Sand Instead of Snow
26 December 2015 | Phuket, Thailand
We had a really nice Christmas in Phuket, shared with friends Shayne & Lisa on Champagne Charlie and Lyn & Jeoff on Miranda. We're all tied up on the same dock at Yacht Haven and we took a break from the steady list of projects to rent a car and head to the beach. Of course it wouldn't be normal to not toss in a few boat related stops, we had to first pick up Shayne's generator, then we had to make a detour to Rolly Tasker sail loft to get our mainsail. But we took some photos by the big Christmas tree at Boat Lagoon. After a nice Thai lunch by the beach, we took a walk in the seaside national park and then headed back to the marina for a swim in the pool. A potluck dinner came together with all kinds of nice stuff and we sat in the breeze in Miranda's cockpit watching the moon rise. It was a great day.
Jon & I have enjoyed this marina. It has such an open feel and a good breeze to go along with it but it is calm & protected just the same. The grounds are nice, it is surrounded by a rubber plantation so lot of trees and there is a great gym which they keep like an ice cube. The only negative is it is a long way out of town so you have to rent a car or motorbike. We shared cars with Shayne & Lisa for two days and it took all of both of them to get our errands done. The one day we tried to visit the Phuket Museum, it was closed.
We are going through one of those phases where it feels like everything is breaking or needs attention. All of our stuff is getting old. Like looking back at pictures of ourselves when this trip started 4 years ago, our things are now looking a little more worn! I think we'll be getting plenty of points on the credit card in the coming months...but these aren't fun things to buy! The dinghy is literally coming apart at the seams, the dive compressor is ailing, you can practically see through our mainsail for all the small holes in it and the liferaft is in need of servicing. We were pretty excited to go to the Rolly Tasker sail loft, based here in Phuket, since we've never been in one and we've purchased 5 sails from this company over the years. Rolly Tasker was an Australian sailing legend who founded the sail loft over 20 years ago, but he died in 2012. The fabric on our 4 year old mainsail started breaking down at 2 years old and we were told by a sailmaker in NZ that we'd have to replace it soon. What?! We thought it couldn't be true. But over this past season, we discovered that you can just rip the sail easily with your fingers and we've realized it is completely shot. We thought, what perfect timing to have actually sailed in to Phuket where we can take the sail in person to the very company who made it. Maybe they could shed some light on what happened and we could share the burden at making it right again. Turns out the now manager Mike Tasker could care less about us, our history as a customer, the crappy sail cloth that made our sail a dud or even leaving his computer screen for a moment for that matter to tend to us. We were shocked & unimpressed. We'll order a new one from Willis sails in New Zealand, who has already made us 2 great ones, even if we have to pay for shipping. I don't think Rolly built his business on that motto but alas, he is gone.
In doing all the driving around Phuket, we've gotten to know it a bit. It isn't drop dead beautiful, but it is interesting to see & experience this part of Thailand. We've given up on learning the language, instead we just fumble along using wide hand gestures and lots of smiles. It generally works. We fight the urge to talk louder & slower in English as if that would help us be understood. This area and the islands around it, were hard hit by the tsunami in 2004. It feels strange to be here walking around in these places where so much tragedy occurred. At the outer islands especially, you can see how there would be nowhere to run to. When we first got here and checked in, we jumped in friends on Psycho Puss' car for a little tour. We even checked out the hospital, since we thought we might do our medical check-ups here. The facility is very new & modern. As we walked by the surgical waiting area in the "Aesthetics" department (plastic surgery), there were 2 ladies in the room with a big bucket of some kind of dried greens on the table and they were doing the same thing they do in the market- processing them somehow. It's just funny to see. I considered getting some surgery for my wrinkles but Jon pulled me onward.
As we've worked on the boat this past week in the marina, there has been a very large goanna (monitor lizard) who sometimes surfaces right next to the boat. When he sees us he dives right away. I never knew they would swim so far out. A little startling at first, but we've gotten used to him.
We had a really nice few days heading up here from Langkawi, Malaysia. We did 3 day motors since there was no wind and saw some pretty anchorages, all of them park with orange moorings to pick up. Huge rock formations made for unique scenery. We would get up at dawn and leave with the pink sunrise, then stop at an island along the way for a snorkel, then continue on to another one to see something new. Although there was virtually no coral, we did see some nice creatures like our first powder blue surgeonfish (they live in the Indian Ocean which is where we finally are!) a big octopus, a beautiful pelagic jelly and best of all, finally some clear water. At one place called Rok Nok, we snorkeled for 4 1/2 hours and only had a lycra skin on, the water was that warm! When we got back to the boat, we got about 2/3 of the hull cleaned and only stopped because we were wrinkled and waterlogged.
From Rok Nok we went to the famous Phi Phi Le- hard hit by the tsunami but you would never know, it is like something out of a dream. Towering, lush green cliffs with splashes of red rock showing, beautiful inner lagoons and more of those orange moorings. Oh, and about 100 day tour boats. But by 5pm, the place is to yourself. It was hard to believe it would happen, but we found ourselves there alone all night bobbing on our mooring. This was the first time we'd seen these kind of formations with the glowing green water inside and as much as I tried to get good pics of it all, the camera lens was too small to get it all in! Maya Bay is the most famous and was used for filming the Survivor TV series. Then there's a beautiful little path that runs through the center of the island on sand to the southern bay where we were moored. In that central area, surrounded by limestone cliffs, there's a campground. The urinals were set into the cliff walls, very unique! I got all ready to take a pic and then saw a guy headed over to use one so I got shy. The sign for the urinals was even funny though. We could do a whole blog entry on our experiences with public toilets these past few months, as we have some really funny stories but, suppose we better not. But one thing I noticed the other day at the national park that was a real shocker was that the brand name American Standard, which you might expect would only make a western style toilet, does indeed manufacture a squatter style toilet for this Asian market!! Huh?! There is quite a push to make the whole process cleaner and more western in every country we've visited this past season and the signage can be really funny. I think I'll stop there.
A couple of days ago, Jon & I rented a motorbike to go to a nearby national park and gibbon reserve. While we don't like riding on them, if we can avoid major roads & traffic, the price is right. We haven't found Thailand to be that inexpensive actually, so this helps. So, I have gotten better at riding and Jon doesn't say I am like a sack of potatoes anymore, but this time I had my mouth ever so slightly open so I could breathe, and it was enough space for a bee to fly in there and sting me on the tongue! We had to pull over so Jon could get the stinger out and I waited for a minute or two to see how big my tongue was going to swell up! Fortunately, it wasn't too bad. The park was relatively small and had a brief trail to a waterfall that was supposed to continue on several kilometers to another, but it petered out instead. On the last waterfall trail we hiked on in Langkawi, the trail went on & on and we had to turn around for lack of drinking water, but we managed to pick up several leeches on our ankles as a souvenir. We'd heard this could be a problem, but weren't expecting it walking on a dry trail. We still have the marks from the bites. So maybe it was a good thing that the trail ended.
The best part of this national park was the gibbon reserve. Phuket used to be full of gibbons until they were nearly wiped out in the 1980's from poaching for the pet trade. It hasn't exactly stopped. Most of the gibbons in this reserve are ones that were captured for use as pets as babies and then abandoned once they matured enough to cause harm to their owners. The goal is to rehab them, teach them how to live in the jungle, pair them with a mate and even have a baby, then set them free with some added assistance until they figure it all out. For example, the staff will continue to provide food for a recently released gibbon as needed until they figure out how to forage enough food to meet their daily needs as well as the baby. On the park trail to the waterfall, we could hear gibbons singing that had been released from this reserve. That's nice! You can observe the gibbons from a distance as long as you're quiet. They are very fluffy and good swingers but their call is the most interesting and really loud. And get this: on the way home on the motorbike, we got another flat tire! And again, some very friendly locals helped us. One gave me a ride on the back of his motorbike while another escorted Jon to the nearest bike shoppe. In about 20 minutes, we were back on the road.
Today we are all headed out of the marina to head around to the west side of Phuket for New Years. Since we are without a dinghy for the next few days, we'll try to anchor in places with good water for swimming or bum rides off friends to get ashore. We've heard that being at Patong Bay for New Years is quite a sight so plan to be there to see it, then head to the Similan Islands 50 miles away where there is supposed to be good diving. Hopefully it will be.
We have a revolving conversation topic where we discuss where we've been, where we are now and where we're heading and as usual, where we go with it depends on how we're feeling at the moment. We feel tugged in many directions. And we never come to any other decision than to keep going as we are. So, that is what we're doing, checking some things off the bucket list while holding on to others for a future date. The holidays are always hard. Sand & Santa don't go together as well as snow but by the looks of the weather, we didn't miss any snow in the NE. We did miss our families though!