Thursday, January 01, 2015

Ko Phayam

We spent 6 nights anchored at the island of Phayam (northern Thailand) where we met new boaters and visited with old friends. Most of the folks we met were sailing with kids ranging from very young toddlers to older and wiser teenagers.

Throughout our days, it was interesting to watch the interaction of all the youngsters. We never saw any angry words, fighting, or sibling rivalry. In a setting like that, how could one not be in a happy mood?

An intriguing sight on Ko Phayam is the Hippy Bar. This unique bar is built entirely from floating debris collected after the terrible tsunami of 2004. Included are several adjacent buildings and even the front of a ship where one can relax overlooking the ocean sipping a relaxing juice or drink.

Several of the Hippy Bar structures viewed from dinghy

(Clicking on any photo will make it larger for better viewing if you wish.)

A close-up of Hippy Bar "ship" with Jordan onboard

On New Year's Eve, many of the boaters gathered onshore to watch the kids break open a pinata that many of them had helped to create. When it finally broke, there were gleeful exclamations as they all dove to retrieve the scattered treasure and share and trade their booty.

Sunset from Hippy Bar

After sunset, 6 hot air lanterns were lit on the beach and kids and adults watched them float high up into the night sky until they finally gave a few winks as their lights went out. It was very beautiful. The perfect night culminated over delicious meals at a beachside restaurant.

All in all, the days spent at Ko Phayam were a nice break from being in 1 spot at Phuket for so long.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Passage northwards

Poor Sea Turtle had been either anchored or moored in Chalong Bay of Phuket Island since our arrival in Thailand August 1, 2014. We were definitely getting the urge to be out on the water again after all of our air and land travels lately.

We finally departed our anchorage on December 24th for an Andaman Sea island called Koh Phayam which is up the west coast of Thailand across from Myanmar (formerly Burma). We were in no rush so decided not to do "overnighters".

It was a great start. We sailed right off our anchor and all the way to a quiet night stop off a beach about 500 m south of Naithon Beach (N08°01.601' E098°16.606') were we had a peaceful night. (FYI - Koh or Ko in Thai means island.)

Our only problem: the fridge stopped working. We did not want to turn around and return to Phuket and continued with hopes of finding ice along the way.

We left bright and early December 25th sailing again until the winds died mid-morning and we reluctantly resorted to the purr of the motor. A couple of hours later, we stopped at a port town where the navy has a post and where we could buy some ice. We experienced some non-typical Thai hospitality when our first greeting was from a scowling longtail boater who made rude gestures as he decided we were in his path, even though we were there first.

Our next greeting was from a very rude "gentleman" in charge at a tourist excursion facility ashore instructing us to move our dinghy immediately from the dock area where we had tied even though we had been given permission to park there by a worker.

Jordan said we would only be 10 minutes as all we needed was some ice. He continued to be rude saying no and to move now. So Jordan left to move the dinghy while I waited. The man then yelled out to me saying to never park there again. I angrily told him that we would never be back so not to worry about it. He graciously replied "Good."

Wow, what an introduction to a new town on Christmas Day. We quickly walked into town, bought several bags of ice, and left immediately, bidding good riddance, and sailed north.

We anchored for the night along a shoreline at N08°43.200' E098°13.466'.

Our next day was uneventful as we motored with no wind and we anchored on the back side of Ko Ra in a slight drizzle as we watched several fishboats heading out for their nightly catch (N09°14.433' E098°18.795').

In the morning, we once again motored as no wind, arriving at our destination of Ko Phayam on December 27th (N09°45.598' E098°24.242'). It was exciting to see several other sailboats at the same anchorage, some that we knew. It had been a long time since we had that ideal cruising venue.

Another beautiful sunset

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Home again

With a visit to Cambodia foiled, we decided to make the long run home (Phuket Thailand) and leave a visit to Cambodia for another trip, maybe to coincide with a future necessary Visa run. So we first had to retrace our Laos path heading back north, before heading for Chong Mek (about 80 km east of Ubon Ratchathani), the nearest border crossing back into Thailand.

It felt good to be back in Thailand where we find it more comfortable. Thai food is better any maybe even a little cheaper, the people are super friendly (it's known as The Land of 1,000 Smiles), and more English is spoken.

Our route heading south in Thailand had us staying at Chok Chai, passing through Bangkok to cute Hua Hin where we have stayed previously, and at a quiet beach bungalow just past Chompson. The roads had several fully loaded trucks carrying sugar cane.

A lot of sweetness

After 27 days on the road travelling through all parts north in Thailand and the whole length of Laos, we made it back to Chalong Bay of Phuket Island on December 20th where Sea Turtle, our mobile ocean home, welcomed us back on board.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CAMBODIA?

Today we were really excited about crossing into another country that neither of us had ever been to before: Cambodia. So we were shocked when we were about to exit Laos and a Lao border guard stated that we would not be able to take our motorcycle into Cambodia!

From what we read and heard, we thought he might be mistaken so Jordan decided to walk across the border to talk with the Cambodian Customs to get it from the horse's mouth. We were informed that if we didn't have a pre-approval certificate to allow the vehicle to enter, which was only attainable at the Customs office in the Cambodia capital of Phnom Penh, then we could not enter with the motorcycle.

He said we would have to bus 12 hours to Phnom Penh, go through the process of getting the necessary vehicle entry approval documentation (and he couldn't say how long that would take), and then return with it to then be allowed to enter. That was not an option for us, so searching for a solution or a caveat, Jordan argued that we own the motorcycle and we have all the papers as proof, but that was immaterial. They were all very pleasant about it and matter of fact, but the laws were clear to them.

It was very discouraging to have to turn around (it was a simple U-turn as we had not checked out of Laos) and head back about 150 km to the town of Paksan that we had been at 3 days ago.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Scary ferry

Have you ever taken a mode of transportation that you have been just a little bit leery of? Well, we encountered such a situation in southern Laos when we decided to cross the Mekong River to Khong Island - 1 of 4,000 river islands!

Upon arriving late in the afternoon to a riverside village, we could see the island that we wanted to go to across the waters. There, a man approached quickly and said that he could take us and the motorcycle over to Khong. He directed Jordan to drive the motorcycle to the river's edge and then across a precarious wooden gangplank onto his twin-hulled tiny boat, the condition of which matched the plank!

Would the gangplank and the boat's deck boards hold the weight? The owner exuded great confidence, so as directed, Jordan eased the bike onboard. Once secure, we shoved off for the trip across the mild waters towards the setting sun.

Mekong ferry

On arrival, the fare was paid, then Jordan made his disembarkment across the gangplank, and keeping his revs and momentum up, climbed the short steep path up to the road. Only 3 of the 4,000 islands are permanently inhabited with Khong being the largest at 8 km by 17 km. There was a good variety of suitable guesthouses so we had a quick check-in.

Balcony view of the Mekong

Khong may be the largest of the islands but there is very little to do except chill out. It was a nice break from constant motorcycle riding.

The morning sunrise added a tranquil glow to a serene river setting with the early morning fishermen.

Early morning on the Mekong

After breakfast, we checked out and did a tour around the Island on its rough, narrow roads. Once again, our rear luggage carrier made a getaway, jumping off its rack and crashing to the road. We found a little shop, and after some drilling and extra bolting, had the latch secure.

We discovered there is a new bridge from the south end of the Island back to the mainland of Laos but we were glad that we took the alternate/original way on the scary ferry. It was much more of an adventure than a boring bridge!