After returning from vacation, the things you worried about before your trip can seem so silly. I didn’t pre-book any tours at all as I knew (via Tripadvisor) that it was much cheaper to book while you are in Phuket. There was one tour I made sure I booked beforehand though.
We were booked to stay 2 nights at the P.P Erawan on Phi Phi Island (or Phi Phi Don to be more accurate). There are basically 2 main parts of Phi Phi Don – these are Tonsai and Laemtong. To get from Tonsai to Laemtong, you can either take a 3 hour walk, a 30 minute longtail boat or a swim (not recommended!). Tonsai is the busier, more built up area whilst Laemtong is secluded and more difficult to access. Tonsai is the main port so most boats coming from Phuket and Krabi will stop at Tonsai.
The hotel that we were staying at is in Laemtong (the quiet side). The fact that you still had to catch another longtail boat from Tonsai to Laemtong (with all our luggage) worried me. I checked Tripadvisor and also contacted the hotel. The hotel, unsurprisingly recommended the Andaman Wave Master. They seem to have some sort of arrangement with the hotel as you can actually book a stay at the hotel through the Andaman Wave Master website. I was skeptical and quite horrified by the ratings the Andaman Wave Master received on Tripadvisor (2.5 stars!). Many people called it a scam!
I emailed the suggested person and they were efficient and explained the process. I was hesitant but paid the THB 1300 (ZAR 480/ USD40) per adult for a standard class round ticket that included hotel transfers. I thought the price was pretty fair and I was tempted to upgrade but decided against it. I paid online although I was aware that it would have probably been cheaper if I did it in Phuket.
So the day had finally arrived and we waited not even 2 minutes for our shuttle to arrive at the Holiday Inn Express in Patong. The driver was actually early. I had to show my proof of payment which I had printed out. We had a lot of luggage at this point and it just fit into the shuttle. I was wondering what would have happened if we had anymore. Anyway, I had spoken to the Holiday Inn Express staff about holding our luggage if need be.
The shuttle picked up other people at other hotels and took us to Rassada Pier (I can’t remember how long the drive was). When we got to the pier, things seemed a bit crazy but we followed the people in front of us. I showed my proof of payment and was given a sticker to indicate the hotel that I was staying at.
This was the part that a lot of people on TripAdvisor complained about – we had to take a short walk with our luggage (literally 2oom) to board the boat. But there are some spaces between the pier and the boat that you can’t simply roll your luggage and you have to carry it yourself. The staff helped me at the tricky parts and it was pretty painless – not half as bad as people made it out to be. They took my luggage and piled it along with the other luggage on the boat. They work on some sort of trust system as they don’t tag your bags or anything like that. This system would obviously not work in South Africa!
We walked into the front section and silly us, we didn’t realise that was also Standard Class. It seemed there was no space up there but the truth is that there are many inconsiderate people who take up an entire row of seats even though they clearly do not need to. This could be better enforced on the boat.
Anyway, we walked to the bottom where we pretty much had the entire section to ourselves.
As it was our first time to Phi Phi Island, we wanted to see what there was to see. We walked out to the deck. There are several decks and if you get there early, you can grab a seat in the shade.
There were plenty of people that didn’t want to be in the shade though. There was a woman that was airing out her newly done boob job (no, really, she took off her bandages and you could see the fresh cuts) and these other people lying over the seats to catch a tan. Look, we’re all tourists and we’re all selfish in that we want what we want (“It’s MY dream holiday” thinks everyone) but really, the levels of inconsiderate that I came across there actually made me miss home!! This one guy and his girlfriend took up a whole bench tanning and was leaning against this poor guy who couldn’t even sit properly. Initially I thought they might be friends but no, the tanning man was just an ass.
It took about 2 hours to get to Tonsai and most of the people got off at that stop. I could see it looked like a mission to get the bags.
There was a man that came around with a list and told us our hotel room numbers at the PP Erawan. He was really nice and told us to relax when we were at Tonsai Pier. As we got close to Laemtong (I cannot call it a pier!), he came around and called us to get ready. He asked us to point out our bags. From there we were split into groups according to our hotel and our bags were loaded onto the appropriate longtail boat. It was a bit scary to get from the big boat onto the longtail boat but the staff made it easy.
Again, the most logical thing would have been for the first people on the longtail boat to move to the seats at the back but no, considerate was not happening that day. I had to climb over people to get to the seats at the back and I got a little knocked about.
It was my first time in a longtail boat and I was so excited. I could see right down into the water. It was pretty awesome.
At the time I didn’t know why we needed longtails to fetch us. Basically, the water around Laemtong is quite shallow and becomes extremely shallow at low-tide. Our bags were waiting for us when we arrived at the shore.
Our trip back was much the same. We checked out and brought our bags to reception. From there we had breakfast while the staff packed it to be transported.
No one called us at breakfast and I just happened to see people walking to the boat. Oops! We ran like mad to make it to the boat but the longtail was full. The guys joked that they’ll fetch me tomorrow. Very funny! I was loaded with all the luggage.
This time around we were smarter and got a seat on top. We also got a cup of coffee which was pricey but okay. It felt like a long time passed as we waited for the people to get on at Tonsai. We didn’t bother to sit outside this time as we felt like seasoned Phi Phi travelers.
Back in Rassada Pier in Phuket, we had to grab our own bags. There was no real order and we had to wait awhile as our bags were packed under other bags. My husband helped some people to get their bags so that we could get ours. What followed was a mad dash off the boat where we were directed to an area to stand (the “Patong taxi”). Everything seemed a little mad and chaotic. When our driver rounded up all of us, we walked to the taxi and got in. So things seemed a bit mad at the end but I realised that it was that way because of all the frantic, panicked passengers. There was no real reason to rush and push people out the way. I guess if they had a better system then the passengers wouldn’t feel so frantic. Anyway, it was absolutely fine. We were dropped off at our hotel, just as arranged.
So, in retrospect, I had no issues taking the Andaman Wave Cruiser. It’s not as bad as people make it out to be (how people can call it a scam is beyond me). At the same time, don’t expect 5 or even 4 star treatment. It’s a cheap, door to door service. No bells and whistles. I wouldn’t use the service for a daytrip – it’s not worth the time spent if your time is limited. Also, make sure you don’t have flights to catch home or anything urgent like that. They were clear with us via email how long the trip would take but it might not be clear from the website. The loading, off-loading, docking etc takes time. If you have small kids or physical impairments I would also not recommend getting off at Laemtong as the steps from the ferry to the longtail might be a bit too much. It’s not impossible but I wouldn’t risk it.
If you book online, make sure you print out your ticket. Although, it’s probably not even necessary to book online.
Andaman Wave Master