We decided from the onset of our trip that we weren’t going to spend our money on “things”, but rather on experiences instead. We didn’t want to come home with a suitcase full of arbitrary items that cost a fortune and that we will hardly ever use, but rather with stories of wonderful adventures that would last us a lifetime. We wanted to make memories – with our children…with each other. And that’s exactly what we did!
Tourism is a major economic factor in Thailand. The people pride themselves on this and almost everything is commercialised. But of all the things we did while there; of all the clichéd tourist spots we simply had to visit, the island tours remain undoubtedly our favourite experiences of them all! The raw, unfiltered, untouched, natural beauty that exists within the waters of the Andaman sea is so breathtakingly beautiful, so picturesque, so…perfect! A collection of islands that resembles a real paradise on earth. Phang Nga Bay was beautiful, but I really think we saved the best tour for last!
By this, our sixth day in Thailand, our kids already knew the drill. They dragged themselves out of bed knowing full well that there was a lot of exhilarating experiences expected for the day ahead! After a quick breakfast we headed to the foyer and got to our tour bus (on time this time), and headed towards the same pier and same procedures as the last time.
This time round I tried to soak up more of my environment instead of trying to photograph all of it! Mounds and mounds of incredulous limestone boulders jutting out of green seas, until eventually giving way to crystal clear blue waters, as we made our way to our first stop – an uninhabited island (except for a few tourist boats docked on the shores) where we were allowed to lounge around, snorkel or just soak up the views.
We went at a time when the island wasn’t too busy and it was quiet and calm enough to truly enjoy ourselves. I got to venture out deep into the sea…to where my feet could no longer touch the ground, and I swam alongside fish of all sorts and sizes. And I probably wouldn’t have gone out so far out if it wasn’t for my daughter’s adventurous spirit and deep love for the sea! Watching her fearlessly face the ocean was absolutely magical. The boys played it a bit safer and stayed near the shore and hubby and I took turns to go a little deeper while one stayed with the boys.
There are scores of tourists who embark on these tours on a daily basis, and the tour guides we had tried their best to take us to these popular spots when they are least populated. For that reason, our second stop was an early lunch. This island was the first one we visited that was visibly inhabited. Modest, wooden, beach facing houses with the most incredible views! I pottered around the island, took a few pics while some of the other tourists took the opportunity to enjoy the warm waters.
For our next stop, we slowed down near hidden bays and passed concealed lagoons and made our way to Monkey Island. I read a lot about Monkey Island in my research. About being careful with our cameras and phones and general belongings. I saw beautiful pictures of people floating on wooden swings hanging from trees with the clear blue oceans strategically behind them. But I’m guessing we were there during high tide, because the was no shore to disembark onto and we all kind of hovered towards the front of the boat to get a glimpse of the monkeys. This was also another strategic move since it awarded us more time at our next two stops which turned out to be the highlight of our tour! Monkeys are cute and all, but we wanted some more adventure!
We thought we saw it all, but this next stop completely took my breath away!!! Like literally! I couldn’t even believe that what we were experiencing was real! Waters so clear that you could see all the treasures that lay between the oceans surface and its floors. And just as quickly as the water turned the most beautiful colour of aqua and gave us a glimpse of all the beauty it holds, it went completely dark again and then our boat came to a complete stop in the most magnificent setting I had ever set eyes on – docked in a lagoon somewhere in the middle of the sea, no shore in near sight- we grabbed our snorkel gear and jumped off the front of the boat and into the sea. I won’t lie, I was frightened out of my mind. But once I saw the kids fearlessly jump into the water below, there was no choice but to follow!
After spending some time swimming around, we went back to the entry point of the lagoon, where just a couple of metres away the water was a completely different colour and so was the fish that swam beneath its surface. Here we stopped again, jumped off the side of the boat and, with our feet unable to reach the ocean floor, we swam with the hundreds of multi coloured fish.
They say travel changes you. That it opens your eyes and your heart and broadens your perspective on life – and it’s true! For me, I thought I would find my life changing moments in Thai culture; but instead I found my greatest lesson on the shores of the iconic Maya Bay. And it was in the moments that my eyes scanned this beautiful shores, as I tried to soak up this last bit of Thailand that I was really able to truly see myself reflected in every single tourist there…standing against the light, trying to capture the perfect picture.
And there I stood, camera in hand, face to face with this picture perfect setting; and then after a few brief shots, I shoved the thing back into my bag, took my kids by their hand and marched off to the edge of the water. This was our last stop of a day that was full of adventure, once in a lifetime experiences and the most spectacular memories. At this point I just wanted to float on my back and absorb surroundings that I’m not sure I will ever see again. I wanted to swim with my daughter as deep as we could possibly go, equally as much as I wanted to catch the waves on the shore. I wanted to get lost in these final moments in paradise…but you know what I didn’t want to do as much as I did at the start of this journey? I wasn’t as interested in taking pictures of everything.
And that’s how we spent the last hour of this tour. Languishing in the deep blue sea that was relatively empty save for a few other people who also decided to leave their cameras on shore.
For more on our Thailand Travels, read here:
Travelling with kids
Thanks for reading!