An island port yesterday and another one today – this one in the Andaman Sea. Phuket is Thailand’s largest, most populated, and most visited island. But I believe it is the amazing limestone outcropping formations in the middle of the ocean around it that make it a true paradise. And filmmakers seem to agree since so many films are made here, such as the James Bond movies The Man with the Golden Gun, Tomorrow Never Dies as well as Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Beach. [There seems to be some discrepancy as to the movies that were actually filmed here, so I’m hoping my movie buff son, Ted, will be able to help me out on this one!]
There were two great excursions to choose from today. One was the Siam Elephant Safari where you could ride an elephant as well as learn about them in this very conservation minded park. We chose the snorkel on several islands excursion, mainly because one island (Phi Phi) was where The Beach was filmed. But it was a hard choice this time. Because we arrived in Phuket at 6 a.m. and had to leave by 3 p.m. we didn’t get to see any of the actual island of Phuket. We were on outlying islands the entire time.
We began by boarding these small public transportation buses that took us to the speedboat that would be our day’s transportation. Fortunately it was only a 5 minute drive because they were very narrow and the roof so low you had to scoot on the bench seat to get to the front rather than walk unless you bent over until your head touched your toes!
Most of this Blog entry will be pictures because the scenery was so stunning all day long and the water so crystal clear, words (not even pictures) could describe it. I’m also including this picture of two of the islands we visited (mainly for my reference!) For example, these are both Phi Phi Island – I didn’t know there were two. The lower one is Phi Phi Leh Island and was our first stop after an hour’s speed boat ride.This is the area where part of the movie The Beach was filmed. This was a swim, take picture beach rather than a snorkel area. The first picture below is coming into the large cove (Maya Bay); the next is on the beach under one of the limestone hangovers; the third on the beach looking to one side of the cove; and the last is on the beach looking out at the entrance of the cove (will have to work on trying to lighten up this picture of us!)
This was a great introduction to the islands around Phuket. It was absolutely one of the most beautiful places we’ve seen. While I swam in the water, Doug explored a little bit behind the beach and found another beach where he thinks more of the movie might have been filmed. [I need your help with this one, Ted!]
Leaving this cove, we went counterclockwise around the island to Loh Samah Bay where we were able to snorkel. This water is equal (if maybe not a bit clearer) to the beautiful Bora Bora waters. And what made this so special was the surroundings as well as the water. Immense limestone cliffs covered in green vegetation surrounded us in these waters. And while we saw many of the same fish we have seen before, there were a few new ones. I don’t know what they are, but will have a lot to look up when we get home. The other amazing thing was the number of fishes in mass groups. I felt totally surrounded at one point by lots of colorful fish. I actually reached out to touch them because they were just that close. And while I didn’t have the camera at the moment (Doug did!) I could not have put it in front of my face to take the picture because the fish were that close! I hope the clarity of the water shows up in this picture of the two of us. If you look carefully, I think you can see our blue fins in the water. The whole place was amazing!!!
We hated to have to get out of the water, but there was still so much beauty ahead of us. We went for a “drive through” they call Honeymoon Cove. On the map it is Pileh. Because the tall cliffs went right down into the water, it was hard to get the total scope of it in a picture. But here are some of our best pictures of this truly idyllic spot.
As we continued out of the cove still going counterclockwise, we went past Tam Viking (Viking Cave.) This was an interesting place because this is where many swallow nests are located. In a previous Blog entry, I described the importance of swallow nests for the special Bird’s Nest soup. It was the same here because people come and put up ladders to get up inside the cave to get these nests. As we were going by this cave, I happened to look down into the water. It was SO clear, I took this picture of the fish from above the water off the side of our boat!
We left our first Phi Phi island and made our way toward the second one called Phi Phi Don Island. We were supposed to snorkel at this beautiful beach area – on the map Had Yao (Long Beach) but as we approached, our guide told us that it seemed a Russian movie was being filmed here so we had to find another spot. There was this incredibly huge boulder in front of the beach – another magnificent setting. So we ended up at Wan Long Bay which was OK but not as great as our earlier snorkel spot. We didn’t see that many fish, more about the coral which was just fair. However, I did like this neon blue oyster. It really stood out because of its bright color.
We only had twenty minutes at our last snorkel spot (which was plenty as it turned out) before we continued around this island (going clockwise) to Loh Dalam Bay where we were to have lunch. When we arrived, there were only a few boats. By the time we left, there were over 25 boats! It’s a good thing it was casual because it was a “wet landing” for sure!
We had a buffet lunch at a resort. It was good, but not great. We tried things we had no idea of what we were eating – but we always like to try the local foods and sometimes the local beer (today it was Singha – a Thai beer.) However, as average as the food was, the setting was beautiful with a long stretch of a white sand beach. The resort itself seemed nice with a lovely pool and infinity hot tub that made you feel you were relaxing in the ocean itself! As we were leaving, we saw these “long-tail boats.” They are called this because of their long propeller shafts that stick out about 10-15 feet behind the boat into the water. We have seen some very interesting small boats in many of our ports, and this is just an example of another kind.
We continued on to our third island and our final snorkel spot (not on this map.) It took about 30 minutes to get to Khai Island which gave everyone a chance to relax after a big lunch. Once again, when we arrived at this island, there were not many people. They had hundreds of double chairs with an umbrella lined up. We had to pay $5 to rent one for just the hour we’d be there, but it was worth it. The beach was between two different waters. The first one was where the boats docked and was just for swimming. On the other side were craggy rocks and the water here was primarily for snorkeling because of the many reefs (you had to swim out a little way to get to them.) We did not take many pictures here because the water was a bit cloudy. As we were getting out of the water, our ship’s escort, Jack, was also coming in saying he had just seen a 5 foot shark further out near the little boats. It turns out they were “shark hunting” and were throwing shark bait into the water. I was sure glad I learned about that as we were getting out!
As we got back on our little boat, they served us more fruit (they had already given us really fresh and sweet pineapple and watermelon!) and a soft drink I had never heard of, but it tasted like Pepsi. It was called EST printed in red, white and blue letters. Hit the spot after having spent so much time in the water. Then it was a 30 minute ride back to the dock and then another 5 minute “bus” ride back to the ship.
It was an early “all aboard” time (3:30 p.m.) so by the time we showered and cleaned up all our snorkel gear, we were well under way. Had a fun dinner hearing about everyone’s adventures. I think everyone on the ship loved this port and there were a variety of activities to meet everyone’s interest level.
Too tired for any night activity – and we slept like babies after a great day in the water!