12 February 2020
Our cruising buddies Dave and Linda, from way back in the Azores, in the year of the Horse, 2012, joined us for a luxury mini-cruise around western Thailand in this year of the Rat. More like year of the tourist. In comparison to Indonesia, Thailand is simply mobbed or as we'd say in Scotland, hoaching. As I said before - Indonesia, be careful what you wish for. ( https://www.sailblogs.com/member/timebandit/468812 )
Dozens of Tour Information Centres, thinly disguised as official Tourist Information Centres lure hundreds of punters into their grasp to flog them half or all day tours of the outlying islands. Fleets of powerboats and long tails load up to beat their customers' bums to a pulp as they thrash to windward in twenty five knots. The Long Tails cut a smoother path, moving more leisurely, if you can call sitting in front of a throbbing six cylinder 1970's truck engine spewing diesel fumes and oil for hours on end, leisurely.
Together, the tourist boats create a perpetual wash from ten 'till four every day in the island anchorages. It's hard to complain though when you're really part of the problem.
The key, we've discovered, is to sleep 'till ten, then, when the boats start thrashing in, head out for a wee sail to the next island, arriving as the tour boats leave, around four then relax and enjoy the quiet, the quite stunning limestone scenery and reflect on how nice it is you've got your own wee boat.
Ashore, Thailand abounds with tourist resources. Bars, restaurants, tattoo and massage parlours. There's hostels and Homestays for the budget conscious traveller i.e. the under thirties who really should be at home working, paying taxes to support the health care systems I'll be needing shortly. Three star hotels for the up and coming; or those with children heading to, or at university and luxury five star spa resorts for the wealthy. Or those without children.
Put it all together and you get a thriving tourist industry. Peace and quiet during the day, not so much. But it's been rather pleasant.
Meanwhile, we're off for another ten dollar massage, a two course meal for two, with drinks for 7/6d.
03 February 2020
“How long should we allow to properly see Thailand?” I asked a fellow cruiser. “Oh.......maybe give it a week”.
“Ah ha” I thought, “a fellow cynic”. To double check, a few days later I asked another couple what they thought. “Ooooh. Thailand. We love it. Been here for years.” So does our buddy Tony Tactical but he was conspicuous by his absence ......until last night.
Tony had hot-foot it through Indonesia, skipping the rally festivities and saving his liver for more important sessions. Not that we had one when we finally met up, but it bore all the hall marks. We just missed Bill and our mutual friend, Captain Morgan.
Thailand has been interesting so far and it’s apparent the country has a thriving tourist industry. Thousands of tourists stroll around, the ladies skimpily clad and the men sporting assorted tattoos from head to toe which nicely masks their sun burn and the Farangs, the ex-pats who, saving on sun screen, have opted for a natural, deep tan, ancient lizard look.
We’ve only done the Phuket area so far; the tiger sanctuary, where for an extra ten quid, you can go inside the tiger’s cage. I mean, ten quid extra and they don’t even give you a chair or a whip. the Old Town, which is, well, old, the Big Buddha, who tops the highest hill here standing forty five metres high and, much like the Space Shuttle, built with a final cladding of individual ceramic tiles so, OK for re-entry. We’ve taken off our shoes and toured seemingly countless fantastically decorated temples, a number of quite lovely beaches where the tourists acquire their new pink hue and more curry than you can shake a chilli at.
Most importantly, there’s actually been wind so we’ve been sailing everywhere and to date, have covered nearly twenty miles. That’s working out to a reasonably efficient two miles to the bottle of red.
Goin’ On Holiday?
26 January 2020
As you may have read in the previous instalment, our arrival in Scotland wasn’t a great start. The only thing worse was our departure. And it all came down to the original crash and burn failed car rental.
As a Welcome Home, after we’d collected our bags we headed for the car hire mini terminal. After schlepping our bags through the airport we found the very competitively priced firm I’d chosen was miles away and you had to call for a lift. An hour later the mini van turned into a pot holed junk yard housing a couple of Portacabins and a few cars.
“Hi. The name’s Letton. We’ve a car booked”.
“OK. Got your license?
“Utility bill from the last three months, in credit card holders name - at your normal place of residence?”
“You’re kidding pal”.
And on it went until, exhausted and defeated by bureauocracy that Indonesia would be proud of, we headed out into the rain to find the first of three trains that would take us to within ten miles of our desired destination.
Ten days later we repeated the process but this time with an extra twist. Heavy rain.
“Goin’ oan holiday Hen?” said the wee Glasgow wummin sitting in the bus stop I’d just dragged our wheeliebin sized suitcase past.
It was wheeliebin sized because we were carrying all the extra Christmas pressies we’d bought while having access to that alternative Santa’s grotto, Kip Yacht Chandlers. A pair of oars, a new Fuel-Guard diesel polishing system, fifteen metres of braid, fuel filters and various other items of detritus from the DIY store.
The reason we were schlepping all our crap across the back streets of Glasgow and Paisley was because the wee drop of rain we’d had apparently flooded the railway lines. So, instead of a quick train ride we detoured around central Scotland before being deposited at Paisley Gilmore Street, where, to my complete delight we were directed to the bus replacement service. Down two flights of stairs. No lifts obviously.
By the time I reached street level I wasn’t chuffed and headed up the street towards the bus, passing aforementioned wummin and composing a strongly worded letter to ScotRail in my head.
Meanwhile, trailing twenty yards behind Anne politely replies to the wee wummin, “Yes. We’re off on holiday”.
“That yer man?” she asks, pointing a cigarette stained finger at my retreating back.
“Yes” says Anne.
“Good luck” she says.
Wet, Wet, Wet
10 January 2020
We celebrated our forty first wedding anniversary last summer. A good bunch of our cruising friends joined us in an anchorage somewhere in Indonesia to commiserate, sorry, celebrate, and one of the many topics up for discussion that night, other than the availability of beer, was just how on earth did we manage to stay together for that amount of time, especially living in a confined space all day, every day for years on end - including the ten years we worked together, eighteen all told, living in each other’s pockets 24/7.
Well, dear readers, if you’re interested or indeed in need of some expert advice, one of the keys is delegation; a clear separation of responsibilities. At work, I did all the right brain stuff. Anne did all the left. On the boat, coincidentally, I do starboard and Anne does port. That’s right and left for the non yotties and those yotties that have forgotten. Getting to and from the family, Anne does the packing and I fix the travel.
And these days, that’s quite challenging, unlike packing a bag full of stuff we have to pay extra to cart from one side of the globe to the other and back again but never use. Back in the good old days, if you wanted a holiday or to fly somewhere, you’d tell your travel agent what you wanted and bingo, three days later you’d have your itinerary, tickets and a bill for thousands.
Nowadays, now that the Interweb has made things so much easier, you spend these three days fiddling about on a tiny screen, comparing about a hundred alternative routes from A to B and finally, after you’ve registered with enough personal details to allow any half competent hacker to access your life savings, you might just have made a booking.
In doing so, one should always keep in mind current affairs. Unfortunately, that’s a subject I find rather distracts me from my pursuit of pure enjoyment. Anne can’t do without her daily fix of BBC news. Personally, I can do without knowing what stage of the Brexit fiasco we’re at, how the Green Pound is faring (whatever happened to the Green Pound?) or whether Harry and Meghan can oust the Kardashians from their top TV rankings.
Consequently, in my usual state of blissful ignorance of world affairs I timed our mini break in Hong Kong to clash, if that’s not a poor choice of phrasing, with the present unpleasantness over there and to compound the problem, on Sunday we fly back to the boat via the Middle East. Perhaps not the best choice of routes right now.
Anyway, we had a great time seeing old friends, holidaying with the kids and much as we love the grandchildren, although I couldn’t eat a whole one, we are looking forward to resuming our life in our little microcosm, where things do seem a lot less complicated. And somewhat warmer.
I won’t say the weather has been terrible here in Scotland, in fact, it’s not been that bad, all things considered - the deluge in Indonesia, the winds and raging fires of Australia, minus 15c in Canada for example but when I turned on the radio the other day and they played a song by the Scottish band, Wet Wet Wet, I couldn’t help but smile.
Which hopefully this post has made you.
It’s 2020 and we’ll be heading somewhere. Maybe east, maybe west or just fiddling around out here - right now we just don’t know. So many options. Too few brain cells. Follow the Blog to find out and, if you’re so inclined, subscribe to my rubbish videos on YouTube at SV Time Bandit.
Happy new year and thanks for following.
25 December 2019
"Hey Tonto. Ride to town and get the sheriff" said the Lone Ranger sitting astride his white stallion.
"Go the Hell" said Tonto. "Every time I go to town I get the shit kicked out of me."
And back when I was working class, that's largely what happened to me every time I went to France. I'd a customer there who was a complete prat and who took a sadistic pleasure out of making my visits a complete nightmare. Consequently, I grew to hate going to France. Heading for the Alps each summer holiday I'd drag the kids on a massive detour, driving through Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, all just to avoid spending time in France.
So, imagine my surprise when, driving into the Canadian ski town where we'd booked a place to spend a family Christmas, the first person I meet as we gaze mystified out the car windows, says, "Vous etes perdu?" Surprised and confused, I hesitatingly replied in my best pigeon French, "Whee. Noo shershon le zooper marsh ay". Fancy coming all this way across the world to Canada and the first person you meet is French!
Then it dawned. Deep down I knew Quebec was a mini France but I'd never really thought they actually spoke Frog. I mean, we were in the middle of North America where they speak English. Or as close to it as they're ever likely to get, yet here we were, surrounded by french speakers. The good news is, unlike native French, they know how to queue. Which is just as well because if there's one thing I hate about skiing, apart from the aching legs, sore back and frostbite is queuing. Especially when it's cold. And it is. The temperature difference between here and the boat is forty to forty five degrees centigrade. I'm like the baby polar bear who keeps asking his dad if he really is a polar bear. " Dad, dad. Are you sure I'm a polar bear?"
"Of course you are son. You're all white fur. You've got big white furry claws and a big white nose. What makes you think you might not be a polar bear?"
"Cause I'm F-F-F FREEZING."
Minus ten yesterday on the slopes. The only guy out there skiing with six layers of Wonderful Indonesia T-shirts and still chilled to the marrow.
Wouldn't it be nice if we had a wee boat in the sunshine?
Happy Christmas, or indeed, Joyeux Noel to all our readers.
18 December 2019
Phew! What a relief only a 35° difference in temperature between the boat and here in Toronto. And only a mere 15° to 18° when you’re indoors such are the iceboxes that our offspring choose to inhabit.
Unfortunately, before we left Malaysia, somewhere up the coast I picked up a severe dose, indeed, my annual dose, of Man Flu. It seems every year I get this. Usually fairly soon after my flu jab. Doh!
Our last couple of flights have therefore been quite interesting as with every gut wrenching bout of my coughing every Asian in hearing distance frantically searching for their face masks until by the end, it looked as if I was a patient in a flying operating theatre populated by a hundred nursing staff. It might come to that yet though.
Consequently I’m now bed-ridden, languishing in the basement lying under a pile of sheets, blankets, fleece and pillows that wouldn’t be out of place in a Mongolian yurt.
Next up, assuming I make it through the week, it’s off to Montreal where, yippee, it’s even colder.
Five O’Clock Five Hundred
13 December 2019 | Pangkor Marina
Ever heard this? It's an American country rock song about the mayhem and madness as working folk launch their pick-up trucks into the evening rush hour to get home in time for the kids soccer, hockey, line dancing or whatever you do in a Stetson and cowboy boots. Well, here in Malaysia, it seems they have a seven AM version. Except it's waterborne.
After a reasonable sail up the reasonably boring, muddy seas of the Malay coast we'd anchored up for the night off one of the few small islands. If you can't find a small island you anchor in about four or five metres off the coast. Usually about a mile or two off the coast but technically, still off the coast and still in just a few metres. It's all pretty shallow. Anyway, after a decent nights kip we were rudely awakened by the sound of screaming Yamahas powering the pointy bowed, flat bottomed fishing boats that are common as muck around here, all thrashing past at full throttle, off to murder as many tiny fish as they could in the early morning light.
Now, my mother-in-law was renowned for spending much of her church attendance hours not listening to the minister drone on but counting hats. I've developed a similar habit except I count fishing boats. This morning, we had fifty two between us and the horizon all chucking nets and weedy flag poles flying an old pair of knickers into our path. The fishing fleet has been a challenge from day one of this trip. From Thursday Island in Australia five months ago, we've had to keep our eyes peeled for boats and nets. One of our number didn't; crashed into a ton of timber and lost their main beam, being a cat, and consequently their mast. The first story to hit the rumour mill was that they'd been at anchor, in the dark and a fishing boat had ploughed into them. So, next stop, everyone is queuing up to buy flashing LED lights to string around their boats at dark. The pitch black nights of all the anchorages are now lit up like a cheap Chinese Christmas tree. Quite nice actually, especially as it is nearly Christmas. However, the fact you can't see anything now for being blinded by green, blue and red strobes is a bit of an issue.
We wandered up the coast via Malacca, with its colonial past, in fact, being Malaysia, much has a colonial, or perhaps more descriptively, a trading hub past. The Dutch and British "colonisation" of SE Asia brought wealth and prosperity to Holland and Britain. Less so to the locals. But they did leave some nice buildings and probably scurvy, flu and rickets among other things......or I guess, they traded these nasties for malaria and yellow fever.
We knocked off the stops up the coast in short order reaching our final resting place for this year in Rebak Marina resort, off Langkawi Island, parked the boat, tidied things up and hopped on a plane for KL, Hong Kong and Toronto.
Something like a forty degrees Celsius difference.
Haud me back.
Who Stole Christmas? We
04 December 2019
We stopped in a cafe yesterday here in Penang, an island city of nearly two million off the west coast of Malaysia. We stopped to catch our breath and escape from the oppressive, steaming, equatorial heat and humidity by strolling through the air conditioned shops and Malls. In Starbucks, after I'd unfortunately told the attractive young waitress that, while pointing at her badge, I thought Barista was a lovely name and ordered my mocha choco cappuccino, no froth, with sprinkles, moy caliente, no straw, in a mug, I got to wondering what is actually going on here in Malaysia. A former British colony, after we'd no doubt bled it dry, we, the Brits, very generously granted them independence. That was back in 1957. Since then, under their own steam they've created an economic powerhouse. The Silicon Valley of the east. It's certainly light years economically from pretty much all the Indonesian islands we visited. Quite a culture shock. That and the baubles.
You see, for us, obviously, it's the run up to Christmas. Anne has had the Lifeboat cards shipped out and spends the evenings interrupting my busy schedule by asking "should we keep sending to the Bloggs?" and other folk I'm afraid I've long forgotten.
Anyway. It is clearly Christmas here. Gaudily lit giant plastic trees, giant Hello Kitty snow scene balls - like the ones you shake and snow falls down over the Empire State Building or such like, only here, Chinese kids and their grannies are inside. There's all the festive drinks at Starbucks......Winter Warmer Gingerbread Coffee...... it's thirty five flaming degrees outside and they're peddling Winter Warmers for goodness sake. The malls are playing all the kitsch Christmas tunes although I have to say, old Noddy has yet to be heard.
It is all a bit weird though. According to Wikipedia, 62% are Muslim, 20% Buddhist and yet, with only 9% Christian, Christmas is absolutely huge.
At least, for the retailers.