We were one the first groups on board the ferry to Phi Phi Island. We chose our seats on the first deck carefully, near the back door, under the air-conditioner. We handed our luggage to the young man who added them to the pile beside the door. Fair enough, I thought, easy to get to when we disembark. For the next forty-five minutes, this young chap stacked luggage as people clambered aboard. All the passenger seats on our deck were full, the lower deck was overflowing. People were climbing onto the top deck where there were no chairs. Still the overworked young man stacked until the luggage mountain covered the entire back section of the ferry.
"You know, if we sink, that luggage is going to cover the exit,' my wife surmised.
The departure time had passed, people and suitcases were still crowding on. I ventured through the mass to the rear open section of the ferry. More people, more luggage piles.
Reassuringly, wrapped around each chair was a life jacket. Except there were far more people than chairs on board.
Finally, the ferry left the dock. Many people clapped. I wasn't so sure. I removed the life jacket from the back of my chair and did the same for Cathie. The Russian man behind me smiled.
'It is overcrowded, yes,' he said.
'Very,' I responded.
He looked at the window we sat near. 'Maybe we can make this open,' he suggested.
I didn't like our chances. Cathie and I stood up and took ourselves and our life jackets out to the rear deck, struggling past people to the back where there was a vacant space to sit beside the baggage handler. He was no older than fifteen. I smiled and sat on my life jacket. It made a soft seat.
The ferry didn't sink.
Maybe I was too cautious.
But, as the two hour journey passed, we enjoyed the wind in our faces and the view of the Phi Phi islands looming large upon us. When we were ten minutes from our destination, people scrambled onto the back deck to take photos of Ko Phi Phi Leh. The baggage handler ate his noodles out of a plastic container and when finished, tossed it overboard. He rolled himself a cigarette. Sunburnt Russians and Eastern Europeans shot videos of the gothic cliffs of Phi Phi Leh.
We docked at noisy Tonsai Pier. Workers scurried aboard to unload the supplies for the town shops. Everything, including water has be ferried across from Phuket. The tourists were left to locate their own bags with the help of the long-suffering single handler. He tossed bags wherever he was directed. Cathie and I leaned against the railing and enjoyed the mayhem. Our bags were at the bottom. We weren't going anywhere soon. Surprisingly, the ferry unloaded quickly. People helped each other to remove bags. I finally made my way back into the cabin and picked up our bags. We walked onto the pier and were met by a longboat driver who took us to our resort. White sand, low trees providing shade, a hammock, clear water with tropical fish swimming below us, a view across the bay to Phi Phi Leh.
At the end of an overcrowded ferry trip.