We sailed out early using a little more wind until it died off by lunchtime allowing us to anchor at Ko Rang Yai (07’57.46N 98’27.18E). After a couple of hours the wind had come up again, from a different direction, as always up here in this season. The wind does a 360’ spin almost every day. So we sailed further south making it just under 10 miles off Chalong before we were forced to use the engine to make it into Panwa Bali beach before sundown. U.S. Warship 102 was anchored off the Phuket port and Rene reminded me of his father, as he gleefully sailed straight towards it, claiming he wanted to see her up close. I knew (from previous experience with warships) that he wouldn’t get too close before they got nervous. Pretty soon a large, smelly army green barge was heading us off, forcing us to change course. It was then (with the binoculars) that I was able to read a sign on the bows of the ship claiming it a prohibited area. Standing above the sign was an armed guard!
|Panwa Bali beach, Phuket|
|Large trees are adorned with multi-coloured fabric. So beautiful.|
I had a fantastic Ashtanga yoga practice at Ganesha Yoga. It has been nearly 9 months since my last class and I soaked it up, having a really deep and amazing time. The teacher, Julie, helped me do my first headstand and I did all of the back bends without pain or tightness for once. I pretty much floated out of the class. I can’t wait to be able to attend a regular class again. I LOVE IT!
On the 11th we zipped in to shore with the sole purpose of checking out early in order to have enough daylight to sail to Phi Phi Don. Fate had other plans. Rene had to wait for May, the woman who hired us the scooter. Because of this, I wandered down the street taking more photos when Dale from Freeform saw me and started chatting. We all ended up sitting in a café chatting for hours so by the time we went to check out, they had shut for lunch! Going with the flow, we used the hour to buy another 6 drums of drinking water (as usual, using much gesturing to communicate our request) which Rene zipped out to Anima while I took more photos and tried on dresses at a cute second-hand store. Eventually we were able to check out and sail out of Chalong (checking out cost 500Baht) in the afternoon. The wind was good so instead of anchoring at our usual Panwa Beach, we headed out thinking we’d anchor off the nearby island of Ko Mai Thon.
|Tying up the dinghy at Chalong.|
My worst fear. Coming true.
My recurring nightmare. Becoming reality.
Luckily we were already sailing in deep water but we changed course and sailed to an even deeper area of 40+ metres to be safer. With images and stories from the 2004 tsunami playing in our minds, we quickly readied ourselves and our boat for the impending disaster. Everything was lashed on deck, all hatches and windows shut tight. Life jackets and safety lines on. Everything secured below. Extra life jackets out to throw to drowning people after the wave. Grab bag (containing passports, a hard drive of photos, a torch, hats and medical gear) packed in a waterproof bag.
My heart was beating in my ears, making it difficult to think beyond getting ready. My hands were shaking and I couldn’t hold a conversation or thought beyond the fear of a massive tidal wave wreaking destruction. The radio reports were few a far between, and mostly from yachties calling one another with information from text messages they were receiving from abroad. Our phone remained silent but my panic-stricken FaceBook update received good luck messages from friends/family around the globe. Looking behind us I could see dozens of local fishing and cargo boats all doing what we were – getting the hell out of shallow Chalong! The repeated message was to get out of shallow water into somewhere at least 12 metres deep. There was only one SAY-CURE-E-TAY message from the Thai authorities – though much radio content was in Thai which we can’t understand beyond a few simple phrases. I found the International Tsunami watch website and used it for my information, finding that the impact time for Phuket was forecast to be 18:12.
We sat together in the cockpit staring out to sea but nothing came. I concentrated on breathing to quell my fears. News came of an aftershock so we stayed hove to in deep water waiting and hoping that nothing would happen.
I could relax again.
By now it was dark and the wind was still up so we sailed in to anchor off Ko Racha Yai (07’36.34N 98’22.69E) in 20 metres, just in case. Soon after anchoring the tsunami alarm echoed out over the small island, followed by a message repeated in many different languages, the gist of which was – it’s now safe to return to lower ground.
That night was a stormy one, resulting in us getting up frequently to check on the anchor and make adjustments. Due to lack of sleep and the build up to the non-tsunami we were both pretty exhausted. We ended up setting out PhiPhiLe much later in the day than we wanted to. It meant that we had to approach an unfamiliar anchorage at night, with only the frequent flashes of lightning and our feeble torch beams to show us in. Luckily we also had a track on OpenCpn to follow (thanks S.Y. Narid!) and we collected a mooring without any real trouble (07’40.78N 98’45.79E).
This island was made very famous in 2000 when Leonardo DiCaprio starred in The Beach which was filmed here. It is
pretty nice but the film makers certainly worked their magic making this small
bay look like a large lagoon. Due to its fame, this island is swamped with
thousands of tourists daily so we woke early and ventured ashore with our cups
of tea in the dinghy. By the time we left at 8am, there were over a dozen
longtail boats along the once-isolated beach. Next stop was Tonsai on PhiPhi
Don, just a few miles north. We anchored pretty far out because the bay is so
full of tourist boats on moorings (07’43.73N 98’46.26E). Today was the first
day of Songkran and we hoped to see some of the action. We saw a lot more than
we’d even dreamed of!
|Sunset views at sea near Phi Phi Le.|
|Anima anchored at 'The Beach' on Phi Phi Le|
|Phi Phi Le|
Songkran was traditionally celebrated by gently pouring water over Buddha statues and visiting elders to pay respects. These days it has become a day of water fights. Within minutes of arriving ashore, we were both completely drenched thanks to a large group of Thai guys with a hose, some buckets and water guns. Our walk through the small town resulted in more soakings and Rene started getting in on the action too. He used our two small water bottles to throw water at people wielding water guns or buckets and hoses. In addition to having water poured/shot at/thrown over us, some Thai’s took pleasure in wiping white paste (made from talcum powder mixed with water) over our cheeks and faces. After an hour of so of this, we walked back to where our dinghy was moored to recollect ourselves and get a bite to eat.
Rene gathered more artillery, finding a stash of used 1.5litre water bottles behind the beachside restaurant. I grabbed my waterproof camera and tried (in vain) to coax the water from my ears. We ventured back in and this time found a massive street party complete with pumping music and everyone spraying water over everyone else! A middle-aged Thai man took great pleasure in repeatedly pouring buckets of water over my head while I danced to the beats and tentatively threw in some of my own water over the crowds. Rene was loving it. I let him continue on and retreated to a nearby bar to sip a coconut and watch the action, dripping in my seat. I was a little concerned by the amount of alcohol being consumed and by the drunken state of a lot of the partying people. One man came up to me while I was standing under my sun umbrella, using it as a bit of a water shield, and spoke to me with such a drunken slur that I couldn’t make sense of him at all. Another man dropped his beer bottle so it smashed – pretty stupid when most of the crowd are dancing bare feet. Apart from a few minor incidences like these, the festival was amazing. Everyone was going off! We ended up on the beach where Rene continued to have impromptu water fights with passers by before playing a very civilised game of chess at a bar with some English lads.
|Rene loving Songkran.|
|Looking out at the Tonsai anchorage on Phi Phi Don.|
We had such a good time on PhiPhi Don. So good that we ended up staying for a few more days. We walked around the little village enjoying the vibe. There are no cars or motorbikes – only bicycles and feet. We went out dancing and were amazed at the insane fire-twirling they do every night here. So much fun :)
|Rene dancing the night away|
|Amazing fire-twirling displays on Phi Phi Don.|
|Phallus shrine on Rok Nok.|
We stayed here for a couple of days to enjoy the serenity and natural beauty. Unlike some travellers I know, I cannot help but to notice when things aren't right (environmentally). One afternoon we went exploring by dinghy - just a little farther than the main white-sandy beach. It looked like an untouched rocky shoreline until Rene noticed that the large black rocks weren't in fact rocks at all. (Please note, environmental rant follows):
|Ah. What a lovely clean, untouched island....|
|Until you look closer. Why do people throw their rubbish into the sea???|
|Burning rubbish - plastic included. sigh.|
|Fresh rain-water anyone? Maybe not!|
Our final stop in Thailand was at Ko Phetra (07’02.27N 99’28.25E). We stopped here because Rene recalled someone telling him it was worth a visit. It was OK but not the most amazing anchorage, though a small pod of dolphins did greet us as we arrived (not a common sight around here). We did our laundry here using the rainwater we'd collected in the morning storms (it was clear of pollution!). By dinghy we explored the whole western coast of the island finding many interesting crooks and nooks and caves which were inaccessible. The swell was rolling in and bouncing off the rocks. We were most amazed by an electricity cable which was visible high along the cliff face, strung up with bits of rope from trees far above. Following the cable, we found a tiny house all alone made on the rocks. This island is the biggest Swallow nest collection point in the area and so this house must belong to the swallow nest people. What a life!
|Swallow house on Ko Phetra.|
After a terrible night's sleep on a lee shore, we set out for Langkawi at dawn. The wind was (of course) almost always on our nose so we motored for most of the 44 miles in an uncomfortable sea. The past two months have been truly amazing for us. We're so grateful for being able to have experienced this. To have been able to live. More adventures await!
|Sailing towards the rainbow!|
|Watching rain fall as we leave Thailand.|