Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Many non-divers will tell you not to bother visiting Phuket as SE Asia is full of beautiful beaches and there is much better. However, talk to a diver and they will tell you the Similans are THE must-dive spot in Thailand. And the easiest way to get there is via Phuket.

The uninhabited Similan Islands are approximately 70 kilometers from the mainland. Therefore, the best opportunities to dive there come in the form of a live aboard dive trip. There are one day dive trips available, but the amount of travel necessary for just two dives is a bit much.

We opted for a 2 day, 1 night trip. We made 6 dives plus 1 night dive, for a total of 7 dives.

The journey begins with a 1-1.5 hour speed boat ride to the Similan Islands. The boat we were on (similar to the boat pictured above) had three 200hp outboard motors. The ride was rather loud and bumpy but well worth it.

After 1.5 hours we arrived at the live aboard boat. The 2 year old boat was quite nice, better than any of the others we saw in the area.

With 30 +/- divers on board you'd think things would get somewhat crowded and congested... surprisingly it rarely felt that way, except for just a few times after a dive when people were trying to board the boat from the choppy water.

The women who run our hotel were having a birthday bbq and they invited us to join them. I have been talking to them about how much I love Thai food and they share the same dissatisfaction I have for Phuket's poor mélange of culinary options. I think they wanted to show me they can do better... and they were successful.

They prepared bbq'd snails, snapper, perch, squid, beef, and pork steaks. Everything was fantastic and they even offered us some California wine to top things off. Oh yeah... and we saved room for dessert.

On Monday we made two dives off the coast of Phuket. We dove from a longtail boat. The above image shows my Dad making his way out to the boat.

The first dive was to visit a shipwreck. A tin mining boat wrecked just off the coast of Bang Tao Beach about 80 years ago.

The second dive was to some coral off of Bang Tao Beach.

The diving was great fun and it got me excited for our upcoming Similan Islands trip.

We went to dinner at a cliff-side restaurant with views of Patong Beach. I guess Patong is good for something.

Wandi, our hotel manager, and her two sisters have been wonderful to us. Wandi goes out of her way to help everybody who stays at Papa Crab, and we are no exception. Wandi has been managing the hotel since just after the Tsunami. This year she asked her sister and sister-in-law to leave their families in Bangkok to help her run the hotel in Phuket for the high season.

On Sunday they were heading to the beach for an afternoon off and they invited us along. We were on our way out to Kamala Beach (where we are staying) and we thought it would be nice to see a new place. They took us to Nai Thon Beach (pictured above). It's a very nice beach with very few visitors.