Our third day in Krabi was my favourite. We were going island hopping with Thalassa Tour which started at 12pm till 8pm when the sunsets because night snorkelling was part of the itinerary. We woke up as per the day before as I was considering braiding my hair at one of the many salons scattered along the street further down from where we stayed. Sadly, when we finally got there we realised that many of the shops along that street opened till past midnight the day before and would only open after 1130am (which was too late for us). I gave up the thought of braiding my hair and we sought comfort from the sweltering heat in Starbucks. One can never give up caffeine (haha!). We did think that visiting a chain store while overseas was not the smartest of ideas but local stores hardly sold soy milk coffees.
Mid-day, outside Burger King was our meeting point. Our Thai guide brought us to the beach where we waited patiently for our long-tail boat to arrive. I was rather apprehensive of the long-tail boat since the day before we had the option of choosing a speed boat over one and heard criticisms of it. I was proven wrong the moment we set foot on the boat. It was clean, floored with artificial plastic grass mats, a wooden door that led to the head of the boat where the engine sat. Carlos, our Spanish guide, briefed the 12 passengers on board about the safety precautions and order of the day. He opened an invitation to four passengers to sit on the roof of the long tail boat which Sheryel and I excitedly accepted along with a middle-aged lady from Chicago and a Spanish man who lives in London. Sheryel chatted with them spontaneously while I occasionally piped in feeling overwhelmed by the knowledge that each of them had on topics that I had never thought much about.
We eventually arrived at a spot in the middle of Andaman Sea, our first snorkelling spot. I was not expecting my first snorkel in open waters to be in the middle of the sea. (I thought we would be snorkelling by the shore or close to one, but no..) I was not ready for the challenge but had limited time to set myself up for it because everyone on board was adjusting their snorkel and packing up their personal items in bags which they kept overhead so that it would not get wet when we returned. I quickly grabbed a life jacket and made sure I buckled it as tightly as I could. Before I could process the situation I was about to put myself in, Sheryel said “I don’t think I can handle another minute of the swaying on the boat, I’m going to get sea sick” and she splashed into the sea without hesitation. I could not let my friend jump in and get eaten by sharks all by herself, could I? (I’m kidding, it’s safe.. really!) I tapped on my brave friend’s courage and stepped off the boat into the waters.
“Cold.. Oh my gosh, I can’t touch the ground..”, “what if the life vest loosens and I slip out from underneath it..?”, “I’m safe, right?!”, “okay, a shark is gonna bite my arse.. I just know it” were the thoughts that first came to mind when the cool sea water submerged my body. You know your friend is a keeper when she is a natural in the water yet bothers to wait for you. Sheryel made sure I was okay and held my hand as we put our heads into the water :’).. (I know, this sounds so cowardly.. but I’m someone who is even afraid to put my head underwater at the beaches in Sentosa 😣)
A striped blue-black sea snake was the first thing I saw when I put my head underwater when Carlos swam down to point it out to the group. He then surfaced and said it was the most poisonous snake in the world (how comforting). I was amazed by the beauty of the world beneath the sea but at the same time, it supported my fears of a shark (or snake) biting my arse…. There was no time to build on my fear, there was much to see, Carlos beckoned us. The Thai guide offered to use my SJcam to snap pictures of us snorkelling!
We swam to a cave where Carlos encouraged us to enter. I was afraid, the view would be darker and I did not know what to expect but Sheryel once again held my hand and pulled me along as she swam into the even cooler water that was sheltered from the sun-rays. Sheryel was snorkelling without a life vest (because she swims better than a fish and she is brave) so she free-dived often as I floated on the surface of the water and watched. Carlos then urged us to gather but many were caught up in their own underwater adventures, so I curiously swam over. Well, I tried to swim over.. the life vest and currents had me in the same position after several pathetic struggles. Carlos intervened and pulled me closer to what he wanted us to see, it was a fish (I don’t know what it’s called :(..) that was different from the sergeant majors that swam in schools towards your face as you snorkel! It was grey and long, had a loooong nose and stream-lined body.
The long-tail boat led us to Chicken Island (pictures are self-explanatory (-:) where we took pictures at the head of the boat with it in the background. We then headed to Poda Island and were given an hour to ourselves and lunch.
The good thing about private tours is the fact that they are able to stop the boat in the middle of the sea to snorkel and bring the small group to the non-commercialised sites on the beach. Carlos was able to dock the boat on the opposite site of the island where it was quiet, away from the other tour groups. It was liken to having our own private beach! We had our lunch which was was surprisingly abundant (as compared to the previous day). Our Vegan lunch consisted of rice, stir-fried vegetables and sweet-and-sour vegetables! After fuelling ourselves we took pictures by the beach and Sheryel thought I would be a good idea to teach me how to thread water like a synchro swimmer.. My legs died. Their graceful upper body above the water is just a facade, the amount of hard work their legs do to keep them afloat is no joke. She held both of my hands, like a mother teaching her child to walk, and instructed me to kick my legs outwards. I could not stay afloat for more than 30 seconds. I am not made for this.
Next up was Tup Island where we spent most of our time snapping pictures of the beautiful clear blue water. At Tup Island, when we arrived it was still considered low tide as such we were able to walk across the spit that led to another island!
Our tour then brought us to Railay Beach which Sheryel told me was a rather well-known beach that tourists frequent! This was evident was the entire beach was littered with sarongs and mats that people laid on as they worked on their tans. Long-tailed boats docked along the shore selling roasted corn, coconuts and many other snacks that were crazily over-priced but tourist buy because supply and demand (haha!). Carlos informed the boat about a cave that was at the end of the island that was worth checking out but he “forgot what was in it” and we were curious to what it could be. We saw a white-haired, half-naked man whose face was covered by his overwhelming grey beard scale the rocks by the cave. He was not just climbing the rocks, he periodically stopped at certain heights and strike a pose. We whipped out our cameras and phones to video the climb and snapchat the moment but inside, I felt uneasy and worried. I said a little prayer in hope that he would make it down safely. After minutes that felt like hours (and many poses later), the man started his way down. Following the same steps he took up, striking the same poses he made, his feet finally touched sand. I felt relieved. “I don’t take drugs, I don’t drink” he said to us and a young couple as he flexed and struggled to find English words to help us comprehend what it is he wanted to prove scaling the rock wall. (Upon further research, Railay Beach is also known for climbing! 🙂 For the adventurous souls, go for it!!)
The cave though! Well.. we understood why Carlos “forgot” what it was. A thin plastic chain separated us from what were several hundreds of modelled penises that varied in size, colour and material was collected in the caves. We were left speechless at the weird and somehow creepy view that was before us. We felt uncomfortable and left for the other side of the beach where the tour served us snacks. For the rest of the group, they got ham and cheese sandwiches while we had a bowl of rice noodles with vegetables which was oddly satisfying. Sheryel fished out a banana from her bag as I finished up the last of the rice noodles as we watched the sun dip below the horizon, painting the sky a beautiful pink.
Once the skies darken, we were once again beckoned to the boat. This time Carlos invited Sheryel and I out to the front of the boat, sat us down on extra life-jackets that he transformed into seat cushions which blessed us with a view that was breath-taking. The wind left my face feeling numb as I stared into the darkness that was slightly illuminated by the tiny stars that littered the sky. Tiny waves would occasionally cause a droplet of seawater to splash onto my arm as a kind reminder of its vastness, power and beauty. The sea is strong, it can kill but yet holds so much beauty and mystery within it. One will never truly know what is beneath the calming waters.
The boat took us further out into the Andaman Sea, away from civilisation and light pollution. The boat captain killed the engine and lights on board in the middle of the sea, darkness reigned our visions and the only source of light was from the flickering cigarettes that hung loosely from our guide’s mouth. “You go with Carlos, I’ll wait here so you can see the boat.” was what the Thai guide said to us as we grabbed our life jackets which were made compulsory this time. I was afraid of the open waters in the day and now at night, my fears returned. I knew I would probably not be able to see anything if I put my head underwater because it was so dark but the unknown scared me. We slowly lowered our bodies into the sea just as the guides advised because jumping in was dangerous as we did not know what was below the water surface, corals and rocks could have injured us pretty badly. Despite my fears, the coolness from the water comforted me as I clung on to my life jacket and bobbed in sync to the peak of the waves. “Where are you, Amanda!!” I heard Sheryel call out, I was yet again comforted by the fact that my dear friend was just nearby. When everyone onboard was finally in the water, Carlos told us to put our heads underwater and waved our hands vigorously in front of our faces. Little blue dots lit up the dark murky water as planktons undergo a chemical reaction that causes them to illuminate blue. I do not think that words could ever describe the beauty of the tiny planktons in the sea but the closest I can think of would be shrinking myself and living in a lava lamp! (The illumination was not that intense, but it was also because it recently rained which caused the water to be murky).
Carlos told us that if we went deeper, we could see the planktons better. Sheryel asked if she could remove her life jacket and free-dive to see them, he agreed and they dived together as I floated on the surface waiting for them. It put a smile on my face seeing Sheryel excitedly surfacing, telling us about the planktons and how she touched the bottom of the sea (it was not very deep where he brought us, about 3 meters or so). It made me a little sad that I was so afraid of the beauty that the sea held, I contemplated a couple of times if I should attempt it as well but the fears overwhelmed any curiosity I had. The sea is a mystery that I will slowly uncover just a tiny little bit more every time I encounter it but will never fully comprehend it completely. God is amazing, how He creates something so vast that my mind cannot wrap itself around.
We clambered onto the roof of the boat, dripping salted water was the wind attempts to dry our already wet throw-ons. The chat that we had with the American lady that we grew so fond to were the last few memories made on this amazing day of firsts and new experiences for me. Sheryel later shared with me over dinner, which we had opposite our hotel at a restaurant that served Vegeterian food, that this tour was one of the best that she has been on and I agreed whole-heartedly. Thalassa tours left me with the an unforgettable first snorkelling experience, I could not have asked for more.
Over dinner, Sheryel and I had a great talk as we shared about our lives and opinions that we had. I really appreciate friends that I can open up to and we can discuss our thoughts on circumstances that happen. We learn from one another and view things from a new perspective. This perfect day ended with an ice-cold coconut that was enjoyed in the comfort of our room for 50 baht.