What could be better than spending three wonderful weeks in a tropical paradise, enjoying wonderful foods and taking part in a traditional Thai wedding ceremony? How about surviving a two hour boat trip through one of the worse monsoons I have ever experienced?
My family and I, along with my cousin and members of his wedding party were spending a few days relaxing at a resort in Phuket, Thailand. And being a wonderful host my cousin decided to surprise us by taking us out on an island tour. See this region of Thailand has beautiful islands, many of which have been featured in Hollywood blockbusters. But he didn't want us to have to share our trip with other travelers so instead he chartered a private boat for just our group.
On the morning of the trip we arrived at the marina and prepared to board. My cousin was not happy with the boat that was waiting for us. It was a thirty footer with two engines that would comfortably hold twenty passengers. Our group numbers fifteen. No, he wanted the three engine speed boat capable of holding almost forty passengers. The assumption he made was that, with a faster boat, we could get out the islands faster and enjoy more time snorkeling and generally having fun. That was the assumption.
Thirty minutes out and we encounter our first problem. The upgraded three engine boat has no working bathroom. No bathroom for what is supposed to be a half day leisure tour of paradise. So we take a detour and visit an island not on out itinerary because it has a small restaurant on it. Management at this restaurant must have realized a long time ago that they had the only functional bathroom for miles around. So there was a cover charge to use their facilities. And might I add it was the nastiest bathroom I have ever set my bare feet in. Not thinking ahead I had left my flip flops on the boat. I cringed with every step I had to take. Bathroom breaks over we all climbed back in and headed out to our first official destination.
After thirty minutes we arrived at a beautiful island that jutted up two hundred feet out to the ocean. We donned masks and PFDs (personal flotation devices) and enjoyed a dipped in the water. But due to the delay caused by our unplanned bathroom break we needed to drop the next two islands off our list and head immediately to the island we would be eating lunch on. Lunch was fairly uneventful. But as soon as we were done eating the skies darkened and within minutes a vicious storm began to build.
Even under the protection of large pavilions the wind wiped sand off of the beach and it felt like cat claws to our exposed legs and arms. The other boats in the harbor, the general tour boats, dropped anchor and told their passengers that they would be sitting tight until this blew over. But because we had chartered our very own boat we were not subject to this same safety consideration. Our boat would do whatever we wanted, and my cousin didn't want this rain to ruin the trip for everyone. So we fifteen men, women and children boarded our private boat for a very exciting ride back.
Before we even got a half mile from the island one of our three engines dies. So now we are in a bigger boat with only two working engines, no working bathroom and a monsoon coming down on top of us. We got slammed by swells so big some were higher than our boat. The spray felt like needles across our faces. We were rocked hard as passengers were lifted from their seats and deposited on the deck. Some of the adults got sick. The children played a game of musical trash cans as they passed one back and forth to vomit in. And there was no working bathroom. Every time a child asked how much longer till we reached land my go to answer became twenty minutes. My 6 year old niece best described our situation when, during a bout of sea sickness, stated that "the sea is not safe". At one point we noticed the crewmen at the back of the boat with their hands clasped praying to the weather spirits. This sent a wave of concerned to the passengers on board. But ultimately we survived. Our fearless captain navigated the waters expertly and brought all hands back to shore safely. But for two hours I don't know how many times I told the children "just twenty more minutes."
The following day as we all arrived at the airport and awaited our return flight to Bangkok the boat trip became the topic of conversation. We laughed harder than we had at any other point of the trip admitting to each other how scared we had been or how close we had come to joining in the game of musical trashcan. And hands down that boat trip is a memory none of us will ever forget or ever attempt again.