Life-Jackets while Canoeing in the Sea? Nah …. [Thailand]

Has it happened to you that a place you are visiting happens to be so beautiful and interesting that you spent a little too much time enjoying the sights that you ultimately miss your tour mates and the guide and they proceed without you? Well, thats exactly what happened to us during our recent Phuket (Thailand) vacation. How can one visit Phuket and not go to the No:1 place in Phuket, Phang Nga, famously known as “James Bond Island” … Anyone who has watched the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” would have come across this maginificient island in that movie.

Phuket is surrounded by a zillion islands, some large, some small, but all of them beautiful in one way or the other. Here are some pictures to demonstrate what I am referring to.

Phuket – Phi Phi Island
Phuket – Phi Phi Island
Phuket – Long Beach
One of the many islands surrounding Phuket …

Our boat (with around 30 tourists) was moored in the sea, about 0.5 Km from the shore and we were taken to the James Bond Island in a smaller and long motor boat. The main Guide had mentioned (I think! I was too excited to pay much attention) that we have around 1 hour to spent on the Island.

We enjoyed the James Bond Island very much. The huge rock with the narrow base was just a wonderful sight. So was the walk along the narrow steps and the other surrounding vistas. Of course, how can you visit such a place and not take thousands of pictures? You can not.  Pictures of kids, pictures of the whole family, individual pictures etc. All permutations/combinations were tried. Then we slowly started to amble back to the dock, so we can take the ride back in the long motor boat and get on to the main boat. As luck would have it, it started pouring. June is the monsoon season in Thailand and rains can come at any time.

We reached the dock and it was unsurprisingly empty. Well, who would be at the dock in this rain. I could see all the people taking shelter at various points (under rocks, at souvenir stalls, at restaurants etc.). Then a distressing sight greeted my eyes. I saw the long motor boat right beside our main boat (in the distance) and I noticed the fellow tourists getting on to the main boat! Our bag with the money, camera and other belongings were in the boat and even more importantly, missing the boat would mean missing the rest of the tour. We would miss the canoeing (the highlight of the tour) at two islands, miss lunch and to boot, will have to make alternate arrangements to get to Phuket. James Bond Island is around a 1-hour boat ride away from Phuket dock.

I started waving frantically so that someone in the main boat would notice us. After a few minutes of this, I noticed the boat starting to move away. I then requested a nearby local guy (who was dressed in some kind of uniform) to help us and showed him our departing boat. He then proceeded to do a special hand-wave and it was then that I started to notice some action in the boat. The main guide did some waving back and soon we saw two canoes being launched from the boat and head for the dock. Though we were relieved, another thought struck us. It was raining heavily and the sea looked pretty choppy. My swimming skills are spotty, at best, and to boot, we had two kids with us. And no life jackets! The two canoes reached us pretty quickly and we had to wade a bit into the water and get on to the canoes. My wife went in one canoe and myself and the kids got in another. Our canoe had only one young guy to do the rowing. My wife’s canoe had two guys. The canoe was shaking so much in the choppy sea that I was holding on to our kids and repeatedly requesting them to sit still.

During the unplanned canoe ride back to the boat ...
During the unplanned canoe ride back to the boat …

The first 5 minutes was pure torture for I was petrified of the sea and the shaky canoe. After a few minutes I started feeling a bit more confident and started to take my camera out of pocket of my wet shorts. Trust me, it is not an easy thing to do while balancing on a canoe and while the rain is pouring down. Somehow I managed it and started clicking away. I wanted to capture the moment for the future. Each time we went over a wave, it was like falling head-first into the sea and then the canoe will right itself.

It is one thing to sit in a Cruise Ship and watch the choppy sea. I have done that previously. It is another thing to sit in a motorized boat with proper life-jacket and all. I have done it many times previously. But to canoe off a volcanic island with no life-jacket and with kids in tow, is an experience I have not had until now.

One more item off the Bucket List 🙂


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