Solo Travel in Thailand: Out of My Comfort Zone, Part V
This is the fifth part in a series about Chandra’s adventures with solo travel in Thailand. Read the fourth part here.
With my new tattoo intact and a mind numbing headache complements of my liquid courage from said ink, I gathered my supplies and trotted down the road to meet my tour. I was slightly hesitant to book as a single female, however when I arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see I would be trapped on a boat to a gorgeous deserted island with four sexy South African boys and several other characters. After a few minutes waiting for our tour guide to prepare the boat with his free arm as he held an infant child in the other, he handed her off to a woman wading in the water nearby as we all climbed gracelessly aboard. I strategically positioned myself across from the sexiest South African and off we went to explore archipelagos.
We sped through the crashing waves towards our first stop at Monkey Bay. While I was contently admiring the view – chiseled abs, strong jaw structure and sweeping blonde hair – I was being pelted in the face with periodic sprays of salty ocean water every time the longtail thumped clumsily on the rough surface. Fortunately, I had purchased waterproof vinyl storage for my valuables literally minutes before boarding this relaxing cruise liner. Unfortunately, my towel did not fare too well on the journey. Why I even brought it was escaping me at the time, as no other tourist came equipped with such elementary belongings. After the inevitable saturation, we arrived at our first destination. The longtail puttered up to the island and stopped short of the coast, forcing us to once again get out and walk. We all carefully tiptoed through the jagged rocks, which made our bodies jerk awkwardly as we crept toward the island like a bunch of sea-dwelling zombies.
These monkeys were trained assassins in the art of thievery. Their cute and furry facades were solely to gain our trust while they secretly conspired against us.
Once stepping foot on the island it became immediately apparent that these were not your ordinary primates. These were trained assassins in the art of thievery. Their cute and furry facades were solely to gain our trust while they secretly conspired against us. I witnessed one mastermind monkey manipulate an unsuspecting woman who was volunteering her water bottle in a subtle peace offering. The crook created a diversion while the other snuck up behind her and tried to pull her hippie chic crocheted vest off her back. She resisted at first by keeping her arms locked in a bent position, pinching the sweater between her inner elbows. As the monkey persisted, practically hanging off of the fashionable fringe, she finally conceded. In one fell swoop, she swung her arms backwards and clenched her shoulder blades to release the sweater and hop forward away from the groping harassment. Satisfied, the monkey ran up high into a nearby tree to wave its beige flag, staking its claim and taunting the woman.
Meanwhile, I was attempting a photo opportunity with an unassuming creature, naively placing my newly purchased hot pink Ocean Pack on the sand, out of the lens’ view for more organic scenery. While posing, a monkey gang member ran out from behind a rock heading straight for my bag, clearly a tactical stealing strategy in motion. Luckily a lovely British girl from the tour snatched it up before the hooligan could get its opposable thumbs on my property. I abandoned the photo session and nervously held my bag tight as the monkey jumped towards me and tried to pry it from my determined fingertips. I tried to verbally reason with the little kleptomaniac and when that failed, I raised my pack higher and shook his grip loose. Having had enough of Caesar’s minions, I retreated back to the boat. This time I selected a drier seat, forfeiting my view of South Africa’s finest.
Once everyone flopped back on the boat we were on to our next adventure, Maya Bay. This isolated uninhabited island was made famous by Leonardo Dicaprio in The Beach and quickly turned into a hotspot tourist destination in Thailand. When our longtail suddenly stopped and tied a rope to another to secure its position, I was so wonderstruck by the natural beauty that I failed to recognize we fell drastically short of the nearest landmass.
Since our captain was not an English-speaking extraordinaire, the communication of the “organized” tour was severely lacking. He nonchalantly nodded at us and directed his chin towards the rocking waves, an indication to get out of his boat and swim. As a strong swimmer who usually logs two miles a weekend, I was prepared to dive right in. I however was not prepared for the extreme water turbulence working against me while simultaneously trying to swim with my bag overhead. Even though it was waterproof, I was not going to take any chances w ith losing or ruining the phone that took me several weeks upon relocation to figure how to unlock.
I dropped myself over the side of the boat and tried to do a front paddle combined with a frog leg push maneuver while holding the bag over my head with my other hand. After realizing I was exerting a lot of energy without making any tangible progress, I had to rethink my strategy. I clung to a boat rope nearby while treading water to reassess the situation. I looked around to see what everyone else was doing and saw people just bobbing around helplessly in the choppy waves while others contently remained on the boat.
Too determined to turn back, I tried a different approach. I positioned myself so that I was swimming backward in a seated position, kicking with my legs in front of me while using my left hand to push the water away from me, still maintaining control of my overhead baggage. Good plan. I was soon making some real gains on the Andaman Sea. I was so impressed with my resourcefulness that I was happily kicking along when without warning, I hit the literal rock bottom. It came unexpectedly and rather painfully. The uneven ground altered between jagged rock before seemingly disappearing, forcing me to tread water again.
I was so impressed with my resourcefulness that I was happily kicking along when without warning, I hit the literal rock bottom.
Once I was able to stabilize my footing, I kneed and crawled over the rocks just trying to keep my head above the continuously churning water. I finally made it to the large landmass where many other tourists were slowly stepping and grasping at an entire platform made of pointy edges. It wasn’t until I reached it myself that I realized the immense agony one faced trying to creep along this unsteady rock mass, while periodically being thrown off balance by wild waves. I was determined to see this sacred sanctuary where Leo once stood, presumably after his stress-free ride and VIP yacht access.
Eventually I made it to the top of the insecure rope latter and over the bridge. I walked through the small forest and continued along the path gawking at the majestic mountainscapes surrounding me. I walked anxiously towards the sign pointing to The Beach beach and then it appeared before me, exquisitely.
Top photo credit: Roberta Zouain