Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thailand

Before we left for Thailand, we stocked up on a few things in Langkawi since it is a duty-free island. We had read that we will need lots of items with which to bribe the officials along the Red Sea. Since most places along the Red Sea are “dry”, rum makes a good bribe. We stocked up on a few bottles of the good stuff for ourselves and then the cheapest stuff we could find for the officials. We also stocked up on 3 cartons of cigarettes for bribes too. Being a non-smoker, it was interesting choosing a brand. I went with Marlboroughs. I guess that Marlborough Man has planted himself somewhere in my subconscious. Isn’t advertising great.

We didn’t have to wait until the Red Sea to pay our first bribe. The customs official in Thailand wanted 800 baht ($25) since we checked into the country on a Saturday. I found this rather interesting since he was obviously working on Saturday sitting there behind his desk in his uniform. Steve, who hates confrontation, was ready to hand over the money. I refused on principle (very nicely since it is all about them not loosing “face”). The official had to go away and think about it and when he came back, he said that he would accept 300 baht ($10) for us to go away and come back Monday. At that point, it really wasn’t worth my time to come back Monday to save $15 (the $25 less the $10 I already paid) but it was the principle of the thing (and I didn’t want to lose “face” by saying “forget it will pay the 800 baht) so we had to go back Monday.

Other than that, we are loving Thailand. Our first stop was the Island of Tarutao. It is part of a marine park so it has been protected from development. It was originally a penal colony for political prisoners but now it is known for it’s gorgeous beaches and cool caves.

Our next stop was Ko (island) Rok Nok. It is also part of the marine park and therefore no development. The waters were crystal clear so as soon as we picked up a mooring ball, I was over the side with my snorkel on even though it was 4:00 and the sun was really too low for good visibility underwater. I am glad I got a sneak peak because that was all I was going to get. Later that evening, just as we were getting ready for bed, and it was pitch black outside, the “drag alarm” went off. We always set the GPS to sound an alarm if our position moves more than 120 feet because that means either the anchor is dragging or, as in this case, the mooring ball has broken free from the bottom. It was strange to see the big orange mooring ball still securely attached to the boat as we drifted towards the same reef I had snorkeled on that afternoon. I untied our line from the mooring ball while Steve started the engine and motored away from the reef. (I should have just kept the mooring ball since we had paid 600 baht ($20) for the privilege of tying up to it for the night.) Of course these things never happen on a calm starlit night. It was blowing 3o knots and the waves were up. My snorkel stuff, which had been on the forward deck drying off from the afternoon, was washed past the cockpit by a wave that broke over the bow. I grabbed it as it went by. The only casualty was a solar powered deck light that we sit on the bow at anchor. It washed past the cockpit in pieces. We knew we could not grab another mooring ball or drop the anchor in the dark since we had seen many isolated coral heads on the bottom when we arrived in day light so we were forced to leave the anchorage and head out to safer water. It was only 9 pm so we had 9 hours to kill before daylight so we set sail for our next anchorage.

We sailed fast through the night, since the wind blew 25 to 30 knots all night. We dodged hundreds of fishing boats and nets and arrived in Ko Phi Phi the next morning. It is a spectacular island with steep cliffs surrounding the bay with bright white beaches. My favourite was monkey beach which had lots of…you guessed it…monkeys. I was busy posing with one monkey when another one snuck up behind me and touched my behind. In this picture, I am not really sitting on the monkey. This was taken just before I screamed and jumped out of its way. (It’s not like I didn’t outweigh the little thing 10 to 1, he just caught me by surprise).

Virtually every building on Ko Phi Phi was wiped out by the Tsunami in 2004 but you would never know it now. It has been totally rebuilt with many dive operators, hotels, restaurants and the usual peddlers of t-shirts etc. In spite of the fact that this was the most touristy place we have been in the last 2 years, I loved it.

After a couple days on Phi Phi, we headed off to Ko Phuket. We are now anchored in Chalong Bay (Au Chalong) which is a quaint community just south of Phuket Town where we will spend Christmas and New Years.

3 Comments:

Blogger Boon Leong said...

Hi Steve,

I would like to write to you. can you send me your email address?

Anthony Wong Canada

4:10 AM  
Blogger Boon Leong said...

Hi Steve and Nancy,

I would like to write to you.

What's your email address?



Anthony Wong Canada

4:10 AM  
Blogger Pamela said...

Hi Nancy and Steve,
Happy New Year to you both! We love reading your blog and enjoying the warm weather vicariously through it.
Safe sailing,
Pam and Bev

2:16 PM  

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