Sailing the Andaman Sea (Part 1)
So I left my very nice hotel and headed to Phuket Town, well actually the pier area, to catch my ferry over to Ko Phi Phi. The pier area where the ferries leave was sort of like Phuket Town. Not what I was expecting. It was a very industrial area and while there are like 4 different ferry companies, the pier area looked kind of sad. I'm still not sure where the party area is here in Phuket, but that's another trip. Anyways, I sat next to a cute couple from Darwin (which is where I'm going next!), so we chatted quite a bit. It was an almost two hour ride over to Ko Phi Phi which is a very pretty island just off the mainland. Disembarking the ferry was a zoo as the pier was very narrow and they were funneling everyone through a small area so they could collect 200 baht as an environmental fee. Sure. I found an Italian place for lunch that had wifi so I could send one last email back to Mom before I went off the grid.
At 3pm, I met up with my group from G Adventures. So I really knew nothing about the company except they offered the trip on the dates I needed. When I was in Angkor Wat, I ran into an American who was doing a G Adventures trip and I asked her how it was. And she said it was good, but it was mainly for young people. So I fully expected to be the oldest person in the group. And not the case at all. Only 11 people on the boat (which sleeps 16) and 7 Canadians, 3 Americans, and 1 Brit. And the ages ran from late 20s/early 30s to late 50s (I think). We got settled onboard and then we headed out to the far side of Ko Phi Phi to our first snorkeling stop. And it was great. The water was crystal clear and that amazing turquoise color that you see in all of the posters. And after sweating my ass off, I was so ready to hit the water. I changed into my new swim trunks, grabbed my GoPro and hit the water. The sun was on the other side of the towering cliffs above us so we weren't in direct sunlight so I didn't worry about slathering up in sun lotion. Saw lots of cool fish. Overall I think the marine life here is much more diverse than any snorkeling I've done in the Caribbean. So many pretty fish over every color. Very cool.
After a good hour plus snorkeling, we got back on the boat and headed to Phi Phi Leh, another island just to the south of Ko Phi Phi. After sailing (well motoring) around the island, we pulled into Maya Bay and it was just stunning. Maya Bay is where they filmed "The Beach" with Leonardo DiCaprio. And obviously some of it was CGI, but the wide beach in this secluded bay is definitely from the film. Sadly, it's also now a very popular destination from Ko Phi Phi, so it was packed. But we moored and then watched the sun set. Which was spectacular. After that, we had dinner on board the ship. The food is actually pretty good, if a little too spicy for my taste. After dinner, everyone sort of sat around and chatted or read their books. Some guy had brought a guitar and was playing some quiet tunes. It was really really nice. I laid on the netting in the front of the catamaran and just looked up at the stars for a bit. Around 10PM I went down to my cabin and I'm so glad that I paid extra for a room to myself. After all of the water I've been drinking, I was in the bathroom several times. Oh, and have I mentioned that I'm sick as a dog? I passed through the sore throat phase quickly and was in the stuffed head phase. BTW, snorkeling in salt water when you've got a runny nose? Hello Snotty McSnotterson. Not sexy at all. Anyways, I put my dental device in and tried to sleep. Tried. First it was hot. The AC in my cabin is not sufficient at all. And then sometime in the middle of the night I started having coughing jags. Which is really not possible while wearing a device that locks your jaws. So I would wake up in a panic trying to get it out so I could cough. Yeah, not a restful night.
6AM rolled around and I was up and changing into my swim great. Most of the boats that had been packed into Maya Bay last night had left after sunset so before the crowds descended, we wanted to check out The Beach. So we took the dinghy over and then walked through the little jungle forest to the other side where there was this picturesque cove with a small island in the middle just as the sun was rising. So pretty. Afterwards, we put on our snorkel gear and swam around the edges of Maya Bay. Again, so many cool and different fish. And the water felt fantastic.
Around 8AM were were back on the boat for breakfast and then as the longtail boats with the day trippers started to arrive, we headed out. As we left Maya Bay, there was some pretty decent wind so we hoisted the main sail and the jib. The catamaran is 25m long, so it's a pretty big boat, so even with the wind, we were only probably making 2-3 knots. We sailed for a good 5 or so hours across the Andaman Sea to Ko Rajah Noi. Ko Rajah Noi is just one island, but there's this one place where the rocks are so low that the water basically flows over them. After we sailed over into the lee of the island, we moored and it was time to snorkel again. I headed to the low section where the water crosses over, but the currents there were pretty strong and getting bashed on a coral rock didn't sound like that much fun to me. But I still swam along the edge and saw just a ton of fish. It was peak burning time so I had brought ONE long sleeve shirt with me and so I was wearing it in the water. I did not want to get my back burned. Been there, done that. After we finished snorkeling, we had a little diving/jumping competition from the bow of the catamaran. It was so much fun. I attempted a back flip. My rotation was not quick complete and my shins hit the water pretty hard. But still, not bad. We had one more snorkel stop at Ko Rajah Noi which was great before we headed to Ko Rajah Yai.
So I have to say this sailing trip has been awesome. I like the idea of a morning swim, breakfast, then sail to a new place just as the tourists are arriving. Nap or read while we sail. Then it's time to snorkel again. Oh, and then lunch. It's a really nice schedule. After we moored at Ko Rajah Yai, we watched sunset again. While there is beer and wine on the boat, there are no cocktails. And yes I plan to complain to management about that! :-)