Where it all starts again

Friday, 21 May 2010

The Island of Phi Phi Don

The first thing I notice is the water, and how it changes color. It goes from the “sea blue” we all know to this incredible, pasty azure as we approach the Thai island of Phi Phi. It seems to lose its property as water and turns into a bay full of a calming shade of green.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the cliffs of Phi Phi Don island appear.

Steve is passed out a few rows up, and Brandon and I are chilling, listening to music, and taking a break from catching up. From the lower deck, I look out the window to my left and Boom! Out of nowhere this cliff appears. It’s incredible, and the bright sunlight in the air gives this dreamy impression on everything I see.

Coming from Phuket, we arrive from the west, and cruise along the coast southwards until we turn into the inlet that holds Phi Phi’s main pier. When you arrive, you’re smack bang in the middle of the tourist zone, and find yourself on these narrow alleys lined with restaurants, gift shops and dive centers. We are immediately accosted by twenty taxi boat guys, their rides lining the coast for a mile on either side of the pier. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, Steve directs us to Long Beach, having been told by a friend that it’s the best part of the island to stay on. It’s a 3 minute taxi boat ride to the southern section of the island, where our beach awaits us.

Upon arrival, Brandon and I have only one thing to say to Steve. Score! Long Beach is incredible, quieter and much more pristine than the main strip of beach back at the pier. It’s Steve’s job to find us the best deal for the best room, so he heads off while Brandon and I sit on a swinging bench on the beach and look outwards, dumbfounded by the view of the island of Phi Phi Lay in the distance. Warm, clear seawater crashes onto the crisp white sand beach, a select few people about occasionally jump into the ocean to cool down, and here we are, swinging away, breathing slowly and deeply, unblinking, absorbed by a landscape that resembles a dream you wish you had.

Steve comes back with two options. We visit the first one, and not knowing what to expect, take it on board, albeit apprehensively. Then we visit the second option, with a few dollars in price difference, and it’s unbelievable. Big and spacious with stunning decor, and with a balcony looking out to the beach 5 feet away, we walk in and simply say “we’ll take it”.

As soon as we’ve unpacked and settled in, we head straight to Long Beach Dive Shop to get information about becoming certified divers. We meet Trevor, the manager, and find out from him that diving is pretty much syndicated throughout Phi Phi. That being said, Trevor is a good salesman, and is quick to point out his advantages. First, they time the dives to NOT coincide with the other shops, so when we dive there aren’t many other divers around. Also, once you’ve sorted your gear and spare tanks, all you have to do is carry it a few feet to the boat; The other centers make you walk, sometimes for up to a mile, before you get to your boat. We get to have our lunch in Maya Bay, where the shot the movie The Beach And last but not least, training starts on the coast of Long Beach, in clean, quiet undisturbed waters, as opposed to under boats and ferries and taxis by the busy pier with the other shops. We later find out that other trainee divers did their first shallow dive near the sewage pipes, so after very little debate we sign up with Trevor to become Open Water divers, and meet our instructor Pascal - or Paco - a legend that since has become a very good friend of ours.

Becoming an Open Water diver takes three days, and involves watching 5 educational videos. Wanting to get the time-consuming videos out of the way, we decide to crack into the first two videos that night, and head to bed early, so as to be fresh and lively for our first dive in the morning.

The next day brings surprises, dangerous sea creatures, and the start to our awesome underwater adventure : )

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