Back from tsunami disaster, Thai resort is a divine retreat
By Ashley Colby
Special to the Tribune
March 15, 2009
Phi Phi Don is a Thai island made famous as the shooting location for the 2000 film "The Beach," starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It is notable, too, for being the site of about 600 deaths during the 2004 tsunami.
Less famous than its neighbor Phuket, 20 miles to the west, Phi Phi still offers white sand, crystal clear azure waters and swank resorts. When we visited the island in February, there was little to remind visitors of the disastrous tsunami. But the resort map does note a new tsunami warning system and a memorial tucked away behind the resort.
Phi Phi Island Village Beach Resort & Spa is upscale, (the second-most expensive on the island) in its own private bay on the east coast of Phi Phi Don.
The beach that runs along the front of the resort is half a mile long and dotted with beach bars and sun chairs. The resort boasts an infinity pool, gym, tennis courts, three restaurants, an Internet cafe, a spa and a launching point for snorkeling, diving, kayaking, fishing and any other island activities your mind (or wallet) can conjure.
When we were there, the weather was mostly perfect, as it tends to be in southern Thailand in the winter: lower 80s, humid but breezy and not a cloud in the sky.
CHECKING IN: Once at Phi Phi Island Village, we were served frothy coconut-milk shakes garnished with pineapple and orchids. We had to wait an hour and a half for our room to be ready (we arrived more than two hours before check-in), but the staff was apologetic and accommodating. We spent the time until we could get into our room poolside, which is not a terrible way to wait.
ROOMS: We stayed in the cheapest rooms offered, which are called Superior Bungalows. Next up on the ladder are the Deluxe Bungalows (about $175 per night), followed by Beach Front Junior Suites (about $300), which overlook the beach and have whirlpool tubs, and Hillside Pool Villas (about $415) with private swimming pools, among other amenities.
Our private bungalow, set on stilts amid the palm trees, had a lovely porch with two chairs for relaxing. Inside the double glass doors, a bamboo partition separated the bedroom and sitting area from the bathroom, dressing area and closet. Complimentary bottled water, coffee, tea and fruit were provided. The queen-size bed had fresh white linens and a mountain of fluffy pillows. A television offered all the necessary news and movie channels.
BATH: Apart from the waterfall shower head, the bathroom was unremarkable. The separate dressing area with a stylish wash basin, however, was notably chic. The coconut-scented toiletries, bathrobes, slippers and more towels than we knew what to do with left us squeaky clean and smelling like that shake we had upon arrival.
ATTITUDE: The guests were a mix of families and couples of all ages. The vibe is certainly more R&R than party hard.
The main reason people come is to relax in the spa—treatment prices range from 1,500 to 10,500 baht (about $40 to $300)—or to soak up the sun in the pool or the shallow and sometimes rocky bay.
KID-FRIENDLY: Absolutely. There is a slide at the pool, a play area with rocking horses and a seesaw. Also, the resort provides kid options in all of the activities and restaurants.
BOTTOM LINE: For a Superior Bungalow, we booked online through latestays.com and paid 5,500 baht ($157), which included breakfast.
49 Moo 8, Phi Phi Island
Ao Nang, Muang