Danny left on another of his work trips, and the girls are in Hawaii, so the twins and I decided it was time for an adventure. We signed up to check out Khai Island, Monkey Bay, Phi Phi Don and Phi Phi Le, Maya Bay. With our snorkel gear, GoPro’s and backpacks in hand, we jumped into our trusted rental truck, and headed to Rassada Harbour. About a kilometer before arriving, traffic slowed down drastically, as a sangha (group of monks) were working their way through the village, collecting offerings and giving blessings.
Each carried a patra, or alms bowl, which is used to collect alms (money or food) from supporters.The alms bowl has symbolic significance with Buddha.
Legend states that Buddha sat beneath the Bodhi Tree, and a young women presented him with a gold bowl filled with rice, thinking he was the divinity of the tree. He then divided the rice into 49 portions, one for each day until he would be enlightened, and threw the precious bowl into the river. This legend, combined with its humble uses, has made the alms bowl (sometimes called the begging bowl) a symbol of Buddha’s teachings on non attachment.
The vinaya states that monks may use bowls made of iron or clay, but nothing else.
We parked the truck, unloaded our goods and worked our way through the chickens and vendors to the boats.
The harbor was packed with dilapidated fishing boats in all colors, shapes and sizes.
Rusty vessels were overflowing with hard plastic buoys, barrels and buckets. Lines lay coiled like garden hoses, ready for action, and well used nets draped the sides like heavy gowns ready to be laundered.
The smell of fish and oil hung in the thick, humid air, coagulating with sweat, dirty water and stink mud. Men strained as they pulled lines, others groaned softly carrying loads on naked shoulders, while yet other sat and watched as the morning droned on.
Harbors are magical places filled with constant action to feast ones eyes on, and overflowing with delicious treats for rats to gorge themselves to their hearts content. Men take pride in their boats. It’s a place where more hours are spent than at home with their wives, it’s where their dreams come true, hearts are broken, and where tall drunken tales of massive catches and beautiful mermaids abound. One just never knows what tomorrow will bring…
The boat ride from Phuket to Khai Island was wonderful. The feel of sea salt and wind in my hair always brings a smile to my face. We waded through beautiful blue waters then immersed our bodies in the salty brine in search of reef and fish. We usually try to avoid outings with this type of company because it ends up being a tourist traffic jam, but we left them all on shore with their beer, sunscreen and sunglasses, and joined the marine life who we have more in common with.
Visibility wasn’t great but we had fun exploring, and periodically found ourselves surrounded with huge schools of small reef fish, and a protective damselfish pecked at my hand as I passed by her eggs. When our 90 minutes were up, we pulled ourselves from the water and made our way back to the boat to continue on to Maya Bay.
Before boarding I met a wonderful couple from Australia. We shared quick introductions, chatted momentarily and exchanged information, then continued on as newly made friends with promises to visit. I have no doubt that we some day will.
Maya Bay was as spectacular as I’d imagined, and being there with Aidan and Emma was fantastic. They are the perfect adventurers – spontaneous, observant and humorous.
Ko Phi Phi Le, or Maya Bay, is where the movie, The Beach, was filmed, which makes it one of the most popular tourist destinations. The island was packed with 100’s of Chinese, and small groups of Russians, Germans and a smorgasbord of other nationalities. We had to quickly take photos as areas cleared out and before other boats and selfie taking groups arrived.
The island is made up of steep limestone hills on three sides, providing shelter to the 250 meter long beach.
Over the last couple of years there has been talk of closing this beach temporarily to give it a rest from the constant flow of tourists, and after reopening allowing only 2000 bodies a day to enter. Presently about 4000 enter a day, which translates to 1.2 million tourists every 6 months (77 % foreign), which equals about 362 million bhat for the Marine National Park.
En route to Phi Phi Don, where we were served lunch, we motored through beautiful areas of calypso pools.
The water was so clear that we could see the texture and color of reef 30 feet below us.
Cliffs dripped with stalactites and texture resembling honeycomb. Birds flew in and out of tiny holes and bushes held fast to the hillsides in a bright pallet of a thousand greens. I realize I’ve said it before, and have no doubt I’ll say it many more times in my life…It just doesn’t get any prettier than this! Surely Heaven couldn’t be more beautiful.
Phi Phi Don was a tangled mess of boats, buildings, souvenir shops and ice cream vendors. The only thing I photographed of interest was a beautiful woman working diligently, scooping ice cream for sweating tourists as they gathered, compared photos on small screens and smeared aloe on bright red sunburn.
Birds Nest Soup (Yan wo) is highly prized in Chinese culture, due to its rarity, high nutrition and unmatched flavor. We stopped at an area where these nest are retrieved, and were impressed by the web of precarious bamboo structures suspended as if in thin air.
The heaviest harvested nests are from Swiftlets, both black-nest swiftest, and white. They are said to be rich in calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium. Most nests are built in about 35 days during breeding season by male swiftlets. The shallow cup shaped nests are made up of woven strands of bird saliva, which harden cemented into place, and are sold for up to $2000 (US dollars) per kilogram. The quality of the nest depends on the type of bird and its diet.
Ao Ling was our final stop – otherwise known as Monkey Bay. Due to low tide and high reef we weren’t able to reach shore, but watched the cute little guys from the boat.
At first just a couple long tailed macaque’s showed up, but with in a minute several others climbed down from rock and brush.
Several babies scurried along, just as curious about us as we were about them. I chuckled as I thought about adventures with friends, family and monkey’s in Panama. I also remember my sisters hair being pulled by a monkey in South Africa. So many fun monkey memories!
Thailand is such an incredibly beautiful country, and our adventures here have only just begun! I’m excited to see what’s around the next corner, and will let you know what I find.