Koh Phi Phi is quite literally paradise. When the movie adaptation of Alex Garland’s novel The Beach came out in 2000, the producers needed to find an unspoiled island paradise to film the majority of the movie on. They selected Koh Phi Phi Leh. While Koh Phi Phi Leh, remains uninhabited (but a quick day trip away), the island of Koh Phi Phi Phi Don (meaning it is the larger of the two) is a thriving tourist destination.
The island offers stunning natural scenery, but it is very small, and it’s topography leaves no room for an airstrip. As a result, travelers looking to reach the island can arrive by ferry through a variety of methods. For me, the easiest was to fly from Bangkok to Phuket and then take a ferry onwards to Koh Phi Phi.
I had booked an economy class ticket with Thai Airways from BKK-HKT. Due to the ridiculous volume of passengers looking to go between BKK and HKT, there are several 747-400 flights per day, as well as a number of Airbus A330-300’s. Just for reference, each fully filled Thai 747-4o0 holds almost 400 passengers, and Thai is far from the only airline flying into HKT.
While I was booked in economy, I was hoping to find a way to upgrade myself to business (Thai only sells Y and J on these short flights even though the 744’s have an F-cabin. Business passengers who select seats in the F cabin can sit there, but receive J service).
I didn’t want to wait on the extremely long Economy check-in line, so I walked to the business class check-in figuring that even if my request to upgrade with cash wasn’t granted, they’d still issue me my boarding pass. To my surprise, the agent told me it would only be around $50 USD to upgrade from Coach to Business.
I had to run over to a Thai ticketing office, pay the change fee and then bring the receipt back, but once this very simple errand was done, my ticket became a business class ticket AND I was able to select the choice row 16 seats on the upper deck. Row 16 is the upper deck exit row, so these seats have nearly limitless legroom.
As I am a United Club member, I would have been able to access the Thai Domestic J lounge using my membership card, but since I now held a Business class ticket, I was able to skip that formality and walk right in.
The lounge was exactly as it had been during my extremely long layover in between my earlier HKG-BKK and BKK-USM segments. Same food, but a thankfully lower amount of people crammed into the relatively small space.
I went to the gate a bit before boarding to admire the Boeing 747-400 which is far and away my favorite airliner of all time. Once on board, I made my way up the stairs to the top of the 747. It’s always a special feeling to fly on the upper deck of a 747, and when you look out the window, you’re basically riding on top of a 3-story building.
Thankfully on my long haul segments with TG, I had been sparred the horrors of the dreaded 7442 configuration aka the “all-series.” These aircraft have ancient seats in all classes and are not remotely competitive with what other airlines are currently fielding. My luck ran out on this segment. Very old style business seats, comparable to what Thai fields on their Boeing 737-400’s. However, I had the exit row, no one else sat next to me AND it was roughly a 1-hour flight to HKT. There are worse ways to travel.
Despite this being a short domestic flight, Thai of course served a meal. I read a bit, and in no time we were starting our descent into HKT. I had initially planned on staying a night or two on Phuket, but when we landed the island seemed so big and overbuilt that I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.
I went to the transit desk to ask when they next ferry to Koh Phi Phi was leaving. I thought I would have about 3-hours until the next boat, but the woman at the desk told me there was one leaving in less than an hour, and if I hurried I would be able to make it.
I ran outside to the taxi stand and promised my driver a tip if she made it to the pier in time. We flew across the island (I think it is normally a 45 minutes trip) and I got to the pier about five minute before the ferry was set to pull away. I bought my ticket, got my sticker indicating I had paid, tossed my gear aboard and settled in for the ride to the island.