I am a planner, extremely analytical, rational and logical. If I have to make a decision about a course of action, my brain will slice and dice it a zillion times, considering and ranking all the potential outcomes before I make the decision. Sometimes this can be instantaneous but if there is a lot of greyness and uncertainty in the outcomes then I may spend a lot of time mulling over my decision. Making the right decision is critical, it can lead to success or failure, happiness or dissatisfaction. Or at least that’s what I used to think.
This way of thinking and processing has its advantages, not the least being fully committed to a course of action. But it also has its disadvantages, particularly where a decision is needed immediately or where there is too much grey that the only way forward is to take the safest route. It can also suck the spontaneity out of life.
So along with all the friends and family I left behind to come on this journey, I very lovingly embraced the planner within me, thanked her for helping me in my journey to date, and left her at the departure gates at Melbourne Airport. It wasn’t a clear-cut farewell. Her shadow followed me and there is a hole where she used to reside within me. But thanks to the encouragement of a friend, the first seed of spontaneity has been planted, somewhat slowly, and now a new aspect of my personality has been allowed to grow in her place.
I had no intention of going to back Koh Phi Phi Don. It is a small but stunning island, a unique shape with massive limestone cliffs surrounded by clear blue seas. If you’ve seen the move The Beach, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. It mainly attracts the back packing crowd with not much to do but lie on the beach during the day (or snorkelling and diving for the more active) and drink buckets of Sangsom (Thai whiskey) at night. I have been there twice before and whilst I appreciate it’s beauty, I didn’t feel the need to visit for a third time.
So unexpectedly, last Sunday, I found myself sitting on the 8.30am ferry from Rassada Pier in Phuket making the 90 minute journey over to Phi Phi, once again. I had made the decision to go less than 18 hours previously after speaking to a friend who had been working as a dive instructor there and was fortunate to dive with whale sharks and manta rays. These amazing creatures had been sighted consistently for 2 weeks at a site called Hin Daeng which is 90 minutes by speed boat from Phi Phi.
As I know from my turtle-drought, there’s never any guarantees about what you will see when you go diving. And I wasn’t sure about forking out money on transport, additional accommodation and diving costs when there was no guarantee of the outcome. But we knew these creatures were in the area and I was reminded that it might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. So with that, the decision was made. I arranged my ferry transfer, packed a bag for a couple of days and off I went.
As I sat waiting for my ferry to depart, staring out the window at a grey, cloudy sky patched with mottled blue, I knew, regardless of the outcome, I had made the right decision to go. My stomach bubbled with excitement and surprisingly not with the anticipation of seeing whale sharks or manta rays but excitement about not knowing what would happen once I got there. I felt excitement at my excitement and with this, an aliveness because I didn’t know what would happen past this moment.
When I arrived at Phi Phi, the first thing I did was try to book on to a speedboat. I already understood that there was a chance the boats may not go if the weather conditions were bad. They wait for the fishermen to report back in the early evening before making the decision to send the dive boats the next day. But what I didn’t realise at that point, was being low season, there may not be enough customers to justify sending the boat. I had to wait until 9.30pm Sunday night to find out if I would be going to Hin Daeng. They only needed 6 customers to send the boat and they already had 4. As all the dive shops on the island will combine customers if there are only small groups, I was optimistic that I would be going. However, I went back that night and was given the bad news. Not enough customers to go! I was mildly disappointed but not earth-shatteringly devastated. Feeling the excitement of the adventure of the unknown had been enough.
As it turned out, I went diving anyway to King Cruiser Wreck, Shark Point and Palong Bay. It wasn’t the greatest diving experience I have ever had, thanks to a Divemaster who didn’t follow safe diving practices, didn’t plan dives and didn’t know the sites. It generally isn’t a good idea to leave your customers behind at 22 metres approaching a No Decompression Limit when your navigation is off and you can’t find the second part of a dive site. It also isn’t a good idea for a Divemaster to forget to check their own air and then tell customers that they almost ran out. This doesn’t inspire a lot of trust, confidence or portray professionalism. I was grateful that I had my dive computer with me, a level head and good training.
Despite these concerns, I was so grateful that my request to dive Palong Bay as our alternative third dive site paid off, and not long after descending we saw a turtle. I finally broke my turtle drought off 67 dives with no turtle sightings. There is nothing I can say in words to adequately describe the majesty and grace of a turtle in the sea. It truly is something you have to see and feel for yourself.
I hadn’t given up hope of getting to Hin Daeng. So at 9.30pm Monday night, I found myself trudging back to the dive shop with my Italian Dive buddy who was also hoping to dive Hin Daeng. If the boat was going, I was prepared to arrange an extra night’s accommodation and be at the dive shop at 7.20am in the morning to go and dive. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Again, there were not enough customers wanting to go.
Although I didn’t achieve the main objective, to dive with Manta Rays and Whale Sharks, it was worth the trip. I undertook the hike to the lookout for a stunning view of Phi Phi, I narrowly escaped being attacked by vicious monkeys, I drank buckets of Sangsom and Mojito with my diving buddy and his friends whilst watching "Muay Thai" boxing matches between bucket-inspired young girls, and I broke my turtle drought. I don’t think an adventure could be much better than that even if I planned it myself!
View from the ferry - heavy rain on the horizon
The steps I climbed up to the Lookout
Look cute don't they? They're not! They are vicious! Just after taking this photo, I was chased by 3 of them..fangs flared. I didn't realise there was a pack of them on the ground and I also didn't see the sign that warned to "Beware Vicious Monkeys". I ran for my life!
Ah, the view...stunning.
View from my hotel balcony
The bucket-inspired "Muay Thai" fight