March 21, 2012:
We were destined to anchor here, the small port of Phuket had 2 small cruise ships berthed there and there was ‘no room at the inn’ for us. Instead, we headed to the west side of the island and Patong Bay, a relatively sheltered spot, although it was almost a mile to the tender disembarkation point. This was a series of floating pontoons, linked by walkways to the shore.
Ashore, there were stalls and hotels, all small with thatched roofs, and the usual hustle and bustle associated with a tourist destination.
We were going on a tour, to the Phi Phi islands, so we jumped on a bus and headed off across the island, towards Phuket itself. It’s about a 40-minute ride to the marina, where we were going to jump into a speedboat which would take us to the islands. They are known for their known for their beautiful tropical setting, crystal-clear turquoise water, secluded beaches and mountainous cliffs.
48 kms, (30 miles) in a speedboat, bouncing over the swells brought us to the first of the islands. First impressions were certainly impressive, sheer, verdant cliffs towered from the water and sure enough a beautiful beach, not quite ‘secluded’ though, as it was full of other boats who had disgorged their tourists onto the sand. A few photos and 30 minutes later, we were off again, away from the crowd and further around the island for some snorkeling.
Bananas in-hand, a plunge into the warm water, suddenly surrounded by hungry fish, nipping away at the bananas, which are disappearing alarmingly fast. I have to say, that having snorkeled off the Great Barrier Reef, there was no comparison, the GBR won, hands down.
30 minutes later and off to lunch at a lovely beach-side hotel/restaurant, it was here that the true beauty of the islands shone through, fishing boats drawn up on the beach, turquoise water and very few people around, save for local families who were going about their business or just sitting in the shade, relaxing and talking with their families.