I really couldn’t let my family visit Thailand without taking in the sights of Phang Nga bay and a trip to the Phi Phi Islands.
So with what at the time both my sister and I believed to be decent consideration, we plumped to take the more inclusive (and therefore more expensive) speed boat trip to allow us some fine snorkelling opportunities at several islands en route.
Arriving at the boat pier at 8.30 the next morning, the omens were not good when my parents were surprised to discover there may not be a toilet on board the boat.
My sister explained that our craft was after all a speedboat, designed for, well, errr, speed; Creature comforts were secondary and the trip was going to be bumpy.
It was at this point the penny dropped that the parents hadn’t really thought about this trip too thoroughly (I was surprised they had not opted for the slower, cheaper cruise version which offered less snorkelling stops, but more in the way of flush lavatories and the chance to stand on deck).
Alas, things have a way of working out and at 9.30am I found myself forcefully driving home the point to a bemused set of staff that we had paid good money for an 8-hour boat trip, the first hour of which we had spent sitting at dockside sipping what was becoming an increasingly expensive cup of tea.
Discussing things with the other waiting guests, I also discovered that we had paid significantly more for our package than they had.
OK, my parents had kindly offered to pay for the day, but that wasn’t the point. Four months of hard negotiation on a daily basis and I realise that Phuket had made me get sloppy.
I’d lost my backpacker mentality somewhere during the past week.
Losing faith in the delivery of the trip, and seeing a way out of the situation, by 10am we were heading back to “the billet” to contemplate our options.
We took a full refund and later that day booked the cruise trip via an on-street agent who again was offering the package at a significant discount to that priced by our flashpacker hosts.
As it happened, the next day saw the weather break into the most beautiful morning of the week. Virtually cloudless skies welcomed us as we crossed the bay with the undulating silhouette of Phi Phi Leh in the distance.
The highlight of the trip was to be a stop at Maya Bay, made famous by the movie “The Beach” and if I recalled correctly, a genuinely stunning location comprised of a bowl of soaring karst containing the blue and green hues of it’s sheltered waters.
Having been to “The Beach” before, I was banking on my memory being true to the original, but I need not have feared, Maya was as truly awe inspiringly beautiful as I had remembered her.
With the parents lazing on deck, The Bim and I went snorkelling in the brine, one of only a handful confident enough to do it sans life jacket. Being raised near the coast has some obvious benefits, the ability to swim at a young age being one of them.
I don’t think theres a single person I know from my home region who can’t swim. If my guess is right, it was probably embedded somewhere in the school cirriculum along with the three R’s and the rules of World Cup Willy.
Everyone I know can tie a knot in a set of pyjamas and inflate them for use as an emergency float. The only thing is, I don’t own pyjamas and haven’t since I was about 12.
The WJEC really needed to think that through a bit more.
After Maya bay, we headed to Phi Phi Don, the larger of the twin isles, where we lunched in the main town.
To my great surprise, just beyond the restaurant there was a long stretch of beach the existence of which I was entirely ignorant to.
It had puzzled me for some time as to why Phi Phi town was so popular. Here was the reason.
A beautiful stretch of white beach, shallow turquoise seas and a picturesque headland framed the vista. Longtail boats were moored off the gently sloping sands and I stood there pondering how the hell we had missed this last time around.
Blind or just stupid?
They say never go back, but I now know that going back does sometimes have its benefits!