Friday, February 24, 2012

Cruising Langkawi to Au Chalong, Thailand!

Checking out of Langkawi was painless and free. Customs, Immigration and the Harbour Master (all with their own forms and official stamps) were all in the same building at the ferry terminal in Kuah. We sailed (yes, we had enough wind to sail the whole way!) straight over to Telaga harbour and our anchor held on the second attempt. Another big night of celebratory drinks - this time onboard Tasha D.M - friends we made on the hardstand in Pangkor. We awoke with big plans of doing the skyrail but they melted away in a blur of chores like doing the washing and plotting our course. Our last job was to fill up with water - surprisingly, despite all of the pollution in the sea, the tap water in Malaysia is drinkable, though preferably filtered. Telaga marina (which was affected in the 2004 Tsunami) let us tie up for 2 hours to fill up our tanks and wash our decks (for 30RM). A puff of wind and we were off! It's pretty humid here and we were pretty hot and sweaty from all of our efforts so we enjoyed the refreshing local isotonic drink as we sailed along.

Maybe we should ask for sponsorship?
 Coming from Australia, where it is impossible to see another country from our shores, it seemed so novel to us to be able to see Thailand from Langkawi. Within five hours, we were anchored on the West coast of Tarutao island. About 60 or so local fishing boats were at work or anchored all around us and I was (of course, being miss scaredy cat) a bit nervous that they would come and do something horrible to us. Of course we were perfectly safe - they were all too busy making their lives as fishermen to be bothered with us!
Fishing flag poles are so numerous we have to swerve around them sometimes.
After a rolly night's sleep, we set off just before dawn and had to manoeuvre through countless tiny sticks sporting different coloured flags supported on various bottles or bits of Styrofoam. We're not sure if they mark nets or crab pots but there are millions of these all around here. The Thais certainly work the water like a farm and are much more present on the sea than in Malaysia.
Longtail boats abound here.
We motored and tried to sail for nearly 50 miles to reach the famous Emerald Cave at Koh Muk island. This place is incredible! We anchored in a small bay with one other boat and encountered our first naked bottom. Just as we were approaching the anchorage, a woman (in her late 50s or so) on the only other yacht here (we think they were either European or Brazilian), turned her back to us, dropped her undies and bared her bum! We don't think she meant to be rude as she then pulled on her bikini bottoms but it was a big shock after having spent nearly half a year in a Muslim country where nudity is not acceptable! The tide was right for us to explore the cave so we took our dinghy around to the entrance marked by floating buoys. It was after 5pm so there were no tourist boats here and we had the cave all to ourselves. Glowing aqua water greeted us upon our entry to the cave. The air cooled and smelt slightly musty. The water roared and moaned as it slapped and eased over the limestone rocks. We set out towards the darkness, Rene using an oar to pull us along.
Glowing emerald water inside the cave.
The roaring grew in ferocity and I felt sure we were about to be swamped by a tsunami but then we rounded the corner and floated out into a tiny paradise.
Just perfect. Emerald Cave all to ourselves.
A white sandy beach with clear aqua water sits at the base of this beautiful 'hong' (Thai for 'room'). Steep vertical cliffs rise to the sky and are painted with many varieties of flora. Cicadas began their slow afternoon song and we relished in this amazing place.
Sailbirds inside the magical Emerald Cave at Koh Muk
 That night Rene played his guitar late into the night and we relaxed at anchor, a cool breeze keeping the mosquitoes and humidity at bay. I was met with more naked bodies the next morning on the charter boat anchored right next to us! We explored the cave again but this time experienced what it's like for people travelling the normal way - through tours. We arrived on our own but within minutes, the peaceful hong was filled with people all wearing bright orange life vests, posing for photographs and talking loudly in a mix of Russian, German, English and more we didn't recognise.
Emerald Cave, Koh Muk. The best cave we've ever been in.
Very different when a load of tourists arrives!!
When the third group of tourists arrived to spoil the peace we decided to set off and motored 15 miles to Ko Lanta. Here we were able to buy local SIM cards for our unlocked phones and sample our first Thai food for this visit. Gosh it's delicious!! We ate at a fun restaurant called 'The Drunken Sailor' while lazing in hammocks! BLISS!

Delicious Thai food eaten in hammocks in the shade = bliss!
The jellyfish here are huge and purple/pink! This one is as large as my torso.
Next stop was Phi Phi Don where we met with some cruising friends we met in Indonesia. We had an all-afternoon BBQ onboard Anima and went ashore to the extremely touristy shore late that afternoon. This place was completely wiped out in the 2004 tsunami and I couldn't help but feel a sense of devastation, despite there being little evidence of the destruction. Signs informing us of the nearest evacuation point are clearly displayed at every corner. The small town has no cars or motorbikes, locals instead push large carts around and actually say 'beep beep' out aloud to get tourists to move out of the way! 
Tsunami warning sign at Phi Phi Don.
Ao Chalong 7°49.30N 98°21.24E
Early next morning we set out towards Au Chalong, Phuket. This is the main check-in/out port for this part of Thailand and so the anchorage is very busy. We were lucky to find a spot between some moorings for dive boats that wasn't too far from the jetty where yachties tie up to go ashore. There are hundreds of tour boats which zoom in and out of the bay, making it quite rocky at times with their wake. The pier is so long! We tied our dinghy up at either the far end or the middle section and often had issues with our painter getting caught up in other dinghy's propellers. Checking in with Immigration, Customs and the Harbour Master took a while but was easy enough (and free!). Once we'd done the official stuff we went straight to 'The Anchor', a restaurant that we'd been recommended and which absolutely lived up to all our expectations. YUM! Their Chicken Salad is the best I've ever had!!

Delicious food at 'The Anchor' in Au Chalong, Phuket.
Another day, another delicious meal at 'The Anchor'!!
So, here we are in Thailand!! We're so incredibly grateful to be able to do this!

Nai Harn tree. Probably a variation on a spirit house.
Nai Harn 7°46.49N 98°17.71E
After a couple of days in Au Chalong, we zipped across to the West Coast (only 1.5 hours!) to anchor in the bay everyone talks about, Nai Harn. We tried anchoring here to see if it would be calm enough for Jacqui's visit. It's not. We rocked and rolled for the first 24 hours and then it flattened out just before we needed to head back to Chalong. Here we got boaty jobs completed and I did more of the TESOL course (I'm halfway now!).  

The water is clear and there's a good swimming beach, albeit very crowded with tourists, many of whom choose to bare their breasts and bums for the sun to scorch. I was (as usual over here) the most covered woman by far, wearing what is often normal on an Australian beach (rashie and board shorts). Here, the norm is a g-string bikini or nothing at all!!  Ashore we went for a swim (of course, as soon as I was brave enough to get in, Rene saw a Scorpion fish and a jellyfish!). We shared a nice Thai green curry at a place overlooking the anchorage and enjoyed the breeze.

Thai curry views at Nai Harn.

2 comments:

  1. Wow, Thailand looks and sounds amazing. Too bad I don't have more holidays right now!

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  2. I saw you guys at Langkawi - we stayed only one night and it appears we left just a day before you for Phuket

    Lovely ride up overnight

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5R64YBl9CW0

    best wishes

    Ian
    "Carlisle Spirit"

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