Photo of the day: Long tail boat on Maya Bay. Photo credit: Aaron.
One thing was missing from our trip so far – beach time. So we decided to dedicate a whole day to it. We joined a Phi Phi Islands (pronounced Pee-Pee) tour organized by Phuket Sail Tours, again based on thousands of excellent Trip Advisor reviews. We started our day early at 6:30 AM. They arranged a private transfer for us to the marina since we were in Phuket town. Those staying in the beach towns would have gotten there by a minibus with other travellers. We were pleasantly surprised by the breakfast provided, especially the delicious ham and tomato sandwich. Our speedboat set sail around 7:30 AM. It took approximately 1 hour to reach the Phi Phi Islands. They provided anti-nausea medication prior to departure, if needed, but you can expect have a nice drowsy ride to the islands.
Our first point of interest was Maya Bay. This bay is famous after the movie “The Beach” was filmed here. I have not seen this movie but reading the plot with lying, blackmailing and killing, it definitely does not match the paradise-like scenery you would see here. We arrived here early to try to avoid the crowds but the beach was already very busy. Aaron found it very ironic that there was a line-up on an island. Nonetheless, the line-up was worth it to see the surreal view overlooking Lo Sama Bay. We then spent some time enjoying and taking pictures of the view of Maya Bay. It’s a postcard everywhere you look! Although, your postcard would have many tourists in it. If this is considered not busy, I cannot imagine how it would look as the day progressed.
We left before the crowds starting rolling in and passed by Viking cave, where bird’s nests are harvested. Then we jumped off the boat for a quick swim in Pi Lay Lagoon. After we got back on the boat, we found out there were plenty of cold drinks and snacks on board for us to enjoy. Note: there was no beer on the boat. Aaron was disappointed to find out that you needed to pre-purchase it at the tour company’s office prior to departure. Then we stopped for some snorkelling. I have not had good luck with snorkelling in the past, and was not really looking forward to this part of the tour. I’ve tried it in Hawaii and St. Martin and found it very difficult to breathe and did not end up seeing anything in the water. This experience was much improved! Our tour guide did a good job in finding a good spot for snorkelling, where we were swimming with hundreds of fishes. I thought I would crash into them but they did a great job with swimming right passed me. Aaron was having a ball because he loves aquariums and this experience is so much more “hands-on”, not literally because he failed to touch them, which is probably a good thing.
Next, it was time for lunch! We went to Phi Phi Don (the largest island). Let us remember that this is where the 2004 December hit and destroyed a large part of the island. They have done a great job in restoration of the island as I would not have known just looking at it. The restaurant here served some surprisingly good Thai food – including green and Massaman curry, Tom Kha Goong, various stir-fries, as well as not-so-Thai food such as fries and chicken wings. We were overall, pretty impressed with the meal but did not over-fill our stomachs since we had more snorkelling to do later on.
After lunch, we stopped by Monkey beach. It was a pleasant surprise since we previous read the monkeys were too aggressive and we were not allowed off the boat. We were able to take some pictures with these active animals, but remember to keep our distances, especially from the big alpha male of the group. Apparently, one the of crewman tried to lure a monkey with a cigarette and was chased.
Next, we stopped at Bamboo Island to do some beach-bumming. Aaron and I found a quiet spot passed the rocky area, and had pretty bunch that whole section of the beach to ourselves (well and a few girls who were taking a million pictures of themselves lying on a rock, looking sexy. P.S. It did not look comfortable. I don’t know how they did it).
It was time for more snorkelling. This time I was really looking forward to it. Our guide was good at pointing out interesting finds, including a school of clown fish, at which he shouted “Nemo”!
All good things come to an end because it was time to head back to Phuket. We were very happy with our choice of this tour. It was probably pricier than some of the other tours you can get from the agencies in town but we were impressed by their expertise and how they used this to change the schedule around and avoid crowds as necessary.
We cleaned up and relaxed a bit more at the hotel before heading out for dinner. We decided to give another try at eating at Hong Khao Tom Pla, the Thai Chinese restaurant we tried to go to the first night here and it was open! We sat down right in the front to witness the chef in action and was given a menu all in Thai, so I whipped out my phone and started pointing to pictures on Mark Wien’s blog and wished for the best. I pointed at 3 dishes but luckily only 2 came because the portion sizes here are massive. The first dish we got was the Tom Yum Pla Nam Sai. When it arrive, I knew it would be spicy. It was red in colour and was filled with fish, mushroom, tomatoes, whole shallots and other vegetables. The soup definitely had a kick. I am usually not a Tom Yum fan as I usually find it too sour but this was full of flavours. They were not stingy with their fish since the whole bowl was filled with big pieces of perfectly cooked fish. Next, came the Talay Pad Pongari. I was very happy to see that this dish arrived since I was really looking forward to having another egg-based curry. Again, this dish was not lacking in ingredients, as the packed it with various seafood (including fried fish, shrimp and squid), as well as onions, tomatoes and other vegetables. Overall, we thought this was authentic as it gets. The spice level was definitely Thai spicy and we ended up just eating most of the contents of the soup and not really drinking it as a result. I could no longer taste the actually food half way through the meal and just tasted spicy. We both ended up loading up prophylactically on Rolaids after the meal to prevent major heartburn.
Aaron wanted to have some ice cream to cool down our taste buds, so we headed to Snow Wave for some shaved ice. We ordered the coconut milk shaved ice with corn and mangos. The shaved ice was really good. Just like the one we had in Kuala Lumpur, it wasn’t just ice chips with syrup on top. It was actually ice-cream in a snow-like consistency. I would skip the toppings next time though. It took away from the tasty shaved ice. And that’s how we ended our perfect day full of sunshine, swimming and good food.