I Just Couldn't Stop Smiling
December 29, 2015
When my alarm buzzed at 7:30 I realized it was the first full 8 hours of sleep I had gotten this whole trip, and I needed it. I was so glad I didn’t feel jet-lagged even with the 5 hours time change. Feeling well rested we went to the buffet breakfast at the resort, it was mostly yogurt and bread but it was good and I was hungry. We then went to meet a cab that was going to take us to a boat for an island tour. The boat was the same kind I had taken to get to the island yesterday. Our first stop was Koa Phi Phi island, which is apparently a party island. It looked like a college spring break destination. A few people got on and off our boat before we headed out for our island adventure.
At this point I had spent over an hour crammed into the corner of an extremely bumpy boat with no backrest, my legs had lost circulation and my back was definitely messed up. We were crammed so tight that at one point my shorts became wedged into the zipper of a purse belonging to the women next to me. The boat crew had to untangle us. We all laughed, but it didn’t make me any more comfortable. I was super surprised by the woman’s humorous reaction to the whole ordeal but I was slowly becoming accustomed to the friendliness of the people in Thailand. It was different from Egypt in that you didn’t want to ignore the people yelling at you, they were trying to help not to haggle.
Our boat pulled up to the first island-hopping stop. A little covert filled with other tour boats and people swimming around, it was very touristy but also incredibly beautiful. The water was amazingly clear. They told us to jump out and swim. Lee and Adam went first, jumping off the back of the boat, then Mary and I followed. I think my cold and congestion had clogged up my ears and they couldn’t adjust to the pressure because as soon as I surfaced I felt excruciating pain. Pain so bad I thought I was going to throw up. In addition, I had taken salt water up the nose and was all around disoriented. I tried to plug my nose and clear my ears but it just felt awful. It felt like I had burst both my eardrums. I frantically swam to a shallow area where I could stand and make sure there wasn’t blood pouring out of my ears. Eventually the pain dulled and I was able to swim around. The water was incredibly salty so we were very buoyant. If you tightened your abs you could float your whole body without moving an inch. It was amazing. Perhaps people who live near the ocean wouldn’t be as enamored by this, but I thought it was pretty cool. You could go farther out and swim or stand on the sand near the rocks. It was amazing to see mountains shooting straight up out of the water.
After maybe thirty minutes we were instructed to go back to the boat to go to our next destination. Luckily, our group had moved to the front of the boat and we weren’t cramped in the back anymore, because this was another incredibly bumpy boat ride. High winds caused huge waves that our boat slammed into and bounded off of at high speeds. Fortunately we all found the humor in this and laughed with each other as we held onto the rails for dear life. Unfortunately, this meant we couldn’t get as close to some of the islands as we normally would. But it was fine, we stopped near a cave in the side of a mountain, where, apparently, people would make soup using the water that dripped from the cave ceiling and sell it for 6,000 baht per bowl. It must have had some mystical, fountain of youth, properties or something. After that we saw another cove then finally got to where we could snorkel.
The water was amazingly clear and you could see the beautiful fish below the surface, even without goggles. I hopped off the back of the boat this time to try and avoid the excruciating ear pain I had experienced from the previous dive. But even with a little jump my ears exploded again, so I decided no more jumping in. Once I got my ears cleared I tried to snorkel but my snorkel tube kept filling up with water. I was treading water, inhaling water, and trying to clear my ears, all with my throbbing head cold. My snorkel wouldn’t work so I went back on the boat to exchange it. When I finally found one that did work snorkeling was fantastic!
Every time I smiled the seal around my goggles would break and the water would flood in. I tried to force myself not to smile, which was impossible because as I swam I could identify; angelfish, tang, all of the fish I had seen before, only in the saltwater section of the pet store. I was swimming above them and they were completely unfazed. I kept having to surface and dump out my goggles because I just couldn’t stop smiling. Schools of fish would swim right up to you as if they were playing with you. I had never really snorkeled before, let alone snorkeled with three-foot needlefish lazily passing by. We even spotted a puffer! When they called us back to the boat I couldn’t believe everything I had seen. We went to another island and snorkeled again, this time fewer fish and darker water made it less enjoyable, along with the fact that my snorkel was acting up and I kept taking in salt water. Mary eventually traded with me and hers worked much better for me, and mine didn’t seem to dampen her experience, or her lungs.
The next stop was Monkey Island. The boat pulled up and the monkeys knew what that meant. The monkeys scrambled down the rocky cliff face as our boat crew threw them pieces of watermelon, they were excellent catchers. They chowed down happily on the snack as we watched in awe. We then headed off for lunch at Koa Phi Phi Island. It was buffet style; vegetable stir fry with spaghetti. It was good. I’m still not sure what traditional Thai food is, as I haven’t eaten any yet, but I also haven’t been hungry so it’s hard to complain. After we ate lunch we had about an hour to walk around the market, which was nothing like the Egyptian markets. It was much more touristy here. They were selling sarongs and tattoos and coconut water and not desperately haggling passers by. But it had been a long day and by this point I was exhausted. Treading water and being out in the sun all day had wiped me out. The last thing I wanted to do was walk around a market.
Eventually we headed back to the boat, it was a full day and I was getting crabby. We were able to get better seats this time for the rocky, 1-hour, boat ride from Koa Phi Phi to Koa Yoa Yai. I slept for most of it, my heading bobbing and bouncing around between Mary and Lee and the man sitting in front of me. At one point my head bobbed so hard off of Lee’s shoulder that it knocked my sunglasses off. When we got back to our resort Adam went to the room for a shower and a nap while Mary, Lee, Amy, Michael (Amy’s boyfriend) and I ran down to catch the last 15 minutes of happy hour. We each ordered two drinks. I got two margaritas. After drinks we went to the dinner buffet, which featured seafood kabobs. I got salad, onion rings, rice and a few other things before dessert. We then got another drink and headed up to the room for movie night. We attempted to watch “The Good Dinosaur” but we all fell asleep and turned it off. We had to check out in the morning to fly back to Bangkok, which I was not thrilled about, seeing as I had only just gotten to Phuket.