Speed boats take us to the famous Phi Phi islands of the Andaman Sea
23.08.2011 - 23.08.2011 32 °C
With a suitably early start the five of us were soon packed in a minibus heading for a certain dock in Phuket Town. From there we would join thirty other travelers on a speedboat ride to the islands made famous by Leonardo De Caprio in ‘The Beach’. Greeted by glorious blue skies our vessel was soon cutting across a surprisingly benign Andaman Sea. Passing much larger and slower tourist boats, during our hour long ride, we could be forgiven for thinking that we might be the first to greet these tropical islands, today.
Of course, made famous through movies and traveler word of mouth, we only one of an ever increasing number of speedboats that where to make the trip to the islands. Our first stop was Phi Phi Lay where limestone cliffs, clad with tropical jungle met our thirsty gazes. For ‘The boys’ it was their first visit to these picture perfect islands. Resplendent as tropical islands of the imagination should always be it was only the massed tourist hordes that gradually augmented during our brief stay that impacted our tranquility. Yet, with our speedboat landing us on the golden beach we were soon able to explore the inner island, careful to observe the Tsunami Evacuation Route notices. For it was these islands, amongst many others, that were so impacted by the December 2004 Tsunami. Evidence of the 18ft wall of water that hit this island is no longer readily visible. However, from the various comments we received through the day from the crew of our boat it is clear that the psychological impact has yet to dissipate.
Leaving the island we passed through shallow lagoons of unimaginable beauty, but for the myriad of tourists visiting at the same time. A brief stop at monkey island allowed us the opportunity to observe yet more of the animals that gave the island its name. Apparently extremely familiar with humans they seemed expectant more than happy to receive offerings of bananas, watermelon and even coca-cola. With Marin being chased into the seawater by an aggressive male and others putting on a show of grabbing personal belongings memories of our recent visit to Mt. Popa in Myanmar were soon in the fore.
After a brief snorkeling stop a mediocre buffet lunch was served on Phi Phi Don. Where the food may have been lackluster the view from this beach front restaurant, towards the towering cliffs of Phi Phi Don was magnificent. Jungle clad mountains crashed into the golden beaches that bordered turquoise waters. Hot, humid weather greeted us on the island yet this was soon to change to the seasonal monsoon that we had become so familiar with.
Reaching our final island after lunch we were able to snorkel around the island. Parrot fish, rainbow colored wrasse and a favorite of tropical fish danced in the ocean for our pleasure. Of greatest interest was a brown octopus that we able to observe ‘pushing’ through the water. Usually hidden in crevices and holes it was sometime before a suitable hiding place was found, whereupon chameleon like he changed color and sank into a coral fringed hole, not to be seen again by us.
By mid-afternoon dark, ominous clouds filled the horizon and so it was with some relief that we boarded our speedboat for the final leg of our journey back to the mainland. With fortune favoring us we were able to avoid the monsoon, returning to our hotel tired but wet only from the remaining saltwater.
The local bars provided amusement that evening as we drank beer whilst playing Connect 4 and the apparently Phuket specific game of hammering a nail into a piece of wood. Taking it in turns to hit your nail with the chisel styled end of a hammer the winner is the first to hammer the nail into the wood. Frustrating and amusing in unison challenges galore were thrown out as we wiled away our evening before returning to the hotel by tuk-tuk, eager to fall the now heavy monsoon rains.