After two days mooching around Phuket, sunning myself on the beach, jogging, and taking advantage of the £6 Thai massages I meandered over to the hotel to meet the family. Checked-in fashionably early after a standard-issue journey involving two buses, a hitchhike and a mototaxi to greet the rest of Team Gin Palace for a night on dry land before taking to the seas.
Only – shock horror! – there is a tonic shortage in Thailand. Went to five separate shops before discovering that the Schweppes factory was submerged into the recent floods and Singapore was the closest place you could pick up the much needed mixer. For the quinine, you understand. The daily G&T sundowners plan was scuppered.
I was cabin mate with Roxanne. The most important point to note is that she has a toilet roll problem. Ten or more in six days. That is not normal.
Boarded the boat for an evening in the marina and adjustment to the controls and headed out nice and early the next morning to cruise around little islands, inlets and hongs (lagoons). Nipped in to James Bond Island as it’s one of the area’s most famous sights. I’m damned if I know why. It’s just an island full of fat Russian tourists pulling porn poses for the family album and chock full.
For the first two days we cruised around in this fashion, ducking in to utopian white sandy bays at whim to snorkel, swim, explore in the dinghy or beachcomb. Am I making you jealous yet?
One evening we anchored in Railay Bay and went on shore for dinner and drinks on the beach. It’s a wonderful, mellow spot with just a few bars and restaurants but enough to be remote without being isolated. Couples were setting off Thai lanterns around us and kids were playing in the glowing sunset waves. Coffee and banana pancakes were served here in the morning and then we pressed on for Phi Phi.
First impression of Phi Phi was that it was tatty and smelt of poo. Engine trouble forced us to stay here for three nights in total and, day-by-day, as we explored the back streets, markets, two different beaches and various restaurants I came to enjoy it. Big Len’s birthday was celebrated here in a fancy Thai-French fusion restaurant with elaborate cocktails, at his request. My accomplice, Rox, and I had a night of shore leave for an evening of shisha, Sangsom buckets and fire dancers, drifting back to the boat at 7am the next morning. I was seasick that day.
Alas, the week flew past and before we knew it we were back on shore meeting gibbons and elephants and heading for our former haunt of Surin Beach. Just a couple of days here as the party gradually flowed away. Not before we had a final hurrah dinner at ‘Fatty Bum Bum’s’ (our nickname, based on the fact that the proprietor is the only obese Thai lady we’ve ever seen), a cheap local restaurant that we accidentally spent New Year in a few years ago. Best prawns in the world ever.
Surin Beach has changed since we visited and become little more than a sea of beach umbrellas for the loaded and famous. I’m surprised all that collagen and silicon don’t melt into one giant boob.
Much more to my taste was Bangtao beach, a 10 minute walk in the other direction (past the coconut-collecting monkeys – clever simians!) Here 6km of sandy curves gently around, stippled at irregular intervals with a collection of eateries ranging from proper posh to ramshackle. What’s more, every evening in the late afternoon Mina the elephant takes a promenade, doing tricks and getting papped along the way. She’s not as fun as her predecessor, Lucky, whose handle on current affairs and smutty humour blew Mina out of the water, but she’s better than nothing.
On the last day, little sister Sarah and her boyfriend Dave announced their engagement. Happy days! So we supped champers at one of the posh clubs on the beach and then sent them on their way home. I think I would have preferred to milk it much more than that, but to each his own. They’re an eccentric pair, to say the least, so Christ only knows what the wedding will look like.
It’s always lovely to spend time with your nearest and dearest – Christmas, New Year and a holiday…. Perhaps I’m a misanthrope, perhaps a spinster-in-training, perhaps simply antisocial but now, as I write this, I am merrily, blissfully, incorrigibly, 100%… alone.