Sid and I flew down to Phuket, where we bookended our scuba diving trip with stays at the Anantara Phuket Villas. The hotel is only 15 minutes away from the airport and it was near the launch point for our boat. It's pretty much a full service resort adjacent to a prime stretch of Mai Khao beach, with 91 free-standing pool villas, a restaurant and bar, and a handful of bikes for guests to explore the resort. Our first stay was in a standard pool villa and during our return stay we were upgraded to a villa with a private terrace on a lagoon that was perfect for lounging and reading. Although incredibly convenient for our liveboard trip, we both left unimpressed—likely because we don't prefer the isolated feeling of a resort vacation and would rather be exploring cities, ticking off cultural sites, and sampling local dishes (or because it'll be hard for any resort to match the Hyatt Hadadaa from earlier this year).
The main attraction in Phuket would be 5 days and 4 nights aboard the Hallelujah, a liveaboard cruising the Similan Islands. The islands are a protected marine park that are commonly listed as one of the top diving destinations around the world. Our mid-level budget boat was in good condition, with a large salon and sundeck, and each cabin had en suite bathrooms. We cozied up in our twin bunk room and settled in, mentally and physically preparing ourselves for 14 dives spaced over 4 days. We visited terrific dive sites throughout the area including the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, and Richelieu Rock. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were prepared by the crew buffet-style and were especially key after such active days below the surface (although we had smuggled aboard some choice snacks). Spaced between our 4 daily dives, we had some much needed R&R breaks, which we spent sunbathing, napping, and reading leisurely. But soon one activity would consume almost all of our free time, and that was locking ourselves in our tiny room and watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Parts 1 and 2) on my iPad Mini. Thoughts of leisurely R&R out the door, I would ascend at the end of a dive and just start thinking about "The boy who lived...come to die" and I fell asleep next to Sid one night trying to finish Part 2.
The most memorable part of this trip might have also been the most scarring. During our meals, the crew would sometimes prepare me a separate vegetarian curry—which was equal parts delicious and spicy. As an avid sampler of all things, Sid's curiosity got the best of her. It soon became pretty obvious that the curry must have had some dairy and Sid's supply of lactaid had run out days ago in Tokyo. At one point it was so bad in our tiny cabin that the odor woke me up from the beginning of my slumber and I had to ask Sid to open all our doors and windows.