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Published: February 26th 2020
Sunday 23rd February 2020
Today was a “highlight” day. We boarded our long-tail boat on Koh Muk pier, just close to Coco Lodge, to sail around the island, snorkelling in key spots as we went along. We expected to be part of a group, but it was just the two of us and our cheery boatman, Tan. Great for us to have the boat and snorkelling all to ourselves, but the lack of tourists is not good for business for the Thai people here.
When we set off it was a bit cloudy and windy, so when we got to our first snorkelling spot on a coral reef on the rugged North West point of the island, with sheer limestone cliffs undercut with caves, I didn’t fancy it at all; dark deep water, a wildly swaying boat (it was hard to stand up) in quite a swell. John Boy went over the side. Brave lad! Forgets sometimes that he is now 74. I told him to let me know what it was like and if it was worth it, I would find the courage to join him. I am not sorry to say that he swam
back after a while and said it was a bit murky so hard to see the fish and the coral. Tan weighed anchor and we set off to navigate around the northern coast of the island.
The whole of the north of Koh Muk, as well as most of the west, is uninhabited. It is a wild, dramatic coast, quite awe-inspiring, with its towering cliffs, caves and deep dark green waters. We only saw a few other craft on the journey. As we cleared the north coast and started to sail down the west, the waters calmed and the sun came out; it was a most welcome and dramatic change!
Our second stop was to anchor off Sapphire Beach, which the locals call the “Beach of Peacefulness”. One can only reach this magical spot by sea. The snorkelling here was superb, Tiger Fish in their thousands and beautiful brightly coloured blue Parrot Fish, swimming in crystal-clear jade and turquoise water. One other boat was there with just two passengers, also snorkelling, so we really did experience the “Peacefulness”. After enjoying this stop and sharing Tan’s water melon, we headed for Tham Morakot, the “Emerald Cave”. There were already
a few other boats anchored near the cave, one with quite a large group of people, so we carried on past to Tiger Cave, another beautiful bay and excellent snorkelling spot. The small tropical Tiger Fish here were in such abundance that they curiously nosed our masks and their fins brushed along our arms and legs. I was the first in the water and Tan jokingly told me that they liked to nibble and eat foreigners!
We went back to Tham Morakot after about half an hour and the large boats had departed. There was just one small craft there, no sign of people so they were obviously inside. We now had the area virtually to ourselves, just one other motor launch with three passengers on board anchored close by after us. How lucky we were! Tan jumped overboard into the water and tied up to a buoy close to the cave entrance, then we joined him to start our swim in to the cave. We had the tunnel all to ourselves both swimming in and out again. A tiny bit eerie! Tham Morakot is a beautiful and magical place. To get to this hidden beauty spot, one needs
to swim through a limestone tunnel, eighty metres long which leads to the open-topped lofty limestone cave, with lush foliage, a white sandy beach and emerald water inside. Sensational! Part of the tunnel is in complete darkness but we were OK because Tan was leading the way and he was wearing a waterproof headtorch. The water is very deep in the tunnel and although we are both good swimmers, we wore lifejackets. It was a magical and special experience. Pirates used to hide their treasures in Morakot. Nowadays, the treasure is simply the place itself.
In the evening we had to pack, because the ferry was at 9.00 a.m. the next morning. We didn’t need an alarm call. We knew we wouldn’t oversleep. It is impossible to oversleep on Koh Muk; the birds and jungle creatures wake up early! It is a hard place to leave! “Lah gorn Koh Muk!” “Sa-wat-dee ka Koh Phi Phi Don!”
“Goodbye Koh Muk!” “Hello Koh Phi Phi Don!” Monday 24th February 2020
It took six hours to travel North from Koh Muk to Koh Phi Phi Don and we were very conscious
of the fact that this journey was actually the start of our return trip and the journey home. Muk was as far south as we were going and now, we were starting the journey back to Phuket. Phi Phi lies about two-thirds of the way between Muk and Phuket.
The first leg of the journey was by ferry to Koh Lanta via Koh Kraden and Koh Ngai. It was a slow journey, two hours and we really enjoyed it, uncrowded, smooth waters and great scenery all the way. We disembarked at Ban Si Raya, a small pier on the south east coast of Koh Lanta, then took a taxi truck, well a lorry actually, north to the northern main pier. The small lorry had a wooden canopy and wooden benches for a dozen of us and our luggage went on the roof rack. The wooden structure wobbled precariously as we made our way along a dirt road on the eastern undeveloped side of the island, filled with lorries, diggers and workmen laying new pipes. The dust was choking, so I found a mask and put it on.
The third and final stage of our journey to Phi Phi
was by another slow ferry, chugging across thirty kilometres of a calm Andaman Sea under a cloudless sky. A good journey! Arrival at Tonsai Pier on Koh Phi Phi Don was interesting because it was the first time that we had to be screened for Coronavirus (it won’t be the last). When carrying rucksacks in 32 degrees of heat with very high humidity, one is a little apprehensive when the temperature gun is thrust towards the forehead (which is running with sweat)! Anyway, we were deemed to be OK and allowed to get on a long-tail boat for the final boat trip to Hat Yao (Long Beach) and our accommodation. There are no roads on Phi Phi and no vehicles, other than a few motorbikes for certain residents. The sea is the highway and long-tails are the means of transport. This means, one has to think carefully about clothing, when travelling about, because to board a long-tail requires paddling in and wading out on the beaches. We have lovely accommodation here, but I’ll save that for the next blog!
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