Second Recovery Day – Phi Phi
March 27, 2018 § Leave a comment
Up early we needed to be today. The agenda was a boat trip to some islands. In our particular case the Phi Phi islands, but I didn’t know what they were, or where they were for that matter, or even what kind of a trip we were in for. Susan came out to the pool on Monday and said she signed us up for a boat trip. See, we have had some pretty good luck with boat trips in the past. In Ketchikan, Alaska Susan and I took a Salmon fishing excursion during a cruise ship stop. We caught 8 lovely Pink Salmon, one of which we had the kitchen on the ship prepare for us. The envy in every other table around us when our dish came out was priceless, but really what they thought didn’t matter. What we had did, and what we had was deliciously awesome.
In Barbados we signed on to a catamaran for an all day snorkeling adventure to the many shipwrecks that a 500+ year old port city can have in its vicinity. We didn’t fish, but we had a blast, and afterwards we hung around the fishing dock as those boats came in and while we relaxed with afternoon tea and coffee, the ship’s crews began cleaning and prepping the various catches for take home. Last year we chartered a private boat in Costa Rica which came right to the beach where we were staying and picked us up. We swam, and we fished, and when we fished we caught fish. Bonito was the main catch, but I managed to snag something larger, that fit the dinner needs that we had all dreamed we would have when we found out we were going fishing. What we hadn’t counted on was having fresh bonito sashimi on the boat with wasabi and ginger. That, was truly an awesome snack. So, how could we go wrong?
I will cut to the chase here and say that we had a great day, but it didn’t start out as we had planned. The excursion said to be ready at 5. The name of the excursion was “Early Bird Paradise Beach” so, you know, “Early Bird”. I had expectations that we would at least see the sunrise while on the water, however the reality was a wee bit different. Quite a bit different. The taxi/shuttle that came for us, also came for other customers at other hotels, so if they aren’t ready on time, then the shuttle gets delayed. We were ready at 5, but we didn’t get picked up until well after 6, closer to 6:20, and we still had two more stops to make, the last of which, in Pa Tong, still meant we had 30 kilometers to drive in what had grown to full on rush hour traffic. So, by the time we got to the Marina, there was almost no time to “enjoy” what breakfast they had laid out (it wasn’t much, but we were hungry), and we were whisked out to the boat.
The boat was a pretty damn nice boat. A decent sized dual hull covered speed boat with two giant Honda 250 engines. We were among the last to board, and had seats near the back by the engines. We arrived with a Polish family, the father remarking to me, that I would be easy to spot and recognize when he wasn’t sure what boat to get on to, 3 young 20 something Russian girls/women, and a couple from England. At the Marina we hooked up with another couple, an American working in Dubai, and his Chilean wife, a Finnish family of 5, I believe all had various tattoos, and one woman reminded me, (and Susan) of Brunhilde from Wagner’s Ring Cycle. There were also two solo women traveling, one, Stephani, was a tattoo artist from Australia, who was on a birthday excursion she threw for herself. Her tattoos were really something, and those that she could do herself, she did.
We found our seats, and with tide in, though at the time that wasn’t obvious to anyone, once the boat had reached the main channel, the driver opened the throttles full bore, and soon we were flying along. We had missed sunrise by an hour, but we were flying on the open sea soon. The sea was choppy, and most of the time the boat simply sliced right on through the waves, however, occasionally it did not, and we hammered the water, a splash was created, and sea spray flew back along and into the interior. The 3 Russian women seemed to get most of it, as by the time the spray worked its way to the back, the wind had pushed enough of it into the rear of the boat. I was 80+ degrees out already, so it felt good.
With the boat bouncing around so much, the thought of standing didn’t really cross anyone’s mind. I was sitting in the rear corner, so I had a view out the rear, and I could see land forms being passed. Islands. Islands that were not THE island we were heading too. I think most of the occupants used the view out the rear to get some sense of where we had been, but I don’t think anyone stood to see where we were going. In the front of the boat was an open area, and it was getting a lot of spray. Most of the folks there were simply hunkered down, and wiping their hair and clearing their eyes. Some eventually came to look for seats inside just to get some rest.
After about 40 minutes I decided to stretch my legs a little and I stood. There was enough room for me to do that, and I found some handholds that I could stabilize my position. From this point I could see over the bow of the boat and ahead to view a magnificent island. Koh Phi Phi Lee the second largest of the Phi Phi Islands. The main composition of these islands is Limestone. If you remember your basic Geology Limestone means ancient sea floor with the calcium remains of eons of long dead marine life. Then that sea floor rises out of the sea and over the course of more eons is eroded by the sea and other factors. It erodes at different rates depending on what else is present, and the Phi Phi islands are what is left behind.
Our first stop was Maya Bay, a West facing giant backwards capital “C” cove with a beautiful beach, and surrounded by sheer vegetation covered limestone walls. Though we were still early, there were a LOT of other boats there already. Boats like ours, and long tail boats, the tail being a long extend shaft from a top mounted balanced engine with a propeller at the end. Our boat found a spot to back in and drop us off. Though I made note of our boats number, I took a picture as well. We dropped into a foot or two of surf and walked up onto the beach which contained some spectacular granular sand. Our host was calling to us to follow, and he led us on a small hike across the island through a palm grove to a boardwalk that offers glimpses of the Andaman Sea facing East. It was something to see, and I was glad we got there early, but as we were leaving the queue had grown to a point where if I was in that queue, I would have turned around and simply gone back and enjoyed the beach.
We spent about 30 minutes on the beach, soaking ourselves in the water, and then in the sun. After our scooter adventure the day before I stopped in a shop the previous evening and found a white cotton muslin fabric, or something like that, to wear as an extra shield against the sun, in addition, of course, to 50 SPF sun block. I noticed a young man with a T-Shirt representing a school in Central Jersey, so I exclaimed shock that two Jersey boys would be on the same beach in the Phi Phi Islands at the same time. Though his English was impeccable, he was in fact Polish and informed me it was “Just a shirt” he had purchased.
After we had enough of the beach, it should be noted that the longer we stayed, the more people showed up and the more crowded it got, thereby leading to personal space issues, we explored other parts of the beach while we waited for our boat to return. Corinne saw the exposed weathered rock and immediately tried some of her climbing skills. While hand and foot holds were many, the rock is actually quite sharp. She never got too far off the ground, as the waves have undercut the rock, and so to get started you have to be able to support most of your weight hanging before you can get around the rock and be more or less upright.
It was a good thing I took pictures of our boat, because there were actually 3 boats marked “777”. One was clearly not ours as it had 3 engines, and ours only 2, but eventually the yellow swoosh marked boat backed in and we all boarded for our shuttle to Koh Phi Phi Don, the largest of the islands and one that has numerous coves. While Phi Phi Lee did have park rangers living on the island, the island itself was not anything more than an excursion. The larger island actually is home to a small community and has a hotel. These islands suffered losses from the Tsunami, and rebuilding was pretty swift. Though roads were built, the only transportation modes on the island are by foot, cart, or bicycle. Evacuation paths were built as well to get the population to high ground. We stopped for some snorkeling in Wang Lang Bay, a very protected cutout on the SW shore of Phi Phi Don, where the water was about 30 feet deep, and submerged corals provided a home to many colorful fish. While swimming around, occasionally I would turn around and find that all the fish were following me, or at least it seemed that way. Clear water ahead of me, turn around, and thousands behind me. You decide.
We pulled into one of the main coves, and had a buffet lunch at the Phi Phi Andaman Resort. There were a number of meals to choose from and for the look of it, we were one of the first groups to enter. There was something for everyone, and we loaded up our plates and found a table. The rest of our boat doing the same, the larger groups among us dining together, the smaller groups getting together to know each other better.
While we were sitting there other groups came in, and then something happened, which still seems so mind boggling. Call it cultural if you want, but I don’t think there is anything cultural about bad hygiene. A Chinese family with a wee one, came in, seated themselves, and were preparing to go get food when the wee one, went wee on the chair. This was noticed, and then the bizarre happened. They cleaned up the tinkle with their napkins, gave the lad a new pair of shorts, and then went to the buffet for their food. You read that right. They cleaned up their son’s pee, then without retreating to a bathroom to clean themselves up, they went for food, and returned to the same wee wee table, where they sat and ate. This was too much for us, and we quickly stopped considering whether we were still hungry and left. I know many many Chinese who I have worked with over the years, and this is not demonstrative of anything I would expect from them. Corinne lived in China for 3 years, and according to her, it wasn’t an uncommon sight to a family with kids walking down the street, and stopping so the child could wee or #2 right in the street, but still, I have to think that this was very much a one off. It’s a low data set (one), but they did everything as if that was normal.
We had some time to kill, and I went about trying to stay out of the sun as much as possible. Alyson and I found a bar on the beach where our tattooed boat-mate, Stef was ordering a Mai Tai, and being ogled by 7 old Russian bears who were feasting on the free remains of hollowing out pineapples to hold the Mai Tais. Stef left the bar as soon as hers was made to find some ogle relief elsewhere, when Alyson ordered one up as well. While watching the process unfold again, all the Russians decided they too wanted one of these, and so the bartender had to call in reinforcements to handle the load. I spied some lounge chairs under a huge shade tree, and wandered over to investigate. The platform of chairs was empty, devoid of usage, so I sat down, relaxed, and enjoyed the view until a resort staff member came over and chased me away. “For resort members only”. Why argue? Sure the seats were empty, and no “resort member” was currently in want of a lounge chair, but I am sure this staff members’ boss tells them, “Members Only Period”.
Our next stop was the site of the International Incident. When I had texted my friend Cliff about all the Russians at our resort, he texted back “I don’t to read about an international incident!”, and so I had been very careful to avoid one. The boat took us next to Monkey Beach, where we were all instructed that we, at the very least, had to leave the boat just to feel this sand beneath our feet. Our host was right. This beach was composed of the finest powder that worn limestone and crushed shell could become. Where it was dry, it resisted your weight without letting you sink that far into it. By the waterline, it was like a solid, but it gave ever so slightly usually noticed only by the glare off the sand changing. And there were monkeys! Instructions made to us before de-boating were simple. Leave all loose items on the boat. No hats, necklaces, food, hand held devices or clutch purses, because the monkeys will try to take them. Even sunglasses. If monkeys seem aggressive, simply kick a little sand on them, and that is usually enough to deter them.
Alyson, of course paying attention not, de-boated with a piece of her pineapple glass, and was immediately surrounded by three monkeys and started retreating to the water when one of our boat hosts, rolled his eyes, and relieved her of the attraction, and threw the pineapple into the boat. The monkeys dispersed.
The following tale I have to tell as I was told, because I did not actually witness it, as my attention was in conversation with Stef (Tatoo Artist), and Hugh (American working in Dubai with Chilean wife), but apparently off to one side of the beach, Corinne observed three russian men, young, in their early twenties, just kicking sand on the monkeys and laughing, and then kicking more. The monkeys were not, according to witnesses, being aggressive towards anyone, let alone these Russian males, so Corinne spoke up and told them to “Stop!”. Listen to a girl? Apparently they were not, and they told her to shut up, and went back to laughing and kicking sand on the monkeys. Corinne hates bullies, and hates bullying, and she defends the meek, so she walked up to one of the boys and put her full weight into a chest shove that knocked the dude off his balance, shocking him and his mates, as well as some of the bystanders. A shouting match soon ensued, with the young man saying something to the effect of “You have no culture!”, and Corinne responding “I don’t know what that means, but you are an Asshole, and I think that should be pretty clear!”. With words flying, it caught Susan’s attention and she deduced quickly that Corinne had gotten herself into something, and that one of the other Russian males looked like he was getting ready to defend his friends honor which had been badly bruised by an American woman when Susan jumped in and said “That’s Enough!”. One of our boat hosts became aware of the situation, and stepped in “Boat’s leaving. Time to go”, and guided Corinne and Susan away, the international incident then fizzled out. Afterwards, other folks came up to Corinne and told her that she did the right thing and those dudes were in fact assholes, and she was culture rich.
When I heard about the story, actually I heard it a few times from different people, I immediately thought “I can’t wait to tell this story to Cliff! He will be so proud.” It is a story to be proud of, when your child stands up for the oppressed. Stand against the bullies in this world. Hate, bigotry, ignorance is a degenerative drag on society, so I feel good producing two daughters who stand for what is good in humanity.
We finished off our excursion with a few more snorkeling sites, and then while we were enjoying some fresh coconut water, our hosts prepared a special celebration for one of their guests. Our Australian Tatoo artist was traveling for her birthday, and this day was the day, so where the cupcake came from, I know not, but they had one, and a candle, and we all sang a healthy round of happy birthday on the Andaman Sea.
Over the course of the day, the winds died, and sea was near glass smooth on the way home. I suppose it could be that when tide is on the move, that and wind create choppy conditions in the Andaman, and going home at low tide was partly responsible for the calm waters, but at this point in the day I think everyone was simply happy for a smooth stable non-stomach churning full throttle ride back to port. Tide was definitely out, as the run into port looked completely different than the run out. We had to hug the channel closely, which was well marked, and soon we were docked where we had departed.
The mind of a near 59 year-old isn’t as quick as it remembers it once was. They took the crate of sandals out and dumped them on the deck, and then they started to waters them down from a hose. “What the f… are they doing that for?” as I stepped from the boat onto the pier decking. It took exactly 0.638 seconds before the answer came shooting up through my nerves to my brain that the fuggin decking was hotter than anything I could tolerate. My sandals were identified quickly and I managed to get one foot in miraculously, while I stood there on one leg looking for the other. I, was not the only one surprised, though by this time there were enough of us in this predicament, that the rest held off de-boating until we were shod, and out of the way. By the time more had come off the chilling effect of the water had helped significantly.
Our respective taxis were waiting. New friends exchanged email and numbers, and soon we were navigating the afternoon rush hour traffic in the reverse path we followed this morning. Good byes, so longs, fare-the-wells were said, and we all left the taxi to continue our own individual or family vacations.
We still had plans for the day. Susan was going to help me with fabric choices at the tailor, we had time for the pool, and we needed to pick a place for dinner. Alyson and Corinne had found a place at the end of the beach called “On The Rocks”, and they said, it would offer a tremendous sunset view. Its location was only blocks from the tailor, so we agreed to that. We caught the last half hour of “Happy Our, Buy One Get One Free” at our favorite swim up bar with Bee, or lovely barmaid. Have I mentioned Bee? Very cute. Short cropped hair, black of course, black eyes, had to be early twenties, a cute smile, and a very good Mojito maker. I believe this was the last time I ordered a non-craft beer, electing for the “Happy Our” special of Chang. One sip, and I knew I wouldn’t ever order that beer again. “Bee?!?”, she heard me and came over. “I don’t care whatever I say in the future, but don’t ever let me but “Happy Our” beer again.” That was when I noticed, and she also pointed out “Cha Tri IPA”. But 3 get 1 free. I didn’t get one this evening, but buckets of that beer soon became poolside staples of our family.
I made it through this sunny day in the sun by not getting a whole lot more of sun. Sun screen, and my Sun Glasses, and my new shirt kept me out of danger of more Sun Burn. I made the mistake, though, of not exchanging my normal glasses, for my sunglasses, and found myself at dinner, On The Rocks, with my sunglasses, and fading light. Prescription sunglasses, I can’t really see without them, so I endured our meal in low light conditions. The sunset was pretty decent, and the advertised views lived up to their advertising. It was a good place, and we had a decent meal. I recommend to any who follow in my footsteps.
The end was reached, the girls had plans, and we departed, they to their plans, and we to the tailor, who I am sure was surprised that I came back, but was excited at the prospect of a sale. The first thing I learned, was that “Not all Fabric is the same”. Some of my friends out there will utter “Duh you idiot!” of course. “What the fug is wrong with you?” I said before that I was quoted a 750 baht per shirt price, and when we walked in, the “MAIN” guy was on hand, and introduced we started looking at fabrics. There were a bunch of bolts on the floor, whereas yesterday, I had looked at bolts on the shelves. Shelf bolts are not floor bolts, and just because bolts are on the floor doesn’t and shouldn’t imply they are lesser bolts. The fabric was beautiful. I started picking some, and the “MAIN” guy said, these would be 1000 baht per shirt. “Woa! This dude right here told me yesterday, 750 baht per shirt. What is this 1000 price?” I didn’t quite bark back. Bark? More like a dignified whimper. “Well, this fabric is Silk with cotton, and the fabrics he quoted you were cotton with silk.” was his comeback response. All I want is a shirt that doesn’t need to be ironed, and it had to be mostly cotton, because I don’t want dry cleaning bills for my shirts. So we found the shelves with the cotton/silk/polyester blend that was no-iron, and we decided that 6 shirts at 4500 baht was our contract price.
While I was getting measured, Susan sat at in their sofas by their coffee tables which were loaded with their catalogs. These catalogs were labeled and filled with name brand mens and womens designer clothing which these tailors could reproduce at a fraction of the cost. Clones per se. Copyright infringement. Napster in the clothing business. When I was done, Susan asked about a few items, and soon she was fitting for some products. Some blouses, jackets, skirts, something to the agreed upon tune of 6000 baht. Deposit paid.
While Susan was going through her measurements, and fabric selection, I found the Men’s jackets catalogs, and started to leaf through them until I saw an Armani jacket that caught my eye. “let’s take some measurements. Pick a fabric, and I have a deal for you. Pick two fabrics, and you get two identical jackets for …. 7000 baht”. “7000 WHAT?!?” I exclaimed. “These are 100% handmade custom fitted jackets. You couldn’t touch these for less than 4 or 5 hundred dollars in America. 6500 Baht and you walk out with two very fine garments that will last you the rest of your days.” So, a little over $100 US for custom tailored Armani design jacket? Seems like a no-brainer. “Write it up!”.
I had to promise that for every shirt I just purchased, I had to throw away a shirt, and since I insisted on the jackets, I had to throw away jackets as well. Needing the room in my closet, this actually seemed like an easy deal to agree to. I haven’t really bought shirts in years, and my current inventory was getting a little ratty, so score!. I don’t usually wear jackets, but that isn’t because I don’t like them. Part of it is that I didn’t really have any nice jackets to wear. I do possess a nice over-coat, so finishing off the winter look isn’t that difficult. I do possess a few pairs of nice men’s shoes, you know, the kind that last forever. I still have the first pair of Men’s shoes that I bought when I graduated college in 1985. New laces, new soles still comfortable as all hell. I love those shoes. Men, we have it so damn easy.
Tailoring done, Susan and I walked back to Thavorn Resort. We retired to our room, where Susan began playing the umpteenth rendition of her book on tape, Game of Thrones book one, where she listens, falls asleep, and then has to re-listen to much of the same narrative again. I listened to the same part of the book on 4 successive nights! Me, I set my alarm for an early start. I would try to make the group ride again at 6. A day of rest, and I felt like another 70 was in the legs. Lights off, it was a fine day with many fine stories to reminisce in the future. So good to be able to travel with your kids as adults. A real blessing if there is such a thing.
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