I'm in island paradise. This place is gorgeous: white sandy soft beaches and crystal turquoise waters. I can see each toe all the way through the water on the beach that is maybe a 5 minute walk from my hostel. It's nice to be out of the city.
After a train ride that was supposed to be 12 hours and turned into 18 hours and then a 6 hour bus ride and a ride in the back of a taxi truck, Lisa and I finally arrived at the Pineapple Guesthouse on Phuket. Actually, the train ride was quite nice, we had a sleeper car and had our own bunks with curtains and pillows and blankets, and glaring lights all night long, but it was comfortable, if long. Not so bad since I was asleep for half of it!
The landscape on the way here was incredible; limestone cliffs on the sides of rounded mountains rising individually from the landscape and covered in lush vegetation. The hostel is great, very clean and the staff are super helpful and friendly.
The first day we were here we met another girl who wanted to do a tour to Ko Phi Phi on a boat, so we all signed up together so it would be cheaper. We got picked up from our hostel and taken to the pier where we all loaded on to a boat I'm pretty sure was supposed to hold 25-30 people but had over 45 packed on. Oh well, we made friends!
After an hour ride on the boat, we arrived at Ko Phi Phi Ley, a small island with a really well known beach because it's where a lot of the movie "The Beach" was filmed. In real life it was swarming with tourist boats but the water was so clear blue and beautiful and the sides of the island rose straight out of the water it was still breathtaking. We explored some of the paths to the other side of the island then jumped in the water for a few minutes before being herded back on the boat by our guide Sunny yelling "Numba nynteeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen!" to go directly across the bay to do some snorkeling off the boat. It was cool, not the clearest water because of all the traffic but still fun to see the fish and use my underwater camera!
We then headed to monkey beach which was an environmental catastrophe. I hated it. As we got off the boat we were instructed not to touch the monkeys but to throw them bananas, which were supplied (they are wild animals and can be dangerous). Strike one. Now the animals are dependent on tourists for food. Then we got off the boat and people immediately disregarded the instructions and handed the monkeys bananas and tried to pet them. The monkeys were irritated but tolerated the other monkeys' (aka humans) behaviour because they got to gorge themselves on fruit all day. People were taking pictures and trying to get close, following the monkeys all around. I just think it could be managed better for the monkeys' sake.
Next we arrived at Ko Phi Phi Don, the beautiful beach island most people picture when they think of paradise. We got to eat a buffet style lunch in a restaurant right on the beach and wander around the town a bit, then hopped back on the boat "Numba nynteeeeeeeeeeeeeeen!" and rode for another 45 minutes to Khai Island, which was a spit of buttery soft sand and black rocks just barely above the water. It was also decorated with beach chairs and umbrellas (2 for 150 baht, miss!), snack shacks and a restaurant. I hopped right in the water to snorkel and quickly found myself alone among the rocks on the other side of the island chasing fish and floating watching them come as close as they dared. Actually, because the people feed them, one nipped my elbow.
Lisa and I spent the next 45 minutes in the shade...I knew my back was totally done for from all the sun I got that day...thank you aloe vera my saving grace! Then we were back on the boat for a last ride to Phuket and to be dropped off exhausted but happy. It was actually really fun, I met a Spanish couple and got to chat with them and a nice guy from Turkey whose name I still can't pronounce.
Today I signed up to take a PADI open water scuba diving course. I am so excited! The diving here is world-class and because it's so popular it's very cheap here and the quality is still very high. I start Thursday, and get to do 2 pool sessions then 4 open water boat dives! Cool!
Lisa and I met a girl named Julia from Michigan who came from racing a solar-powered car across Australia. She's really nice and we all went to the beach today to swim and lay in the sun (my back was totally covered always...aaaaaaand I'm a lobster :). I got some awesome lunch from a street vendor-papaya salad with tomatos, shrimps, peanuts, spices, lime...and other delicious flavors all in one, grilled chicken and a grilled fish. Yes, an entire fish grilled. It was so delicious!
I've been waking up early and running on the beach. I love this time of day; it's cooler and everything is quiet and there are very few people on the beach. Yesterday I was running and 3 Thai women were shrieking and laughing and flicking something out of the surf and onto the sand. They picked up a good-sized crab, laughing, and let me hold it then explained how to tell if it was male or female and giggled because the ones that are male have a phallus shape on their bellies. It was male. Then I got to let it go and with lots of smiles and waves we said goodbye.
This morning I saw them again and lots more smiling, waving and "sabaidee mai ka?" (how are you?) which always gets big smiles! I got to see a large fish flopping around in the bottom of a fishing boat and took a closer look to find 3 large squids also in the boat and the fisherman grinning at my curiosity. Then at the end of the run I was stretching next to 2 Thai women and we ended up stretching and doing yoga looking out at the sea. Pinch me.
Thanks for all the emails and comments, I am thinking of home fondly and still dreaming of powder snow...when I'm not in the powder white sand!