Zeavola's Thai village charm continues with quirky surprises and delicious meals. And on our final full day we do some island hopping by speedboat which promises us adventure. What we weren't quite prepared for was the kind of adventure that we found!
Unfamiliar sounds greet me as the sliver of sun shines in on my villa. My mind, unable to ascertain what it is immediately thinks of baboons but in all likelihood it's a bird. And at 6am at Zeavola Resort on Phi Phi Island, it could really be anything.
I peel back the curtain and bleary eyed I get ready. I don a bikini and playsuit in the pretense that I will get in the water today and make my way to breakfast. It's empty at this hour but the tours leave early to avoid the busy peak periods (and considering this is low season and there are crowds, I can't imagine what it is like during high season).
Breakfast at Baxil restaurant is a quiet affair while everyone in the group wakes up. I take a low and slow walk past the breakfast selection and am tempted by the fried rice and noodles for breakfast (a sure sign you're in Asia when there are noodles on offer for breakfast). I take this to a table with some guava juice. Unlike pink guava juice, it isn't grainy and it is perfectly sweet.
I feast on the noodles and they set down a plate of three sweet jams: pandan jam, honey and sweetened condensed milk. You can dip toast in these or within the menu there are some fried dough sticks called Pa Tong Ko. Yep they are hidden within the menu which is two pieces of paper stapled together and I only discovered them while looking at the menu. Quirky!
We climb aboard the speedboat where our dive instructor Tan explains the house rules. Firstly there is no bathroom on the boat so any time you need to go is either in the bushes or in the water (I although wish he had told us that before we left). We are stopping at a few places, some just for photos and others for snorkelling or wading opportunities.
The first stop is Maya Bay, made famous for being the filming location for the film The Beach. The ride out there is rough, as it is rainy season the seas do tend to be a bit choppier so while sitting at the front provides a view it is not without a strong series of bumps (and resulting squeals). To alight at Maya Bay it costs 400baht per person but Tan tells us that he will be taking us to a nearby location where we will go snorkelling.
He gives everyone instructions on how to breathe using the snorkelling equipment. You essentially do so through your mouth and not your nose. The fish are plentiful and people throw bread and watermelon into the water. This is obviously controversial because this is not the fish's natural food and I'm surprised to see this.
After some time snorkelling our next stop is Phi Lei Lagoon, a gorgeous spot where there are at least 50 shades of green. It's hard to know where to look and Tan encourages everyone to dive off the front of the boat into the jade green water below. Much time is spent here and everyone dives in and out of the water in rapid succession. Plates of pineapple and watermelon are also brought out and we sit in the sun the salt air making our hair thick, curled and knotted.
Viking Cave with swallow's nests
We reluctantly pull up anchor and head towards the viking cave with the swallows nest. The saliva from the swallows can fetch huge sums of money for its medicinal value. And then we reach the setting for one of the most interesting times that morning. Monkey Island, Monkey Beach or Ao Ling is a popular place for people to stop. Located on a cove in the North West of Loh Dalam Bay. They ask us if we want to get out of the boat but having been given a talk by Florian, the G.M. of Zeavola about the dangers of the Long-Tailed Macaque Monkeys we decline and stay on the boat. We watch as someone on another boat next to us brings out some fruit which only serves to entice the monkeys who rapidly board the boat using the rope as leverage.
With horror we realise that we are next although we aren't tempting them with fruit and before we know it, a mother and baby and a large male macaque board the boat. Panicking we try and back into the boat and somehow the monkeys get the message. And of course I managed to capture this all on Periscope (the live streaming app by twitter that broadcasts live to the world). That did not go down the way I wanted it to lets just say! If you do get bitten you do need rabies shots (multiple ones with reportedly very large needles). Also monkey sightings are not guaranteed and some people have reported not seeing any monkeys.
There's one last stop at a beach and I wade into the water onto shore. I watch a tiny white sand crab dance across the white sand and duck into its home, a narrow but deep hole in the sand. Occasionally it comes out to see whether I am still there and I watch it for a while before climbing back onto the speedboat.
We arrive back on Phi Phi Island at around 11:30am and I have just enough time to put my things down before lunch is served at Tacada restaurant. We start with a salad and we fall upon it with much vigour. With feta cheese and a divine oil and vinegar dressing we love it for its simplicity and it suits the cool breeze and hot midday sun perfectly.
Next is a seafood meal made up of creamed spinach wrapped in hot smoked salmon with a creamy crab curry sauce, grilled prawns, asparagus and potato cakes. It's filling and good and slightly European mixed with Thai.
Dessert is a brandy snap bowl filled with vanilla ice cream drizzled with pumpkin seed oil on top. It comes with a fruit salad to the side and the vanilla ice cream gets a wonderfully nutty shot from the pumpkin seed oil.
Feeling the effects of the speed boat ride I lie down in my villa for the next few hours and do some work before emerging for cocktail hour on the beach. I sink into one of the bean bags and order a cocktail. Pina colada seems appropriate and it is utterly delicious.
We spied the table that they have prepared earlier for us and it is a beautiful sight. It's a table set on the beach and decorated with flowers and lit with candles. Traced around the outside is a heart.
We sit down and they serve us our first course. It's a garden salad with their balsamic vinegar dressing. If there is one thing I miss on holidays it's my daily salad lunch so I enjoy this a lot.
The next course is a vegetable soup. By now we're almost expecting a bowl of tom yum goong so this is a surprise, albeit a nice one.
The main course arrives and it's a beauty. It's an enormous platter of freshly barbecued seafood including a balmain bug, two enormous prawns, some fish, squid and a baked potato. It comes with two sauces: a creamy white wine and a chilli garlic sauce. I particularly like the spicy tingle and strong garlic flavour of the second sauce and douse and dip the seafood in it.
Dessert is a little surprise. I hadn't expected to have cheesecake and this one is a lovely, light one with two layers to it. It comes with a blueberry sauce and cherry to the side.
That night I make sure to tuck the tiny glass hermit crab that they leave us as a turndown gift into my bag. It will be just one memory of our time here.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever wake up while you're on holiday and not know where you are? Are you scared of monkeys and have you ever had to get needles because of a wildlife encounter?
NQN visited Thailand as a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
11 Moo 8 Laem Tong, Koh Phi Phi, Ao Nang, Krabi 81000, Thailand
Tel: (66) 7562 7000