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Phi Phi birds nest soup

Phi Phi Island Attractions | Birds nest soup on Phi Phi Island
Birds nest collection at Viking Cave Phi Phi
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Phi Phi birds nest soup is impossible to find on Phi Phi as the concession takes it all to Phuket to be processed. However the Phi Phi Birds nest are a major player in the local economy and the collection or farming of the product a key part of traditional Phi Phi Life.

The Phi Phi birds nest soup or swallows nest soup (as it translates in Chinese) is based on the nest being diluted in water. It is then added as a gelatinous substance that is believed to be full of rich nutrients and vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium to a broth soup.

Phi Phi birds nest soup are mainly sent off to Phuket where they are processed and made ready for export. The main importers of the Phi Phi birds nest soup are Hong Kong and America. The sought after red birds nest can go for as much as $10,000 a kilo but a standard bowl of soup will run from $30 to $100.

Phi Phi birds nest soup concession holder

The main concession holder for the Phi Phi birds nest soup is the Phi Phi Island Cabana Hotel company. The hotel itself holds the primary position for the island on account of it being the first business to put up bungalows on Tonsai Bay in 1980s.

Farming the Phi Phi birds nest soup

The main location for the Phi Phi birds nest soup harvesting are the limestone cliff mountains of Phi Phi Ley and Phi Phi Don west. These cliffs are riddled with caves and are the perfect location for the swallows to nest.

The local Phi Phi farmers climb the precarious bamboo scaffolding way up into the heart of the mountain and collect the birds nests. These simplistic methods of farming continue to this day. There was a higher injury rate for these climbers before the younger locals started to pick up better safety tips from the Thai Phi Phi climbers who have settled on the island.

Phi Phi birds nest and the Viking Cave

In the 1990s it was an essential stop on the One day tour from Phuket to Phi Phi Island to pull up at the Viking cave to see where the Phi Phi birds nest soup were harvested. Such was the demand for the experience that hundreds of people would visit every day. This upset the swallows and the harvest became less and less until Phi Phi Island Cabana Hotel Company banned visitors. Now swallows are back to their full potential and the local industry is protected.

The Viking Cave is also of interest for the rare form of shamanistic ritual. Shrines dedicated to the abundance of the swallow harvest and the safety of the climbers are set beneath some of the towering stalactites. Before climbing, the climbers will have a moment of quiet reflection in front of these shrines. This is made all the more interesting as the local population are Muslim and this cross religious following is uncommon.

The Viking cave is inhabited by the birds nest company agents representatives who keep claim to their bird nest sites from any rival companies from the main land. Living in bamboo huts over the edge of the sea they keep a close eye on any tourist trying to come up to the mini Viking Cave pier and wait for the best times for their harvest. Harvest is 4 times a year and is done in rotation throughout the caves. The swallows are seen leaving the caves in great numbers at dusk and dawn when the insect population fills the air and makes for easy feeding.

Phi Phi birds nest soup on Phi Phi Don

Phi Phi Don is a lot quieter than Phi Phi Ley yet there are large cave systems that are farmed regularly. The most well-known entry point is the Wang Long Bay cave. This is reached by boat in high season when the wind is from the north east but during most of the year the local Phi Phi farmers need to trek over the ridge from Monkey Beach on Tonsai Bay.


Last Updated: 06 Jun 2012