a peek inside the fishbowl

08 May, 2020

Blue water, beautiful sights, monkey bites

Posted by andrea tomkins in: travel talk

The Thailand diaries continue! To read past posts in this series, click here.

We hired a private long-tail boat to take us on a three hour tour of a few different locations around the islands that are only accessible by water. It cost us $1500 bhat (about $60) and it was worth every penny, and then some.

There is a lot of trust required when you’re hiring someone, and if you recall from past posts, this was a bit of challenge for me. Do we trust this person to show up? Keep their promise? Take us to good places AND BACK? Deliver us in one piece? etc etc. I don’t want to die, but as I said before, if you can’t get over your trust issues, you never do anything when you travel. We wanted to see stuff, so we booked it. Half up front. (TRUST.)

The long-tail boat is a lightweight wooden vessel with a gas engine. It’s ideal for shallow water. These boats are parked almost everywhere; with their owners commonly camped in front on folding chairs, hawking their trip packages.

The one with the green tie at the tip in the photo below the one we hired.

Wooden longboats, Phi Phi Islands

The pilot of the boat sits on the very back end; passengers on benches at the front and sides. There’s a very very small cabin, as you can see. We didn’t see ourselves using it (“it’s such a gorgeous day!”), but it would turn out to be a lifesaver. More on that later.

It was hot that day. Hot hot. But we were prepared with sun hats and towels and cover ups over our bathing suits because we knew we’d be out in the open. I brought sun screen and water, and our fellow packed some water for us too, which was nice.

And so, with great excitement, we set off, the sun on our backs and the salty spray in our faces…

On the long-tail boat

… a LOT OF SALTY SPRAY. Oh my goodness, the water was incredibly choppy as we veered away from the main island.

I can’t even tell you the names of the inlets  and quiet beaches we visited, but each one was absolutely stunning.

One of them was Monkey Beach, or should I say, the “new” Monkey Beach, because there was some issue with the old one. Monkey Beach was high on our “must do” list because MONKEYS.

As we pulled in there were a dozen or so other boats disgorging passengers at the same time. Clearly, this was a high-traffic route for boats both big and small.

It’s a scenic beach – gorgeous water and fine sand, all hedged in by tall cliffs.

Monkey Beach

Monkey Beach

Monkey Beach

We joined the photo-taking throng. How could we not? (The mama monkey below was carrying a baby monkey on its chest.)

Monkey Beach, Phi Phi

The monkeys seemed ok with this whole arrangement, until they weren’t.

Early on we saw signs of monkey bullying (a.k.a. monkey’s bullying humans, not the other way around). This was a gang of two, threatening a couple of mortals whose only protection was bathing trunks and swim shoes.

The beginnings of an attack, Monkey Beach

The youngest and I stuck to the quieter side of the beach. There was a sizeable crowd on the other end and I didn’t want anything to do with those yahoos. At one point we heard shrieks – human shrieks, not monkey shrieks – and turned in time to see a handful of people running away from the monkeys and into the water. Laughing.

All the people, Monkey Beach

I should point out that these were not big monkeys. They probably weigh as much as a large cat, although their arms and legs are much longer, not to mention that tail and, er, teeth.

We kept our distance and limited our photos to bored-looking females, or ones that were actively ignoring us or otherwise engaged:

Monkey Beach mama!

Someone left their flip-flops

There was one male on the beach who was very much strutting his stuff. I could practically hear David Attenborough narrating the nature documentary in which I was participating: Here you see the alpha male, calmly and quietly making the rounds of his group before he attempts to reclaim his territory. He appears calm now but it’s actually the beginning of something much more menacing …

There were all kinds of people doing stupid things, like posing with baby monkeys. It was mind-boggling, really. All the guidebooks said NOT to feed the monkeys, to stay far away from the monkeys, to avoid any interactions with the monkeys etc. I learned later that monkey bites were the number one reason there was a medical centre on Phi Phi Island. Apparently there’s risk of rabies and a host of other diseases too.

While I was taking deliberate steps backwards from the leader of the monkey pack who was clearly making some kind of internal calculations, I saw one young girl, say about 14-years-old, squat down on her haunches in front of this male with a big grin on her face (OMG KID WHY ARE YOU BARING YOUR TEETH AT THE ALPHA MALE) and her arms wide open in a “hug me” pose. (!!)

Thank goodness nothing happened to her, but there was one person who was attacked while we were there. I’m not sure if it was the monkey with the swagger who was responsible, but it started with a yelp (a human yelp) which immediately escalated to terrified screams. I turned in time to see a big guy dropping and rolling in the sand, then clutching his arm, screaming: I’M BLEEDING. I was too far to see what happened but that’s exactly when we left.

The sights ABOVE the water were spectacular, the greenery and cliffs and caves and rocks and blue blue sky and water. Our eyeballs nearly fell out. And yes, the water is really that colour.

Boat tour, Phi Phi

Kayaker, Phi Phi Islands

Phi Phi Islands

… but the sights BELOW the water were equally impressive.

Part of our tour included the loan of snorkels and masks. We wore lifejackets so we could float effortlessly with our faces in the water and watch the show unfold beneath us: small fish cleaning big fish, sea plants (?) waving, clam-type things opening and closing, fish poking around rocks. For awhile I followed a yellow fish, just because I could. It had two blue dots on the latter half of its body, as if someone had tried to stop him from swimming by pinching him with blue-dyed fingertips. At one point we were swarmed by a school of yellow and blue fish. It was beautiful, magical, unforgettable.

Long Tail boat tour of Phi Phi Islands

We jumped in the water from the top of our boat, sunned ourselves, and swam in secluded lagoons. We felt very far away from our ordinary lives.

By the time we arrived at our final lagoon, the youngest and I were utterly exhausted. We had no energy left to snorkel. The sun screen had rubbed off and it was tough to stay on top of application. I had the distinct feeling that the back of my thighs were getting burned. The taste in my mouth was permanently salty. At one point we had to cross some alarmingly choppy waters, and the spraying water in our faces made it impossible to sit out front so we took shelter in the aforementioned small cabin, which protected us from a fraction of the buckets of water that were pouring down on our heads. To make matters worse, the exhaust from the engine seemed to collect here. Our choice was essentially to breathe in the exhaust or get washed overboard, I kid ye not.

The clouds rolled in and the water became even choppier on the return trip back home. The kid bonked her head big time. The long-boat felt like a cork on the water and as the waves grew taller I was afraid we had a very real chance of capsizing. Fortunately, our pilot knew what he was doing and he navigated admirably and kept our boat afloat. (I’m positive this was just another ordinary day on the sea for him, but not for us!)

The return trip seemed to last forever but it was over soon enough. Clutching our stomachs and wringing out our soaked towels, we clamoured out of the boat on jelly legs and made our way back to our hotel. In hindsight I suspect we were majorly dehydrated and suffering from mild sunstroke.

As a reward for our bravery we bought exotic potato chips (this was an ongoing theme throughout our trip) and expensive drinks at the bar next door. I enjoyed the best iced coffee I’ve ever had in my entire life.

We watched the sun go down and did our best to gather up our energy again before dinner.

Coffee never tasted so good

Cheers to surviving another adventure

Island bar

Chips in Thailand

2 Responses to "Blue water, beautiful sights, monkey bites"

1 | Amy

May 9th, 2020 at 3:54 pm


That sounds fantastic! As with most travelling, parts are much more comfortable when you’re telling them afterwards, but they make a good story.

My husband and I bought an underwater camera expressly for taking pictures while snorkeling. It made a huge difference and was definitely worth the price. Prior to that, I had only used disposable underwater cameras and was really disappointed that you can’t tell what you’re taking a picture of until you develop them, so I had quite a few wasted pictures.

We also bought some cheap snorkeling gear to take when we went travelling to tropical locales because you can see a lot off docks and beaches without having to pay for pricey tourist trips. That said, those trips can definitely be worth it, but you’re right, it takes a lot of trust and not all of them live up to your hopes/expectations. It depends how much luggage space you have though, it’s not necessarily worth it for every trip.

Thank you for sharing these stories, I’m at a place in life where I won’t be doing a lot of travelling any time soon even if the new normal allows it, so it’s fun hearing about your trip.

2 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Camping at Charleston Lake Provincial Park, the 2020 edition - a peek inside the fishbowl

August 2nd, 2020 at 3:10 pm


[…] it’s even that scenic,” she said. She’s not wrong. It’s neither a mountain vista nor a tropical paradise, but it feels like happiness and home to […]

comment form:


Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

All hail the mighty Twitter