A day cruising on a longtail boat

Wednesday 25 October 2006 – Koh Phi Phi Don, Thailand

Lunch stop on Bamboo Island
Lunch stop on Bamboo Island

Another Thai pancake for breakfast, plus a ‘lemon shake’, quite good. Fronted up for the snorkelling tour by longtail boat not expecting first class services and was not disappointed. I was ushered along with a bunch of other Euro types into the basement of a beach front shophouse to wait while staff tried to find the keys to the cupboard where the snorkels were kept. The squalor! The whole family seemed to be down there, bringing up the kids among the much and rubbish, right on the beach. Just as the main man had given the padlock a really good beating with a hammer, the key arrived and we were off, 13 in my boat.

First stop – Shark Point. OK snorkelling on the other side of the beach reef from yesterday. Then the long haul to Bamboo Island where our lunch(!) was served. A styrene box of steamed with three (yes, I counted them twice!) tiny pieces of chicken. Fortunately the little bag of dressing had vegetables in it.

The longtails stopped at the opposite end of the beach from yesterday’s tour, at what looked to be a local fishermen’s camp with about a dozen little bamboo huts, apparently in use. It felt intrusive, but we were encouraged to sit on their porches to eat. At one point the chap who lived in the one on which I was sitting returned and carried on his ablutions out the back, but he did not appear to begrudge our presence. He’s probably part of the family business!

After an intriguing running repair to the boat’s complex navigation system – longtails use a simple but effective propulsion system involving a car engine fixed to a gyro and directly driving the propeller at the end of the shaft. This navigation system is a couple of loops of rope to hold the tiller-and-engine and shaft steady. The running repairs involved a piece of string and a small piece of plastic tube – we headed to Monkey Bay.

Again it was very nice. Then to Maya Bay, via a closer look at the ‘Viking Caves’, the main centre of the bird nesting trade (the nests are used by the Chinese to make Birds Nest Soup), and a couple of other ‘hongs’ on Phi Phi Le. The longtails, being more manoeuvrable, can get to places the larger boats apparently could not, including some spectacular narrow channels around headlands and these little caves, not unlike what I saw on the trip to Phang Nga Bay.

Like yesterday, the snorkelling at Maya Bay was not good, but I spent some time on the beach and explored the little area behing the beach. It was surprisingly extensive, including a snack bar and good toilet facilities, a small camping ground and a national parks office.

At Maya Bay
At Maya Bay
The sailing ketch coming into Maya Bay
The sailing ketch coming into Maya Bay

We left Maya Bay as the sailing ketch we’d seen yesterday at Monkey Beach arrived – it would definitely be the way to explore these parts. On the way back around the outer western side of the island, the boatman pointed into a narrow cove and stopped and announced ‘snorkelling’. We’d all imagined we were on the way home. Nevertheless we jumped overboard into deep open water at the edge of the sheer cliffs for the adventure. Our reward was unspoilt corals, clear water and a deep bay, slightly shallower close to the sea cliffs.

Maya Bay
Maya Bay
Perfect spot for a bit of open water snorkelling
Perfect spot for a bit of open water snorkelling
Our boatman
Our boatman
Beach at Ton Sai, Phi Phi Islands
Beach at Ton Sai, Phi Phi Islands

Dinner at a local place on the isthmus that was out of both shrimps and paw paw – so no tom yum goong or paw paw salad for me. Had a massage at the beachfront place again, but it was cut short when the power failed, necessitating an early night.

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