Cape Fear ... of leaving
© Angela M. Lobefaro
All Rights Reserved
taken in Koh Phi Phi Don, Thailand. June 2008
The Phi Phi Islands (Thai: หมู่เกาะพีพี) are located in Thailand, between the large island of Phuket and the western Andaman Sea coast of the mainland. Phi Phi Don, the larger and principal of the two Phi Phi islands, is located at [show location on an interactive map] 7°44′00″N, 98°46′00″E. Both Phi Phi Don, and Phi Phi Leh, the smaller, are administratively part of Krabi province, most of which is on the mainland, and is located at [show location on an interactive map] 8°02′30″N, 98°48′39″E.
Ko Phi Phi Don ("ko" (Thai: เกาะ) meaning "island" in the Thai language) is the largest island of the group, and is the only island with permanent inhabitants, although the beaches of the second largest island, Ko Phi Phi Lee (or "Ko Phi Phi Leh"), are visited by many people as well. There are no accommodation facilities on this island, but it is just a short boat ride from Ko Phi Phi Don. The rest of the islands in the group, including Bida Nok, Bida Noi, and Bamboo Island, 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.But the actual population if counting laborers, especially from the north-east, from the mainland is much more Buddhist these days.
Ko Phi Phi Leh was the backdrop for the 2000 movie The Beach. Phi Phi Leh also houses the 'Viking Cave', from which there is a thriving bird's nest soup industry. There was criticism during filming of 'The Beach' that the permission granted to the film company to physically alter the environment inside Phi Phi Islands National Park was illegal.  The controversy cooled down however, when it was discovered that the producers had done such a decent job of restoring the place that it finally looked better than it had done before.
Following the release of The Beach, tourism on Phi Phi Don increased dramatically, and with it the population of the island. Many buildings were constructed without planning permission.
Ko Phi Phi was devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, when nearly all of the island's infrastructure was wiped out. Redevelopment has, however, been swift, and services like electricity, water, Internet access and ATMs are up and running again, but waste handling has been slower to come back online.