Saturday 30th December 2000 Day 18

Our last day. We didn't get up until 9am. We had woken up a good hour earlier but we spent the time in that dream world between sleep and wake. Julie and Hannah both had dreams about being in a crashing elevator. What a scary coincidence! I'm sure it could be explained rationally by the fact were flying home tomorrow. I on the other hand had a dream about Glen Hoddle not picking me for the England team? Explain that one Freud! I suppose all this sarong wearing must be having an effect on me. I'm suffering delusions of being David Beckham!?

At 9:30am Hannah announced she didn't want to miss breakfast, so in true Owen style, we were washed, dressed, and sitting at the table eating our breakfast within ten minutes! Today, I came to the assistance of someone who was standing by the toaster, having not switched it on. He certainly looked a forlorn figure, swaying by the sliced bread. I felt strangely proud of my intervention, using my experience to help a fellow sufferer. That's when I realised how pathetic we both looked. No words were spoken between us, but we both understood the score. The two of us may as well have been wearing "I've Got The Shits" T-Shirts!

After breakfast we went to book a four hour trip around Phi Phi Leh. This is where they famously filmed 'The Beach' starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It is also where they not so famously filmed the Peter Andre video! Maya Bay has now become a popular pilgrimage site to those who wish to experience first hand the idyllic lagoon as seen on the film. Its worldwide fame however has probably spoilt its charm. I've read about the hordes of tourists who descend there, desperate to capture a slice of what the film promises. Most of whom are too blind to see that they are desecrating this holiest of shrines to Mother Nature by their very presence. Sadly, despite knowing all of this, I still found myself drawn to 'The Beach' and become one of those annoying blinkered tourists.

We booked our trip for 11am, which was just enough time to pop back to our room, pack a bag, take an immodium, and straight back to reception to be taken to our longtail boat. We travelled south along Phi Phi island, hugging the coastline. The northern half of the island was mostly hills of lush forests with several small, unoccupied bays. You could almost imagine finding a poor Japanese soldier on one of these isolated beaches, still believing there was a war on! The southern half was a more spectacular rocky landscape.

The sheer cliffs were magnificent. Though I wondered how long it would be before these cliffs fall into the ocean. The sea had worn away at the base of these cliffs scooping out a peculiar wave shaped canopy.

A flock of mysterious grey birds glided past our boat and swooped beneath the overhang. Like an athritic gunslinger I fumbled my camera out, and pointed it in their general direction but I fear I won't be framing that one!

Near the end of the southern tip of Phi Phi Don we turned left, and disappeared into a narrow crevasse in the cliff. We had entered a small lagoon. It was truly an incredible sight. It was quite dark as the cliff face rose directly above us causing only a crack of the sky to be seen. At the end of the lagoon the tiniest patch of sand was revealed but it was far too small to have been called a beach. The imagination easily ran wild and we felt once more like intrepid explorers, venturing into the unknown. But the moment was cruelly spoilt when another longtail boat turned in and the reality invaded our fantasy.

As soon as we emerged from the crack, we braved open sea to sail from Phi Phi Don to Phi Phi Leh. It was probably only a distance of half a mile, but it was a painfully slow journey. We felt more vulnerable here. We previously must have been sheltered from the wind because it was really blustery. The boat began to rock wildly, and what made matters worse were irritating speedboats tearing their way in front, across and behind us, creating such a swell that it threatened to tip us over!

I wasn't wearing a life jacket either. I scoured the boat for where they were hidden and saw them tied to the roof. I held my composure well, and didn't panic by scrambling for a life jacket and call out for my mum! I managed to convince myself that this boat was safe, and wouldn't overturn. Within minutes we were back hugging the coastline of Phi Phi Leh. Calmer waters, calmer heartbeat!

We slowed down as we passed the 'Viking Cave', which wasn't at all impressive. The jetty wasn't safe to use so we couldn't stop. It was such a shame, because apparently they are meant to be somewhat better on the inside, as are most caves!

Further down the coast we turned into a bay called Pi Leh. It was really busy with moored speedboats, and pleasure boats with all their passengers spilling out into the water to do some snorkelling. We didn't spend much time here at all, just straight in, and straight out. We moved along to the next bay, which was called Loh Samu Bay.

This was relatively quieter, and gave Hannah the opportunity to climb out of the boat and go snorkelling on her own. It must have been amazing because even from the boat we could see the incredible colours of literally hundreds of tropical fish and Hannah was swimming amongst them

Julie would have joined her but she feared she might tip the boat whilst climbing back in!

We were only here for about 5 minutes before we left for our final destination, Maya Bay.

Turning into the bay it was so disappointing as it was littered with speedboats, pleasure boats, and longtail boats. The longtails weren't as obtrusive as they were in character with the environment. But the other boats were totally ruining the authenticity of this paradise.

As we got ashore, and turned to look back along the surrounding bay, we couldn't deny its beauty. I wondered what it must have been like to of discovered this place BEFORE the tourists. To have been a solitary soul walking along this beach, soaking in the energy released by its stunning scenery.

Now look at it, a paradise lost. For a brief moment I did feel ashamed of my presence here at Maya Bay. But what were we to do?

To have visited Phi Phi and not have seen this cathedral would have been a crime! Beneath it all the beauty still remains. Perhaps the authorities should place an exclusion zone around the bay to stop the speedboats and pleasure boats from entering. At least this would deter the Phuket day-trippers from barging their way in, and may at the very least protect an ambience whilst experiencing the beach.

Anyway, we spent an hour and a half on the beach. Hannah spent most of it in the water. Julie joined her, but I sat on the beach preferring not to get wet. I spent most of my time taking photos.

Strangely though, the beach itself didn't seem too busy. Especially compared to Rai Leh beach back in Krabi province.

We spent a while exploring some paths that lead from the beach further into the island. They led you to the base of the cliffs where a small hole appeared to give you access through to the other side of the island!

I think it would have brought you out into Pi Leh. We didn't go through the hole as the tide appeared to be rising, and whilst you could have gone through and swam in Pi Leh, I'm sure if you came back 10 minutes later the hole would have been beneath the water!

At 2pm we left Maya Bay, and headed back to the hotel. Julie seemed far more relaxed with the return journey, and even came up with alternate lyrics to a Christmas song, singing "Rocking about the Andaman Sea, on our Happy Holiday!" The stretch of open sea was equally as rough as it was this morning, and we cursed the speedboats just as much. But we had far more faith in our longtail! It took an hour for us to reach the resort's jetty. A speedboat would have done it in ten minutes I'm sure!

As we walked back to the resort, we popped into a small gift shop where Hannah took a fancy to having her hair braided. So we arranged a time with the shop assistant and said we'd be back in an hour or so. We were starving by now, so we dumped our stuff in our room, and had lunch at the Cha-Ba beach side restaurant. It was an exclusively sea food menu in the evenings, but the lunch time menu was the standard resort menu. I ate all of my pizza, despite it being a struggle after the first bite tasting of aniseed. Why did they put Fennel on it? Perhaps it was Thai Basil? Hannah also had a pizza and Julie had an incredibly spicy diced chicken.

By now it had gone 4pm, so we went back to the gift shop at the Gypsy village for Hannah's hair to be done. She had to choose two or three different colour beads to be used, and we stood there for ages before she decided on lilac and a crystal pink! We left Hannah with the shop assistant/hair dresser and went to sit on the beach, within view of Hannah who was sitting on a chair outside the shop. Julie read a book, and I fell asleep! I was woken up suddenly by Julie shouting, "Where has she gone?" Bleary eyed, I sat up and tried to focus. True enough, I couldn't see Hannah anywhere! We both got up and walked very briskly to the shop only to find that they had moved inside because the breeze was making it more difficult to plat the hair. Hannah was giggling to herself as she could she everything that happened with Julie and myself and our little panic! Out of sheer relief and embarrassment we browsed around the shop and bought a proper sarong in case I fancy wearing one when I got home. Two hours later it was finished! It looked excellent! Plus it only cost 350 Baht, which is under £5. In Krabi they were priced 2000 Baht. So we'd had a bargain!

As we walked back through the resort we noticed a party by the pool. Whilst buying a bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk at the souvenir shop we asked the shop assistant what was going on, and we found out it was a complimentary cocktail party for all the residents! (For a brief moment Julie and I both thought it was the New Year's Eve party and that we had somehow missed a day?) Within twenty-five minutes we had got showered, changed, and were back by the poolside, being served free drinks! And not a nasty fruit punch either, Julie had a glass of wine and I had an ice cold lager poured for me. I could curse my luck though as I couldn't face drinking it! Free lager, and I wasn't in the mood. I must ill, much to Hannah's relief I'm sure as I remember when in Spain we went to Gloria's Ranch and were served free lager all night. I ended up singing 'Calon Lan' on the coach back to the hotel. Hannah was slightly embarrassed by her father that evening! No such shenanigans on this holiday!

We had booked a table for 9pm, but at 7pm Julie said I looked as if I wasn't going to make it! She was right, I was running on empty, and could easily have slept standing up! So we sat down early for our supper. I went for spaghetti and tomato sauce, which was fine. Hannah burnt her mouth again with the chillies! And Julie plumped for the buffet tonight and thoroughly enjoyed helping herself to what was on offer. When I popped to the toilet the bald headed crab hole filler was there when I walked in. I noticed he didn't wash his hands. That says a lot about someone! It was a good job that I hadn't been drinking otherwise I would of mentioned something! [Memo to self: Remember not to shake his hand.]

We left the restaurant, and stopped on the way at the bar for Hannah to have her last cocktail. She wanted to try that massive blue one that Julie enjoyed so much. I was trying my best not to fall asleep, and not to rush her into drinking up. I failed, and as soon as she finished we left for our chalet. We spent half an hour winding down, I wrote in this journal whilst Julie and Hannah read. Lights went out at 9:45pm. We were all very tired and we all turned our thoughts back towards home. We all missed vegetating on our sofa watching trashy telly. We're ready to go home!

Day 19>>

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