It’s one of the popular playgrounds of Southeast Asia: Crazy nightlife coupled with almost endless beaches, high-end resorts and dodgy backpacker hostels. Yes, it’s Phuket. An island perched on the edge of the Andaman Sea that has become a hotbed for tourism, and the gateway to some of Thailand’s most beautiful southern islands.
Now, you might be finding yourself in Phuket to kick off your island-hopping tour, perhaps heading from Phuket to Koh Lanta, or even on to the tiny island paradise of Koh Lipe. For us, we were at the pointy end of our island jaunt, travelling from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket for some rest and relaxation after four weeks of hiking, diving, snorkeling and far too many cheap Chang beers.
So, what did we think of the trip?
This way to first class, sir
After 10 months in Southeast Asia on some slightly dodgy buses and dubious ferry journeys, we were surprised to find the words ‘premium class’ stamped on the entry for Andaman Wave, as we searched for our tickets. We needed to investigate….
Modern design? Tick. Large, stable vessel? Tick? Positive reviews? Tick. It was a no-brainer. With a few well-placed clicks of the mouse we had two ‘premium class’ tickets to get us to Phuket in style.
All aboard the ferry
Lugging our backpacks through the streets of Phi Phi, all we met were shopkeepers sweeping in front of their stalls and a few slightly inebriated partygoers, still going hard after a night clubbing down the end of the beach.
Upon arriving at the Ton Sai pier, things were relatively calm. A speedy, efficient check of our tickets by a waiting Andaman Wave staff member and a few scribbles on our bright orange stickers to designate we were ‘premium’ customers, and we were checked in.
From there we conveniently booked a transfer to our hotel in Phuket for only 150 baht a person; about 200 baht cheaper than if we had tried to get a taxi at the waiting Rassada pier. Bonus!
From there, it was on to the boat. Greeted by inordinately happy employees, our bags were lifted off our shoulders and deposited on the ferry’s stern, packed atop each other with surprising skill and ease.
While the boat wasn’t exactly as pretty as its pictures online (it was a slightly smaller vessel than we had booked), it was one of the more modern ones we had encountered – good comfortable seats in the upper deck, and a large open top deck with bench seating for the sun worshippers looking to get a top up on their vacation tan.
With our premium tickets we also had access to the First-Class Lounge, a private alley near the front of the boat with large crimson red couches, free coffee and bottled water. But more on that in a bit…
Goodbye Phi Phi, hello Phuket
Departing about fifteen minutes late (this is island time, okay?!), we finally head out of Ton Sai pier, making our way to Phuket. Because the ferry is one of the larger ones we’ve seen in Thailand, the crossing is quite uneventful; a slow lolling over the waves with a slight sea breeze ruffling our hair.
We started our journey on the top deck, trying to get a few extra shades to our already enviable tans but after an hour realize it’s far too hot for us, and have to escape indoors to the air conditioned cabins. Now the seats themselves look comfortable enough but we pop in to the Premium Class area, and cuddle up on the couch, promptly falling asleep for the hour remaining our two hour journey.
Before we know it, we’re shaken awake. We’ve arrived at the Rassada Pier! Everyone collects their bags from the deck, jostles to get off the boat and we’re ushered onto the pier and into the terminal building within minutes; pretty efficient we’d say!
But, where’s our shuttle? After a few minutes of confused directions and a severe lack of any useful signage we find ourselves deposited outside the building where a number of shuttles are stationed. Are our names on the list? Seems not. Does anyone know what to do? Not really.
Luckily we’re enterprising and find the name of our hotel on scrap of paper held by one of the drivers, and trail him to the van alongside four other travellers. And with that, we are away! We’ve finally made it to Phuket and we’re ready to hit Bangla road for questionable cocktail mixes, check out Karon beach and hike up to the Big Buddha for the breath-taking views…
All in all…
If you’re able to sleep on a ferry, you’ve had a good run. While this one was smaller than advertised by the operator and left a few minutes late, it was undoubtedly a plush upgrade to many boats we’ve taken in Southeast Asia and felt like a safe, comfortable crossing. We wouldn’t hesitate to book it again if we ventured back to the islands, and get ready for another peaceful sleep before arriving in party-mad Phuket.