The V Crew - from left to right
Me, Viv, Lina, and Jaimee
With the alarm on my wrist watch ringing, I awoke to another stinking hot day in Thailand. At least I had something to look forward to today, a speedboat tour of the Phi Phi islands. Before I left the shores of Australia I had so many things I wanted to do in Phuket
. Amongst those, visit the elephants and do a spot of snorkelling. But as with all things when travelling, things never go according to plan and you never know if you'd like a place until you get there. By now I realised that Phuket was not for me. So with my lack of enthusiasm for Phuket running high why not get away for the day and visit the Phi Phi islands (something which I originally thought I didn't have time for, I mean some people spend weeks just in Phuket).
Longboat on Egg Island
The coach picked me up from the hostel later than anticipated, and took me the short distance to the port. This is where I met the girls and a new addition to the group, a German girl by the name of Lina who was also travelling around Thailand alone. With tea and biscuits in our stomachs, we departed without further disruptions. The first port of call for the day sounded quite beautiful in Thai, I can't remember it though. Roughly translated, it was Egg Island which frankly is quite a horrible name for an island and did it no justice. Approaching the island by boat was breathtaking. It was with my first glimpse of the island through the windows in the boat that I thought to myself. Now it feels like I'm in Thailand. This is why I suffered the horrors of a 9 hour flight with kids and countless sleepless nights.
View from 'Egg Island'
It small and tranquil with the brightest aqua marine water. It was just perfect. If it would have fit in my pocket I would have taken it home. You couldn't have asked for a better start to the tour. It's depressing thinking about the countless people who fly in and out of Phuket without actually experiencing a proper Thailand island like the one spread out before us this morning. It's only a 20 min speedboat ride away from the port of Phuket. It was also on this island that I spotted my first of many longboats in Thailand.
After spending a bit of time on 'Egg Island' swimming and snorkelling and rolling in the sand, Darren our guide (I'm actually not sure if his name is Darren I can't remember but he looks like a Darren) blew the whistle to signal it was time to leave for Koh Phi Phi Don.
Egg Island again
Before arriving on Phi Phi Don, Darren talked about the Boxing Day Tsunamis that devastated the islands around the south of Thailand in 2004 and how much they had recovered and how much there was still to be done. It's amazing when you arrive on the island and see it for yourself. It's hard imagining the island with any more development than it already had on this particular day. But I guess that's what happens with all the beautiful things in life. They get exploited. It's actually quite coincidental that we are doing this tour on the 3rd anniversary of the tsunami tragedy. As it often is with travelling you lose track of the dates and days. To be honest when I booked this tour I had no idea I would be doing it on Boxing Day. I know its quite silly when I only left Sydney 2 days ago, but that's the thing about Thailand you lose track of time.
Some random island/rock
Even after 2 days. The reason why we were on Phi Phi Don was actually to have an early lunch. Which consisted of rice and chicken and noodles and other stuff I can't remember.
With our bellies full we were off to our next destination. Which was Monkey Beach (Again I forgot the Thai name for this island). Watching and feeding monkeys is not my thing. Never was. So I wasn't disappointed when they didn't all come down for the bananas and manadarins which our guides Darren and Beyonce (no kidding that was her name, or at least that is what Darren told us) had prepared. With the hundreds of boats and tour groups which come everyday, each offering a banana to the monkeys I'm surprised the monkeys even bother coming down more than twice a day. But apparently it was quite rare for them not to come down, especially so early in the morning.
Pretty fishes in the sea
Maybe there was too much egg nog passed around camp monkey last night, being Christmas and all and they were just sleeping it off. The beach itself on the side of Monkey island we were on was quite small, but nice. Pristine white sand (check). Brilliant bluey green water (check). Lush tropical foliage (check). It had all the trademarks of a typical Thai island. As the monkeys were not going to come down and the boat numbers were increasing along the beach, and people along with it. We sharply departed to better islands.
The next destination in the tour was the Maya Beach. Which was made infamous in 'The Beach'. There is no denying the beauty of this beach. It would be perfect if not for the throngs of tourists that frequent it now. I would have loved to have gone here 10 years ago before the influx in travellers.
Whilst everyone stays on Maya Beach. There is quite a nice short walk to the other side of the island which brings you to a lovely hole in the rock face which affords you a stunning view of some rock islands around the island.
The final stop on the tour was somewhere in the middle of the ocean where there was meant to be good snorkelling. I have no idea where it was, but I guess it was close to Maya Beach. But by now I was fairly tired and was not concentrating on where we were going. The snorkelling was quite ordinary. The visibility was okay, just not a whole lot of fish. Plus there was a fairly big undercurrent making it hard to swim. With no fins I pulled off my mask and used it to scoop the water when trying to swim against the current back to the boat.
Approach to Monkey Beach
By the time I got back to the boat I was wasted. What topped it off was when I was trying to get on the boat via the ladder on the back of the boat a girl dragged me down. She couldn't figure out how to use the fins and needed me for support. So whilst she was holding onto my shoulder I was holding onto the ladder and she was slowly making me use up the rest of my energy treading water. By the time she was confident with the fins I was just able to use the what little energy I had left to climb up the ladder.
The ride back to Phuket was a funny one. In between taking some micro sleeps every time I opened my eye what I saw was a boat full of people sleeping. Which marked a stark contrast from earlier this morning when everyone was brimming with excitement.
With the tour over and a quick shower back at the hostel. I hopped onto the first songthaew to Patong
. What better way to spend my last night in Phuket than getting amongst it in seedy Patong. Luckily I had some company for the night. I probably wouldn't recommend going to Patong alone at night. I had arranged to meet the girls for dinner and since they were staying in Patong and they outnumbered me Patong it was. I had a really delicious fish for dinner.
As it was my final night in Phuket, and I had yet to really experience a night out in Patong I asked the girls to take me to one of the bar where I could get a dose of some ladyboy action (as they had been before).
Longboats on Maya Beach
It didn't take much persuasion actually. I think they actually insisted I go. Who am I to argue. I can't remember the street name. But I suppose there is only one street in Patong which has all the bars and pubs in. I think if you approached anyone on the street and said 'ladyboys'. You would get a quick smirk in response and immediately you would be directed post haste, such is the nightlife in Patong. Otherwise do what comes natural and follow the crowds. Nothing really prepares you for the sight of the bars in Patong at night. You might think you have an idea, but I wouldn't be quite sure you do. Whilst I know its not polite to stare. You just can't help it once you get there. What with the flashing neon lights, the epic crowds of tourists, and questionable males and females there.
Me on Maya Beach
You feel like you've stepped into another world and everything is going in slow motion. Before I knew it we were sitting down, beverages in front of us and peanuts in a small bowl to the side. I was spending as much time looking at the other tourists as I was looking at the ladyboys walking through and around us. If not more. I was actually surprised to find that it was quite mixed with the ratio of guys to girls not heavy imbalanced. I was actually expecting this seedy den with horny old guys and inquisitive youngsters. Boy was I wrong.
Our seats were a little way from the podium where the ladyboys were dancing. I must admit when I first got there I was like they are actually really pretty. Well some of them. I couldn't tell they weren't all woman from where I was sitting.
It wasn't until they got closer that things got clearer. Whilst I was enjoying myself, a little bit of me also felt uncomfortable at the same time. Being a tourist and having my camera close at hand, I wanted to take a few quick snaps. A memento of the night. Whilst I've never enlisted in spy school. I tried to take these photos as stealthy as I could. Obviously I would never have made a good spy, and before I knew it I was spotted. Code red. In the midst of taking a photo of the girls sucking up one of their cocktails, a ladybody asked if she could get in the photos and take a photo with me. Why not. Nothing says I've been to Patong than getting your photo taken with a ladyboy right. The first photo was good. Just what I was expecting. Some smiles and a 'V'.
Sunbathers soaking up the sun
Then she goes to the girls and asks if they want a photo as well. Okay. This is where things go downhill. She gets another friend of hers to join in the photo. Two girls, two ladyboys. It makes good maths. Anyway just as I was about to take the picture the friend pulls down her top...Hello! After a few more snaps I was fighting the first ladyboy off. Her hands where all over me. Groping me in places which I didn't want her to. After successfully pulling her hands away from me, I then had the pleasant experience of negotiating a price for the photos taken. I can't remember what she wanted but somehow I managed to get away with 'tipping' them 20BHT each. I probably could have successfully not paid anything. But figured it wasn't worth the trouble, plus I wanted to get rid of them as quick as possible.
Some rock spotted from the other side of Maya Beach
Whilst I'm not partcualrly traumatized by the experience, I don't wish it upon anybody. On a positive note, its probably one of those travel experiences you store in your memory bank for a long time and end up telling the grandkids when your senile enough to waffle on about anything and everything. I'll make a great Grandpa Simpson when I'm older.