Completing my Krabi trilogy, the most overcrowded island hopping day trip was also the most disappointing. These two factors weren't unrelated: people are rubbish.
While a similarly clement afternoon on Hong Island left plenty of room to manoeuvre, the basically identical beaches and waters of Phi Phi Leh were littered with bobbing bodies as reddening Western tourists clogged the sea while pale Asian tourists crammed into the shade.
To see one island singled out and spoiled this much is confusing and a bit depressing, especially as wherever you point your longtail boat around here you're going to drift ashore on an idyllic island sooner or later. Why single this one out? The reason might be exclusively down to its starring role in some film about a Beach (name escapes me), because some people need that sort of validation to consider a place worth visiting. You'd never catch me being so shallow.
Personally, I was drawn to the Phi Phi Islands for their childish name.
As a misleadingly tranquil prelude, we stopped off at this quieter suburb of the Phi Phi archipelago first to enjoy its clean sands and eerily empty seas
It turned out this was thanks to the thousands of jellyfish working hard to balance out the overcrowding of the other islands. At least someone's trying
Phi Phi Leh
This cave apparently features some fascinating ancient wall paintings or something, but our amusingly authoritarian tour guide decided it wasn't worth our time. Good call, lady - let's spend another 30 minutes on a beach where we can't even swim instead
Some of the other boats were dawdling and letting passengers do a bit of snorkelling in the heavenly clear water, but none of that nonsense for us. We've got an itinerary to emotionlessly plough through, so why waste time on leisure pursuits when you can technically tick off the Viking Cave and Pileh Bay Lagoon by zooming past them?
Washed ashore on the unpleasantly chocker Maya Bay, I regretted not following my instinct to avoid the mainstream. I knew there was a reason I left the Phi Phi trip for last
Even my honed misanthropic cropping skills can't turn this place back into a paradise. I've met my match
With the famous, terrible Beach out of the way, we were finally permitted an hour of snorkelling and Jackie braved the open sea for the first time. In two weeks she's gone from a hesitant first-timer who didn't like to go out of her standing depth on the Perhentian Islands to the person who's so into it she holds up the boat and delays everyone's lunch by a couple of minutes. I was proud
Phi Phi Don
I'd normally feel obligated to be sarcastic about the larger and more developed of the islands too, but this might actually be the nicer one. At least it admits it's a spoiled paradise by setting up hotels and endless T-shirt shops, and that water's still pretty amazing
I got on with the locals too