Maya Bay, Shark Hunting & Monkey Beach

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
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28
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Trip End Jul 20, 2012


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Where I stayed
Zeavola Resort And Spa Ko Phi Phi Don
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did
Monkey Beach

Flag of Thailand  ,
Sunday, July 8, 2012

So why did we come to Ko Phi Phi?  One reason.  Ko Phi Phi Le was used as the setting of the 2000 Leonardo Dicaprio movie called The Beach.  In the movie the beach was just stunning and it looked like paradise.  Everyone was interested to know where it was or even if it really existed.  Needless to say, the worldwide success of the movie made Ko Phi Phi a top tourist destination.  Specifically, in the movie, Maya Bay is prominently highlighted and that was to be one of our stops today. 

Last night, the dive shop told us that we might leave early for weather so we set our alarm for 06:30 just to be safe.  We had breakfast and were ready to go by 7:30.  We went over to the dive shop and they said it'd probably be more like 8:30 since the tide was still out and the speed boat was stuck in the shallows until the tide came in enough to float the boat.  It's amazing how much the tide differential here is -- roughly 5 feet.  So, while we were waiting for the tide to come in, we just toiled around the beach until our guide, Tan, told us to follow him.  The water had risen enough for them to get the speed boat ready to go and we were to walk around 100 feet out into the water to board the speed boat (the tide was still out).  There were nine of us on the tour and two guides and the speedboat pilot.  I guess it's probably a 24-foot speedboat with two 200 hp engines.  The boat was very comfortable and easily accommodated all of us.  The guides packed on towels for everyone along with lunch and all the dive gear.  By 09:00 we were arriving at our first dive destination which was Poh Cape at the opposite end of Ko Phi Pho Don island (the inhabited island where our hotel is).  This cape was very rocky and Tan said that this would be our best chance to see a shark.  We all entered the water and Tan asked that we all follow him.  He personally took major with him and set Major up with an additional contraption besides his life jacket.  The contraption was a device that you hold and put your face through to see below.  Tan asked Major to use the contraption and Tan pulled Major where ever he led. 

We made our way over several of the cape rocks and then Mickell and I both noticed that we were kicking with our fins and going nowhere.  As the water equalized from one side of the rocks to the other, it created some very strong currents that were pushing us out to sea.  Tan said to swim and kick and we did until we made it through the current.  I got a little panicked because I had been given a snorkel that wasn't working correctly.  Each time I'd breath in, some water would enter and there was a constant gargling.  It was not good and I kept having to raise my head and clear out the snorkel. In my mind all I could think of was being pushed further out and not being able to use my snorkel the right way which would be critical if I needed to do the "dead man's float" or wait.  Nonetheless, we both kicked through the current and caught up with Tan and the others.  Tan pointed out several fish, but we never found the sharks.  So, we headed back to the boat and away we went for Ko Phi Phi Le -- the uninhabited island that was the setting for the movie -- The Beach!

As we made our way into Maya Beach, the weather cooperated and we had full sun!  It was just gorgeous and words nor photographs can do it justice. The height of the rocks on either side of the bay and the beautiful turquoise water.  It's like a little slice of heaven revealed.  We got there pretty early so not many of the speedboats from Krabi and Phuket had made it to anchor at the beach.  Our guides anchored the boat and we hopped off onto the beach.  Tan said be back in roughly an hour.  I wanted to swim in the tide, but we first wanted to explore the island a bit and see a little of the impressive interior. Tan took us to the main sites and then we made our way back to the beach where Major made a sand castle and I hung out roughly 15 feet out into the water where the depth was roughly 5-6 feet and just soaked in the atmosphere.  I really wish that we had another day in Phi Phi.  If we did, I would have had a boat just drop us at the island so we could spend the entire day here.  It's just too, too beautiful.  The only thing I can recommend to get a sense of it is to watch the movie.  The cinematography in the movie allowed for some great panoramic shots that help draw the right setting in the mind.  After Major finished his sand castle, both he and Mickell joined me out in the water and we floated until Tan gave us the go signal.  It was the right time because all the boats from Phuket had arrived and the bay had turned into a parking lot of speed boats!   If I ever come here again, I'll come in the late afternoon when the speedboats from Phuket would be long gone and you can enjoy the tranquility of the site.

Right as we were leaving Maya Bay, a squall line delivered a downpour as we made our way to the other side of the item to stop to have lunch in an inner cove of the island with calm waters and glorious cave formations surrounding on all sides.  I guess this is what one would call a lagoon.  The captain pulled us into a good spot to anchor in the lagoon and then the guides pulled out the table and served us some lunch.  We had pineapple and watermelon along with some pound cake and a muffin. It was just enough to rejuvenate us.  We then spent time swimming inside the lagoon.  Tan motioned for us to check out a cave around 50 feet away from us so we all put on our flippers and snorkeled over.  An interesting side note:  Major calls it "snarkelling."  I've corrected him several times, but I've given up.  I get a kick out of hearing the way he says it anyway.  Anyway, we "snarkelled" over to the cave and checked that out.  Mickell found a crab crawling on the rocks and we observed that.   Other than checking out the cave, there really wasn't a lot to look at under the water as it was just sand.  The circular lagoon was roughly 3 ft. deep on the sides and gradually got deeper with a sinkhole in the middle of roughly 20-30 feet.  What was beautiful here was above the waterline.  Being surrounded by the sheer cliffs and swimming in the crystal clear, turquoise water was, once again, heavenly.  Again, I would have liked to stay in this spot too all day!  But, we were off again to check out some more scenery around this wonderful island.

Next was the 'Viking Cave.'  The Viking Cave on Phi Phi Ley is a cave right at sea level filled
with bird's nests and painted on the walls are ancient color paintings
resembling Viking boats hence the name Viking Cave. But, these aren't just any bird's nests!  These are the nests of a certain type of swallow responsible for the Chinese and American delicacy that is Bird's Nest Soup or, as translated from Chinese, Swallow's Nest Soup.  This cave and others like it are home to thousands of swallows whose nests make up the main ingredient in the soup.  The nests sell for as much as $10,000 USD per kilogram!  A bowl of this soup in Hong Kong or the US might cost as much as $100 per bowl!  The soup is made by harvesting the nests and diluting them in water.  The solution is then added as a gelatinous substance to the broth giving it a unique texture and flavor.  The nest is full of rich nutrients and vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium.  You might hear this soup referred to as Phi Phi Bird's Nest Soup since this is one of the more famous harvesting sites, but the nests are harvested all over this region of the world.  The nests are so prized that the farmers who have rights to the caves actually post company
agents on-site 24/7 who keep claim to their bird nest sites from any
rival companies from the main land. Living in bamboo huts over the edge
of the sea, they keep a close eye on any tourist trying to come up to the
mini Viking Cave pier and wait for the best times for their harvest.
Harvest is 4 times a year and is done in rotation throughout the caves. The farmers have to climb the precarious bamboo scaffolding way up into the heart of the mountain to collect the bird's nests.  There's obviously a high rate of injury for this line of work

After the cave, we did one more dive.  There wasn't much to it, but Tan did show us a large crab and we saw several large clams.  We were spent on diving anyway and it was time to go to Monkey Beach!  Our expectations of Monkey Beach was to go and just maybe, if you're lucky, get to see a monkey.  Boy were we wrong.  We pulled up in the boat to an entire family of Long Tailed Macaques was waiting to greet us.  Tan brought some of the leftover fruit and the monkeys quickly took notice.  They came right onto the boat and took some. There was a little, tiny baby among them.  They were so cute!  The captain and Tan played a game.  They lured one on to the boat and the driver started backing up without the monkey noticing.  Once the monkey noticed it dove into the water and swam underwater back to shore.  It was just amazing to be so close to these creatures.  This was a highlight.  Major was in awe!  Take a look at the video we took of this encounter.  Just priceless!

Once we returned from our excursion, we hopped off the boat and Mickell gave Tan a good tip.  Tipping is not done in these parts of the world, but we wanted to because we felt he went above and beyond to make it special for Major.   We made for the pool to relax a bit more and then made our way to the beach to swim a little and maybe have a bite to eat beachside.  We were ready to go to the room, but the maid had just started on our room so Major and I decided to take a swim to stay warm (a bit of a rainstorm had blew in and it was getting us wet).  We waited and waited and waited until Mickell gave us the thumbs up and then we ran through the rain.  Major went right to the outdoor shower and spent an eternity warming up while Mickell and I dried off on the outdoor porch and just relaxed.  We all got ready to go enjoy our last dinner on the island.  We had met some Brittish folks on the excursion and we were going to try to make it to have some drinks with them, but we were running a little to late.  We saw them at dinner though and exchanged pleasantries.  They were leaving tomorrow like we were although they were heading to Phuket (where we had come from) and we were headed to Krabi (where they had come from).  We all agreed that this hotel was a great find. 

After dinner we just chilled in the room and tried to watch another movie.  Mickell had checked out a movie called John Carter which I had heard was terrible and I wasn't interested, at all, in watching it.  As luck would have it, it didn't work in the DVD so we watched the History channel and then just finished the night reading.  Each of us are sad that tomorrow we must leave.  We don't want to put our shoes on again!

My Review Of The Place I Stayed



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