Sadly, I was off Phi Phi on the 9am ferry without spending daybreak hanging out with reef sharks. Andrew, who was meant to be leading us, had had a relapse of a nasty mosquito-borne virus he'd just recovered from and was hobbling around the dive shop with swollen feet in no fit state to work. Along with Brian on Ko Muk and Jo on Phi Phi, that's three people I'd crossed paths with in as many days who'd been knocked back by the little flying disease delivery specialists. Golden rules people - bite avoidance at dawn and dusk, nets at night and, if you can hack it (I struggle), a skincare regime based on the toxic waste in a can that is DEET mossie spray - it's because you're worth it. There are an aqualung full of dive shops on Phi Phi, but do go look at The Adventure Club - I chose them because, in the hard sell madness of Tonasai village, their staff (Brits, Thai, NZ) really weren't up for pimping dive trips, but were more interested in just shooting the shit with whoever walked by.
And, after spending a bit of time hanging out, you get a real sense of how obsessed they are with safety (ever been taken through a health declaration form line by line?) and also by how much they are doing to preserve and enhance the Phi Phi reefs.
Big bright blue skies made the ferry trip over to Phuket an early morning pleasure, sitting on the bow of the boat with a bunch of Aussie lads off to the bars of Pattong and assorted retired eurotrash on day trips from their winter hideouts on Ko Lanta. I'd declined the offer of a 150 baht transfer into Phuket Town when I bought my ferry ticket, so enjoyed knocking a moped taxi guy down from 90 to 50 baht for the trip into town.
Phuket town is the ultimate ugly duckling of global tourism - almost all of those who fly into Phuket airport will go straight out to the resorts or the sex tourism central that is Pattong Beach without even knowing that the town existed.
Still, worst places to waste a day - it has sino-portugese architecture, a thriving art gallery scene and some great little dive bars. As ever on the traveller circuit, you inevitably cross paths with those who you met days ago and hundreds of miles away. Today it was geordies Ian and Nicola - last seen on Ko Mook and burning time in Phuket before a flight to Chiang Mai. Dinner was the LP stamp of approval Natural Cafe - a bizarre overgrown treehouse of a restaurant with a great atmosphere, nice staff and a half-decent coconut mile curry with muslim spices, our evening punctuated by awesome 10-minute power-shower full-on thunderstorms, over and done with before you even get a chance to be annoyed about it raining on your holiday.