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The Phi Phi Islands (Thai: หมู่เกาะพีพี, Thai pronunciation: [pʰīː pʰīː]) are located in Thailand, between the large island of Phuket and the western Strait of Malacca coast of the mainland. The islands are administratively part of Krabi province. Ko Phi Phi Don ("ko" (Thai: เกาะ) meaning "island" in the Thai language) is the largest island of the group, and is the most populated island of the group. although the beaches of the second largest island, Ko Phi Phi Lee (or "Ko Phi Phi Leh"), are visited by many people as well. The rest of the islands in the group, including Bida Nok, Bida Noi, and Bamboo Island (Ko Mai Phai), are not much more than large limestone rocks jutting out of the sea.
Phi Phi Don was initially populated by Muslim fishermen during the late 1940s, and later became a coconut plantation. The Thai population of Phi Phi Don remains more than 80% Muslim. The actual population however, if counting laborers, especially from the north-east, from the mainland is much more Buddhist these days. The population is between 2,000 to 3,000 people (2013).
The islands came to worldwide prominence when Ko Phi Phi Leh was used as a location for the 2000 British-American film The Beach. This attracted criticism, with claims that the film company had damaged the island's environment, since the producers bulldozed beach areas and planted palm trees to make it look like the book, an accusation the film's makers contest. The film's release was attributed to an increase in tourism to the islands. Phi Phi Leh also houses the 'Viking Cave', from which there is a thriving bird's nest soup industry.
Ko Phi Phi was devastated by the Indian Ocean Tsunami of December 2004, when nearly all of the island's infrastructure was destroyed. As of 2010[update] most, but not all, of this has been restored.
From archaeological discoveries, it is believed that the area was one of the oldest communities in Thailand, dating back to the prehistoric period. It is believed that this province may have taken its name from Krabi, which means sword. This may come from a legend that an ancient sword was unearthed prior to the city’s founding.
The name Phi Phi (pronounced ‘pee pee’) originates from Malay, the original name for the islands were Pulau Api-Api (The Fiery Isle). The name refers to the Pokok Api-Api, which literary translated as the Fiery Tree (Grey Mangrove) which is commonly found throughout the Island. They were incorporated into the national park in 1983.
There are six islands in the group known as Phi Phi. They lie 40 km south-east of Phuket and are part of Hadnopparattara-Koh Phi Phi National Park which is home to an abundance of corals and marine life. There are limestone mountains with cliffs, caves and long white sandy beaches. The national park covers a total area of 242,437 Rai.
Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le are the largest and most well-known islands. Phi Phi Don is 9.73 sqkm: 8 km in length and 3.5 km wide. Phi Phi Le is 2 sqkm.
In total the islands have a size of 12.25 km2.
There are 2 villages on Ko Phi Phi under administration of Ao Nang sub-district, Muang district, Krabi Province. There are 9 subvillages under these 2 villages. The villages are:
Ko Phi Phi comprises 6 islands, 2 of them are the main island – Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le. On Ko Phi Phi there are 2 villages and under administration of Ao Nang sub-district, Muang district, Krabi Province. The islands are surrounded by the Andaman Sea.
Weather in the region is desert like - there are only two seasons: the hot season from January to April, and the rainy season from May to December. Temperatures during the year average 25°C to 32°C (77°F to 89.6°F) and the yearly rainfall averages 2568.5mm. The rain in this region comes down heavily over short periods.
Since the re-building of Ko Phi Phi after the 2004 Tsunami, paved roads now cover the vast majority of Tonsai Bay and Loh Dalum Bay, all roads are for pedestrian use only with push carts used to transport goods and bags. The only allowed motor vehicles are reserved for emergency services such as Police and Hospital Bicycling is the most popular form of transport in Ton Sai.
The nearest airports are at Krabi, Trang and Phuket. All three airports have direct road and boat connections.
There are frequent ferry boats to Ko Phi Phi from Phuket, Ko Lanta and Krabi Town. Starting at 8:30am, last boats from Krabi and Phuket depart at 2:30pm, In the "green season" (June-Oct), travel to & from Ko Lanta is via Krabi Town only.
There is a large modern deep water Government Pier on Tonsai Bay, Phi Phi Don Village completed late 2009. It takes in the main ferry boats from Phuket, Krabi and Koh Lanta. Visitors to Phi Phi Island must pay 20 Thai Baht on arrival and pay on the pier. Dive boats, longtail boats and supply boats have their own drop off points along the piers, so making the pier highly efficient in the peak seasons.
The New Post office was completed and opened 2010 and is housed in a smart new building behind the PP Princess Resort area in Phi Phi Don village. Tourists can buy stamps, post postcards, aerograms and send letters. Registered Post, EMS and parcel service can also be organized here. Souvenirs of the Thai Postal service can be bought here as well. Open Monday to Saturday, 10am till 6pm except bank holidays.
The islands feature beaches and clear water that have had their natural beauty protected by National Park status. Tourism on Ko Phi Phi, like the rest of Krabi province, has exploded since the filming of the movie "The Beach". In the early 1990s, only the most adventurous travelers visited the island, staying in only the most basic accommodation. Nowadays, however, the place has turned into one of the major destinations for visitors to Krabi and Phuket. However, it is still significantly less developed than the nearby island of Phuket, or Ko Samui, on Thailand's opposite coast.
The number of tourists visiting the island every year is so high that Koh Phi Phi's coral reefs and marine fauna have suffered major damages these last years.
Ko Phi Phi is one of Thailand's most famous destinations for Scuba Diving and snorkeling, kayaking and other marine recreational activities.
There are no hotels or other type of accommodation on the smaller island Ko Phi Phi Lee. The only opportunity to spend the night on this island is to take a guided tour to Maya Bay and sleep in a tent.
There is a small hospital on Phi Phi Island for emergencies (accidents, injuries, etc.) Its main purpose is to stabilize emergencies and evacuate to Phuket international hospital. It is located between the Phi Phi Cabana Hotel and the Tonsai Towers, about a 5–7 minute walk from the main pier.
On 26 December 2004, much of the inhabited part of Phi Phi Don was devastated by the Indian Ocean Tsunami. The island's main village, Ton Sai (Banyan Tree, Thai: ต้นไทร), is mainly built on a sandy isthmus between the island's two long, tall limestone ridges. On both sides of Ton Sai are semicircular bays lined with beaches. The isthmus rises to less than two metres (six feet) above sea level.
Shortly after 10 am on the morning of 26 December, the water from both bays receded. When the tsunami hit, at 10.37 am, it did so from both bays, and met in the middle of the isthmus. The wave that came into Ton Sai Bay was 3 metres (10 ft) high. The wave that came into Loh Dalum Bay was 6.5 metres (18 ft) high. The force of the larger wave from Loh Dalum Bay pushed the tsunami and also breached low-lying areas in the limestone karsts, passing from Laa Naa Bay to Bakhao Bay, and at Laem Thong (Sea Gypsy Village), where 11 people died. Apart from these breaches, the eastern side of the island experienced only flooding and strong currents.
At the time of the tsunami, the island had an estimated 10,000 occupants, including tourists.
After the tsunami, approximately 70% of the buildings on the island had been destroyed. By the end of July 2005, an estimated 850 bodies had been recovered, and an estimated 1,200 people were still missing. The total number of fatalities is unlikely to be known however local tour guides cite the figure of 4,000. Of Phi Phi Don residents, 104 surviving children had lost one or both parents.
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the island was evacuated. The Thai government declared the island temporarily closed while a new zoning policy was drawn up. Many transient Thai workers returned to their home towns, and former permanent residents were housed in a refugee camp at Nong Kok in Krabi province.
However, January 6, 2005, a former Dutch resident of Phi Phi, Emiel Kok, set up a voluntary organization, Help International Phi Phi. Hi Phi Phi recruited 68 Thai staff from the refugee camp, as well as transient backpacker volunteers (of whom more than 3,500 offered their assistance), and returned to the island to undertake clearing and rebuilding work. On February 18, 2005, a second organization, Phi Phi Dive Camp, was set up to remove the debris from the bays and coral reef, most of which was in Ton Sai Bay.
By the end of July 2005, 23,000 tonnes of debris had been removed from the island, of which 7,000 tonnes had been cleared by hand. "We try and do as much as possible by hand," said Kok, "that way we can search for passports and identification." The majority of buildings that were deemed fit for repair by government surveyors had been repaired, and three hundred businesses had been restored. Hi Phi Phi was nominated for a Time Magazine Heroes of Asia award.
On October 31, 2005, Deputy Prime Minister Pinit Jarusombat proposed an upgrade to the hotels and restaurants on Phi Phi Don, and a limitation to the number of tourists visiting. "It'll help us preserve its environment," said Pinit. However, after consultation with residents and land-owners, many of whom opposed the plan, the Bangkok Post reported on February 17, 2006, that the proposals would not affect Phi Phi.
As of 6 December 2005, nearly 1,500 hotel rooms were open, and a tsunami early warning alarm system had been installed by the Thai government, with the help of volunteers.
National TV, cable TV and satellite TV are available on the island, as well as International newspapers, books and magazines. Landline telephones, mobile phone systems and internet (ADSL) are available. There is a post office in Ton Sai. Phi Phi has its own monthly magazine / newspaper, Phi Phi News. It is distributed free of charge on the island and in all the surrounding ports.
Internal lake connecting through a cave to the open sea.
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