We are in Kuala Lumpur. The US Embassy was very efficient this morning and Laura already has 24 new pages in her passport. We had a very nice lunch at a nasi kandar restaurant and are now back in our deluxe hotel room at the Royale Chulan which was upgraded for free to an executive suite. I know this will be a controversial statement for most, but we prefer Malaysia to Thailand for eating. Just to be certain, over the next few days we will sample lots of different restaurants in KL, including some duck places.
The photo is a partially obscured view of the famous Petronas Towers taken from the KLCC park.
We just spent the last 3 weeks sailing along the west coast of Phuket and then out to sea about 100 miles north and west of Phuket to visit the famous Similan and Surin Islands. We had a wonderful time:
Koh Miang and Koh Similan. Crystal clear water, beautiful boulders leading down to the sea , jungle, white powdery sand beaches, lots of fish, good snorkeling, great sunsets, trying to get to shore from the dinghy without getting soaked (it was impossible not to get totally wet as the breakers were so big that you had to anchor your dinghy well away from shore and then swim in). Going on waterlogged hikes with Wind Pony and Dedalus… after we all ended up swimming to shore holding our hiking shoes up over our heads to try and keep them dry (in vain). Climbing to the top of the look-outs on both islands.
Dinner tossed to us from a fishing boat in Koh Ra (written about previously). Not raw fish as you might expect, but some chicken on skewers and Thai papaya salad (very spicy) and sticky rice in a plastic bag. The most unexpected gift and gratefully eaten.
Unexpected discovery of Koh Ra and Golden Buddha Ecolodges
An abandoned looking pier near our anchorage at Koh Ra on the west coast of Thailand (not too far from the Burmese border) turned out to be the gateway to a lovely and partially paved path to a lovely, very rustic ecolodge. There we met Mike and Sue, an English couple on a one month vacation who had just checked into the lodge (non-sailors). We felt an immediate bond with them and ended up spending the whole day together, starting with an amazingly fresh and delicious buffet lunch on the verandah of the eco-lodge with the other dozen or so guests. (Many thanks to Laurie, the German woman who runs the lodge for her kindness) A self-guided walk through an easy, but beautiful jungle path was lots of fun, with many wonderful trees, vines, birds and glimpses of monkeys. Sue and I bonded over having mothers the same age, and then were delighted to find out that we were born within a month of each other (and she looked so young!). After a great walk, lots of conversation, and some tea on the verandah of the ecolodge, they came out to our boat for sun-downers. We all agreed that the accommodations on Sabbatical III are a step above the accommodations at the ecolodge…. Hey we have electricity any time of day, not just from 6 to 10 pm , there are no spiders or ants in the bathroom, and our toilets actually flush. We said goodbye and the next day sailed down the coast to another ecolodge on Ko Phra Tong (Golden Buddha Island) that we knew Mike and Sue were headed to a few days later. It was amazingly beautiful but too rolly an anchorage to stay for more than one night, so Mark and I just spent the day there enjoying the 10 miles of golden sand beach, the delicious lunch on shore and then we left a surprise note for Mike and Sue to find when they checked in. They later e-mailed us their puzzlement to hear upon arrival that someone had left a note for them. All they could think was, “But who in the world even knows we are here?”.
Our position was N 09 14.377 E 098 18.975 at Koh Ra and N 09 07.771 E 098 15.128 for Golden Buddha
Other sailing notes :
Koh Miang in the Similan Islands was lovely, but quite rolly. Still worth a visit if conditions are calm and you can get a mooring ball that is well tucked into the bay (no anchoring allowed there). There are a set of mooring balls on the west side of Koh Payu Island, which is just north of Koh Miang, which might be useful under some conditions. Restaurant on beach. Expect to get wet so go to shore in your bathing suit.
Our Position N 08 34.393 E097 38.181
Koh Similan – Our Position: N 08 39.945 E 097 38 662
8 working mooring balls when we were there. It was possible to pick one up almost any time of day. Sometimes the balls are picked up by the tour boats, but they only stay a few hours. Lots of tourists arrive during the day to swim, snorkel and have lunch, but they all leave by 4:30. The boats were not as noisy as the longtails we have seen elsewhere in Thailand, but the sheer volume of them, and the hundreds of tourists disembarking throughout the day is certainly a drawback to the place. You will see lots of dive boats there as well. It looked like a great place to go diving. Restaurant on beach.
Surin Islands – Our position: N 09 25.543 E 097 51.346
We spent three nights there, but did not like it as much as the Similans. The water is pretty clear, but not terrific and there was noise from the long-tail boats. The wind had also picked up when we were there – so much so that we were not really comfortable taking the dinghy to shore and the wind howled through the rigging all night. The hills surrounding the anchorage were beautiful, however, and we heard there was a challenging hike through the jungle.
Ao Bang Tao – Our position: N08 01.600 E 098 17.02
A comfortable and attractive anchorage on the NW side of Phuket. A great place to stop when heading to or coming back from the Similans or from Surin. There are lots of restaurants and hotels on shore but we did not check them out. Quiet.
Patong Bay – Our position: N 07 53.57 E 098 16.973
Patong is probably the most touristed city in Phuket….just filled with restaurants and bars. But its main attraction is the sex trade that goes on there. It was pretty overwhelming just in terms of the sheer masses of people that were wandering the streets there, either selling or buying… well, you know what. Also sheer masses of rather perplexed looking tourists probably wondering what the heck they were doing there. We went into town with our friends Karin and Jean Francois from Intiaq and had a nice dinner with them at an Italian restaurant (a nice break from the Thai food) and then spent an hour or two just wandering around gawking. That was enough really for us.
Nai Harn – Our position: N 07 46.35 E098 18.073
Last good west facing anchorage before you hit the south coast of Phuket and the big rolly anchorage of Ao Chalong (which we avoided due to its constant roll). It was a lovely anchorage with several outdoor restaurants on the beach, at least 100 masseuses, and heaps of the typical Thailand tourists (Chinese and Russians). We ended up spending 3 nights there and visited with our friends on Dedalus as well as Caminata and Bichu Vermelho.
We are now berthed at the Royal Phuket Marina on the eastern side of Phuket. The boat will probably not move again until we head out into the bay just north of here to get picked up by the Danish freighter “THORCO SVENDBORG” for the ride to Turkey. Best estimated pick-up date for that is now March 12-13. We have a Turkish boat next to us in the marina and they have guaranteed us that we will love Turkey!
This morning we left Koh SurinTai island, which is right at the Burmese border, and began our one week return trip to Yacht Haven in Phuket. We did not expect to go anywhere today as the winds were forecast to be strong with rough seas, as they were yesterday. It gusted to 30 knots last night in the anchorage at Surin. But a weather change occurred overnight and the skies were blue and the winds light when we awoke this morning. So we called our friends on Dedalus, with whom we have been traveling for the past two weeks, and asked them if they were up for leaving. They were.
The wind was from the north at 15 knots and we made good time heading east for Koh Phra Thong (Golden Buddha) island about 30 miles away. As the day wore on the wind shifted to northwest and then west. We had hoped to anchor in front of miles of beach that make up the western shore of these islands but the unusual west wind brought breaking surf to the beaches. So we headed around to the other side of Koh Ra and anchored off a channel used by the local fishing boats. Minutes after we dropped anchor we heard men yelling behind our boat. We ran out on deck and there was a very large steel fishing boat (80 feet long) with her crew of young men all shouting and gesticulating. What they wanted to do was get close to us and throw us some packages. At first we thought they wanted to give us squid, prawns, or fish, but it was clear that they were just heading out to sea to fish, not returning. The captain came out of his pilot house and did that great Thai bow and pantomimed eating. As he skillfully pulled his ship to with 15 feet his crew threw us packages of barbequed chicken pieces on skewers, sticky rice, and spicy green papaya salad with crab. I threw back cans of Malaysian beer, much to the crews delight. We all bowed and waved to each other as the older Captain yelled “I love you” which may have been the only English he knew. A random act of kindness by the warm and friendly Thais.