We arrived in Phuket late in the afternoon, and we decided to stay in Phuket Town, rather than one of the beaches. Mainly because of budget. All the beaches in Phuket are beautiful but also very expensive. Phuket receives 5.8 million visitors a year and they are not afraid to spend money. We didn’t want to spend money on a taxi to get to the hotel so we decided to walk. It looked close on the map. The walk wasn’t that far but since we had picked up our bag from Bobby in Bangkok we had 1 more bag to carry and it was very annoying. When we arrived at the hotel we found out it was full so we had to walk to a different hotel. It was so humid outside that we were sweating. At least the second hotel we went to had vacancies and had a reasonable price, for Phuket. And it had free Wi-Fi so we were able to skype with friends and family straight from our room.
The next day we rented a scooter and went to explore the island. The island of Phuket is quite large and there are a lot of different parts and beaches and we spent the whole day riding around. Our first stop was Patong beach and we were a little disappointed because although the beach is big and beautiful and the water is crystal clear, it is filled with beach chairs which you can rent for $3 a day, and the water is full of seados and boats. It’s like wasaga on steroids. After coming back from “The Island” where we had the beach almost to ourselves it was a shock. We left very quickly. A lot of the island has mountains so when you’re driving around you get some magnificent views. In addition to the views you also see some very beautiful villas and condos. It’s really a playground for the rich or for people who come here just for a 2 week holiday. That’s really the only way it would be affordable. We rode around the whole day exploring the island and talking with different dive shops to see what kind of diving options we had. We hadn’t been diving in a while and were eager to go again. Unfortunately that evening I found out my grandmother passed away in Poland and I was shocked. My father was very upset and kept saying he wished I was home. It was a hard time and it made me feel guilty for not being at home and for being in this beautiful place while he mourned. I was upset that my grandmother had died of course but I was really more worried for him. We spent the night calling and skyping back and forth with my parents and my brother and helping my parents book tickets to fly to Poland. It was a long night and I was emotionally drained.
We had booked a trip the day before to go kayaking and see the “James Bond Island”. I felt terrible continuing my trip while my parents were home dealing with the death of my grandma. But after talking to my parents (multiple times) they absolutely did not want me flying back home or to Poland. I still felt low on our day trip but I also figured nothing could be gained by sulking around during a trip we had paid for. Plus there wasn’t much more I could do to help my parents.
We were picked up at 7:30am to be taken to the boat we would be on for the day. Usually we are picked up in a large minibus but this time we were picked up in a souped up Honda that was rebranded as a Lexus. It was the drivers personal car and he was obviously really proud of it. He had a large radio/tv in the front and kept playing different reggae music videos. The funny thing is he had a head full of dreads tied back with a bandana and actually looked Jamaican, even though he was Thai. I was sitting in the front with him and he was telling me about the band that was playing and that it was his friend’s band and that he used to be in the band but then moved to Phuket. He drove us to the pier and told us all about the Tsunami of 2004 and how people mistakenly thought Phuket was affected most because of the media coverage, when in reality it was Koh Phi Phi.
We arrived at the pier and had to wait for another hour before we could board the boat. For a while we were the only ones there waiting but then all the minibuses started arriving and I’m not kidding, the only people who were dropped off were Russians. There were at least 1000 people and almost all were Russian. I guess Phuket is popular with the Russians. We boarded the boat and were off. After an hour we arrived at the first spot where we would be kayaking. I say we but we actually had a person kayaking us. The plan was to kayak through a cave, but the first glitch came as soon as we arrived at the cave entrance, which was only 20ft from the boat. That’s when our guide told us to get out, he parked our kayak and started leading us through the cave, since the tide was too low to kayak. It was pitch black and in some parts we were thigh high in water. I was not too thrilled to be walking in a pitch black cave not knowing where we are going but the tour guide was holding on to my arm and kept pushing me forward. After a few minutes we turned a corner and I saw the light! We walked out into a lagoon surrounded by mountains and with lots of mangrove trees. The tide was out so we were able to walk around. I guess if we had arrived while the tide was high we would have been able to kayak inside. It was nice place but then we had to head back, through the cave, then into the kayak and back on the boat. We were then taken to another set of carsts 15minutes away where our guide would kayak us around. This time we spent 20 minutes in the kayak and it was beautiful. We kayaked through karsts into beautiful lagoons surrounded by turquoise water. Unfortunately we got stuck in a traffic jam with other kayakers coming in and out of the lagoon, as other tours had arrived before us, and it killed a bit of the isolated experience. We stopped to take some pictures and were taken back to the boat. Of course before we went on this part of the tour we were told this would be the last time our tour guide would be taking us out so if wanted to tip him, now was the time to do it. Andrew and I didn’t have a lot of money on us and once we arrived back at the boat I gave him 20 Baht (which is not very much but considering we didn’t spend a lot of time in the kayak as promised I didn’t feel too bad). As soon as he saw coins and not paper money, he said no no no. At first I thought he was just being modest and didn’t want to take the money but then I realized what the problem was but I played dumb, handed him the money and left. I was so pissed off that he would refuse our tip. I wasn’t trying to tell him he didn’t perform a good service but at the same time we’re backpackers and don’t have a lot of money to start with. We even debated whether we should be going on this tour, because of money. I spent the lunch hour brooding over him refusing our tip but I got over it pretty quickly. If he was used to getting better tips then he can’t be too badly off. After lunch we took a speedboat to James Bond Island, which was the whole highlight of the trip. When booking we were told we would have 1hour to spend on the island so we can swim, relax and take pictures. Once we arrived we were told we had 30 minutes. At first I was going to argue but then I saw how commercialized the island was and how many tourists were there and I knew we wouldn’t do very much relaxing there. I was still looking forward to some swimming but as soon as we went in the water I realized it was a very muddy bottom and swimming would not be enjoyable at all so we spent the 30 minutes taking lots of pictures. We headed back to the boat and were then dropped off at the pier. Our rasta driver was waiting to take us back to Phuket Town.
As soon as we got back to our hotel room Andrew hopped on our scooter and went to book a trip to the Similan Islands for the following day, and I went to take a shower. As soon as I got out of the shower I saw a HUGE puddle in the middle of our room! And one of our bags was right in the middle of it. While I was taking a shower the drain wasn’t working properly. I didn’t think much of it but it had all drained into our room! Very quickly I picked up the bag and anything else that was lying on the floor and put it away from the water. I then got dressed and went downstairs to tell front desk. I’m not sure how much she understood but she followed me upstairs and then understood very quickly. She said “You take shower…you put water in room”. I said “Yes I take shower, but shower broken and water go inside room”. There was no way I was taking the blame for the flood. She said she would get someone to come up and fix it. While I waited I took everything out of the bag and thankfully only a few pieces of clothes were wet, and no electronics were affected. I hung up the wet stuff to dry and then a guy came. He checked the bathroom and saw the drain was clogged and proceeded to unclog it. After he was done he used a towel to wipe up the floor. He wanted to leave but there was still water on the floor so I made him stay and finish cleaning it up. Once he left I went to check on the bathroom and noticed that he left the drain cover in my sink. It was disgustingly dirty and there was no way I was going to touch it. I was waiting for Andrew to come home and clean it up By the time Andrew got back I had cleaned up most of the mess and all he had to do was throw out the drain cover.
The following morning we were picked up at 5:30am as we were going to the Similan Islands, which are about 1.5 hours north of Phuket by car, and then another 1.5 hours by speed boat. We had booked a 2 day 1 night diving trip, with a total of 7 dives over 2 days. We would be spending the night on the boat. After the long trip out to the island we arrived in one of the most beautiful spots I had ever been to in the world. The water was crystal clear and the islands were stunning. The Similan Islands are comprised of 9 Islands, 3 of which are a protected park and no one is allowed to go there. Not even to dive. We boarded the boat and within a few minutes we were getting ready for our first dive. We geared up and went under. The visibility was amazing! And there were a lot of smaller fish around us. Unfortunately as soon as I went under I noticed a problem equalizing. That was weird because I had never had a problem before. I had had a cold a few weeks back but I thought I was fine. Apparently not. I felt so much pressure in my head and I had to keep trying to equalize. I had never experienced so many problems. I lasted through the dive and came up but I was feeling as if I had a very bad cold. We had an hour and a half before the next dive so I was just going to see how I felt. We had lunch and chilled out on the top deck. I started to feel better so I decided to go for the next dive. Again as soon as I got into the water again I started having problems. It seemed like this time it was worse because my tooth started hurting too. I struggled through the whole dive. I came up after the dive and again I was feeling sick. I decided not to go for the final dive of the day, which was a night dive. Andrew ended up going for the night dive by himself with just the dive master. I was disappointed because I hadn’t really seen any amazing things yet and I thought I was missing out big time, but apparently Andrew didn’t see anything spectacular on the night dive either so I wasn’t too upset. I was a little surprised however, since the Similan Islands are supposed to be the #1 dive spot in Thailand. During dinner I raised this with our dive masters and instructors and they said “Yeah, you should have been here last year. It was a lot better. The water was really warm this year so a lot of the fish have stayed away.” I found this to be a very negative comment and was a little annoyed that they would be this negative. They could have put this a little more eloquently and made me feel better about the $700 (for both of us) we just spent to go diving with them. But we had only done 3 dives that day and I still had hope we would see something the next day. That night we climbed up to the top deck and laid down to look at the stars. It was amazing. The weather was warm, the boat was gently rocking in the water and we were looking up at a cloudless sky and a full moon. It was so peaceful.
I woke up the next day and I felt like someone punched me in the face. My sinuses were completely stuffed up and we only had a half hour before the first dive. As soon as my dive master heard me talking he told me I shouldn’t be diving because I could damage my sinuses. I was so disappointed but I didn’t want to risk it and I thought I would get better throughout the day. So while Andrew went diving I went up to the top deck and warmed myself in the rising sun. Andrew came back from his dive and although he enjoyed it as there were some very large boulders in the water, again he didn’t see too much marine life. Andrew completed two more dives but I still wasn’t feeling better. I was so disappointed because I definitely wasn’t getting my money’s worth. This was a trip we had splurged on and I couldn’t dive. I decided that for the next dive I would try anyway. I told the dive master my decision but he said if I would have to surface we would all have to surface, and ultimately I didn’t want to keep everyone from diving, so I didn’t go. Seeing them all go in the water was so disappointing for me. I really wanted to go too but I couldn’t. It was so hot outside that I went down to the dive deck and just sat on the ladder while the boat bobbed in and out of the water. Once everyone came back from the dive, the speed boat came and picked us up and took us back to Phuket.
The next day we rented a scooter again and went to a small beach we had found a few days before, called Leam Sing Beach. You had to walk down these steep stairs to get to it, but it was small and cozy. It was not deserted by any means, but at least it wasn’t as packed as the rest of the beaches. We refused to pay the $3 for a beach chair rental but we found a nice spot in the shade on the rocks for free. We hung out there relaxing for the rest of the day.