Barefoot in Thailand. 25January2011

Ko Racha Yai

There are so many tourists in Thailand that one wonders how they fit them all in! One possibility is that as they pour some into one side of the country it pushes some out the other and makes room. Another potential management regime is that when too many punters congregate one side, the country maybe tilts and some fall off, sort of a balancing act as it were. Anyway there are lots of people visiting Thailand, especially at this time of year in the west coast high season. Apparently it all shifts to the east coast after April when the SW monsoon comes in and it’s high season in the east; perhaps the visitors migrate with the nice weather?? The thing to do as it seems is to stay somewhere like Patong, Charon or Kata (the beaches on the western side of Phuket) and do day trips out to islands such as ‘Racha Yai’ or the Similans to lay on the beach, or do the mandatory dive course somewhere like Ko Phi Phi. But everyone is having a good time the locals included who are industriously engaged in extracting as much money as they can from the never ending supply of tourists, selling everything from knock off Rolex watches to bar girls and ping-pong shows; ah yes in Thailand they do know the secret of selling that particular product.

Patong dinghy landing.

Patong is the place for most of this activity takes place on Phuket although this is really a matter of scale as girly bars and oil-massages are available almost everywhere it seems. We spent New Year anchored of Patong as we had been given the good advice that the fireworks there are quite exceptional. Most of this is not any sort of organised exercise though as fireworks can be bought basically off the beach and everybody seems determined to outdo their neighbours only one hundred metres away. The other thing is that these are not your cracker night variety to throw around while people burn effigies of Guy Faulkes. No, these are your trench mortar, bordering on military style in boxes of a dozen tubes; all quite spectacular really. Almost all of the activity is actually based around the beach even though there are large signs suggesting that in the interests of public safety nobody is allowed to let fireworks off on the beach or launch little kerosene lanterns (sort of your hot air variety of lantern). The signs also suggest that offenders might be sent to prison but one thinks it’s all a bit of an idle threat.

The police certainly didn’t seem terribly fussed as they were walking along the beach admiring the fireworks going off around them and wished everybody happy new year as they launched their lanterns; makes one wish that the police force at home should come to Thailand for lessons in relaxation and a massage from the Thai police!

The girls at patong!

Headed into Patong.

Hot air lanterns; make a wish and hope it doesn't catch fire!

Lots of lanterns all headed for boats in the harbour.

But back on sailing matters, we got away from Nai Harn after recovering from Christmas over-indulgence and took the Gadfly down to Ko Racha Yai. Racha Yai is only about 10 miles south of Phuket so for an intermission between Christmas and New Year it seemed like a good idea. Simon and Amanda had previously been there before getting into Nai Harn and indicated it was relatively quiet, a nice place to visit and we could pick up a mooring. All true in the afternoon and early morning but during the day the population increases by several orders of magnitude as the boats pour in from Phuket. At one point there were 50 boats in the little bay at Racha with corresponding large numbers of people getting off them. But still a good place to chill before Patong and heading off for the Similans.

After our new year celebrations we gave ourselves a day to recover and then slipped up the coast for an overnight stop and an early start next morning. It was about 45 miles out to the Similans, or at least Miang in that group and with a start at first light and a great sail, reaching then running we got in by mid afternoon. The plan was to do some diving in the Similans and the guides say that this is some of the best diving in Thailand or indeed the world. The only trouble is that you have to go to the good dive spots and that means being able to anchor when you get back to one of the limited number of secure anchorages, where you are not allowed to anchor. In both the Similans and the Surins you are only allowed to pick up a mooring and there is great competition for these. At Similan Island every day at least forty boats come in bringing the standard boat load of punters who lounge around for half the day and then head back leaving the place pretty much to the tourists on yachts. Some of these boats must be part of charter package tours as one day there would boat loads of Russians, the next boat loads of French.

Ko Miang in the Similans

Ko Similan.

The girls at Similan.

Anyway the local dive and fishing operators like to use the moorings and indeed some of these guys don’t like the yachties picking up what they feel is their moorings. To be fair this is a minority and they are trying to earn money but the competition is still intense and the locals do need to park their boats. On two separate days Simon was accumulating the big speed boats and on one occasion had six of them swinging off the back of his boat. The parks people have put in extra moorings (Similand and Surins being a national park) but these are in locations that in the world of anchorages could best be described as dire or miserable; so getting the good ones is the order of the day. What this means is you don’t give up your mooring too readily and look for dive spots using your dinghy. The skipper actually went to chat to the parks guys to see if he could anchor the Gadfly out in twenty metres and out of the way. Well the head ranger offered to show him where he could anchor without bother but couldn’t understand the issues associated with putting the pick down in 50 metres of water. Problem? Get more rope!!!



One wonders if the rules regarding anchoring are to protect coral from careless or unthinking yacht operators. This would be a good idea if there was in fact much coral left. Sorry, there is plenty of dead coral but live coral is in pretty short supply in Thailand; at least in the places we have been. We have heard that a lot of it was wiped out by the tsunami, but there is also that history of fishing using dynamite and cyanide. These two environmentally conscious fishing techniques are widespread in Asia and coral reefs throughout this part of the world are either buggered or in the process of being buggered. There doesn’t appear to be too many sharks around either and the considered opinion is that swimming is more than safe just about everywhere as most sharks can’t swim anymore owing to there fins having ended up in soup in Hong Kong or Shanghai! But the water is warm and clear at the Similans and everybody on their holiday from the European winter are enjoying themselves, getting a tan or doing a dive course. Just kind of disappointing for this marine scientist to see what’s there now and knowing what it would have been like! You can’t really blame the locals though as they are just trying to get by and the real issue is just the sheer number of people that are here for their holiday in the sun. Classic example really of unregulated, demand led, mass tourism. Still any conservation measure, however late in the piece is still good news and the fact that some of the islands are closed due to a turtle conservation and hatching program is equally encouraging.

We headed back from the Similans on the seventh, motor-sailing close hauled into 15-20 knots of easterly. Naomi jumped ship the next day and headed back to her island on the east coast while Gini unhappily contemplated a return to life in the Danish freezer. The skipper dropped the girl via motorbike at the airport on the 10th, waved goodbye and then started sorting the boat for the planned sojourn out to the Andaman Islands. These are 350 miles west of the Surins and about 400 miles off the coast of Phuket. They are also part of India requiring an Indian visa and all sorts of letters and official hoops to be jumped through. Part of the preparations involved getting sail covers and assorted deck covers repaired at the ‘Rolly Tasker’ sail loft. This is apparently the largest custom built sail loft in the world, impressive and all the sails and repairs are done by girls; amidst much giggling when you walk through.

Really big sail loft!

Back to Nai Harn.

Ao Chalong and the disco pier.

Brent and the 'Phuket Cruising Yacht Club'.

So after a week at Patong then a week at Ao Chalong frequenting the ‘Phuket Cruising Yacht Club’ and another few days back at Nai Harn catching up with George, we are all set to sally forth for India it seems. Two new crew for the trip, Greg from Canada arrived yesterday and Michele from the land of the brave and the free will be here today. In fact we are waiting for her to arrive so that we can get our clearance. Kind of entertaining that Greg turned up with a sleeping bag; he is from Canada though and was complaining about minus fifteen degrees when he left!. The skipper has been also tending to an overdue visit to the dentist while at Ao Chalong. Pretty laid back the dentists here it seems. I mean everybody here pretty much wears thongs every day of the year but watching ‘Fern’ the dentist padding about in bare feet in between peering into your mouth is about as laid back as it gets. She might just be the most chilled out dentist in Thailand. More from parts of India!!!!

Happy teeth here!




3 Responses to “Barefoot in Thailand. 25January2011”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Hi Trevor
    back from cenral America loved Guatemala – how is the trip going need to organise a trip over let me know what u r doing

  2. The Librarian Says:

    It’s a long time between posts… hope all’s well on the good ship Gadfly. Love to hear some news!

  3. The Librarian Says:

    Bizarre… I clicked out of posting my comment and saw you had posted an update yesterday! It wasn’t showing up in my Google feed yet. Anyway, glad to see your update, keep them coming.

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