I didn’t intent to write so much, but this particular blog has turned into something of an epic so I have decided to post it in two parts.
This is part 1.
Since I told Moo we would be coming to an island called Phuket she has been beside herself with a level of mischievous excitement that only a 5 year old can muster. When I told her we would be going to visit another Island called Phi Phi she could barely contain her glee. The tour had been booked, and at a rather bleary eyed 7am the mini bus arrived to take us to the boat.
I considered postponing as the weather that morning looked none to friendly, but Moo was having none of it. She wanted to go to Phi Phi (cue 15 minutes of hilarious toilet related humour), and there was nothing I could say to put her off.
When we arrived at the harbour we were given coffee and cake and a brief safety talk :
‘The weather is not so good yah. It’s gonna be bumpy bumpy, you had better to hang on tight yah’
‘If we find a piece of sea is not so bumpy bumpy and you go snorkel, don’t pick up fish with spikes, they give you much pain yah, many days to the hospital OK?’
‘If you not back at boat for right time we gonna leave you yah?’
‘OK now we’s ready, let go to boat’.
Whilst some of the patrons felt this was slightly less comprehensive safety information than they may have been used to I found it encompassed the salient points quite well.
Our guides for the day were two of the campest men I have ever met, (and trust me that’s saying A LOT), who introduced themselves as Beyonce and Shakira and sported big hats and flowery sarongs…a few of the tourists were totally freaked out, but I just ran with it and became the instant tour guide pet by walking up to them and announcing that I ‘just love your hats’. There was all manner of giggling and jumping up and down, but we got the best seats on the boat, and defiantly the best lunch!
Molly thought they were extremely odd but very funny and it wasn’t long before they were all disco dancing up and down the deck together handing round sickness bags to those with slightly less than iron constitution that was needed to cope with some rather large waves, accompanied by strains of Gloria Gaynor assuring us rather loudly and rather appropriately that we all would indeed survive.
I’m not entirely sure the Japanese family on board were entirely convinced by Ms Gaynors assertations as to a man, woman and child they began throwing up as soon as the first wave hit the bow. For them it was going to be a very long hour till we arrived at our first destination of the day. When the first waves began to toss us around like peas in a tumble drier, I was a little concerned that Moo’s quite small sea legs may not be up to the challenge, but from the second we had the discussion about the differences between ‘scary-bad’ and ‘scary-exciting’, she was whooping and holloring with every pitch and toss. As soon as her height hits 132cm I’m taking her to a theme park again, she’s a lot of fun to ride with!
After about 50 minutes the boat slowed as we reached Koh Phi Phi leh island we rounded the enormous rocks and floated into the utterly breathtaking scenery of Maya Bay.
The sun chose this rather opportune moment to peek out from behind the clouds and illuminated the cove with glorious sparkling light. There are no pictures I have seen that can do justice to the reality.
Maya bay was the stunning location used for the the film ‘The Beach’ but looks even more serenely beautiful than ever I saw it on screen. If you haven’t seen the film I can thoroughly recommend that you watch the first five minutes of ‘scenery’ shots to get the place in your mind, skip the rest and read the book. Seriously it’s an hour and a half of your life you will never get back.
The real beauty of the book is, for me, the sense of solitude and isolation the main character experiences on the beautiful but seemingly deserted island and I stepped onto the golden sands hoping to catch a brief moment of that serenity. Just myself, the waves and the sand cut off from the rest of the world by the towering cliffs that almost completely encircle this golden oasis of calm, well just me the waves and about 700 other people who happened to be on the beach.
You see that’s the problem with tours, too many tourists.
I set myself a challenge to take a photograph that included part of the beach (without resorting to the cheat of using the zoom or crop tools), with no one else in it. It was a lot harder than you may think, and I very nearly managed to get one or two.
It seemed like a lot safer a challenge than those who were determined to get a picture of themselves or their loved ones swimming in the sea, the vast amount of motor boats coming and going to load or unload the next tour group onto the sand made the ‘surf’ a most treacherous place. Were it not for the sharp eyes and quick wits of the boat crews pulling stupid tourists out of the paths of spinning propellers it could so easily have been much more akin to the darker chapters of Alex Garlands book.
We were herded back onto the boat and taken on a stunning slow cruise around Phi Phi leh. We sailed through a crystal clear lagoon just a few meters deep for the most part and marvelled at the sight thousands of brightly coloured tropical fish darting around under the boat but almost as soon as they had appeared, they were gone. The cool clear water was suddenly a vibrant shade of blue and eerily empty of fish. You can clearly see a dividing line in the water that the fish would not cross, you witness them still happily swimming on one side, but the other was devoid of all life. This slightly spooky looking divide occurs where the fresh water that runs from the mountain waterfalls meets the sea water at the mouth of the cove, and of course the salt water fish cannot survive in the freshwater so they just swim to the ‘line’ and turn around again. Weird, but at the same time very cool.
We then passed by the Viking cave. The cave used to be a stopping point on the tour until a few years ago when it was bought up and privatised. I was a little perplexed as to why a large multinational company would want to buy a small cave in Thailand, but our guides provided the perfect explanation. The caves are a natural nesting ground for the Aerodramus fuciphagus and its slightly less common cousin the Aerodramus maximus. That would be a swift to you and me. These swifts make their homes on the walls and roof of this particular cave in vast quantities every year. The nests are then harvested and sold as the vital component in the highly prized Chinese delicacy, birds nest soup. The current selling price is between $2,000 and $10,000 per kilo (depending on the colour of the swift who made the nest). I guess that won’t be on today’s lunch menu then.
The rest of the boat trip story will be published in a day or two.