Finally arriving at Phuket airport, back in Thailand to explore the South part of the country and bask on beautiful beaches, I breathe in a lungful of ocean air. This is going to be good! Standing outside, late at night, waiting for the shared shuttle that will take us to our hotel I just keep breathing in and smiling. It’s also partly an effort at self-distraction to keep myself from being irritated that my backpack arrived on the luggage conveyer with zippers open. Again… Five flights on this journey, and every single time my bag has been rifled through or little things taken from pockets that I was unable to lock. Thankfully I never travel with anything of value in my checked luggage, but still, it’s maddening. Tricia suggested my bag has been targeted because it looks so girly, and girls usually have good stuff with them; I think she might be right.
But no matter. I’m in a place famous for some of the most beautiful beaches the world has to offer so nothing can ruin my joy! Patong Beach, where our hotel is located, is more of a party town than I’m currently in the mood for but at least I can still appreciate how fun it would be…. hopefully that means I’m not entirely old yet! While walking around the street stalls and markets next to the beach it’s impossible to avoid the sales pitches from vendors selling day trips, and by the end of our second day here we stopped and chatted with a woman about our options. After a bit of negotiating, lots of smiles and some friendly banter, she “remembered” that the trip we were most interested in had a promotion – tomorrow the last day! – and we could book it for 50% of the cost printed on the brochure. She was really sweet, despite my scepticism of her prices, and we were happy to book our excursion from her.
So bright and very early the next morning Tricia and I set off to explore some of the limestone islands around Phuket, along with a few hundred other likeminded adventurers. (The surprising thing, really, is that I can still be surprised by what a massive machine tourism has become. I’ve not only witnessed this over and over, I’m also a part of it – so why do I always hope I’ll be the only one out??)
Crowded, sure. I guess the takeaway for us travellers and tourists creating this demand is to do our best to choose companies that are careful in sustainable and ethical operations. Now with that soapbox spiel out of the way, without further ado, the best parts of a very great day!
We were offered coffee, tea and fruit on the boat during the hour it took to reach the first island we stopped at, and I think we were all happy to be out on the water. When we stopped it was to hop into small canoes with experienced guides who would take us into caves (bat caves!) and through lagoons deeper around the islands.
We were taken to a tiny remote beach and given free time to swim before returning to the big boat. A delicious lunch was served while we made our way towards the “James Bond Island” famous from a movie scene and countless photos on Pinterest.
While very toursty, the stop to view this jagged rocket of an island was a lot of fun. I can’t tell you have many photos I have of myself in various fake-sultry Bond girl poses… Seriously I can’t, it’s too embarrassing. So instead I’ll post some of the shots I got of Tricia, she pulls it off much better than I. In fact, if the right person sees this, she’ll probably be cast in the next remake!
We had one final surprise on the way back to the harbour before finishing the tour, and it was pretty impressive. Our guide had told us all day he could finally call the eagles to the boat, and it had taken him 24 years to learn how to do it. As our boat passed the right spot, he had us all begin to clap and shout “up up up”. I don’t generally consider myself a cynical person, but I was 100% sure there wouldn’t be an actual bird swooping down to join us. My guess was a rock formation in avian shape, or maybe a plane high in the sky above us. But I saw something entirely new to me; childlike awe and wonder erasing every trace of dubiosity. He wasn’t joking.