And we were reminded of All Saint's 'Pure Shores'. One of our favourite songs, even though we've never watched 'The Beach'.
Our first trip to Phuket could be considered as an introduction to the things to do on Patong, and this time around we decided to add on something else so that we didn't just do the same old, same old. And since we were staying in Phuket for a longer period this time, we slotted a day in for island hopping around the Phi Phi Islands.
Details of the island hopping package wasn't clear, and at a cost of 1000 baht we weren't too sure if we were getting much out of it when we started checking out websites on touring Phi Phi Islands. Still, pricewise we actually thought 1000 baht to be fair, and when we arrived at the hotel we asked for more details (since we got the hotel to book the package for us).
In the end, we vaguely knew that we were going to go around the island, we'd to bring a towel, sunglasses, swimwear, probably a spare change of clothes, sunblock. And that, we did. Along with our iPhone as our camera (sadly we did not pack our iXus battery charger for this trip) and some cash as well.
This, you got to take note: the tour has been paid for, which includes the transfers to and from Rassada Harbour, the boat ride, our lunch, which technically means if we're not interested in buying souvenirs we don't need to bring any money. Somehow we thought it better to bring a bit of cash along, just in case. The Chief brought some too in case there were souvenirs worth buying on Phi Phi Island. In the end, we only paid for an entry fee of 20 baht to Phi Phi Island (we weren't told of this at all), which is used for upkeep.
Imagine if we didn't bring any cash along with us. What to do then?
So anyways our day started rather early, where we'd to be up around 6am, have our buffet breakfast, then wait for our transport which was scheduled to leave at 7am. Our transport arrives, we've gotten towels from the concierge, hop onto the van along with a Singaporean Malay family and two Malaysian Chinese couples, and...
...had to wait for some more passangers who were late. 20 minutes late. By the time four Indian guys climbed up the van, they were soundly scolded by the Malay mother: "Look at the time! We were suppose to leave at 7! What happens if we're late? If the boat leaves without us and my children cannot go, what are you going to do?" The Indians muttered their apologies only to be told, "Sorry no cure!" Garangnya mak ni... The Chinese guys also voiced loudly in Cantonese that even the latecomers knew the gist of displeasure everyone had against them (in our case we sent out a strong silent wave of displeasure).
Not halfway through the ride to the harbour, one of the latecomers opened a window, letting in a drought that brought in dust and smoke. These latecomers were getting less and less popular. One of the Chinese guys asked them to close the window, and that's where we all learned that one of the latecomers was feeling nauseous, not that we could see it.
Being very late in the first place, plus the fact that it wasn't apparent why they wound down the window in the first place, it was hard to be sympathetic to the nauseous fellow. If he'd actually thrown up we think everyone would have kicked out the four and head on our way.
Interestingly, the four Indians came dressed quite proper in shirts and jeans. Without any bags, without any towels, without any change of clothes. And throughout the entire trip they never changed out of those clothes either.
Luckily we arrived on time to board the cruise boat (our package was with the Sea Angel Tours), were given our tour stickers, and we were on our way! On our way there we somehow found ourself on the top deck as the inner decks (with proper seats and air-conditioning) were full with a large tour group. The top deck was still empty so we managed to set up chairs at the front of the deck, prime spots for the trip.
Here then poses another choice: start suntanning on our way to Phi Phi Island, or not? The angmohs were already in their swimwear and/or shorts and slapping on the sunblock. In the end we decided to suntan too, since we were on the top deck and it was bright and sunny and we weren't too keen on sweating our tanktop into a wet rag. And a good idea it was to begin tanning, too! It was bright and windy so we didn't feel hot and sweaty after all, and it took about an hour before we reached the Island.
Our first stop, Tonsai Pier, where another tour group got off. Here we went down to the inside decks to enjoy the air-conditioning (when the boat isn't moving, the upper deck heats up fast!) and soon we were on our way sightseeing around the Phi Phi Lay islands. Admittedly once sitting inside we couldn't pay much attention to what the guide was saying over the loudspeakers.
After the sightseeing bits we were stopped at Monkey Beach, given lifejackets and snorkels and allowed to go swim! We were worried that the lifejackets might have some smell, but thankfully not. The snorkels, however, we decided best not to think so much about who has used them before. Then it was time to dive!
Last time we did this was end of 2001, if we're not wrong, during our Redang trip with university coursemates. We snorkled then and even did a bout of scuba diving, where we donned on the snorkel, had a gas tank, and was dragged by a professional diver while we took snapshots of the sea bed and fishes with a disposable underwater camera that gave us...proof that we did go scuba diving, at least.
Anyways it was good to get to snorkel again, and we even swam all the way from the deepwater where the boat was anchored to the beach area, where there were loads of monkeys on the trees.
We just wonder how safe our belongings are when we go snorkelling, since not everyone will want to swim. But since everything was still in place when we got back, so we dropped the issue.
Arrival at the Phi Phi Pier...
...and we're informed that we need to pay a fee. Somebody did complain that this should have been informed early on the brochure, or that it should already have been inclusive with the package.
Directions were given by signboard...
...and where to go for lunch!
The PP Princess.
They've got these nice big pavilions set up but we're surprised at the lack of fans. Surely, some form of ventilation could have been fixed up?
After lunch, it was time to roam the island! The Thais show their sense of humour not only via their advertisements, but also their signages...
So reminded of Portal in a way looking at this photo.
Unlike Patong beach where the waves are consistent (but very relaxing as white noise), here the waters were calm. And if you want a deckchair it'll cost you 100 baht. We decided to walk about the shops instead.
Soon it was time to board the boat once more, and we didn't find anything to buy so we decided to head back to snag some good seats. Climbing up the boat we were initially shocked to see this.
Not wearing our glasses and whatwith the sedate nature of this trip, instead of immediately identifying them for what they were we thought they were memorial photographs of victims.
Another incident on our trip back to Rassada Harbour. Seats were getting full as the boat picked up more passangers for the return trip, and soon enough there was this Indian chap who came up to us, tapped our shoulder and asked if anyone was sitting on the seat next to us (where we had our towel draping to dry after wiping down from snorkelling).
Now to be fair, we do think that this Indian chap was self-consciously polite. When he flagged over a staff with a rubbish bag to take his trash, the chap wanted to take away our disposable cup that we've left in the netting on the back of the chair in front of us. When he wanted to go somewhere for a while and come back, he'll tap our shoulder and tell us in broken English his intentions.
Only...we left that cup there on purpose should we have any rubbish to throw, so we weren't happy and stopped him. And when he sat beside us, he had totally no concept of personal space, and so both of us had our elbows and arms pressed against each other as we fought for armrest space and his knee tried to make friends with our hip (oh chappy was slightly chubby). Plus he tapped our shoulder rather hard, which we considered as not polite. Not to mention, we already had a bad encounter with the latecomers this morning.
And he's really pressing onto us as if we were Siamese twins. We tried sleeping. Not too much luck.
Nearing Rassada Harbour we couldn't take it anymore and abruptly sat up straight, knocking his left arm out of our personal territory (also way way past the armrest and separating line that divides our seat from his).
Back at Rassada Harbour we were greeted by more souvenir photographs! But we've decided that, if we were to have people take photos of us, we'd like the background to show more of where we've been (ie Phi Phi Island) rather than of the harbour.
Plus the Chief had already bought us the souvenir aka memorial photographs earlier on, heh.