higher than standard market prices. So it was nice to see that management opted for a different approach. We filled the fridge with whatever pleased us – making us feel even more “at home”.
BEACH & FACILITIES
Holiday Inn Resort‘s private beach is made of beautiful white sand and turquoise water. The stretch of sand is quite long and wide enough as well. The sea’s transparent turquoise color is simply breathtaking. There are no corals, or stones in the area, which is great if you want to swim without putting goggles on. The resort simply makes you feel at home as it unpretentious – meaning it both equally caters to families as it does to couples of all ages.
Although the resort was running at full occupancy, the abundance of space made it look like there weren’t many guests around. This said – the wide beach, the 2 pools, the restaurants and activity centers was plenty of space for everyone to enjoy themselves.
The resort boasts 2 pools. One for families with children (and everyone else), and a sea-view infinity pool which was our favorite one. It had comfortable sun beds, a bar, and good lounge music. There’s also a gym, a spa, a kid’s club and activity center with a ping-pong and snooker table.
There are a ton of activities to be tried out at the resort. Being a beach bum for a day or two is fun, but we thought it’d be sad to miss out on some of the activities. There were many to choose from; kayaking, snorkeling, yoga & meditation, Thai boxing were some of the options.
We tried snorkeling and Emir went for a Thai boxing session which turned out to be quite an intense workout. One that he loved and decided to pursue!
Along the beach, there are also many long-tail boat operators. Emir negotiated a full-day tour of Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Leh (neighboring island) for 2,000 THB. We stepped on the boat at 9 AM, went to Tonsai pier to hike up the Phi Phi view point. We then hopped back on the boat to go to Monkey beach to see wild monkeys run around the bay. We then swam and snorkeled around beautiful rock formations before finally making our way to Maya Bay – the beach that reached world-wide fame with Leonardo Dicaprio’s film The Beach. We were back around 6 PM – right on time for dinner!
Emir and I are big foodies. We both enjoy trying out new dishes, and we both consider breakfast to be the most important dish and time of the day. This is when we fuel up for the day, discuss plans for our work and exchange ideas. So when we go to new destinations we immediately look for breakfast & brunch places that will boost our day.
We were extremely pleased to see that Holiday Inn Resort’s breakfast was on par with some of the best breakfast buffets we’ve encountered. There was a multitude of stations serving a plethora of variety. We tried it all; local dishes, pancakes, croissants, fruits, back to pancakes and so forth 🙂 Thus, breakfast on the resort was definitely one of the highlights for us.
But so was dinner. We usually like to eat a little lighter for dinner, but we’ve had to forget about that as “all you can eat” dinner buffets looked so delicious. Among various dinner buffets, we tried the seafood buffet and Italian buffet. We enjoyed them very much, but I can say Emir thoroughly enjoyed his carb-full buffet following an intense Thai boxing lesson 🙂
All in all, we really enjoyed our time on the island. The island itself is somewhat crowded. So if you are looking to party, meet new people and pull all-nighters, then, booking a hotel around Tonsai is probably the way to go.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a more refined stay, in a calm and secluded area Holiday Inn Resort is your best choice.
The beauty of it is that at Holiday Inn Resort, you get to enjoy one of the best islands on earth in the most relaxed way, without experiencing the possible downsides that everyone loves to talk about.