Thailand Tour: Day 2
Today was the first of the tour and the first of the ‘optional’ activities. I say ‘optional’ as if you didn't pay the extra money (on top of the tour) do them you would be sitting back in Patong Beach on your own not experiencing Phuket. So after telling mum upon the advise of the Contiki website that I would only need about £45, then leaving with £100 of Thai Baht, I'd spent it all in the first day and was needing to take out more (at a £5 charge no less) and that was before I had even left the hotel! For this reason I was already somewhat unimpressed with the tour as this as well as meals I had expected to be included. Yet, onwards and upwards. After perusing the offerings of from sushi to curry at breakfast, we were on our way to the ‘James Bond’ island tour. After looking at the weather forecast before I'd left, I was expecting not even a glimpse of sunshine as it was solid rain and thunder clouds for the entire week ahead. So when I woke up to a beautiful hot (and extremely clammy) day, I was pleasantly surprised. Once the group of 30 had embarked onto the speed boat, that could have been considered to be on the petite side, we set off. Many hot and sweaty bodies were miraculously cooled by the wind streaming in and out of the boat as we soared through the water. It was honestly quite a surreal experience to be quite literally in the middle of the islands that plaster postcards and tour brochures on such a magnificent day as it was.
The journey to the first stop took around abouts 20 minutes. During this I was sat next to 2 friends that had come over from Texas called Ema and Danny. Both of them were really nice, chilled people and we discussed all our backgrounds and my onwards travels. This made Ema particularly excited as she had just been to Sydney herself and so showed me all, I mean all, of the photos that she had taken whist she was there with her sister earlier in the year.
We arrived at the first stop a tad early and as we were all pretty boiling, took the opportunity to jump straight into the sea. Let's see if the new underwater camera is waterproof! Turns out it was but the water it seems was too murky to get a clear shot of anything that was more than say half a metre away but I got some good shots of people jumping in. Then it was time for us to go kayaking – but what this actually meant was that we were to be kayaked by a Thai man at the back of the little boat. He took us through lots of hollows and caves, that looked like they could barely even fit us, through to these amazing openings between the rocks that were plastered with greenery and vines hanging through them. I could only relate it to being inside a glasshouse in a rain forest exhibit.
The super high walls of the caves made the outside world seem unknown. It was so unreal to be able to be so close to the rocks to even be able to see the slight variations in the colour from the rock layers. Once back on the boat we soared through the waves around more of the incredible islands, making our way to THE island, officially Khoa Phing Kan however more commonly known as James Bond island.
This is the famous island that featured in Man with the Golden Gun back in 1974. The obvious popularity rendered the island teeming with people, so much so that the decision was made that we would just drive around it rather than attempt to get through the bum fight to actually land on the island. This was good enough for me as I hadn't seen the film so I had no extreme desire to stand upon its shores. Next up, just in time for rumbling tummies, we sailed over to Koh Panyee, Phuket’s ‘Floating Village’; this was honestly quite amazing. The small settlement in the middle of the ocean, built on stilts, is home to just over 300 families. The dwelling comes fully equipped with a stunning Mosque, a school (featuring floating soccer field) and a market (but this is mainly for the tourists that walk through).
Although, before any exploring could be done first port of call was for lunch which was well received. The glorious people at the restaurant that was arranged that we went to had even prepared a platter (and I mean 5 different full sized dishes) of vegan food for me, including tempura veggies and 2 different veggie curries. With very full bellies we took to exploring the small island. The people here live in very undesirable conditions, no sanitation in make shift housing. The odd thing about the settlement was the stark contrast between some of the housing, I realise you find this everywhere but I wasn't necessarily expecting to see it on the floating village. The mosque was of such an incredible quality that once in its boundary you would have no such clue that you were on the impoverished village, least of all be it a floating one! There were some houses fully furnished with painted concrete walls next to those made out of scraps of wood from transport containers and drift wood acting as a bridge from the main path onto their patches of ‘land’. Back on the boat we had freshly cut coconuts with straws waiting for us as we powered on to our final check point. This materialised to be a stunning little beach island with picturesque white sand, soft as silk. We spent about an hour here, where people were split between spending most of it in the sea or quenching their thirst for a tipple. This was a really nice chance to chat between us as we bobbed about in the sea.That evening I had come up with the idea of visiting the night markets with Nina and 2 other girls. Apparently the name of the game here is to take the price they give you, then offer it halved. On the whole this worked pretty well as you would then haggle to a happy medium (usually in your favour) which in pounds only accounted to a few pounds. Pretty much all of the stalls and restaurants were doing the same thing so if it didn't work at one you would move on to the next. We got a quick dinner of Pad Thais for the others and a cashew veggie stir fry for myself. Now this really should be the definition of fast food as it honestly came in less than 5 minutes and in my humble opinion it beats a Big Mac hands down everything! Once we were all shopped out we headed back in the direction of the hotel as we didn't want to do all our shopping in one place, knowing that ere was lots more to come. Back at the hotel we didn't realise how late it had gotten as down the market road the lights didn't even flicker, so we used the wifi for a bit and headed off to bed.