A Koh Phi Phi Must-Go-To Destination
One fantastic location to visit in Koh Phi Phi is The Viking Cave. Most tourists usually leave this must-go-to Koh Phi Phi destination out of their itinerary whilst doing boat tours around the islands.
Known locally to Thais as Tham Phaya Nak, a cool name, to be honest. It’s called this way because of its strange yet sweet cave paintings you will find inside, referenced probably from the Viking cave drawings, hence, its name, ‘The Viking Cave.’
Today, we’ll go over some essentials when visiting The Viking Cave: how to get there, its drawings, and the famous Viking Cave nest soup. Let’s go dive deep into this must-see Phi Phi Island experience.
The Viking Cave
The Viking Cave is among the most well-known and notable destination sites in Koh Phi Phi, pronounced ‘Pee Pee’, a group of Thai islands situated between the large-island Phuket and Thailand’s Straits Malacca coast.
The famous cave thrives industry by harvesting edible bird nests. Swifts, or swiftlets, or even sometimes called “sea swallows”, dominate the ins and arounds of the island’s large limestone caves, a perfect haven for the world’s fastest-flying birds.
These cave-dwelling swifts – the Pacific Swifts, Edible-Nest Swiftlet, and Black-Nest Swiftlets, provide the key ingredient in birds’ nest soup through the tiny white nests they build inside the caves.
Considered one of the most expensive ingredients globally, these birds’ nests are prized highly because of their scarcity, high nutritional content (high levels of calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium), and exquisite flavor.
In addition, this main ingredient is regarded as a local delicacy, healthy booster, life prolonger and aphrodisiac. It is also said that these bird’s nests help in skin rejuvenation, digestive tract cleansing, and lung cancer curing.
The Viking Cave: Phi Phi Islands Tourism
Unfortunately, The Viking Cave is not open to tourists as popular as it is. This massive cave is 3.2 square kilometers in approximated size, with a towering height of about ten (10) to fifteen (15) metres.
The good thing is that boat operators can and will slow down their boats close enough to the caves’ entrance so that tourists can take a glimpse inside and take photos still.
From Phi Phi Islands’ main jetty, Tonsai Bay, it will take roughly 35 minutes to get to the Viking cave by long-tail boat. Tham Phaya Nak, or The Viking Cave, gets its moniker from the paintings on the eastern, southern cave walls at the tall limestone cliff’s bottom part.
These cave paintings showcase several boats, including one that somewhat resembles a Scandinavian Drakkar Longship. Seem relatively recent; the famous paintings were seemingly made and drawn by traders and sailors who took shelter inside the cave during the devasting monsoon storms.
This depiction is probably of European origins, with the explorers or traders coming during the age of discovery contrary to popular belief of being remnants of a Viking expedition.
The Viking Cave: How to Get There?
Getting to the Viking Cave will require hiring long-tail boats located at Tonsai pier or from nearby Laem Tong, costing approximately 68USD for a whole day and will let you discover some of the most exciting sites around the area.
You can also join boat trips around Phi Phi but make sure to take a look at its entrance for the ropes and bamboo scaffolding used by the bird nest harvesters. Furthermore, it would be best if you watched out for the tiny, fast swiftlets performing great acrobatic dives during the breeding season as they search for food.
You won’t need extended visits to the cave since boat tours, through the operator’s decision, usually stop around 20-meters away, showing tourists the external of it. However, you can still experience the vicinity of the caves by getting off the boat and doing some snorkeling around there, which is a bit of an excellent compensation from not being able to go inside the caves.
An extraordinary experience, the Viking Cave snorkeling allows you to see the fantastic fish swimming freely in very clear, making it among the best snorkeling locations in Koh Phi Phi. You don’t need to worry about snorkeling gear; your boat tour company should provide everything you will need.
After your snorkeling activity, you can also go to Maya Bay and Pileh Lagoon, where more sites to visit and activities to experience.
The Viking Cave Birds Nest Soup
Perhaps one of the reasons you wanted to visit The Viking Cave in the first place is to experience the Phi Phi birds’ nest soup. Popularly heard when traveling from Phuket to Phi Phi, the swallow nest soup is a well sought-after delicacy and indeed a one-in-a-lifetime must-try.
This famous Thailand swallow nest soup brings excellent profit to Thai locals since it’s common for the nest soup to be sold for as much as $10,000 per kilo. However, a bit pricey, especially for those with tight budgets, but the experience in itself will surely be worth it – for all the good reasons!
The swallow nest soup is viral because people who already had it believe that it contains top health properties like iron, potassium, vitamins, and nutrients, which they’re not wrong about after all.
It’s Harvesting Time!
Edible-nest swiftlets build their nests in some of the most inaccessible places – limestone cave ledges and ceilings, higher up on the walls, or among the overhangs on the Viking Cave. Collecting these valuable bird’s nests require locals to risk their lives by climbing weak-looking bamboo scaffoldings, bridges and ropes, tapping every once in a while, ensuring the bamboo is strong enough for them to reach the nests.
These nests are about the size of a small egg. They are made from the secreted saliva from the fully-developed salivary glands of the birds that are enlarged during their breeding period. The strands of saliva that get intertwined when exposed to air harden much like glue and hold the nest together, keeping it attached vertically to the walls of the caves or cliffs.
Some of the known largest importers of these nests are Hong Kong and the United States, with a bowl of bird’s nest soup costing around 30USD to 100USD in Hong Kong. On average, these birds’ nests are sold for a whopping US$2,500 per kilo!
The Viking cave Phi Phi Drawings
Another unique and must be on your travel bucket list is The Viking Cave drawings. When you search online, you’ll undoubtedly encounter photos of these strange drawings. The famous drawings are drawn all over the cave walls, spectacular works of art that are very artistic.
These drawings have a pretty historical backstory and are well-known amongst the locals. Be sure to snap some photos when you pass by the cave or even have a glimpse of enriching the memories you’ll have for this incredible trip.
The Viking Cave: Final Thoughts
Indeed, a must-go-to destination, the Viking Cave is only a part of what you can experience whenever you visit the Phi Phi Islands. This remarkable cave will surely be worth it with unique boat tours, fantastic snorkeling activities, and world-famous bird nest soups. So, make sure to include this spot in your itinerary and be able to enjoy every bit of it!