Sunday, May 11, 2014

Phuket, Thailand

Long Tails at Dawn - Koh Rok Nok, Thailand
Ruthie and I were a little anxious as we went to clear out of Malaysia in Talaga Bay but we needn’t have been.  All of the government officials we had dealings with in Malaysia were very relaxed and details to them didn’t appear to be very important.  With port clearance papers in hand, we headed northwest on a fine, breezy afternoon for Ko Lipe (Ko in Thai means ‘island’), about 23 miles away.  It was late enough in the afternoon that we decided against dropping the dink and going ashore so we stayed aboard and got our first glimpse of Thailand.  Since we were only a short distance from Malaysia, we didn’t expect any differences between the two countries to be obvious but there were indications that things were different.  For one, the boat that the fishermen used were now ‘long tails’ – narrow, low-freeboard boats with a ridiculously long propeller shaft that extended well beyond the transom of the boat.  It wouldn’t take long before we’d notice much more dramatic differences but from our vantage point, nestled between two thickly covered islands, boats were about all we could see.

The wind had blown all night but we had been comfortable enough.  It continued to blow as we left early the following morning – our hopes that we could sail to our next stop were rising but were soon dashed as the wind died altogether and we wound up motoring in glassy seas all the way to Ko Rok Nok.  The heat was sweltering and we wasted little time in getting into our snorkeling gear after the anchor was down.  There was a very strong current running and even though the underwater visibility wasn’t that bad, there wasn’t much sea life to be seen.  We left at first light the next morning.

The Big Buddha on Top of the Hill Overlooks Ao Chalong
As we approached Ao Chalong on the island of Phuket, the traffic on the VHF radio increased and we started to hear familiar voices and boat names.  The bay is big and busy, with lots of yachts from all over the world and hundreds of boats used to ferry tourists around Phang Nga Bay.  The tourist boats zip through the anchorage, setting down big wakes which send everything in the cabin flying around.  We went ashore, bought a Thai SIM for our phone and wandered around a little.  The following morning we checked-in and felt more comfortable once our visas were validated.

Thai Script is Impossible to Learn.  Typical Wiring.
Thailand is different than Malaysia!  Generally speaking, the people of Thailand look much more Asian than those of Malaysia.  The language is completely different – instead of using Latin script like English or Malay, the Thai use their own alphabet that has vowels above, below or next to the squiggly letters.  We have an English-Thai app on our iPhone and even though I swear I’m pronouncing the Thai words the same as the woman in the app, no one in Thailand can understand anything I’m saying.  Since we eat out a lot – the Thai food is both delicious and inexpensive – one phrase I get to practice a lot is การตรวจสอบโปรด which means, the check, please. 

The Meals Can be Fantastic Especially When Enjoyed With Cold Thai Beer
Just after we got comfortable with the anchorage in Ao Chalong, we moved up to the Yacht Haven Marina on the northern end of Phuket Island.  Its much more isolated from the intensely tourist-oriented southern part of the island, a relatively inexpensive place to keep Rutea and a pretty good place to get work done.  It does mean we have to rent a car every time we want to go somewhere.

Its still insanely hot and we bought a used window-type air conditioner to help us cope.  The good part about it is that we can now be comfortable aboard but the bad part is that we sometimes hunker down and never leave the cool confines of the cabin.

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