SE Asia: Thailand
Date: February 17, 2008
We've been running errands and doing shore and not really doing a lot of "touristy" things here on Phuket. Of course, a couple of our excursions have had yachtie tourist overtones. We went to the Rolly Tasker sail loft. The place is huge. The sail floor alone is as big as a couple of high school gyms. The finished sails were stacked in bags along a wall beneath signs indicating which company or country was to receive them. We were there with our marina neighbors on Crystal Blue. Neil, Mr. Crystal Blue, had obtained permission for us to step behind The Line to watch a machine braiding line. We watched one machine forming the core and then we watched another machine twist threads around the finished core to form the line. We bought new jib sheets. Rolly Tasker also makes plastic fittings right there. We saw a couple of guys designing a mold on a CAD program. They were almost the only guys working on the floor in the whole place. We also bought a few new sail slides. And, you know, useful stuff.
We also ventured into a place called Super Cheap. Super Cheap is Thailand's answer to Costco. However, it is a place where locals shop, so it is designed for them and not for hapless non-Thai speaking westerners. We did well provisioning, but ran out of steam before our items on our list were all crossed off. Somehow we missed finding boxed milk, flour, sugar and tinned meat. Nothing important. Ha. We could have had all the canned mackerel we could carry, but no one on board will eat it. I had to ask about 8 people for advice about this granulated substance I was carrying around before I found someone who spoke enough English t help me. I was accosting shoppers left and right. My big question was, "Is this stuff salt or sugar?" I think it's an important distinction. It was salt. In a kilo bag. The overall selection was interesting. We found cookies and crackers and eggs and things like that as well as chicken feet and pig ears and dried squid bits and shrimp crispies and fruit we didn't recognize. After we exited the store we looked in vain for a taxi. We ended up riding back to the marina in a tuk-tuk. A tuk-tuk is a motorbike with a home built side car attached to it. The side car was built out of re-bar and planks. It had an awning on top for shade, very posh. I rode on the bike behind the driver while Geoff and Claire and all our groceries rode in the side car. Alex had chosen to stay on board for that outing. I'd say she missed a vehicular treat.
We also ran around Phuket Town one afternoon looking for clothes. Geoff found some shorts in a size designed for non-Thais. We're feeling very big here. Alex wanted a shirt and ended up buying a large. In our wanderings we found the Temple of the Serene Light. It was very colorful and had excellent carvings of dragons and other creatures. We didn't stay long however, because we arrived sort of late in the afternoon and the courtyard was filled with people who looked like they were going to pray in the temple instead of ooooh and aaah and take pictures. They gestured for us to join them or to sit down and eat (they had tables of food out), but we declined and bowed our way out. We could have passed up a public restaurant, we're not sure. It was Friday, so we found a pizza place instead.
The guy at the pizza place was Italian and was watching Italian news on TV. He was the one who told us about some shooting at a school in the US. Another kid let loose with a gun on a campus. Great impression Americans make on foreign news. We've been trying to avoid news in general and campaign news in particular, but that's next to impossible. What filters its way out to us is news about the primaries and Hillary and Obama. Oh, and that Mitt Romney bowed out. And that Brittany Spears is loco. I've tried listening to the local news on the radio, but it's all in Thai so I'm in the dark about local scandals. All the better.
Date: February 10, 2008
Location: 07º 58' N 98º 23' E, Royal Phuket Marina
We are now in a marina. it seems a little bit like cheating when there are so many places to anchor, but we want to do work on the boat and have work done on the boat and workmen are not so willing to dinghy in and out. And I'm much happier to provision from a dock. We tried to get into a place called the Boat Lagoon, but there was no room at the inn. Lucky for us the neighboring marina, Royal Phuket Marina, had space available. Both of these marinas have been carved out the mangroves. We had to enter via a windy channel that gets really shallow on a low tide. We followed a pilot boat to get in an hour before high tide (on a rising tide) and we were not alone. Four other boats came in at the same time. I felt like a baby duck following mama through the water. When we made it to the dock a guy met us with moistened towels that had ice cubes resting on top of them. What a treat. However, the marina is a little bit of a ghost town. Not too many people are hanging out on their boats, and the few restaurants around the place are expensive and not overly populated. This is sort of an out-of-the-way place and I don't think tourists would just come over here to wander around.
The boat behind us in the line of ducklings yesterday was another American boat. We met the two guys on board, Bob & Larry from Michigan, and spent the afternoon with them. They just arrived from the Maldives and are heading east. We plan to pick their brains on the Red Sea and the Med. Our big "discovery" was an interesting place to eat. We talked to a family sitting near us at a bar near the marina and they suggested a seafood place when we told them we were interested in leaving the marina and finding Thailand. We took a cab to a per and then rode a long-tail boat out to a restaurant built on floats on the water. The menu listed dishes and then listed the different prices for different varieties of fish. For example, we wanted crab, so we picked a dish, black pepper crab, and then we picked a crab species, blue crab. The prices were given as baht per kilo of the crab. We selected our dinner ingredients, prawns, crab and snapper, and a guy went over to a holding pen with a net and scooped out our selections and took them off to the kitchen. The lady who waited on us came out with a soup we hadn't ordered. She explained that they made the soup out of the heads and tails of the fish we ordered. After we ate the girls and I sat by the holding pens and watched the fish. One pen had the biggest puffer fish I've ever seen. We hope he's a pet and not a menu item. There was also a pen with two remoras and maybe a dozen spotted eels. There's just something about eels, I could watch them all day. We loved this place.
Now on to the mundane of preparations. I hope we can find time to explore some more too.
Date: February 9, 2008
Location: 07º 49' N 98º 21' E, anchored off Ao Chalong, Phuket, Thailand
Oh, we're moving fools. Today we arrived in Ao Chalong on the island of Phuket and checked into Thailand. We're on our way to a place called Boat Lagoon Marina to get ourselves and the boat ready to set out across the Indian Ocean in a week or so. So, tomorrow we are moving again. But tomorrow we just need to go about 15 miles north of here to get to the marina. And I have not much else to tell you, so I'll stop for now.
Date: February 8, 2008
Location: 07º 40' N 98º 45' E, moored off Phi Phi Li (Ko Phrayanak), Thailand
This morning we left Ko Muk and took an even shorter day hop to the Phi Phi Islands. We thought the younger set would enjoy knowing that Phi Phi is pronounced pee pee. Kosmos went to the larger island, Phi Phi Don, which has shops and hotels and amenities such as ATMs. We opted for the island that tourists hire a boat to get out to for the day. There's nothing here but a beach. Too bad there's no ATM. We picked up a mooring and were relaxing, when a nice young man buzzed out from shore in an orange inflatable. He wanted a fee in baht for the mooring. We have Malaysian ringots and American dollars, but until we find an ATM, no baht. He said "no money no stay." Geoff opened his wallet and tried to offer the kid dollars or ringots, but he just shook his head, said something that seemed like nevermind, and eventually left. We figure we're okay as long as we were willing to pay. We're leaving early tomorrow morning to go to Phuket anyway. We should make Phuket by lunchtime.
Right now it's about 1530 and the tourists are leaving. We want to go swimming. We might go ashore, but I can see the orange inflatable over there and I don't want to risk overstepping our did-not-pay-the-fee bounds and use more facilities. Perhaps we'll just swim off the boat.
Oh, the cave...it was very cool. We got there too early. The tide was too high to get a dinghy in and there were a gazillion tourists being herded in. The tourists all donned life jackets and formed a chain by grabbing the back of the life jacket of the person in front of them. A guide with a flashlight would lead them in. We went around the corner and went snorkeling until we could see the biggest boats leaving. The cave went in a semi-circle. We rowed to the left and eventually got away from sunlight. Caves are quite dark. Kosmos had a bright dive light, so we found our way to see light again. We came out in a bowl that was open to the sky. There was a beach and trees in there. It was lovely. We avoided running down a small family chain of tourists on our way out. We had dinner ashore for a ridiculously small amount of money and then invited ourselves over to Kosmos to watch movies in air-conditioned splendor. Alex baked cookies, so we brought those with us. Claire wants a Nordhavn. Eric said the kids could become his crew if they would bake for him. Hhmmm, after only a day on the powerboat, they want one. The dark side is strong in this Nordhavn. Beware young padawans. Colin, keep an eye on Jorn.
Date: February 6, 2008
Location: 07º 21' N 99º 17' E, anchored off Ko Muk, Thailand
Ha. We've gone and left Malaysia and almost forgot to tell you. Okay, I'm telling you now, I just didn't write yesterday to tell you we were moving. We're traveling with Christi and Eric (m/v Kosmos) at the moment. We are both heading for Phuket, Thailand. They heard about this cool cave on an island called Ko Muk, Thailand. So here we are. Ko Muk is only 65 or so miles north-ish of Langkawi, so we left this morning and arrived early this evening. Christi and Eric invited the girls to travel with them on Kosmos today. Geoff and I had to sail our boat all by ourselves. Drat. I knew the kids did a lot of stuff on the boat. With them gone, urk, I had to pick up some slack. I'm happy they're back now. I mean I missed their bright shining faces. And muscley arms. And galley acumen.
The cave. Access to the cave is tide dependent. We may have to beat off tourist boats on our way in there. We are anchored off a lovely beach. Because it is a lovely beach there is a resort on it. I hope most of the tourists want to sleep in or are talked into going for an evening trip to the cave in the dark. We'll let you know how it goes.
Langkawi was a good place. It was almost a great place until last night when Geoff had trouble buying diesel from the gas station on shore. Food was reasonable so we ate out for dinner. We had tapas and pizza and bakery - the restaurant billed itself as Japanese bakery style. We also had nasi goring and satays. Everything tasted great. We heard from other yachties that the food in Thailand will be good too. Yippee!
We never did get to ride on the cable car up the mountain. I don't see that as a major loss, but the rest of the family is a little disappointed. They tried to go, but it was too windy yesterday and the cable car wasn't running. And we left today. Oh, and yesterday the girls and I went on a trail ride. This stable/outfit was a lot stricter than those we found in the Pacific. Alex and I were limited to walking our horses on the beach while Claire, being an experienced rider, was allowed to canter. I tried to finagle a gallop for her by touting her vast experience etc. but the guides weren't biting. It was a nice ride all in all. How often do you ride through rubber trees and stop to watch monkeys? Polite monkeys, we kept our hats and glasses.
We went on a hike to the Seven Pools Waterfall with Christi and Eric. We sort of took a longer walk than strictly necessary. We were looking for the place to slide on the rocks (water slide) and end up in a pool. Turns out we passed that place right at the beginning of our hike. We decided that couldn't be it because it was too easy, so we started walking up the mountain. We stopped at a shelter at about the halfway point up the 2500 m trail. We did not have water or snacks with us. We were trying to decide of we wanted to continue up when a guy came along. He had a water bottle. We considered jumping him, because there were six of us and only one of him. But there were six of us and only one of him and his little 1 liter water bottle wouldn't have gone very far in slaking our collective thirst. We talked to him instead. He didn't think there were any pools farther up the trail. He thought there was only farther up. Geoff recalled seeing a figure on the map that looked like it was climbing cables. That decided us. We turned back and went downhill. When we got back to the bottom we found people playing in pools of water and sliding on rocks. We discovered that we had been at the top of the waterfall at the bottom of the trail. Playing in the water felt much better after a sweaty hike uphill.
We plan to make a couple of day hops to get to Phuket. Sure beats dodging fish stuff in the dark. But just for fun we anchored next to a float with a flag on top. We found the only one in the anchorage. I think the three other boats here are jealous.
SE Asia: Malaysia
Date: February 2, 2008
Location: 06º 21' N 99º 41' E, Telaga Harbor Marina, Langkawi, Malaysia
Yippee!! We arrived in Malaysia!!! We found the marina and we found Eric and Christi on Kosmos. We all went to a tapas restaurant for dinner. Oh boy, not rice based dishes and nothing we had to cook ourselves. We've got one foot out the door to go over to Kosmos and play Wii games on their machine and make plans for the next few days. There is a gondola up a mountain, a waterfall to waterslide in and horses. Oh, and a grocery store and showers and, and, and...
More later - we're here and we're happy.
Date: February 1, 2008
Location: 04º 01' N 100º 28' E, at 1200
Today we found a few streams of refuse trailing through the water. The kids were finding all kinds of things floating past us. Their favorites were the two soccer balls and the entire, intact, wooden park bench. The coconuts, bamboo trees, flip flops and plastic water bottles were deemed ho hum. Alex also liked the log that had a 5-inch long crab as a passenger. My personal favorite was the little tern who was hitching a ride on top of a white-topped fiberboard plank. Which begs the question, can birds hang ten if they don't have toes?
Date: January 31, 2008
Location: 02º 12' N 101º 59' E at 1200
Not much to report today. We "frogger"-ed our way across the shipping lanes to get to the Malaysia side last night. Why yes, we did our crossing just after sunset. We think we get extra points for a higher degree of difficulty. So now we are skirting the edge of the shipping lanes on the Malaysia side. Did you know that Malaysian fishermen think the shipping lanes are an excellent place to place their nets? I'm a little boggled by the concept. And I'm more than a little disconcerted when we encounter the things. I may not be able to eat fish again.
This afternoon we heard a yacht we know on the VHF, Far Niente. They were talking to a boat named Pegasus. I thought about breaking in on their conversation, but in the end I didn't. They were discussing getting into a marina. We were passing near Port Dickson at the time, so that's probably where they were headed. Then later this afternoon we passed another sailboat. It felt good to be even that close to other yachties again.
Date: January 30, 2008
We left Batam this morning around 1100. We went to the fuel barge and Geoff "negotiated" a price for diesel we were willing to pay. Claire wants everyone to know that there were 5 well-cared-for dogs on the barge. Three of them were put in a pen and could only watch us. They were not happy. Neither was Claire, she wanted to pet them all.
Right now we are skirting the shipping lane on the Indonesian side, looking for a quieter place to cross. We have our eyes on a spot farther away from Singapore. We are heading to Langkawi, Malaysia. If all goes well we should be there on the 3rd or 4th.
Singapore is an interesting place. We took a ferry across to Singapore from Batam and stayed in a hotel overnight. It was a complete tourist excursion. Um, they shop a lot in Singapore. We would ask people what we needed to see, and they would tell us about shopping malls. We walked around town looking at buildings and we would pass shopping malls. We went down to the underground transit train, the MRT, and we passed underground shops. We did go to one shopping complex and we bought a scientific calculator for Claire, so we fit in, I guess. Otherwise we went to Chinatown and went to a museum there. We wandered around the shopping stalls set up in the street. Chinese New Year, or more properly the Lunar New Year, is a very big deal in Singapore. We bought some red lucky charms and hung them on the boat. We went on a Singapore Duck Tour, not unlike the exotic Wisconsin Dells experience we enjoyed with friends. The duck tour drove past the Singapore Merlion. We took many pictures. We were told that if we didn't have any pictures of the Merlion no one would believe we were in Singapore. We tried to sit down and get some drinks in the restored Raffles Hotel, but we were stopped at the door. The doorman told us that there was a dress code and apparently we didn't pass it. That was lowering, considering that earlier in the day we were at a business office meeting one of Phil's colleagues and we had dressed nicely. We went to an Irish Pub instead.
We picked up our Christmas presents, thank you everyone. And in a few days, Happy Lunar New Year.