Hanging Out Like a Local in Hat Yai

The Kuan Yin shrine overlooking the Hat Yai metropolis
The Kuan Yin shrine overlooks the Hat Yai metropolis

Why Hat Yai? Is Hat Yai in Thailand’s Songkla province near the Malaysian border on anyone’s bucket list?

The 2006, 2007 and 2014 bombings are still evident in the strict security measures as you go into places like the Central Festival shopping centre. A shopping mecca and tourist magnet for Malaysians and Singaporeans, Hat Yai was at the end of our train trip from Bangkok. You can continue on the train south to Butterworth in Malaysia, but we had other plans.

Is Hat Yai in Thailand’s Songkla province on anyone's bucket list? Click To Tweet

Early morning arrival in Hat Yai

After the 16 hour overnight train trip from Bangkok we finally arrived in Hat Yai at 6 am. The tuk tuk drivers outside the train station were vying for our trade, offering ridiculously outrageous prices for the 20 minute ride to our hotel. We walked away after some good natured bargaining.

Then the tuk tuk drivers had a chat among themselves and decided on a designated driver to offer the ride for about a third of their original offer.

Would we be allowed to check in early? We weren’t ready to wander the streets, we were ready for some chill time in our rooms. The Smart Hotel had just opened and the front office people were still trying to figure out how everything worked. The upside was the hotel was almost empty and they were happy for us to move in early.

All the staff were very friendly and accommodating. Especially at first when we had to ask them for the kettle and coffee making stuff. Which I swear they collected from the other just-vacated rooms. I guess they were still deciding how many kettles they needed to buy.

After catching our breath with that welcome chill time in our lovely clean rooms, we were ready to tackle Hat Yai.

How to act like a local in Hat Yai

The Hat Yai Municipal Park is a kind of a playground for the locals. The swimming pools near the entrance were packed. We watched kids cavorting around in the water while we at ate pad thai from the food stalls.

After that we spent quality time at the top of the hill, exploring the two temples and riding the cable car.

Kuan Yin Shrine

There’s a bus to take you from the foot of the hill to the Kuan Yin Shrine with the tallest standing Buddha in southern Thailand overlooking the Hat Yai metropolis and surrounding area.

Lifelike wax monk
He looks real to me

Realistic wax likenesses sit casually in the foyer. At first I mistook the statues for real meditating monks, the wax figures are so lifelike.

 

Small cable car, huge views at the Hat Yai Municipal Park
Small cable car, huge views

 

 

I mistook the statues for real meditating monks, the wax figures are so lifelike. Click To Tweet

Cable car

The itty bitty cable car takes just two and a half minutes to cover the 525 meters from the Kuan Yin Shrine to the Elephant Temple or Four-Faced Brahma Shrine. But the views are spectacular all the way.

Elephants galore at the Four Faced Buddha Shrine, Hat Yai Municipal Park
Elephants galore

Four-Faced Brahma Shrine

There are golden elephants galore around this shrine. The Four-Faced Buddha simultaneously faces north, east, south and west. Surrounded by elephants of course.

We took the bus back down the hill, but kind of regretted we didn’t walk. By then we’d run out of time to check out the Science and Astronomy Centre about halfway down the hill.

Top Tips for Travellers

 

  1. Local buses are cheap saving you long walks and expensive taxi fares. There’s a regular local bus running along the main drag leading to the Municipal Park. Just hang with the locals at the bus stop, get on and off anywhere and pay the driver what the locals are paying. It felt like a donation system, sort of. Once we didn’t have any small notes but the driver smiled happily when we piled out all our pocket change into his hand.
  2. Choose the most recently opened hotels for your stay. You’ll get a clean room with a modern TV, aircon that works and toilets that flush reliably (you hope). For the same price the older hotels can be dirty and smelly, with last century televisions and equipment that doesn’t work as well as it did in the eighties.
  3. The locals are infamous for their habit of hiking prices up for tourists. Take note of what the locals pay for their bowl of tom yum while you’re savouring yours, then simply offer the same amount when you go to pay. This worked for us some of the time. But keep your first world wallet in perspective: the difference is probably petty cash in your currency.

 

Related

Slow Train from the City of Angels to the Southern Border

Eat, Shop, Play Pool

 

 

 

Slow Train from the City of Angels to the Southern Border

Our train ready to leave Bangkok Train Station
Getting ready to leave Hua Lamphon (Bangkok Train Station)

Bangkok Train Station to Hat Yai

After our stay in HCMC we flew to Bangkok. The other captain and I hadn’t been to Thailand in a while. I’d forgotten how exotic and friendly the Thais are. And how much I love their green curries. The other captain’s brother, an overseas travel virgin, was beginning to get the hang of SE Asian travel.

The plan was to check out the great city then take the overnight train from Bangkok to the southern border town of Hat Yai.

The city of angels

Bangkok is just the name people who don’t come from Thailand call this gritty city. Bangkok translates as “village of wild plums”. Not exactly sexy. Whereas Krung Thep (กรุงเทพ), as the Thais call it, means “city of angels”. The full name translates as:

The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.

I didn’t see any angels in the happy city. But I had fun chatting with some beautiful girls on Soi Cowboy when the other captain’s brother asked us to show him the bright lights.

Waterfront homes with gardens floating past
Waterfront homes with gardens floating past

River Cruise

One of the highlights of our stay was a river cruise. With a 150 baht ticket (about six Aussie dollars) you can get off and on Chao Phraya Tourist Boat  as often as you like at the eight piers along the route. You can stop to check out cathedrals, temples, museums, markets and the Grand Palace.

z-bangkok-temple

Along the river five star hotels stand next to falling apart local dwellings. Longtail boats fly past. Barges laden down to their water level lumber by. Islands of plants float past.

Along Bangkok's Chao Phraya River five star hotels stand next to falling apart local dwellings. Click To Tweet

Skytrain

We stayed in Sukhumvit, right on the Skytrain (Bangkok Mass Transit System or BTS) route, making it easy (and cheap) to get around. Our stop was On Nut, which was simple enough to remember. Our first destination was often Asok, which sounds like asshole when announced over the train PA system. Just so you know.

Slow train from Bangkok to Hat Yai

The slow train from Bangkok central to Hat Yai is a 16 hour trip, leaving at around 2pm.  A sleeper ticket is 1300 baht (1100 for the top bunk). It’s no secret I love train travel. We had no trouble getting our ticket at Bangkok Train Station for the next day. In fact our train was about 70% empty. Our party of three had a pair of two-berth cabins with a connecting door, and one empty berth.

The cabins are clean, simple and comfortable. You can have a delicious dinner set for 170 baht. I had the green chicken curry with jasmine rice, tom yum soup, fruit juice and fresh fruit platter. Yum!

I took this trip by myself when we first bought Yana de Lys.  I’d been to Pattaya to meet the previous owners and collect some boat stuff they were storing. I shared my cabin with a mountain of gear, including a brand new sail belonging to Yana.

Before the train even left Bangkok Train Station the steward had asked me if I fancy a beer for the trip. At the time I thought, “Sure a couple of cans of Chang might be nice for sunset”. Next thing I knew my basin was filled with ice and two king browns. Did I look like I was dying of thirst?

Bangkok Train Station encourages you to leave you booze here.
Bangkok Train Station encourages you to leave you booze here. So why are the bottles empty?

Well it’s different now. Technically you’re not supposed to drink on the train, but we were subtle about it and the staff didn’t seem to care anyway. (There are no smoking signs but the conductors have a puff at the end of the train.)

So if you fancy a beer for the journey it’s a good idea to stock up before you leave. And if you like em cold you can buy some ice from the convenience store at the train station.

Hat Yai

Around 6:00 the next morning we arrived in the… er exciting town of Hat Yai. I’ll tell you about it in my next blog. When I get around to it. (Slow travel = slow blog writing.)

Top Tips for Travellers

  1. Taxis can be very exxy in Bangkok, especially if you get stuck in the endless and frequent traffic jams. Take the Skytrain if you can.
  2. You can only buy alcohol in supermarkets and convenience stores from 1100-1400 and 1700-2400. It seems like a weird law, and some smaller shops may not enforce the rules. Try just acting like a dumb farang if you get the times wrong and you might be okay.
  3. If you’re planning on visiting any temples make sure you wear (or bring) clothes that cover your shoulders and knees and ideally your ankles too.

Related

35 Hours on a Train

Farangs in Phuket

Bangkok Fun And Unusual Stories

Like a Weird Natural Cathedral with Beaches

If you ever travel in Thailand, do yourself a favour and visit Phang Nga Bay. Seriously, it’s even more stunning than the guide books say.

Travel in Thailand: Yana de Lys anchored in Phang Nga Bay
Yana de Lys anchored in Phang Nga Bay

In the Phang Nga Bay section of one of their Thailand Travel Guides, Lonely Planet says:

If Eden had an ocean it would look a little like this

 

Phang Nga Bay became famous when it was used as a location in the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. The towering limestone cliffs are breathtaking, other worldly.

I sailed around Phang Nga Bay in Yana de Lys but you can easily take a tour from Phuket or Phang Nga Town on the mainland.

Travel in Thailand Tip #2: Visit a sea cave in Phang Nga Bay

The Thais refer to the sea caves as “hongs” or rooms.

From the outside, the entrance to the sea cave on Koh Hong (Hong Island) is easy to miss.

Travel in Thailand: Can you spot the entrance to the sea cave?
Spot the sea cave entrance

 

But that’s okay, the tour guides know where they’re going in your sturdy inflatable kayak.

Anchored in Yana de Lys, we watched the hordes of tourists coming and going with amusement. Then when all the tour boats left we paddled in.

Discovering a hidden world

Inside we felt like we had found a hidden lost world. The sea cave was open to the sky, surrounded by soaring limestone walls. Like a weird natural cathedral with beaches. Stunning.

The sea cave was open to the sky, surrounded by soaring limestone walls. Click To Tweet

Sailing in Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay is a perfect cruising ground. Plenty of anchorages, no long passages. Well protected. When we were based in Yacht Haven our favourite anchorages were Koh Wai Noi, Koh Phanak and Koh Hong.

Travel in Thailand: Yacht Haven was our base for exploring Phang Nga Bay
Yacht Haven was our base for exploring Phang Nga Bay

Have you ever been to Phang Nga Bay in Thailand? What was your favourite island?

Related

Sailing from Phuket to Langkawi (Don’t mention the pork)

Sailing cruises around Phuket Island: all I ever dreamed, but way way better

John Gray’s Sea Canoe

 

Don’t Mention the Pork

Island hopping from Phuket to Langkawi

We took a couple of weeks island hopping from Phuket to Langkawi. Some sailors do this trip in 24 hours but that’s just not our style.  We’re slow travellers.

Our first anchorage, Koh Phi Phi (Phi Phi Island) was pleasantly free from crowds. Unlike our last visit when we could hardly move on the island during the day for all the tourists, and there was uber loud doof doof music for the party animals every night.  This time the sound track was something so benign I didn’t even remember what it was in the morning.

 Koh Lanta

The next leg from Phuket to Langkawi was hard work with 30 knots on the nose on the way to the historic east coast anchorage at Koh Lanta.
I decided to give the anchoring way point from our last visit a miss.  It was being used by a sunken boat.  Sunk by politics according to the local intel.  The interested parties couldn’t decide who was supposed to pump the bilge until it was too late.

This yacht in our anchorage at Koh Lanta (sailing from Phuket to Langkawi) was sunk by politics apparently
Sunk by politics

The green prawn curry was just as delicious as I remembered from our first stay. When I asked the staff if the prawns were farmed or wild he articulately pointed out to the sea.

 

Old Town, Koh Lanta (sailing from Phuket to Langkawi)
Old Town, Koh Lanta

Koh Muk

It was an easy run to Koh Muk. At one point I looked out the porthole and saw fish jumping a meter out of the water.  Like something out of the film Nemo.

The other captain kept telling me about the dolphins he was seeing.  All I saw was water disturbances.  Hmm.

Cruisn. Or is the other captain dolphin spotting (sailing from Phuket to Langkawi)
Cruisn. Or is the other captain dolphin spotting?

The fabled Emerald Cave

We visited the Emerald Cave on the way to Koh Muk.

It takes a 70 meter swim through a dark cave to get into the sea cave or “hong” as the Thais call it.

Our waterproof torch ended up being allergic to water.

On the way back out we realised we had taken a wrong turn.  We had to back up in the pitch dark.  Maybe that was the way to the fabled pirate treasure.  We wouldn’t have found it with a dead torch anyway.

Inside the Emerald Cave, sailing from Phuket to Langkawi
Inside the Emerald Cave

Koh Taratao

The unmistakable limestone karst geology of the islands between Phuket and Langkawi
Limestone karst island between Phuket and Langkawi

We took our time slowly heading south down Koh Taratao. I guess we didn’t want our cruise from Phuket to Langkawi to end.

We stopped at three different overnight anchorages.  Did some of exploring.  Had a bit of stormy weather.

One day we took the dingy for a look up one of the rivers.

Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a dog swimming.  It was a sea otter.

We heard the last of the Thai radio we’ll be hearing for a while, because suddenly, it seemed, we were in Malaysia again.

The Langkawi time vortex

Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, when we were sailing from Phuket to Langkawi
Royal Langkawi Yacht Club
Monkey caution sign on Langkawi Island, sailing from Phuket to Langkawi
Cautious!!!

 

Monkey on the electricity wires, sailing from Phuket to Langkawi
Oh. Is that what they want us to be cautious of?

Langkawi is a time vortex.  Like the Hotel California you can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave. We planned to say a few days. We were there for a month.

Bass Harbour, Kuah

Anchored in Bass Harbour, Kuah, we were waiting for some credit cards to arrive in the mail.  And waiting.  And partying. And waiting. And eating.  (The Bak kut the which is the only dish on the menu at the Shark Fing is still my benchmark for that delicious pork stew.)
And of course consuming and stocking up on the duty free grog. And catching up with old friends. And making new ones.  And provisioning for our next leg.

Don’t mention the pork

Naturally the shopping had to include pork espionage.  On a Moslem island they do sell this forbidden product but it requires being in the know. 
You have to go into the back room of a shop selling spices.  Quietly – I thought the proprietor was telling us not to wake the baby – to choose your cloak and dagger snaggers.

They were yummy too.  Sausages and mash for dinner at our first anchorage on the way to Danga Bay.

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Eagles – Hotel California

100 Plastic Water Bottles to the Rescue

I’ve dreamed of travelling since I was in primary school. I’ve dreamed of sailing cruises all my adult life.  My Almost Circumnavigation of Phuket Cruise was all I’d ever dreamed of but much much better.

Sailing cruises to die for: Yana de Lys anchored off the Butterfly Bar, Kamala Beach
The stuff dreams are made of: Yana de Lys anchored off the Butterfly Bar, Kamala Beach

December and January are perfect for sailing cruises around Phuket Island, Thailand

Our perfect sailing cruise began with three boats and three fun families anchored off Kamala Beach for Christmas and New Years.
The weather was just right for a leisurely anchorage crawl in Yana de Lys starting at Yacht Haven at the north east tip of Phuket, sailing in company with two more yachts: Sweet Robin and Black Pearl.

The Butterfly Bar was our second home

When we first arrived at the beach in our dinghies the staff at the Butterfly Bar made us feel so at home we made it our second home. 
They watched our tenders (dinghies) when we went out exploring for the day.  More on Yana de Lys’s tender later. 
The bar staff took our laundry, ordered our ice and had them all delivered.  Gave us use of their simple shower.  Cooked fabulous local food, and sold us cold beers. 
Kamala Beach is all eye candy according to the boys.  Plenty of Russian ladies parading in G-string bikinis and high heeled bling sandals.  Even the babies couldn’t have been cuter if they tried.  What’s not to love? 

 

Sailing cruises highlights: The kids getting ready to launch a lantern on new years eve
The kids getting ready to launch a lantern on New Years Eve

Misfiring fireworks

Of course there were lanterns to launch and lots of fireworks for New Years Eve. That’s how it is in Thailand.
Just before midnight a rogue firecracker travelled horizontally along the beach rather than up into the sky.  Straight into our tender. 
Yep.  Out inflatable dinghy was blown up by fireworks. 
Sailing cruises: oopsie our dinghy was blown up by fireworks
Blown up by fireworks
Fortunately no one was hurt! 

100 plastic water bottles to the rescue

It took a month, but the owner of the bar where the bad firecracker came from compensated us. We ended up with a better tender as a replacement.

In the meantime nothing could stop the most perfect of sailing cruises.

We simply filled the ruined section of the disabled dinghy with over 100 empty plastic water bottles, wrapped up the hole with plastic garbage bags and a whole lot of gaffer tape and continued sailing up the west coast of Phuket and beyond.


Sailing cruises misadventures: Our tender didn't look pretty but it floated in a disabled kind of way
Our tender didn’t look pretty but it floated in a disabled kind of way

An eclectic soundtrack

After our Kamala Beach anchorage we cruised slowly slowly for another month up past Phuket to Khao Lak.  
Along with the lapping of the ocean, the soundtracks we fell asleep to varied vastly.  At Khao Lak there was a weird kind of stereo with Johnny Cash covers from the north and tribal drumming from the south. 
Just the sea was the lullaby at our most peaceful anchorage, Thai Muang. 

We had Fleetwood Mac covers at the chaotic circus that is Patong Beach.  

Sailing cruises: Our anchorage at Khoa Lak
Our anchorage at Khoa Lak

All perfect sailing cruises have to end some time

You can’t really circumnavigate the island of Phuket because there’s a bridge at the north end.  So after Khoa Lak it was time to head back south and around the island to our home mooring at Yacht Haven.  And start getting ready for our cruise to Borneo.

Now I’ve said this before, but it’s still true: If you like my post feel free to share it on all your social media, because sharing is sexy.

And if the sailors reading this blog really want me to include the anchorage points I can. Just let me know in the comments.

Related

Sailing from Phuket to Langkawi (Don’t mention the pork)

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Phuket.com

       

Before I Die…

Yana de Lys anchored in Phang Nga Bay. It only took 20+ years for the first of my sailing trips to happen.
Yana de Lys anchored in Phang Nga Bay. It only took 20+ years to make it happen.

I daydreamed of sailing trips in the tropics for more than 20 years before my dreams finally came true. A lot of life got in the way before I started cruising.

After we bought Yana de Lys  we spent a few years fixing her up in Langkawi, then heading back to Australia to make more money to continue fixing her up, then doing short sailing trips around the 99 islands of Langkawi, then going home to Australia to make more money. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat again. You get the picture Yogi Berra.
Not all of the things we fixed worked out as we would have hoped as we discovered sailing from Langkawi to Phuket.
If you’ve been following my sailing trips in the Stranded in Paradise series, this is the epilogue. If not, you can read the story so far in:

  1. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
  2. Stranded in Paradise
  3. Still Stranded in Paradise
  4. I had my eye on a Monet but settled for a Van Gogh instead

 

Dreaming of a sailing trip when nothing goes wrong

When I first heard of Candy Chang’s Before I Die projects all I wanted to achieve before I shuffled off this mortal coil was sail Yana de Lys to a destination with no significant gear failure.
Well yay. It’s happened. And it feels goooood.

Yacht Haven. The first of our sailing trips from Boat Lagoon to here was trouble free.
Yacht Haven. We had a trouble free sail here from Boat Lagoon. Yay!

Dreams do come true in Yacht Haven

After spending eight months in Boat Lagoon Marina replacing the perished, seriously leaking teak decks and fixing all the things that broke on our way over from Langkawi we sailed up to Yacht Haven on the north east of Phuket.
Yacht Haven is as beautiful as its name make it sound. Perfect for sitting out the wet season and hanging out until we’re ready for our next move. And it’s just round the corner from our new playground: Phang Nga Bay.

We visited Koh Phanak in Phang Nga Bay on one of our sailing trips.
Koh Phanak in Phang Nga Bay.

Phang Nga Bay

Phang Nga Bay became famous when they shot scenes for the 1974 James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun. The towering limestone cliffs are breathtaking, other worldly. The sea caves are like weird natural cathedrals with beaches.

The sea caves are like weird natural cathedrals with beaches. Click To Tweet
Sea cave entrance. Sea caves were a highlight of our sailing trips in Thailand
Sea cave entrance. Inside the cave is a sublime spiritual experience.

So far we have stayed at anchorages off Koh Wai Noi, Koh Phanak and Koh Hong. We haven’t covered any vast distances (one day we made a major passage of 3.8 NM LOL) but everything that matters on Yana has worked just fine.

Koh Wai Noi in Phang Nga Bay as seen from Yana de Lys on one of our sailing trips
Koh Wai Noi in Phang Nga Bay

Okay there’s one tick off my bucket list. My next goal before I die is to figure out how to set up my financial feng shui so there is always more money flowing in than out. I’ve learnt you can’t survive on spectacular scenery and seawater. Any ideas?

Related

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

100 Plastic Water Bottles to the Rescue

Candy Chang: Before I die I want to…

Travelling backwards in time to Myanmar

Ah Myanmar…

I have wanted to travel to Myanmar for years.

I’ve watched the movie about the life of Aung San Suu Kyi  (“The Lady”) twice.

I’ve drooled over the sailing charts but keep hearing how tedious and expensive it is for cruising yachts to access.

Travel to Myanmar: Kawthaung (Victoria Point) from my longtail boat
Ahh Myanmar. Approaching Kawthaung in a longtail boat from Thailand

Travel to Myanmar via Ranong in Thailand

So when I was living in Phuket and needed to extend my visa by leaving Thailand, it was a no brainer: Do a visa run to Kawthaung (Victoria Point), in Myanmar (Burma) via Ranong.

Yay! I finally got to travel to Myanmar. Well for a brief visit anyway.

Minibus horror stories

After reading the frequent horror stories about mini bus nightmare one day visa runs in the Phuket newspapers and blogs I opted for the local bus. Plus I wanted to spend a night in the Thai border town of Ranong.

Travel to Myanmar: Southern Thailand zooming past my window
Southern Thailand zooming past my window

The second hand unwinds

The 300 km trip took forever.  I was practising counting in Thai and lost track at 33 stops in the six hour journey.  Out the window it was all jungle, small towns, rubber trees, clumps of colourful spirit houses, election billboards and more jungle. To a sound track of Thai rock on the bus TV.

The clock next to the TV would climb its way up to a couple of minutes to nine, then be dragged back down by gravity.  The second hand unwinds.  Again. Whenever I dozed I would wake up to the clock telling me it was still two minutes to nine.

Looks like deja vu all over again Yogi.

A night in Ranong

Travel to Myanmar: View from my room. The river burbled soothingly all night.
View from my room. The river burbled soothingly all night.

 

I spent the night at the Thansila Hot Springs Resort in Ranong.  Great value, really comfortable bed, with the river running right past the picture windows and burbling through my sleep.

The hot springs were about half a kilometre away.  Seriously weird concept  dipping in a 65 degree C pool after the hot and sweaty walk up the hill in the tropics, but I think it was therapeutic.

Helpful Burmese fixers

The next day I took a longtail boat ride over to Myanmar, passing through three military checkpoints to get there.

On the  short walk to the immigration office I was joined by three cheerful and helpful Burmese fixers who tried to talk me in to buying:

  1. Duty free cigarettes.  (“No thanks I don’t smoke”)
  2. Duty free rum.  (“No thanks, I actually prefer to drink wine”)
  3. Duty free Myanmar wine.  (“What colour is it – red or white?”  After conferring among themselves they decided it was a clear colour, 300 baht for two litres.  “Oh thanks anyway but I’m not sure it’s the kind of wine I drink”)
  4. Yaba (amphetamines).  (At this point I just laughed and pictured myself starring in an episode of Locked Up Abroard.)
I was happy to tip them for their help. They made me feel so welcome and made me laugh for most of the short time I was on Myanmar soil. Although  I admit I gave them a little less than their suggested $US1000 each.
Travel to Myanmar: A brief glimpse of the Kawthaung waterfront
Kawthaung waterfront doesn’t look like it’s changed in at least 50 years

Next time I travel to Myanmar I’m going stay much, much longer. As long as my visa allows. In a hotel that is.

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A view from my room – of Minibus Mayhem

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A view from my room – of Minibus Mayhem

Livin in a serviced studio apartment in Boat Lagoon is all good.  My balcony overlooks the meandering mangrove river leading here.  The air is fragrant with tropical blossoms.  And in the mornings and especially the afternoons we have regular Minibus Mayhem when the minivans descend to deliver and collect the tourists who are heading for or have spent the day on Phi Phi Island or wherever.

Sometimes there’s water in the lagoon but during the low spring tides it’s like someone let the plug out…

 

 

 

 

 

This week Minibus Mayhem reached giddy heights with minibuses double parked around the circle (roundabout to Australians) just before my apartment  and a double decker coach joined the fray.  The coach had to back up at least 500 metres because it simply couldn’t manoeuvre . What’s it going to look like in high season?

Farangs in Phuket

 

Farang is what the locals call foreigners.  I think it’s a neutral term, unless it’s being applied to foreigners behaving badly. (Heaven forbid – we’re their guests here!)
It sure is strange and challenging living in a country where they not only speak a different language but use a completely different alphabet. Where the statues at the Buddhist temples carry machine guns.  Where road rules are merely guidelines. (I swear a red light means “proceed with caution”).  Where false advertising is as common as noodles and rice.
Speaking of rice and noodles I love the food here, despite the process of ordering being an entirely hit and miss affair.  The non farang menus are simply indecipherable – sometimes it’s just a case of pointing at what someone else is eating and saying I’ll have one of those.
At our favourite barbeque place over the road here from Boat Lagoon, the waiter very proudly showed me their new “English language” menu the other night. I reckon Google Translate has a lot to answer for. Here are a couple of examples of dishes on offer:

·         Pork falls a morter
·         Papaya penetrate the free and crab
·         Grilled the cow’s milk

I assume they’re machine translations, but I guess I’ll just have to get the guts to order them to find out what they really are.  For now I’m just going to stick with pointing at the delicious looking food they have displayed.

Meanwhile the Yana de Lys deck replacement is going ahead at a rapid pace.  We have stripped the old teak off, and have a small team of locals sanding the old surface ready for the new paint and non slip.

 

 

Boat Lagoon is a fantastic place to get work done.  I still can’t get over the lack of water in the marina though.   Before we moved Yana onto the hard stand we spent at least half of our time with 0.0 meters reading on the depth sounder.  We were literally parked in the mud.  And then the hard stand and the board walks flood at spring high tides.  Bizarre.

 

 

I had my eye on a Monet but settled for a Van Gogh instead

View from our anchorage on Ko Phi Phi, Thailand with coral close to the surface
View from our anchorage on Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. Coral as far as they eye could see inviting us to dive in for a snorkel.

Ten grueling hours after leaving our safe haven on the east coast of Ko Lanta we finally arrived in Tonsai Bay at Ko Phi Phi, Thailand.  It’s only 30 NM (nautical miles).

Wondering why our trip took so long? Check out the story so far: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?Stranded in Paradise and Still Stranded in Paradise.

Were we going to make it to Ko Phi Phi Thailand?

The drive shaft was wobbling dangerously the whole way.  I concentrated on steering while the Other Captain kept an eye on the drive shaft down below, appearing white faced and chain smoking after each engine room check, a prophet of gloom telling me how bad it looked, providing an extensive litany of the serious structural damage we could be causing to Yana de Lys, saying he’s going to need a tropical holiday after this leg. (How about a holiday on Ko Phi Phi Thailand I wondered?)

How about a holiday on Ko Phi Phi I wondered? Click To Tweet

The whole situation felt scary and wrong.  Our average speed was just three knots (about 5.5 kmph) with the wind and choppy swell coming from the direction in which we were headed. Sailing wasn’t an option. We had to use the engine despite our profound misgivings.

To make things worse, we were towing our new super size Queen Mary dinghy, slowing us down by at least one knot. However we had managed to wrangle Thumper (the outboard) onto the deck, so that helped a bit I guess.

Queen Mary and Thumper on the beach at Ko Phi Phi in the foreground, a sunken longtail behind them and Yana de Lys, still floating in the background
Queen Mary and Thumper in the foreground, a sunken longtail behind them and Yana de Lys, still floating (yay!) in the background

Hordes of daytrippers

So, in between bouts of the Chief Engineer sweating it out in the engine room, trying to figure out how to fix the latest problems, we took a holiday on Ko Phi Phi Thailand.

We were told by lots of people before we arrived that Ko Phi Phi’s a rat race.  And compared to the serenity of Ko Muk and the laid back peace of Ko Lanta, Ko Phi Phi was swarming with tourists.

Every day hordes of young backpackers in bikinis and bare chests came in on the ferries. We could hardly move on the narrow walking streets, or in the shops and restaurants. And this was the quiet season.

By around four in the afternoon, the day trippers vanished leaving room to move but still plenty of action.

Stranded in paradise again

Another sunken boat in Tonsai Bay, Ko Phi Phi Thailand
Another sunken boat to haunt us in Tonsai Bay
Budget accommodation? In Tonsai Bay Ko Phi Phi Thailand
Budget accommodation in Tonsai Bay? Check out the crystal clear water.

We played at being tourists for ten days – snorkeling, drinking cocktails and even shopping.

There was a stall selling dresses printed with famous Impressionist paintings.  I had my eye on Monet’s Water Lillies, but they didn’t have my size (too big of course) so I settled for a Van Gogh instead.

I had my eye on Monet's Water Lillies, but they didn't have my size so I settled for a Van Gogh… Click To Tweet
Monet's Water Lillies printed on a dress for sale, Ko Phi Ph Thailand
Monet’s Water Lillies was too big for me

We were anchored in about 12 meters of clear as clear turquoise water. We could swim over to where the tour operators take the punters for snorkeling trips.  The water was a perfect temperature with outstanding visibility. There were more fish in our face than we could poke a stick at, although the coral was sadly degraded.

The weather was glorious and sunny for the whole time.  I suppose you could call it a voluntary stranding in paradise. Ko Phi Phi Thailand is certainly a tourist paradise.

... a voluntary stranding in paradise. Click To Tweet

Phuket at last!

The Chief Engineer (AKA the Other Captain) discovered and replaced a second broken engine mount. We discovered later our mechanic in Langkawi had tried to save us money by supplying non-marine engine mounts.

We set off for a last overnight anchorage at Ko Yao Yai before heading in to Boat Lagoon at Phuket once the Chief Engineer managed to reduce the drive shaft wobble, after endless hours of trial and error in the engine room.

This leg was an uneventful 16 miles, again at an average of three knots, but with very little swell.

We towed both the Queen Mary and Thumper, sacrificing even more speed. We figured it’s such a drama manhandling the 47 kg Thumper outboard engine on and off Yana de Lys, we’d probably be in terminal danger before we could use the tender as an tow vessel if we ended up in trouble again…

The final leg of 13 miles to the entrance of Boat Lagoon was even easier – no swell whatsoever, totally benign conditions.  We parked Yana in the mud at Boat Lagoon Marina.  Finally.

Related

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Stranded in Paradise

Still Stranded in Paradise