January 5, 2009
Two-birds in Thailand
Ever since we left home we've been hearing that Thailand was, "definitely the place to be", in fact, we'd better just go straight there! Well, after 7 years of sailing we were finally headed for Phuket Island . I'd been fighting a kidney stone for about a month off and definitely looking forward to some of that legendary Thai medical treatment. We both hoped to get complete physical check ups. Our plan was to check in with the hospital the day of our arrival. Sure enough, they whisked us both right in at 9AM the following morning for our exams and tests. Sure enough again, the UltraSound picked up the culprit right off. It was blocking the ureter and causing all sorts of pressure, swelling and pain. With new antibiotics, fluids and muscle relaxers I was better in about 4 days. Whew!
It's true that the Thais are very efficient and professional. We found that there is a lot lost in the language translation and those intimate little questions don't get answered. There's no place like home, there's no place like home. However.... if we were to try and recall and tell about all of our medical visits to all of the remote areas we've stopped at, it would almost be a joke book, so this one was not bad at all!
Now that we were both screened and had the medical part checked off of our "to do" list, we were free to start our 3 month visit to exotic Siam. Well, I was anyway. Dave had been waiting to get to Thailand to get some necessary work done for Miss Freebird.
Our first 6 weeks were concerned with various repairs, replacements and updates.
The last 2 wks of the 6 wks were on the hard or haul out time for the Big Girl at (Boat Lagoon) ship yard. That is always an anxious time for us. So MANY things can go wrong. But they didn't. Dave had all of his ducks lined up and the work commenced before the water was finished dripping Freebird. Our hired guns, Kuhn Ot and crew had the bottom paint stripped off before you could blink. Dave on the other hand was focusing on finally getting to fix Freebirds broken rudders. By that night he was itching and so miserable that i thought I was going to have to put him down. All of that antifouling paint was rubbed into all of his pores. He was red, itchy, scratcy, stingy and DYINGl. It was a full blown allergic reaction that took 3 full days to finally subside. He toughed it out but what a sight , oh I mean fright!
During the second week of the haulout I got to go to "Elephant Camp". The first time I heard about a sanctuary for elephants was in Singapore. Robyn (Scorpido) and I were catching a cab back to the boats after provisioning. While making conversation with the taxi driver he told us his favorite place to go in all of Asia was to the jungle in Thailand to bathe elephants. Coming from a very grumpy, chain smoking, single, 40+ Chinese male, I was intrigued, so I looked it up on line and found: Elephant Nature Park. Dave wasn't intrigued, in fact, he just plain didn't want to go ~ at all. So, we thought it was an excellent time for me to ditch them (he and Freebird). Off I went volunteering for a week.
Bath Time for Pachyderms + Volunteers
It was such an amazing experience. Sadly, I had no idea that elephants had not only been so abused by being trained, but now that tourism was such an important industry in Thailand even the babies were being taken away from their families and being cruelly used. The Park was started by just one Thai woman. Lek Chailert, she buys, rescues and saves injured, abused, abandoned and neglected elephants. She has also started a mobile emergency service for elephants around the country ~Jumbo Express. Elephant Nature Park is designed for interested people to help care for elephants rather than see an elephant show or be taken on rides that injure their spines. They offer day trips, overnights and 1or 2 wk volunteer programs to the Park. We were able to be with the elephants in their natural environment. How refreshing it was to meet folks from all over the world that want to spread the word. A previous volunteer from the Netherlands ~ Antionette van de Water has joined the organization and also rescues elephants: Bring the Elephant Home:
Working Elephant Camp "Outfit"
My Elephant Camp Outfit from the Gals at the Spa
When I returned to a finished Freebird she had her top sides painted, new bottom paint, both rudders repaired, brand new awnings, recovered cockpit chair, nav seat recovered, new cockpit table and the washing machine cabinet moved, plumbed with direct electical hook-up, repaired reacher sail, plus a zillion little extra's like 2 new galley lights. Sweet! We rented a little room in the resort for the time Freebird was hauled out. Dave especially liked coming 'home' after a hot dirty day to a nice shower and air conditioning.
We hauled Freebird back in the water the next morning and Dave's brother, Bruce came that night.
Let me go back for just a second and see if I can describe the (Royal Phuket Marina
First of all, it is owned by just one man, Gula Lalvani. He is from India and has very fine taste. There were many more super yachts and power boats than sailing vessels residing there. Surrounding the docks are condominiums that have boat garages built in. There were 6 very exclusive restaurants, a first class spa and gym that formed an upside down U around the boats. We really felt out of place sometimes, as Freebird is definitely......."lived on". Not just a excursion yacht with full crew. On the other hand, we were on the same dock that the ALL of the day tour boats use to take the zillion of tourists out into the islands. We had heard that tourism is really down, but it sure didn't seem like it to us. The tour companies aim their markets at specific countries. Down the dock would come 100 various folks for each group: Russia, Eastern Europe, Sweden, Germany, Israel... all excited speaking in their native languages. It was so comical for us to watch. We felt like we were in a fish bowl. Several tourists actually stepped aboard our swim steps to take their vacation photos with our boat or flag. At the RPM, there was an exceptional bakery and on a few occasions we succumbed to it's delights. (morning coffee, juice and croissants mostly).
Robyn ( Yacht Scorpido), Rose (Yacht Rendezvous Cay) and I each had a Spa Package consisting of a month's pass for unlimited treatments. UNBELIEVABLE, those women at the Pearl (www.thepearlbeautyspa.com) are angels. I love each and every one of them. They treated Davey and i to a fabulous dinner at a floating fishing village. We invited them to Freebird for pizza. This was probably the best month of my life with going to the gym every day and having a watermelon juice for my reward. How good does it get? Dave also took full advantage of the gym too along with those yummy boardwalk cappuccinos!
Our Final Farewell Night Thai Dinner on Freebird ~ Bye Gals :
We were so anxious for brother Bruce to get there so we could go sailing. Oh boy oh boy. We couldn't believe he wasn't even jet lagged when he arrived. He was raring to go! Last year he came to Mooloolaba with his firend Matt. We have yet to find a photo that confirms he was actually with us there?? We are hoping that this time we can have photographic evidence that he was with us!
We departed after saying adios to our good buddies the Scorpidos ~ Robyn and Eric who were sailing off to South Africa (boohoo).
The plan is to day hop through the islands up to Myanmar(Burma).
Thursday Feb 26th,
Nai Harn Bay on the island of Phuket is our first stop. It is a resort bay with little restaurants and bars. We were ashore by 4, Dave getting a massage, me a new swimming suit and Bruce testing the fabled TwoFerOne theory. Rock-A-Bye-Baby by 10.
Friday the 27th is motorcycling for the brothers. Notice who got pulled over.....
Later that evening they took me out to dinner in my new Elephant Camp outfit that the gals gave me from The Pearl to wear to Elephant Camp. Boy, wait till you see how I really looked at Elephant camp. Big contrast.
Sat, Feb 28, underway to the Similian Islands after breakfast. We were swimming in the water by 11:20 . Steaks on the barbie for dinner. YUM
Sun, Mar 1st, Big motor day. Left at 7AM and arrived at 2:30. HOT HOT HOT, Bruce is soaking it up!!! Found a big moray eel really close under the boat while snorkeling around the coral, and a long black and white seasnake along with vivid blue tangs. We used our left over steaks for hard shell tacos. Boy do we ever miss Mexican food! Davey has a bit of sun stroke and went to bed early. Ugh
Mon, Mar 2nd. We stayed put, read and played in the water all day. This as really our first full away day. After a couple of rousing games of Rumikube we hit the sack.
Tues, Mar 3rd. Ventured ashore after BlueBerry Muffins. Took the view point walk. Didn't realize we would be using ropes to pull ourselves up. Challenging in flipflops... We passed some barefooted hikers on the trail with bloody toes, maybe flipflops weren't so bad afterall? Great vista. Decided to change bays after snorkeling around boat after lunch. Bruce was our dinghy chase boat while Dave and I dived the channel. Then Bruce and I snorkeled.
Wed, Mar 4th. We 3 signed up for a dive boat excursion by Ko Miang. Dave and I dived the first dive and saw lion fish, a big morray eel and a ray. Then, oh boy, they fed us a tasty breakfast. We took a 2nd dive that was just so so. Lion fish, puffer and pretty coral. We broke for lunch. In the afternoon Dave took the 3rd dive and Bruce and I snorkeled over towards the island around the coral reef instead.
Similan Island Beach
Thurs, Mar 5th, it's day 10 of Bruce's visit so we did some calculating of how far up we could get before we had to start coming back down. We had some pretty impressive lightening and thunder displays all night long that made us think maybe the Monsoon season was starting early???
Bruce decided maybe... he might possibly.... be sorta ....interested.... in learning to dive. Dave hooked him up to the hookah and went down with him for his first attempt. He wasn't quite sure....
We got underway afterward to Ko Similian & Ko Bangu (Ko = islands). Had to jump in the water before bed for another rinse off. HOT. Had a firedrill during a downpour in the middle of the night to close the hatches. Funny
Friday Mar 6th, Bruce's first Real Dive. He didn't really think he liked it, he kept coming back up, THEN, a beautiful turtle swam over to the swim step, I was feeding her frozen peas and all of a sudden Bruce really wanted to dive to see her. After that he was hooked!
We baked fresh bread and had BBQ'd spare ribs for lunch while a huge 3 masted schooner came into the anchorage for the rest of the day. When she left at sunset, we watched her sails for hours on the horizon. Enchanting
Sat, Mar7th, What a surprise, we had so many of the fast tour snorkel boats that zoomed into the anchorage that they even tied to the back of us. They came and left all day. Bruce, the dive pro had another crack at diving. Then we took turns kayaking at sunset.
Sun, Mar 8th, stayed in the anchorage and played in the water all day. Brother Bruce tried to take over our Bocci Ball game and kick our butts. What a mean thing to do!!!
Mon, Mar 9th, the guys dived and read all day. I got a touch of the flu and was down for the next 2 days. Bruce perfected his tan and was in the water as much as possible.The two of them moved the boat around the corner for Bruce's ferry ride back to the mainland tomorrow.
Tues Mar 10th. We were sad to see Bruce go! We decided to stay in the islands for a few more days before going back to Phuket. Every day we see big white bellied sea eagles, dark charcoal Blue herons, white egrets and sometimes monkeys on the beach.The evening was dominated by a gorgeous full moon.
On our last day out before getting back to the Royal Phuket Marina, we stopped at Ko Tachai, a reserve island that reportedly has whale sharks. We tied to a mooring buoy and off in the dinghy we roared to the reef. After being in the water about 2 min a very large 8 ft Lemon shark cruises over to take a look at us, then, s l o w l y glides a way. That was pretty much it for me. We continued to look around the reef but when we came along side our dinghy I was inside of it with out touching the sides. Dave continued on around to make a complete circle?????? WHY?????
Making More Friends
We only spent 3 days in Phuket before leaving back to Langkawi. We wanted to make the most of the time left on our Visa's. We sailed slowly through the southern islands that we missed on the way up.
Heading Back Out to The Islands
These islands are the most frequented by tourists. The PhiPhi islands are what most people see..some of the people we have met along the way said they used to come to Thailand 25-30 years ago when there wasn't even a building along the shoreline. Now it has high rises, much like Hawaii. The water color was stunning, not too many fish and very crowded. We really enjoyed the Muslim Sea Gypsy Floating Fishing Village of Ko Panyi built up on stilts. We took a local "long tail" around to the Hong's (caves) and saw some early prehistoric paintings. The Islands rise dramatically straight up for hundreds of feet. We had beautiful quiet anchorages in the evenings when all the tourists headed home. We even visited "James Bond Island" where the movie "Man with a Golden Gun" was filmed. The scenery was stunning.
Got hit one afternoon by a sudden squall while we were anchored between 2 islands and blown out into the bay. A bit scary. Slowly went around to all the islands, hiked to the top of Krabi from Ao Nang, hiked to the lighthouse, saw the Diamond Hong.(cave) Back to AoChalong (Bay) by 3:00 on Friday April 3rd. Tomorrow we sail back to Langkawi.
See ya Thailand on our way back up to the Red Sea after cyclone season.........More about 3 upsetting/terrifying/scary incidents coming up!