We knew we were going to have a long afternoon and evening in Phang Nga Bay, but we didn’t want to waste our morning. We had a few more hours left with our scooters and wanted to do more exploring. We decided to start our morning watching sunrise at the famous Phuket landmark, The Great Buddha of Phuket, or Big Buddha.
Big Buddha is a beautifully built, 18-meter tall statue located high on a mountain facing east, towards Ao Chalong Bay. Although it is still under construction, it was easy to see why Big Buddha is a popular tourist destination.
We left Bearpackers Hostel and started heading towards Big Buddha around 5 AM as to not miss sunrise. It took approximately 45 minutes to drive to Big Buddha; 10 minutes winding around the mountain. We arrived just before the sky started to light up.
By the time we arrived, the crowd was still small, but we could tell it was getting busier by the minute. It allowed me ample time to search out a place to attempt to capture a timelapse of the sunrise with my GoPro. (This is an essential part to the story). Everything was going perfect. The sun started to wake, the sky was turning beautiful colors, and everything was quiet. Then, out of nowhere, monkeys began to appear.
I Got Bite By A Monkey
Thailand is know to have pretty ruthless monkeys. There are many warning signs around tourist attractions throughout Thailand warning travelers about them. They are usually searching for food or something to grab, like a water bottle. In my case, one monkey was heading right towards me and getting a little aggressive. Then it started towards my GoPro. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.
I grabbed for my GoPro, which of course, pissed this monkey off. Next thing I know, the monkey jumped on me and attempted to bite me. It all happened so fast. I honestly couldn’t tell if he made contact with me or not.
Two ladies nearby saw the situation and were kind enough look on my back for any signs of bite marks. I was lucky that I was able to turn my back to him instead of my front or side.
He did managed to make contact with a small portion of my upper back, but only made a tiny scratch with his teeth. However, he did break a small part of the skin.
Phuket hasn’t had a major outbreak of rabies in several years. But, I still needed to follow the rabies precautions because monkeys are known carriers.
Why did I reach for my GoPro and put myself at risk? The simplest answer is I honestly don’t know. My guess is that I was afraid of losing my GoPro. They aren’t cheap and I didn’t want to deal with the loss factor. So, I grabbed it.
Rabies or No Rabies
As the sun was rising, I had to explain to Chris what happened with the monkey. He was standing somewhere else and didn’t see the situation. I also sent a text to my mother. I try to keep her and my dad in the loop of my travels. I’m sure this was NOT the text she was expecting. My mother also works at a hospital, so she was a good resource to have.
The three of us went back and forth about the rabies vaccination. Ultimately, we decided it would be stupid not to get the shots. It’s just not worth the risk EVER.
However, because Chris and I had a pre-booked boat tour for the afternoon, the shots would have to wait. I knew we would not have enough time to go to the hospital before the tour. Although, this probably isn’t the smartest idea, but I didn’t have a choice. I also wasn’t worried. I didn’t want to miss out on Pha Nang Bay, so we decided to postponed getting the vaccination until after the tour.
At this point, it is now 7 am. We were both getting hungry, and both in desperate need of coffee. Yesterday, Chris and I stumbled across this random coffee shop, Yes Coffee, on our drive home from sunset, which was near Big Buddha. We were curious about it, so we decided to visit the coffee shop before returning to Patong.
It turned out that Yes Coffee was more than just a coffee shop. We discovered that it was established to support underprivileged people in Thailand. It is a coffee shop and cafe, a roastery, and a school, which provides Burmese migrant children with education. It currently has about 50 students and employs three teachers. Talk about a hidden gem of Phuket. Stumbling across this coffee shop was, for me, a major highlight of the trip. I genuinely love supporting businesses like Yes Coffee.
Phang Nga Bay
As the pickup time for our tour was getting closer and our time with the scooters about to expire, we made our way Patong. We arrived at the hostel with enough time to change into our suits and gather our things.
"Hong by Starlight" John Gray Sea Canoe Tour
The tour I selected for Phang Nga Bay was John Gray Sea Canoe “Hong by Starlight.” Chris and I are both active and enjoy doing exercise type activities. Hong by Starlight was rated exceptionally well on several different websites. The tour included food, transportation, and kayaking around the islands. I thought it would be an excellent way to see Phang Nga Bay.
This particular place was high on my list of things to see here in Phuket. From pictures, I could see the huge cluster of tiny islands creating a breathtaking scene. I couldn’t let us leave Phuket, and Thailand without seeing Phang Nga Bay.
The Boat and Sea Canoes
After we arrived at the marina and had a brief informational meeting, we finally boarded the double-decker boat. The boat has a full kitchen on the main level and kayaks lined up from floor to ceiling. The kitchen on the main level is used to cook a beautiful selection of local Thai food for lunch and dinner. I could tell that this company prides itself in locally caught seafood and fresh produce.
The sea canoes are custom kayaks designed by John Gray, to fit into small caverns throughout the hongs. A local guide is assigned to each canoe with a max of two guests per canoe. They paddle the sea canoe
“through “Tidal Nape” Sea Caves literally inside Phang Nga Bay’s marine limestone karstic islands into “Hongs “(Thai for “Room”)”
Caves and Hongs in Phang Nga Bay
Our first sea canoe adventure took us through a narrow cave, requiring us to lay completely flat, before opening to an extremely shallow mangrove lagoon. Our guide paddled us throughout the hong before we were giving the chance to stand in the middle of the mangrove forest.
The area where the mangroves stood was no more than a foot deep. It was easy to get in and out of the sea canoes, so no fear about tipping.
Our next location was a larger cluster of several islands and lagoons. It had the same narrow cave openings as the first island but opened up onto a larger lagoon.
These lagoons were a deeper, too. Our first time through was with our guide. He took us through this cluster of rocks for roughly 10 minutes to show us around.
We were then giving a choice: to go back alone and explore or snorkel. We didn’t hesitate. Chris took the paddle and guided our sea canoe back to the lagoons.
This was another major highlight for both of us.Once we headed back, we found ourselves alone in a lagoon in the center of an island in Phang Nga Bay in Thailand. It was so beautiful and peaceful. I couldn’t recommend getting to experience a quiet lagoon in Phang Nga Bay more.
Learning about Loi Krathong
After we finished our sea canoe adventures, it was time for the Loi Krathong learning experience. This was one more reason why I chose this particular tour over others.
The Hong by Starlight tour includes the teaching about a major Thai festival called Loi Krathong. In addition to learning, our guide assisted us in making our very own krathong, explaining the purpose of each component along the way.
A krathong, which is a floating flower offering/basket that is a part of a spiritual ceremony which pays respect to the water spirits during a festival called Loi Krathong. I’ve previously participate in the festival, which occurs every November, and I thoroughly enjoyed the cultural symbolism of the festival.
After we finished creating our krathong, and after eating a delicious dinner while watching the sunset, our guide lead us through one last dark & narrow cave with bioluminescence. This cave ended in a beautiful lagoon, where we found our own quiet corner, lit our krathong, and released it into the water, making our wish.
Unfortunately, these quiet, special moments can’t last forever. We had to begin making our way back to Phuket Island.
It was quite late by the time we finally arrived back to our hostel. I wish returning to the hostel meant the end of the day. However, because of the monkey incident early in the day, Chris and I headed to the hospital.
Patong Hospital Experience: Rabies Vaccination
Our hostel was walking distance to Patong Hospital Phuket, which is a public hospital. It was closing in on midnight and the hospital was pretty empty. It was quite the experience trying to explain in broken Thai-English the situation. The doctor and one of the nurses ended up speaking pretty decent English and everything was taken care of.
The only issues I had with the hospital is how open everything was and the minimal cleanliness issue. Privacy didn’t seem to be a high priority at this hospital. There were only about six beds in the ER; 3 of which were occupied. None of them had curtains and there were several spots of dried blood by two of the unoccupied beds.
I was given the rabies vaccination and two antibiotics in a waiting chair right next to the main nurses station. No privacy, however the nurse did use hand sanitizer and gloves when administering the three shots. I am glad they had the rabies vaccination and thankfully, didn’t care a whole lot about the privacy since it was just shots. But I’m not sure I would appreciate the lack of privacy if I had more severe issues.
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