02/23/2009, Andaman Sea
The world's second most powerful earthquake, the 12/26/04 tsunami, has not altered the super-sized beauty of the Andaman Coast. The emerald waters of Phangna Nga are clean but silty due to the rivers emptying into the bay from the mainland. So we briefly visited the craggy limestone towers concealing hongs (Cave systems where the top of the cave has collapsed leaving a steep crater in the island which is only accessible from caves at low tide), caves, and honey-hued beaches to the east of Phuket on our journey south to find clear snorkeling waters.
Hiding behind surreal cliffs, Railay Beach is accessible only by boat and remains a mellow place enjoying psychedelic sunsets. But Phi Phi Don was our first taste of really clear water. Unfortunately it's is also the diving and nightlife center of this area so the anchorage was churned and choppy from all the speed and long tailed boats delivering passengers to their dive sites. And at night it became party central with raucous music until the wee hours.
So we slipped away quickly to a bit of paradise at Koh (island) Racha where we were one of only 2 boats anchored in a beautiful bay with water so translucent we felt we were floating on air. Couldn't get the girls out of their snorkel gear for 2 days. Tried our old haunts at Nai Harn and sailed to Patong Beach, Phuket's decadent beer and bar Mecca. We soon tired of chaos, winking neon, strident techno, and carnival atmosphere (gasp!) and retired to serene Laem Singh, where we enjoyed the benefits of our last few days with 2 very fine human beings. And to top it all off - we were the only boat in the harbor, answering Mandy's quest for seclusion. (Remember she's the NYC girl!)
Cheers to celebrating Christmas all year long, KK
The Kreitzberg daughters chose the end of February to celebrate Christmas with the family. With little more than 2 weeks planning Mandy flew from NYC and Cassie from Whangarei, New Zealand. My passport had run out of Visa pages so Terry and I took the opportunity to visit the American Embassy in Bangkok and within 15 minutes I had 20 clean pages to fill. What a difference from the 6 week fiasco obtaining these same pages for Terry and Cassie in Australia!
Bangkok's official name is a whopping 43 syllables which translates roughly to "Great City of Angels". It is no longer just a messy 3rd world capitol, but has become a skyscraper modern universe of diversions and excesses catering to every indulgence from all night binges and shopping sprees to the old fashioned devout Buddhism of Siam (good actions bring good results, bad actions bring bad results). Thailand's third gender, Kathoey or lady boys, create gender-illusion through the magic of sequined costumes, big hair, & hourglass figures at Kathoey Cabarets. It's fun towatch them strutting their stuff down Khao San where street food abounds and backpacker hostels make living an inexpensive prospect. It creates an ambiance unlike any other.
Justly famous for debauchery, Khao San is also a charming neighborhood that never sleeps. The girls had not seen each other for a year and returned to the street for one last drink after they'd put their parents to bed at 2 AM. While enjoying an al fresco espresso and brandy, Mandy felt an arm squeezing her shoulder only to be confronted by a baby elephant searching for bananas, which they gladly purchased for 20 Bhatt (50 cents). Unfortunately their habitat has succumbed to developers and they must beg their dinner (along with their handlers) on Bangkok's quieter late night streets.
After a whirlwind 3 days of testing Bangkok's limits we flew to Phuket to board Sora and explore her gorgeous islands.
Cheers to family! KK
You'll note that the "PH" in Thailand is pronounced "P", most unlike the "PH" in Philadelphia..... hum, now that's fortunate!! The differences abound: We're enjoying balmy (30 C.) breezes and dry weather, hasn't rained in over a month, while America suffers one of the coldest winters yet. Fresh delicious food is so expertly prepared and inexpensive that we must eat in restaurants or hawker stalls (small native stands offering fare comparable to 5 star restaurants for 80 cents to $6) because it's cheaper than eating on the boat.
This picture describes the Thai psyche perfectly. They are compact, beautiful people with a radiance of gentleness and interest that immediately makes us feel comfortable. As in Indonesia and Malaysia, Thai's are very interested in where you're from, where you're going, and what is your name? They honor family above all else, often many generations living together. They're a hardworking lot and seem to be neat and tidy while we're sweltering in the noon day heat. For the first time in many months, they raise happy healthy dogs which equates to good character in my book!
We spent our first 3 weeks here anchored in Nai Harn and developed a marvelously indulgent schedule - on our rented scooter we first had breakfast, internet, 2 hours in the gym which necessitated the afternoon massage, just in time for Happy Hour at the Aussie Islander bar where the Australian Open Tennis tourney was in full force, then back to our Jungle Beach dinghy landing restaurant before dark (the scooter situation here in Thailand is much like a very slow Indy 500). The entire day's tab less than $25.
What more could we ask? Well, I'll tell you - a sail to some of the world's most pristine, unusual beaches that boast clear water full of fish and corals surrounding islands of dramatic karst cliffs, jagged limestone peaks, lush rainforests, and tumbledown fishing villages.
Cheers to another good adventure! KK
12/24/2008, Langkawi, Malaysia
Are you on your way to heaven? Am I? Are any of us? Is there even a "Heaven"? Who knows - no definite answer! So I'm creating and enjoying my idea of heaven right here in Langkawi.
We arrived in the Northernmost islands of Malaysia a few days ago and have enjoyed perfect weather with fresh breezes on hot days and cool nights. The local folks who work here at our tiny marina/resort island of Rebak are the kindest, most welcoming people we've encountered in our 2 1/2 years of cruising. There are jagged mountains and ridges of more ranges extending to the horizon, gorgeous foliage, insects and rare birds singing at sunrise and sunset, a profusion of blooming flowers and bushes, beautifully cool pool and Caribbean - clean water, and almost white sand beaches beaches for us to lounge upon at sunset.
There is an employee restaurant and bar which welcomes cruisers at very realistic prices and all the normal amenities offered us at most marinas. So Terry is creeping around the rain forests trying to catch pairs of toucans or monitor lizards to photograph in their natural habit with his new camera while I do Pilates or yoga with other sailors, some of which have lived here for more than 3 years because this area is so conducive to cruising life.
Were it not for the fact that we have friends awaiting our arrival in Phuket for New Year's and our months of boat maintenance/upgrade/repair, I could live here for years too!
Happy Holidays to you all - we hope you feel as if you too, are living your idea of heaven right at this moment. Cheers and Best Wishes from Sora, KK
Penang, what a nice mix of Singapore and Melaka it is. Lots of big city advantages with the small town ambience - shrines, temples, museums, parks, beaches, with friendly people, good restaurants, and reliable bus service.
Although Penang is a very modern city, Chinatown's clock stopped 50 years ago. The hilarious signs, colorful old shophouses, ridiculously cheap restaurants, clatter of mahjong tiles and strange Chinese dialects kept drawing us back to the old city. Whether it was the scent of sandalwood and spices, Hindi music, sari or stone seal shops, or the famous temples, we visited this area daily for a week.
Finding Terry's favorite "street eats" stand closed on Sunday, we kept hiking north to the Garage Shopping Plaza across from the E & O Hotel that just happened to be their once-a-month crafts fair. So Jeni and I wandered, oohed & ahhed, touched & purchased while Terry had another massage. We'd found a restaurant with the very non-descriptive name of Beach Blanket Babylon. It was a contemporary colonial British affair that should have been called Oliver's. Enjoyed their set lunch - a real bargain @ 14 RM ($3.25), pigged out, and hit the shops!
Then we started with the Temples!
Cheers to keeping busy in the city! KK