Phi Phi: silent “H,” rhymes with “Hehe”

My parents decided to embarrass me properly, since I had survived most of school unscathed.

Tuesday night, I sent my pops a message saying all was well and I’d be diving tomorrow.  The next day, I did my vacation bit: went diving, read a book, took a nap, grabbed some dinner.  The folks I was bumming around with wanted to call home, so whilst they were interneting it, I decided well hey, may as well jump on real quick and check in.

I signed into Skype to greet two parents on the verge of mental breakdowns.  My mom hadn’t slept the night before and my dad was pacing the floors fighting off a heart attack.  They had emailed the dive shop wondering where I was and if any of the other divers had in fact seen a shark eat me whole or if I had just dropped off the edge of the boat while coming back to shore.

On the plus side, the guy I was traveling with for the moment didn’t smile much, but this story made him laugh.  So all’s well!

Except thereafter, I had to find internet morning and evening.  Bit of a hassle.  But I guess that’s what happens when you’re A) the first kid to leave the house, B) the first kid to travel alone, and C) a girl.

In other news, the diving was grand!  I was like a kid in a candy store, having never even been snorkeling or in an ocean with that much wildlife.  While waiting to descend, I popped my face under the surface and a fish swam right up to my mask!  Wheeee!

For my first dive, my instructor said we’d swim around for 20 minutes.  But we just kept going and going and going…for an hour!  Back at the top, she said I was a natural and did so well on air we just stayed down.  Skills.  That’s what I got.

Two days of diving in beautiful, clear water.  We anchored in Maya Bay (a huge tourist attraction because DiCaprio’s “The Beach” was filmed there) for lunch both days, and it was absolutely lovely swimming around, getting stung by little jelly fish, jumping off the boat, and snorkeling in the bay.  All bathed in sunshine!  *sigh*

I swam with:

  • Kuhl’s stingray (actually had one pop out of the sand in front of me! Peek-a-boo!)
  • Hawksbill turtle (watched it swim up the side of the reef)
  • moray eels–Giant, white-eyed, and normal
  • angelfish
  • Black-tipped reef sharks
  • sea cucumbers
  • barracuda
  • blue seastars (didn’t know they made that color!)
  • juvenile harlequin sweetlips (basically, really small, really cute fish)
  • peacock mantis shrimp (give that one a google!)
  • crown of thorns
  • and lots more fishes!: anemone fish, clown fish, trevallies, boxfish, lionfish, bannerfish, parrotfish, trumpet fish, porcupine fish, damsel (so cute!!)

My favorite was the little clown fish.  I would swim right up to the anemone and the clown fish would swim out a little bit and get right in my face, then go back, then swim out, over and over.  Very territorial!  There’d usually be a few little babies hanging out in the anemone too.

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OH! Almost forgot the fire shows.  No pictures, but basically they twirled sticks and slings of fire really, really fast.  Quite impressive.

Except for when the guy threw his stick a little off course and when it came down it landed almost on top of me and I threw my drink in the air soaking myself and my friend trying to avoid becoming a barbecue.

Awesome.

Those were definitely the highlights of Phi Phi.  It’s mostly just commercial now, and honestly, if I had the trip again, I’d skip it–the island, that is, not the diving!  And my traveling buddies headed out a day before me, so I was in a bunk bed the last night hostel-style.  The last day I hiked to the top for an overview, which was nice.  But overall, I was very relieved to be on the ferry away from the island!

I was so stressed with being harangued for this-and-that trying to get to Tonsai I almost gave up on the whole thing.  I was so frustrated, I was very close to just heading to the airport and going straight to Chiang Mai.  Thank God I didn’t!  Tonsai is the place where time disappears.  You go for a couple days and stay for a couple months.  If I had had the luxury, I’d still be there.  I envy the job-less that travel through Thailand!

Fun little story: I got on shore at Krabi, thinking my boat ticket included transport to Ao Nang, from which I could get to Tonsai.  Turns out it didn’t, and that would be 400 baht if you please (roughly $13.50).  On the verge of the aforementioned breakdown–because at this point I was already fed up with being squeezed for this-and-that for my money–I stalked out of the terminal and found a taxi for 300 baht.  Then later on Tonsai, I found a sicker that had somehow found its way onto my climbing shoes that read “Free Ao Nang.”

Now it’s very likely I picked that up on the ride to Tonsai, as I’m sure no one was careless enough to lose their free pass before they needed to use it.  But I like to think that God was trying to help me along, anyways, and at the end of the day, $10 isn’t going to break my bank.

It just could have bought my dinners for a week.

It’s worth mentioning, for the travelers, that my accommodations on Phi Phi were minimum of 300 baht a night for bare-bones.  That’s expensive, as I discovered in Tonsai (100 baht for a tent and a bathroom–lovely!), and Chiang Mai (200 baht for a plush little space with a hot shower and a TV).

So in summation: DON’T GO TO PHI PHI.  Go to Railey instead.  And same same for  Chiang Mai–cheaper and cleaner and calmer and better than Bangkok, IMO.

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