I should have expected this. The time warp was a sign we were danerously close to the twilight zone. Where are we? What is happening? In the last 24 hours we have experienced some strage events for sure. Beware, sometimes nothing is as it seems.
I guess it all started when we arrived in Phuket afer a flight which was delayed by an hour. Or maybe it was beore that, at the Bangkok airport when we discovered the airline had an awesome louge with free wifi, magazines, food and drink for econmoy passengers. Yup. You read that right. Strange, I know.
Anyway, so we arrive in Phuket and decide to take the $5 mini bus to our hotel. We wait and wait for it to leave. When we do the driver has not asked us where we are going and when I try to speak to him I realize he does not speak English. We end up stopping at a tour agency where we all have to get out and they try to sell us tours or hotels (for those odd traveler people who don't book anything in advance). Luckily, no one wants to buy so we are off. A fourty minute drive later our hotel is the fourth stop of the mini bus, but we realize we could have been the first- the driver has gone an extremly round about way for whatever reason. What the hell?
Our initial impression of the town is not good- it's tacky, touristy, a little run down and there are bars and flashing lights everywhere, and I mean everywhere- on signs, taxis, toys on the street, even people's shirts. So we check into the hotel and despite excellent reviews it is really not that nice. It was cheap, but it's the low season here, so everything is. It is clean and late so we go to sleep vowing to switch in the morning. After much reasearch and a little bit of walking we learn that we can get a nicer hotel, but the island itself is pretty much the same wherever you go. We cannot get a refund or credit on the room either, so after much debate we decide to stay. We spend the first day walking around and hanging on the beach. The beach is not so bad after all.
For day two we are going to be gone all day anyway, on a tour of the Phi Phi islands by boat. We book a great 10 hour tour through the hotel. The boat is small, only taking 12 passengers, has an English speaking guide and stops at many beaches and lagoons. When we take out our money to pay, the front desk receptionist tells us there is no need to pay now, he can put it on our room tab. We offered a down payment. No need, we are told.
Later, when we want to double check the pick up time the front desk receptionist (now someone else) tells us we never confirmed, so there is no tour for us. When we explained that we did confirm she told us the tour has no more space. We really want to go on this tour- staying in the crappy town for another day was just not an option. We asked the front desk to find another tour for us, comprable to the one we wanted to go on, which we were told was "the best."
We wait for about 30 minutes while the front desk girl looks into it. She fianlly comes out and tells us she has another tour, we have to pay cash now. The tour, she says, is essentailly the same but the boat is bigger and the trip is a few hours shorter. We want a small tour so we ask how many people. We are told there will be thirty, with an Englih speaking guide and the same itinerary as the other tour, but a faster boat.
Fast forward to the next day and the mini bus to pick us up is 15 minutes late, no biggie. We get to the station and get shuffled onto a boat which is pretty big. You cannot see out any of the windows from the seats so we sit near the back so we can look out that way. The boat has a lot of people. The tour guides (there are two) count 79! One of the tour guides comes on the microphone to greet us "ladies and gentlemen welcome to the Sea Angel number 5" and after that I don't know becuase her english is not good, even 'sea angel' was hard to distinguish; if I hadn't seen it written on the boat I would not have known. So much for the English speaking guide, she's not going to cut it. Wait- it's not a her. It's a he. It's a he-she, or as they say in Thailand, a "ladyboy." She is Jennifer (or did she say Jane?) and she has on a very loud dress with clashing shirt and giant fake boobs which she flashes around while play flirting with the guys. She is flamboyant and fun and likes crude jokes and probably 'crosses the line' (by American standars) with some of the men. Okay, well we have another guide, a tall man. He gets on the microphone and says.... I have no idea. He was not speaking any of the languages I know- English, Spanish or ASL.
Personal space on the boat is extremely limited. There are so many people on it and one person has 4 seats. One for her bag and another three so she can lay down and drape her legs over her boyfriend. People just cram in and no one says anything to her.
We start off with an hour ride to our destination during which a boy of about 7 starts puking all over. We get to our first spot, the male guide says something and a lengthy diembarqument takes place. People seem afraid of the water- or the boat. The destination is beautiful. They filmed the beach here. We get back on the boat and the male guide gets on the microphone and talks more. We wait for an English translation- there is none. Instead the male guide gets back on the microphone again. This time I catch the word lagoon and some hand gestures and realize we are on our way to a larger lagoon with more cliffs surrounding it. Still no English translation. What the hell is going on here?
Lindsay and I begin watching the guide to see if we can catch any more- we want to know the information too- when we notice the guy is wearing makeup. Foundation, concealer, maybe a little blush. "I think he has on eye liner, too" I say. Lindsay says he does. A closer look and I see his eyes are lined with black rhinestones. Lindsay and I give each other the look. What the hell is going on here? We depart and are off to the next lagoon, then a monkey hang out, which we only knew about beause everyone else was standing to take pictures. There was some strage cave hangout area too, we don't know what, I don't speak the mystery language.
There is another boy on the boat, about 10, a speaker of the mystery language and on vacation with his mother. They are sitting near us. On the beach his mother poses in her bikini for some very sexy shots, as if she is actually a super model, while he acts as photographer. Again, Lindsay and I give each other the look- what the hell is going on here? The mystery language boy is very rude on the boat. He boses the other passengers around, pointing to us to give him more space (we are packed like sardines, except the girl and her boyfriend who are taking four seats). His towel touches my leg and he snatches it up as if I might have lice. While we travel to the next beach his mother examins her sexy pictures by zooming in and checking herself out. This lasts a good 25 minutes.
The four seat girl is still laying down and now her boyfriend is gropping her and, though all the gropping it becomes appearent she is wearing a thong bathing suit. The barfing child is two people down. Turns out she enjoys showing her ass as much as possible. I think it's even in one of my pictures.
We stop for snorkeling, which I know because the "English" speaking guide demonstrates how to put the mask and snorkel on then offers the one that was just in her (his?) mouth to several people, who decline. I'm really not into seeing what I am swimming above, I'd rather pretend they are not there so I decline and so does Lindsay. We stand up and look over the boat. The thong girl's boyfriend is following her closely with his mask trained on her ass. When he tires of this he stares another woman down, the sexy picture mom, who is totally oblivious to the fact that he is following her around underwater watching her.
I decide to take a swim so I line up at the back of the boat. Everyone has life vests on. I look around to see if there are any dangers. Well -I'll line up without one and see if they make me put it on. It is taking a long time. A few Chinese people with life vests on are afraid of the water.They stick their feet in, take them out. Stick their feet in again, try going down the ladder, come back up again. They don't know how to use a boat ladder. They are just standing there, speaking Chinese to each other. I've had enough so I say "What's the probem, just jump in! Go, go, go or get out of the way" and gesture. A crew member thinks I'm pretty funny. The lady slowly walks in only to decide instantaneously that she wants to get back out, totally screwing up the line of people who want to get off. I just want to get off so I go to the other line. Why does this always take so long? When I'm finally in the water the crew member gives me a thumbs up. I know how to do this!
Almost immediatly someone swims by me and touches my ass. That pervert ass man! I'm going to kick him in his...well you know. I yelled to Lindsay "someone just touched my butt!" This is when I knew for sure almost no one else spoke English becuase not a single soul save for Lindsay looked at me. But it wasn't ass man. It was an Indian man in his underware. He was wearing a life vest but looked like he was about to drown. He couldn't swim. Neither could his friend, also in his underware. His girlfriend was a little better; she was swimming in life vest, jeans and a t shirt.
The water was nice and I decide to come in early so I don't have to wait behind all the life jacket jack asses trying to get on the boat later. Lindsay and I stand on the boat watching the people sorkle and discuss the depth of the water. It's about 5 and a half feet at best, shallower in places and there is a lot of coral on the bottom. A man decides to back flip off the top of the boat. "oh, my god, not a good idea" I say. Someone else sees this and must think it's a good idea so he does the same. We argee he's going to get hurt. Luckily it's only his feet which slam into the coral and he comes up grabbing his bleeding feet. Lindsay and I look at each other. What the hell is going on here?
We are standing on the seats looking at the water like many other passengers, but Lindsay gets reprimanded (with body language) for having her shoes on the seat by another passenger we nicknamed Miranda. Apparently Miranda does not like the looks of Lindsay's flip flops on the seats. The seats are hard, waterproff plastic and by this time are soaked with sea water. What the hell us up with her? I am sure to wring out my hair over her seat.
To make this long story short, suffice it to say all the other beach and swimming excursions are the same- everyone is wearing a life vest even in the most shallow of waters, only a handful of us can actaully swim. Later we learn the only people who can actually swim and know how to use a boat are the few of us who also speak English, about 9 people- me, Lindsay and an Australian family. Nearyl everyone else speaks the mystery language and seem new to this whole ocean thing.
Later when we are on the beach the boat company has soda and fruit for us. I grab a cup and start unscrewing the cap. I have a piece of pineapple in the other hand. As soon as I get the cap off mystery language boy with the sexy mom grabs the bottle out of my hand to pour his soda. I say to him "Oh my god, seriosuly? You just took that out of my hand. You are so rude!" He does not understand and ignores me anyway. We rant about this group of assholes and decide they might be French, but we have not heard any 'oui ouis.' What the hell is going on here?
When we get back on the boat to return home we are even more packed in somehow. Maybe more people joined us? The mystery language boy who stole my soda bottle gets on and jestures to a whole row of people to move down. He starts talking his mystery language to the people and this time some of his native speakers explain to him (although its blatently obvious) that there is no room here. I just tell him "no" and shake my head. What the hell is going on here?
The 4 seat thong girl and her boyfriend are laying in their usual spot with their bags all over and someone asks the girl to move the bag. "This is my space" she says, in English. The person walks away. An 11 year old Australian boy wants to sit near his father, who is across the isle so he squeezes next to the boyfriend. The girl put her feet over her boyfriend's lap. Her feet are now also on the boy. The boy's mother asks the girl to move her feet. The girl says "This is my space." The mother asks her to move her bag a little so her son can have more space. She refuses. The boy's father appeals to the boyfriend in a very nice and friendly way."We here first, boy move" and makes some gestures The father tries to reason with him and the man says "you make (points to the boy) move my space"
I'm so pissed at these people so I say " Can't you give the little boy an inch? Just an inch of space?" No, they cannot so the mother appeals to them again. The girl's feet are still on the boy so his mother tells him to push her "dirty feet" off. He does. She puts them back, he pushes them off. This happens a few more times. The father gets in the man's face and I wonder if there will be a fight. The man is a total pussy, and his English is not good so I'm not sure he got it all. The father give his son his seat and tells the guide what is going on. The male guide asks the girl to move and she ignores him. The guide says in English "This woman, she she take three seat and vill not move" Me and Lindsay hope she will fall overboard, or at least her bag will. The Australian mother tells the girl she is a "selfish, filthy pig" and something else that must be Australian slang. I wonder if a fight is coming. That girl will be sorry. We tell Australian mother the girl is a bitch and end up having a nice conversation with her. She had the same problem with her hotel booking this tour, and where is the English speaking guide anyway? They could not understand her either. "Do you know what Nationality these people are?" Lindsay asks her and the mystery is revealed. They are all Russian. "That explains a lot!" Lindsay comments. We all decide we must have entered the twilight zone, and we miss Vietnam.