To the north east of Phuket, is the island of Krabi. Between these two, is the famed Phi Phi and many other islets. Phi Phi, which amusingly is pronounced Pee Pee, is equidistant (40KM) from Phuket and Krabi but for all administration purposes it is part of Krabi and can be visited as a day trip from any of these places.
We had booked a speed boat island hopping tour from ‘our booking lady’ (Kai) for Phi Phi. These are very common trips run by many tour operators and can be booked from any tour agent easily (book at least one day before).
We agreed for around 900 Baht per person. It was all inclusive with hotel pickup and drop, life jacket and snorkeling gear, lunch and free flow of water, cold drinks and fruits. In all, everything is taken care of for a carefree and backpack free day. This was half of the printed price as it was a low season (August being a wet month).We could also negotiate for our 5 year old to go free of charge.
The tour van picked us from hotel at 8:30…. yes…in the morning! Rassada pier which is 20 minutes from Patong is the place from where all tours to Phi Phi begin. Tourists from different areas of Phuket were arriving here to join different operators for their tours.
We were a group of around 20 people of diverse nationalities. A coloured band was tied on our hands to identify that we were all together. The crew consisted of the driver, 3 boat boys and an organizer cum guide. The guide turned out to be a ‘lady boy’ (Google it and you will find loads of info on Thai lady boys !) and called himself ‘Shakila’ (or maybe he meant Shakira….we experienced that Thais pronounce ‘R’ like ‘L’…so solly means sorry and flee means free !)
Shakira gathered everyone and gave such a hilarious introduction by enacting whatever he was saying like what will happen if you feel sea sick, what might happen while snorkeling if you do not rent fins and the importance of being on time ! Everyone was in splits!
We popped the tablets provided to avoid sea sickness (you do not need to if you don’t have motion sickness but we did because everyone else was!) and also rented a pair of fins each (100 baht each pair), again because everyone was….but on second thoughts I feel that Shakira had amazing marketing skills!
Within no time we were on the speed boat and zooming away from the shore. We came across this big limestone rock which had a very visual effect of the 2004 Tsunami.
We passed many such limestone rocks just jutting out of the sea. Surprisingly, all these have a name and fall under a jurisdiction, even though they are uninhabited.
After 40 minutes we stopped at Ko Phi Phi Leh which is an uninhabited island boasting of emerald green water and white sand beach. We spent 30 minutes here which weren’t enough to take in the exotic place…you could look on forever. But Shakira had already warned us that they would not wait if anyone is late….so however exotic it was; we did not want to be marooned there..!
In another 25 minutes we neared another islet and were asked to grab the life jackets and snorkeling gear and our rented fins as this was our 30 minute snorkeling stop. Shakira explained how to use the snorkeling gear.
For the un-initiated (like we were!) – the gear has eye glasses and nose cover. There is a pipe attached whose one end you need to bite into so that you can breathe from your mouth while you hold your normal breathing. You need to put the face into the water to be able to look at the sea bed for corals and other marine life.
Now…..You can call us beach/water nerds! The thought of going down into the deep sea for I-don’t-know-seeing- what, was scary! We did not want to step out of the boat. But the crew was quite encouraging and urged all of us to …well…step out saying that there is nothing to fear!
The adventurous spirit took over and all of us went in the water one by one. Only 2-3 people stayed on the boat for fear of Jelly fishes in water – I understand that some variety can be fatal but generally snorkeling places chosen are safe.
We did feel scared for a while and just tried to hang in there. Few people (who were probably pro!) were carrying underwater cameras and taking pictures. We too slowly became comfortable and could see dozens of cute little, yellow, ‘Nemo’ like fishes going about their business, even without putting our face in water. The water was that clear. Still, snorkeling was out of question.
All this while, the 3 boat boys were swimming around with big boards and keeping an eye on everyone. One of them asked me to hold his board, adjusted my gear and urged me to look inside saying – “You MUST see, it’s very beautiful!” He persuaded me to let go of my fears and enjoy the beauty.
He helped me to snorkel and I was transported to a different world….beautiful corals on the sea bed, so many violet, white and yellow fishes…. simply amazing…….From above it’s just water but underneath there is so much of beautiful marine life.
I could not hold on long as I could not get the breathing technique right, but those few minutes were completely worth it! Again, 30 minutes was too less for beginners because it takes some time to get comfortable. This was more like introduction to snorkeling for us, which helped us to do it better on our visit to other such places.
Do not miss the chance to snorkel……if you are a swimmer, it will be very easy, if not – it will be an adventure and an introductory lesson. This was the highlight of our trip, one which we will remember for lifetime. We felt it was completely safe and the crew was very helpful.
Drenched, and elated with the experience, we headed to our lunch stop at Ko Phi Phi Don which is the largest island of the Phi Phi group. It has a small population which probably survives on occupations concerning tourists. It was completely devastated in the Tsunami and was closed for some time for rebuilding. It is now back to the pre Tsunami infrastructure.
The island is exotic but commercialized. Almost all tourists will be stopping here for lunch…just ignore the crowds…gulp your lunch and enjoy the beauty (the stop is only for an hour!)
The buffet lunch was already laid out. We had indicated earlier, while booking the tour, about vegetarian food. So there was rice and a vegetable curry and some salad for us along with tea/coffee.
Next, we visited another islet which had a huge monkey population. Then, hopped to another lively island, where we rented some beach chairs and relaxed while the tour people served us pineapple and watermelon. Here you can go around the island and roam on the whole periphery getting a feel of actually being on a piece of land surrounded by endless water.
It was now time to go back to Phuket which was only a 25 minute journey.
Overall, the tour was seamlessly organized. Don’t mind the many stops or the less time at each stop…..the important part is the journey itself, which has some of the most gorgeous views you will ever see.
We Reached back to the hotel by 5 PM, got some massage done for our tired bodies (while mom and Pranav rested)…paid our daily visit to Kai for the booking for our next day trip to the James Bond Island….roamed about the streets, window shopping…….had a homely dinner at Tantra and wondered how could so much happen in a single day!