Phuket

The next part of the trip was much more laid back, with much less travelling around. We were based in Nai Yang beach, at a hotel called Seapines Villa Liberg. It was pure luxury. There was an ensuite bathroom, which had sliding doors, a lot of it seemed to be made of teak wood again, and a bed the size of two twins, but without the divide you sometimes get. Everyday, it was cleaned, and we were replenished with two bottles of water in the fridge. The air-con could get so cold that sometimes we needed to put on extra blankets (or turn it off!)
We had arrived in the evening and were introduced to a completely different taxi system, and quoted with 300 baht for the 10-minute drive to our hotel, or given the option of a metered taxi plus the 100 baht airport surcharge (we chose the latter after saying 300 baht was too much). It was partly the cost of taxis that kept us on Nai Yang beach most of the time, but also by the end of the time in that part of Thailand, it had been the all-round best beach. We spent two days on the beach and in the pool. The only downside to the pool was the smell of pyrotechnic lights that were lit each night — the pool itself was small, but there were never more than two other people there at a time, and this once provided opportunity to chat to other guests, and we met a South African couple, who happen to have lived in the same county as me (Surrey). 


We tried to go to Sirinat National Park, and paid 100 baht to get in, but after an hour of walking around we accidentally went in a circle, couldn’t find any park life, and ended up in a school grounds. When we asked some people at the information centre, where lots of construction work appeared to be taking place, they basically said there was nothing there, and to go over to the beach side. We tried to get our money back, but the woman refused, and kept laughing, perhaps out of awkwardness. We could have just walked up the beach with it paying, so didn’t quite understand what we were missing. We got some street food and tried to walk along the beach, but all we saw was a dead water-snake, and more frequent little crab creatures. 


We booked a tour of the Phi Phi islands for the next day. I had been worried about the weather, as the threat of storms persisted, but we were really lucky. To be safe, I wanted to opt for a reputable company, and so we probably paid a but extra for that security, but our transfer was included, which would have been at least 1000 baht if bought separately. We also wanted an early-bird option, which meant an extra expense, but it was probably worth it. We went with “Phuket Let’s Go!” but it seemed that the tour operator was actually Siam Adventure World Tours, or something like that. I’d seen positive reviews for both. It was mostly a good experience, but would have been nice to include the photos, which we ended up buying but somehow forgot to watch at our hostel in Bangkok upon returning!


We started off at Maya Bay and Losa Ma Bay on Ko Phi Phi Don, and were given around an hour there, which was enough time for a look around and a swim. We then did some snorkelling, and this was the start of my annoyance with the German-language tour guide (all the other staff were great). He asked if I wanted a life jacket and made a comment about my face, like I looked worried. It’s like, no, that’s just my face. It’s so rude to comment on people’s faces like that, I don’t know why people do it. At other points during the trip he also kind of seemed disgusted that I was sandy… after being on a beach… and just the way he spoke seemed quite arrogant. But anyway, as I tried to explain to him, at that point I couldn’t see anything as I had taken off my prescription-sunglasses. Snorkelling with the lifejacket was infuriating, and I ended up just using it as a float and handing it back, though it turned out that I had just done it up incorrectly. As it happens, snorkelling as a whole is completely pointless when you can’t see more than a metre ahead. I saw some small fish in front of my face and that was it. 


Next we passed by Monkey Island and took some pictures of some cute gibbons hanging off the edges. Though I would have liked more information about how the gibbons came to be there. After that we stopped for some more snorkelling, and at some point were given bananas. I tried to snorkel again, but left the flippers and took my sunglasses, making sure to step in as carefully as possible, rather than jump in as I had done before. I didn’t stay in long after I realised it was completely pointless, as of course, I couldn’t see anything, I forget the order of things, but we also swam in a lagoon for a while, and were handed slices of pineapple whilst doing so. We also saw a Viking cave whilst on our way to the final stop, which was on Bamboo Island. Here there was a small buffet, which was tasty, as well as more fruit. This beach, like the others, was made of beautiful near-white sand and turquoise water. There was a large area to walk around here, and we were given ample time to swim too. The only downside to the swimming, which I normally love and could do endlessly, was that we kept getting stung by what we were told were sea-lice. In the end, the stings were unbearable and I had to get out. 


That night I had my first alcoholic drink in Thailand, opting for their Chang beer. After another day of chilling and having our first traditional Thai massages, I moved on to cocktails. The rain was coming now, and although it had only been in the evenings, it happened when we had our massages, which was perfect timing really, so can’t complain! That night there was a dog that lay next to me whilst I ate. Although I was fine with it then, I think I’m becoming more cautious with them now. We listened to some live music, played darts and then pool (where I won by default rather than potting balls). Phuket was more expensive than Bangkok, so you really do pay for the sunny beach location, and this section very much felt like a holiday. 


The next day we got up relatively early and tried to get a taxi to the Gibbon centre. I didn’t realise that the taxi number we got from the driver who dropped us off had a note to book the day before. So, in the end we had to pay the 500 baht for a 20 minute drive. The gibbons were nice to see and learn about, and they were very loud, sounding like police sirens. It was also sad to see one of them sucking its thumb, another with missing limbs, and others that for various reasons couldn’t be let out back into the wild, which is the main aim for most of the gibbons there. We walked for a bit at Bang Pae Waterfalls, but it was very hot. We then walked for 40 minutes to the pier, which was a challenge. I joked that I felt like the character in the book I’m reading — “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. At the pier, there were families of gibbons bathing in puddles, and eating on top of cars. I worried that the nightmare I once had about being chased by a monkey was a premonition. Luckily not, but when I reached into my waterproof bag to try to take a cheeky picture, the sound of the Velcro made the one on the roof of a car’s head turn and so I didn’t! We nearly go scammed again to get into a private boat — understood properly when talking to another couple that when the guy had repeated something about being the pirate/captain, that he meant “private” not “pirate”. 


We took a public longboat to Ko Yao Noi, once we had said no to the other guy, and his partner in crime who tried to sell us some sort of pre-boarding ticket. My boyfriend wanted to ride a bike, and I wanted to try it out. However, because there were no helmets I was wary. I guess part of me didn’t want to be the one to always spoil the fun, but just because the people selling it don’t care about your health and safety, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t either. Without having had any lessons to drive, and not even being that great at riding a normal bicycle, I thought I’d go in the back. My boyfriend did a couple of laps, and was then told that he couldn’t do it and that he would have to pay for everything if there was an accident, and how difficult it would be on the road with cars etc. So, we managed to get our money back, and this guy said he would drop us off and pick us up in time for the last boat back, for 300 baht in total.

We ate at a beachside restaurant, and chatted with a couple who had met backpacking. Then we squeezed in a swim, but despite its pretty appearance, with fantastic landscape views, the water was very shallow, and there were loads of rocks at the bottom. So, although the water didn’t sting, it wasn’t a patch on Nai Yang beach. I had picked up a shell and a little Thai boy came up and gave me a shell, and so I exchange with him. He handed me more and more, and then it appeared that some of them had claws! There were lots of tiny crabs in shells as the water ran in small streams through the sand. 


When 4.10pm came, and the driver didn’t show up, I started to worry. We couldn’t quite get our heads around this scam, but thankfully the lovely staff at the restaurant called someone and he drove us there just in time to board the boat and to get a seat each! We thought maybe he wanted us to get stuck and have to stay somewhere, or maybe he had a private boat he wanted us to go on, or maybe he simply forgot! Anyway, thankfully it became a story to tell, rather than a nightmare to live out. I don’t know if it’s me, but this is definitely not helping me become more chilled and cool, but moments like these are testing, and I was in the verge of tears and meltdown, when really we would have been okay either way, and maybe I need to learn from that at least. We even managed to share a taxi back as an American couple happened to need to go to the airport, and our place is on the way there, so they stopped off to have some food there. We really needed a wash and change, but being out at 7pm was about the earliest we had done before. It rained whilst we were eating on the beachfront.


The next day, we started off with a massage. This time I got one focused on my back, but it felt so bruised the next day, so I guess it was a bit too rough for me! We spent all day in the beach, had a quick dip in the pool, and finally made it out before sunset, at around 6.15-30pm. It felt sad to leave Phuket, wishing I could take the sea with us. That said, it turned out we were conned again, as the journey back from the hotel to the airport took at least half the time it had done on the way there. It was funny that after nearly two weeks in Thailand, and one being in the beach the whole time, a guy came up to us thinking we had just arrived because of our white skin. We have been quite careful, have minimal burns, and always use factor 50, but I do have a little watch-mark on my wrist, so we are a bit less pale than we arrived! 

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About carminamasoliver

I'm an ex-UEA writer from South London. Founder of She Grrrowls. Feminist Arts Writer for The Norwich Radical. BAR poet. Published by Nasty Little Press.Currently living and working in Spain.
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