Exploring the Phi Phi Islands of Thailand

Picture this: you are on a boat, gliding peacefully through clear, turquoise waters, between soaring limestone cliffs.

Yep, you are in southeast Asia. Thailand specifically.

The Phi Phi islands of Thailand are a cluster of six small islands nestled between the much larger island of Phuket, and mainland Thailand. It’s almost illegal to call yourself a backpacker until you’ve been to this little corner of southeast Asia.

Of these islands, only one is inhabited – Koh Phi Phi Don. Backpackers from all over the world come here to spend a few days lounging on the beach during the day, and then dancing on that same beach under the stars, while drinking a stupid amount of alcohol out of mini buckets.

Ok, fine. Truth be told, I didn’t do the mini bucket bit. I’m not a big drinker, and I didn’t like having an open drink where anyone could toss whatever into it. Instead, I nursed a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, and covered the top with my thumb. Hey, I’m a solo female traveler, we have to think about these things.

And, ok, fine. I didn’t dance right on the beach. I danced up on these giant platforms, while everyone else danced on the beach. In my defense, I was a go go dancer back in the day, so I was in my element.

Anyway. I’m trying to paint a picture here, stay with me…


Aerial view of Ko Phi Phi Thailand

Koh Phi Phi


Another thing I did, was spend a day exploring the islands on a boat tour run by a fellow Canadian (so obviously, it was very reputable, and a great time!). If you are on Koh Phi Phi, I highly recommend you look into Bob’s Booze Cruise. (I am not affiliated in anyway, I just really enjoyed the tour, and think it’s worth the money.)

Please note: Krabi Regional Police have now introduced a new law where alcohol can’t be consumed on any boats while out on the water, so technically, Bob can’t call this a booze cruise anymore. But, he does offer a pre and post party with unlimited alcohol to make up for that.

Either way, this was one of the best days of my entire southeast Asia trip. I had SUCH a fun day with Bob and his crew!

We started as a group of strangers, on a strangers boat, but were laughing and joking like old friends by the end of the day.

Our first stop was Monkey Beach in Ton Sai Bay. I use the term ‘beach’ loosely, because the tide was high, so there was really no beach to speak of. The water was choppy, and I was automatically terrified because it also looked deep.

(I should mention that I can barely swim and am terrified of deep water.)

I opted to take a life jacket and a kayak to the shore. The life jacket was 38 sizes too big and missing straps. Also, I have never kayaked in my life, so this seemed like a good time to try. What?

Anyway. Myself and another girl were left to figure out the art of kayaking while everyone else swam. The distance to shore, by the way, was about three kayak lengths.

Perhaps I was a bit overdramatic by asking for a kayak.

Whatever. So we made our way, but not before almost getting hit by another boat. I don’t even know how we ended up in its path. Let’s just blame the other boat and move on.

When we got to shore and got off the kayak…I promptly fell over into the water. And could not get back up. It was all sharp rocks, and the waves were tossing me around like a ragdoll and I just could not get my footing.

(You have no idea how much I wish I was making all of that up.)

Guaranteed I’m on YouTube somewhere. I eventually managed to compose myself, and loved feeding the monkeys, which, by the way, were way more docile than the furry little beasts in Bali (if you’ve been to Ubud, this will make sense!).


Ko Phi Phi Thailand Monkey Beach

Monkey Beach


Then we had to get back to our boat. Oh goodie! Getting back into the kayak was a challenge in itself, and my partner almost tipped us. We were definitely a fine pair. Once we were both situated, I thought we were doing great and was honestly really pleased with our progress…until Bob told us we were backwards.

Oh. Whatever. By the time we got ourselves back to the boat, we were basically banned from ever asking to use the kayak again. Fine. (I think I would have done the same.)

The next stop was one I had thought about and agonized over for months when planning this trip.

Cliff jumping.

Do I do it? CAN I do it? I can’t really swim. I’m terrified of heights. And deep water. But how BADASS would I be if I could face those fears?!

No, I can’t. Yes, I can. No, I can’t.

I sat there and watched everyone else jump. I don’t know what came over me, but after everyone came back, I suddenly decided to do it.

You guys, I have never been so scared in my entire life. No joke. Nothing I’ve done in all of my travels to date equals these moments. I’ll never forget it.

I was absolutely terrified to even jump off the boat. What made me think I could jump off a cliff?!



I don’t even remember getting into the water from the boat, but all of a sudden, there I was, doing some half assed version of a doggy paddle to the climb point. I naively expected a shore of some sort. But no. I literally had to climb right onto a limestone rock face sticking straight out of the water.

OMG, what am I doing?! I missed the kayak.

It wasn’t the hardest climb in the world, but I was shaking like a leaf, so I had no coordination whatsoever. I’m honestly surprised I didn’t fall.

After what seemed like a hundred years, I made it to the top. I was shaking so badly, I literally could not stand up, and had no choice but to stay crouched down.

Oh my god, IT WAS SO HIGH!!!

The water looked a million miles away. It was only about 35-40 feet down. (That’s nothing to some of you, but remember – fear of heights, and water, and I can barely swim!)

I crawled my way to the edge, and at some point, I started talking to myself. I don’t remember what I was saying, but I do remember thinking that my voice didn’t sound like my own, and I sounded a million miles away.

That was when I started to cry.

I have never felt fear like that! It was SO intense! Yep, a grown ass woman, in a bikini, crouched down on the edge of a cliff, crying and talking to herself. That was me.

I probably paused up there for a couple minutes. But I knew there was only one way down, and I had a boat full of people waiting for me.

I remember closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, looking out at the horizon, and slowly standing up. I honestly didn’t think my legs would hold me, and I would tumble over the edge in a most ungraceful fashion. But they did.

And then I jumped.

It took so long to get down, I actually had time to think. I distinctly remember thinking, ‘wow, this is a long drop, where is the water?‘.

My plan was to plug my nose. Nature, of course, had another idea. As soon as I hit the water, the force pushed my elbow, causing me to let go of my nose, inhale three gallons of salt water…and punch myself in the face under water. All at once.

(I wish I was also making that part up. Graceful as always, you guys!)

It didn’t feel like I went under water that far at all. But hey, what do I know, I was busy drinking the ocean. Once I popped up, I was shocked. Utterly shocked. I absolutely could not believe I did that!!!

Back on the boat, I sat quietly by myself as we made our way to the next stop. I needed to calm down, as the reality that I’d just faced my biggest fears, all at once, set in.

I am so incredibly proud of myself for doing that.

And I’ll never do it again.


Ko Phi Phi Thailand Cliff Jumping

The Phi Phi Islands


The next stop was Koh Phi Phi Leh. This is the island where Maya Bay is, which is famous for that movie The Beach, with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Bob did things a little differently, and I thought it was very smart of him…

Instead of anchoring right in Maya Bay, and adding to the traffic and pollution of this fragile area, he anchored on the opposite side of the island in Loh Samah Bay. This area was surrounded by huge limestone cliffs, and was awesome for snorkeling. It was SUCH a cool scene!

In one of the cliffs, there was a rope ladder that we had to swim to, and from there, we could walk to the other side of the island, which is where the infamous beach was.

Life jacket please! I was quite done with being a daredevil for the day. That time I got a kids size, and it fit me perfectly, which is good, because the water had more of a current, and my version of the doggy paddle would not have sufficed.

Shockingly, I managed to climb the rope ladder without incident. I thought for sure I’d lose my grip, fall off and make a big splash.

Maya Beach was just stunning, but sadly, way too busy. Unfortunately, that level of popularity is killing the eco system, so Maya Bay and Loh Samah Bay are closed to tourists indefinitely.


Ko Phi Phi Thailand Maya Bay

The Phi Phi Islands


Our last stop was at Wang Long Bay to watch the sunset between the Kissing Rock Faces. This is also where we learned about the Viking Caves in the area, as well as the thriving birds nest soup industry. I won’t say much on either of these topics, but will instead let Bob speak on these, when you go on his cruise. Sound secretive? That’s because it is.

After that, we slowly sailed back to Koh Phi Phi Don and arrived around 7pm. This gave me just enough time to clean up, eat something, toss my things into my bag since I was leaving the next morning, and head to the beach…to dance on a platform and not drink copious amounts of alcohol.

Ahh, Thailand, I miss you and can’t wait to go back!

Now tell me, have you been to the Phi Phi islands? And, have you faced your fears on your travels?

(This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and purchase something, I earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. See my full disclosure policy here.)


Backpacking Southeast Asia? Here's what to expect on a day trip exploring the Koh Phi Phi islands of Thailand.
Backpacking Southeast Asia? Here's what to expect on a day trip exploring the Koh Phi Phi islands of Thailand.
Backpacking Southeast Asia? Here's what to expect on a day trip exploring the Koh Phi Phi islands of Thailand.
Backpacking Southeast Asia? Here's what to expect on a day trip exploring the Koh Phi Phi islands of Thailand.
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  1. Danica Anne Panganiban
    February 7, 2019 / 8:53 pm

    I love your writing and the photos are just making me want to visit Thailand again and this time, Koh Phi Phi.

    • NurseBackpacker
      February 8, 2019 / 12:01 pm

      What a fantastic compliment, thank you so much, Danica! 🙂

  2. raalkuino
    October 15, 2018 / 5:53 pm

    This is a very great post! 🙂 I want to travel Thailand someday, the most thrilling part is the cliff jumping. 🙂

    • NurseBackpacker
      October 15, 2018 / 6:47 pm

      Thank you so much for reading! Yes, the cliff jumping is something I will never forget. Thailand is amazing, I hope you get to visit the country one day. 🙂

  3. August 26, 2018 / 8:47 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this – it felt like I was there with you!

    • NurseBackpacker
      August 27, 2018 / 2:30 pm

      Awesome, thank you so much for reading! Safe travels, my friend! 🙂

  4. August 26, 2018 / 8:23 pm

    Great post girl! Thanks for sharing with us:)

    • NurseBackpacker
      August 27, 2018 / 2:24 pm

      Thank you so much for reading Dia! I love your writing style on your website! I commented on your travel tips post, but am not sure if it actually posted, because it kept giving me an error. Safe travels my friend!

  5. August 26, 2018 / 1:46 am

    Awesome spot for a vacation. Way to get over your fears. You did that. I need a vacation and Thailand might be what I need!

    • NurseBackpacker
      August 26, 2018 / 2:22 pm

      Thailand is amazing, I highly recommend it. I can’t wait to go back! Thanks for reading! 🙂

  6. SEAN
    August 24, 2018 / 12:20 am

    I can always rely on your stories forever!! Thanks for sharing Carrie!

    • NurseBackpacker
      August 25, 2018 / 7:37 pm

      Hahaha! Glad you enjoy my stories, Sean! Thanks for reading! 🙂

  7. Jonathan Login
    August 21, 2018 / 11:18 pm

    Amazing adventure thank you for sharing it with us!

    • NurseBackpacker
      August 22, 2018 / 12:06 am

      Awesome, thanks for reading, Jonathan!

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