We set off from Langkawi, Western Malaysia, in late October and made way for Phuket, Thailand.
As we entered Thai territory we liked what we sawclear blue waters, idyllic tropical islands with white sandy beachesyes, the perfect paradise picture.
Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand (approximately the size of Singapore), and is located in the Andaman Sea. Phuket formerly derived its wealth from tin and rubber, and in the day was part of a major trading route between India and China. The region now derives much of its income from tourism.and how! Tourism has transformed the island into Thailand's wealthiest province.
There are dozens of elegant resorts designed for tropical solitude. We encountered several of these when we cruised the Phang Nga Bay. However; in some of the congested areas all is not well in paradise as there are tracts of hideous overdevelopment patronized by budget tour groups from Asia, Russia and Europe.
The west coast of Phuket was hit severely by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, but almost no evidence of the damage remains now. Completely rebuilt and thriving.
We cleared customs and other Thai formalities (immigration, health, harbor master, etc.) in Ao Chalong harbor. The drill is that you anchor in the harbor, dingy in and go straight to the authorities. It is fondly known as the "paper work cha cha" among yachties. Having done this repeatedly around the world we have a relative sense of those countries that are efficient at their borders and those that carry out a horror show. Thailand has just set up a web site with online checkin! Wow, we were impressed, completed the forms online and showed up expecting to wiz right through. Stop - after giving our names, boat name, etc. the officer couldn't locate us in the system, and we were given the 8-9 forms to complete - but then Braun remembered he had a print out with a computer generated number on it. The official keyed it in and bingo! We were all set, except for one small detail they would not give Braun (the captain) an exit visa. It seems that Thailand is concerned that if the captain left without the boat (say flew home for awhile as we were planning to do) that he might not return and thereby abandon the boat?? So the extended part of the process (aka checkin cha cha) is that Braun has to go to Customs Central in Phuket City and post a bond to receive an exit visa. This will be refunded if he comes back to get the boat!! So Thailand gets an A+ for the online registration but fails Logic 101 for the bond posting requirement.
Just after the arrival exercise we picked up our good neighbors from Alexandria, Michelle Boggs and Ron Roys. Then it was off for some island cruising. On the schedule was a trip to the Phi Phi Islands (pronounced "pee-pee'). These are popular for scuba and snorkelingand a healthy nightlife. Clearly a scuba junky and back packer's heavenwhich makes for some interesting people watching! So when in Phi Phiwe arranged to do some diving/snorkeling off the beautiful and uninhabited Ko (meaning "island") Phi Phi Leh.
Michelle & Ron off Phi Phi Leh
Limestone cliffs of Phi Phi Leh
"Long tail" boats in Phi Phi Don harbor
Idyllic Phi Phi Don
We anchored out in the harbor two nights which was quite enough. The anchorage is chock full of tour boats, several of which raft up to one another off one mooring ball! Scary. Or if not questionably tied, they are racing through the anchorage to dump tourists in the water for snorkeling. All this did calm down after 5pm in the eveningin time for us to enjoy a drink or two on the Lido deck.
Fun side attraction for me...He loves the smell of the money I had to give him to cooperate!
I got the monkey and he got a few Thai bahts!
There was one particularly interesting experience the girls in our group enjoyed while in Phi Phi. We made a date with the "doctor fish". They are a species of fish that feed on dead skin. Not wanting to gross anyone outbut these "fish spas" are very popular here and several have sprung up back home. First, you must get fully scrubbed from the knee down before you set your patties in the tanks"must be wheelly clean" the attendants kept saying. The prep cleaning is about a 10 minute process which includes a nice tootsie massage. Then, another 10-15 minutes in the fish tank. Oh how the first 5 minutes tickles! J
Michelle, Carol & I....in the tank!
A few days after the fish cleaning it was time to head to the marina where we plan to leave the boat for the winter Yacht Haven Marina in northeastern Phuket. Sadly, Michelle & Ron and Good Wayne departed shortly thereafter.
After a few days at the dock to stock up on provisions we were back on the water to cruise some of the nearby islands in Phang Nga Bay National Parkvery impressive when you cruise up close to these limestone rock formations rising from the bay on more than 120 islandstruly the best of natural Thailand.
- A quiet little anchorage at Ko Hong where local fishermen came by to sell us fresh prawns.
Center of the boat is where they dumped out the prawns, wiggling and fresh!
Captain at the helm entering Ko Pan Yee anchorage. The village is at the foot of the limestone cliffs.
View from Ko Pan Yee, a Muslim village completely built on stilts. Note the boat anchored in the background.
* Anchored off Paradise Resort, a small boutique resort on Koh Yao Noijust 30 miles from Yacht Haven Marina. We arrived on a Thursday afternoon, all four of us (the 'Bird', too) and were looking forward to having dinner at the resort. But wait, what was all the hustle bustle taking place on the beach? It was like something special was going to happen. Yes, indeed, preparations were underway for celebrating the Loy Krathong - "full moon festival". This occurs only one night a year when the brilliant full moon of the twelfth lunar month lights up the sky, ending the monsoon season. Boy, did we luck out! We had heard about this sacred Buddhist celebration but had no idea of its timing or the locations where the ceremony and party would be held. Our karma must have been good...
The setting was just like you would expect - a beautiful white sand beach, small cottages in the background, chaises about, thatched hut style bar and white clothed tables among tiki torches scattered about on the beach. The moon was out in full glory as we enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner. After that we were entertained with traditional Thai dancing and a Muay Thai boxing demonstration, something for everyone! At 10pm we followed the Thais and each took our beautiful floral floats which had been the center pieces of our table down to the water. As they say "lotus-shaped vessel made of banana leaf, a candle, three joss-incense sticks, flowers and coins". It's an offering to the Goddess of the water. The custom is to make a wish and float them onto the river, canals or any sources of water. It is believed that these "krathongs" carry away sins and bad luck, and allow the requests that have been made for the New Year to startup. We lit the candle on the float and placed it on the waterit was impressive seeing all these floating lanterns drift out to sea full of good wishes.
View from Paradise Resort
Our mascot 'Sake San' gone native...
Well, we're back at the dock at Yacht Haven Marinagetting ready to button up the boat for a few months. We look forward to more time exploring Thailand...until then, we're signing off ~
We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!
~Tina & Braun~
Technical Note by Braun: Although we have been cruising for years we have never had our sea water intake hoses foul up. This occurs when sea life, mainly barnacles pass through the sea water thruhull and attach themselves to the interior of the sea water hoses. It is similar to a bad heart condition with blocked arteries. The growth narrows the hose down until eventually it is totally clogged and won't allow water to pass. The symptom that this hose restriction is happening is air entering the sea chest. Air gets in because the restriction requires greater suction by the pumps which results in them sucking not only water but air. When you see air in the seachest you know the hoses are clogged. The solution? Replace the hoses and clean the barnacles out of the fittings - a several hour, messy job.
Nasty stuff clogging up the cooling hoses! Look way in and you can see the hoses are nearly totally blocked.
Why didn't this growth happen before? We never stayed for long in a climate as hot as it is in SE Asia. Consequently we never used the air conditioning as much as we have the last five months. The AC requires a large amount of sea water to constantly be flowing through the system. This brings in the barnacles and the nutrients that enable them to thrive and creating one more maintenance item. Hey...it's a boat!