Early this month, I was yearning for a holiday and decided to plan a trip to Thailand. After covering many lovely places in the United Kingdom, Thailand seemed like a good idea for mainly two reasons. First, I have never explored Asia as much as Europe/U.K and South-east Asia has long been in my bucket list. Second, its picturesque beaches, exotic sea-food and a profusion of rich marine life appealed to my senses otherwise made tedious by a steady dosage of boredom and idleness. On landing at Phuket, I was instantly rejuvenated at the sound of the crashing waves and the aromatic smell of the sea. It was the start of another adventure, the beginning of another series of experiences in the midst of an unknown land and curious faces. This is the first of my posts related to the breath-taking and unspoilt islands of Thailand.
I. Phi Phi island
From Phuket, daily passenger cruises run from the Rassada Pier to Koh Phi Phi. During peak seasons (November to March), these cruises are insanely crowded. Having said that, I should probably add that my cruise ship in June was no less crowded. Sailing through the mildly turbulent waters of the Andaman sea, I could spot isolated islands and a dense growth of tropical vegetation on its uneven terrain. A journey of approximately two and a half hours ends at the pretty little Phi Phi harbour. A harbour of many colours, Phi Phi hosts a synchronised array of longtail boats and a thicket of coconut trees. It is the very best of South-east Asia!
II. A geological history
The Thai islands, much like the sister islands of Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines, share a common past. The geological history of the unique rock formations goes back to 200 million years ago when the sea level was higher. The skeletal remains of a millions of sea animals gave birth to these towering limestone structures reaching a height of 40 metres or more. When the sea level receded, these structures were exposed to the effects of wind, water and heat. Today, some of these structures have rock cut caves which are a breeding ground for birds and insects.
In case you are wondering about the total number of islands owned by Thailand, it is 1430!
III. The emerald green sea
What makes the Andaman sea so beautiful are the many shades of green assumed by its waters. The green varies with the apparent movement of the sun and can range from an auroral shade of emerald green to a darker tinge of blue. At places, where the water is deep, the sea appears navy blue in colour. Near the shores, the water turns florescent and radiates a dazzling greenish-blue light. The green is due to the presence of phytoplankton – microscopic organisms that absorb the blue and red end of the visible spectrum and reflect green light. The stronger the photosynthetic activity, the brighter the green!
IV. Longtail boats
Getting around the islands can be easily accomplished through company operated speed boats or cruises. If you are a little more daring than the rest, there is no reason why you should not experience the traditional longtail boats. Because of their convenient size and built, a longtail boat can be used to navigate through narrow streams of water and caves. When the weather is clear, one can journey for miles into the sea. A speciality of South-east Asia, longtail boats are an important means of water transport – known to carry sea-farers, cargo and fish. Owing to their wooden construct, they tend to be a little pricey! A three hours journey should cost you no less than 450-500 Baht per person.
V. White sand beaches
A haven for white sand beaches, the smaller islands in and around Koh Phi Phi are just a longtail boat ride away. A three hour boat ride on the Andaman sea covers some of the most beautiful islands – Bamboo island, Monkey beach and Nui beach. One can simply idle away at the sound of the lapping waves on the pristine white shores. On a full moon night, the white sand beaches are a dream come true!
It may be of some interest for you to know that white sand is nothing but parrotfish poop! In reality, they are minute pieces of coral that the parrotfish is unable to digest.
VI. An underwater adventure
If you fancy a swim in the Andaman sea, I would recommend adding snorkelling/scuba diving to your itinerary. Corals, sea-sponges, clams, lobsters, shrimps, sea cucumbers, parrotfish and clownfish are some of the easily spotted species and are most lovely to look at. The coral reefs with its abundance of marine life require sunlight and oxygen to live and thrive in the warm shallow waters of the sea. The many colours and diverse forms of underwater sea life makes us marvel at the exquisite and sublime creations of nature. Look around and you will find ample examples from our natural world that de-bunks the myth of human supremacy!
VII. Top 5 reasons to visit Thai islands
- Stunning scenery! White sand beaches, unique rock formations and green waters are a perfect alternative to the city life of Bangkok and other northern cities.
- If you’re on a lookout for underwater sea-life and decide to go snorkelling/scuba-diving, Koh Phi Phi is a good choice. Slightly better options are the islands reachable from Koh Lanta (which I intend to cover in my later posts).
- Thai cuisine is one of my all-time favourites. The ideal blend of spices, lemongrass and galangal gives rise to some spectacular mouth-watering dishes.
- Contrary to a few posts on various travel forums, I thought the locals were friendly and helpful. At each and every location, the locals were more than willing to overcome the language barrier and help me out with directions and other important travel related information. While booking trips, some amount of bargaining is indeed necessary. However, don’t be a cheapskate and demand unreasonable prices from local tour operators/ souvenir shops.
- The local markets are worth your time. I’ve had my fair share of coconut water, Mangosteen and Durian during the few days I was there.