Phi Phi: Swimming In It
· by wendy · thailand
First off, you should know it’s pronounced Pee Pee. I was like a 3rd grader every time someone said the name of the island we ferried to from Phuket (also funny if you say it the stupid foreigner way, or even the right way for that matter…Poo-ket). The ferry operator announced, “And to the left is Phi Phi Lay. Phi Phi Lay blah blah blah. Also, on Phi Phi Lay…blah blah blah. We will be arriving at Phi Phi Don in 10 minutes. Enjoy your stay on Phi Phi Island.” Giggle. He said Phi Phi.
Cool thing about Phi Phi Lay, the smaller of the two islands, is it’s the site of the movie The Beach starring Leonardo Dicaprio. When we sailed past it on the ferry, we could see it was swarming with tourists on “The Beach” and countless boats surrounded it. No one actually stays on Phi Phi Lay unless you camp with a tour company. We did not make it there on our visit, partially because the crowd was so unappealing. Besides, we had bigger fish to fry.
Our travel companions, Arlo and Oksana, had a scuba goal for Phi Phi Island. Since Dusty, Sarah and I are not PADI certified, we didn’t consider it since we didn’t have the time or money to mess with the course. To our surprise, we found Visa Diving who offers a beginner dive “course” called Discover Scuba. All we had to do was sit in a classroom for maybe 30 minutes and then we were off to dive! No kidding. I have to say that I might have been freaked out had I learned much more than we did.
Once at the dive sight, our instructors went over the 3 lessons we had to master in the water. One was taking the regulator out of our mouths and putting it back in. Next was “losing” our regulator behind us and recovering it. Finally, we had to let some water into our mask and then blow air through our nose to get out. Done…dive time!
Between the 3 of us we had 2 dive instructors. One for Sarah and I and one for Dusty. After we passed our 3 lessons, our instructor says to Sarah and I, “So are you guys good swimmers?” Sarah, told him that she was a water polo player. Hard for me to tell if I’m a good swimmer or not. How can you tell? Can I swim, yes? Good enough for him, we began. We were down for almost 60 minutes, swimming along side our instructor without assistance. That’s how good we were. :) Actually, we were told we did really really well, but I’m not sure what we did that was so awesome. We swam, we breathed, we didn’t die. Success! My only thought is that we must have been pretty calm because we stayed under for a long time and had plenty of air left. I think the more stressed you are, the faster you empty your tank. I’m sure someone out there will confirm or correct me.
After we came up I checked on Dusty. Sarah and I saw him for a few minutes down there but he and his instructor explored in a different area than we did. Unfortunately, Dusty did not enjoy scuba. At first I was shocked that this fish didn’t totally love being in the water checking out all the wildlife. It made more sense when he told me he felt “trapped”. With his history with asthma, even though it hasn’t bothered him in a long time, the idea of being underwater sucking air through a tube was stressful. When Sarah and I went down for our second dive, he did not join. I’m glad he gave it a try, though. Perhaps he will try again someday when he’s ready.
Time out! Did I mention the monkeys?! Funny…. I think they were macaques, the same monkeys involved in the Zanesville fiasco. These macaques were monkeying around outside our hotel. Some were trying to get in someone’s house for some goodies. The owner constantly shooed them away with little result.
Aside from scuba and monkeys, there’s little else to do on Phi Phi Island besides chill out. The island is shaped like a dog bone with two big ends and a tiny strip in between. The people are mainly concentrated in the center. There aren’t many motorized vehicles besides maybe 3 or 4 motor bikes. People move around the island walkways on bicycles and by foot which makes breathing so much easier…no exhaust! Our bags were even transported to our hotel by a man pushing them in a cart. It’s paradise. But, beware of the monkeys!