Monday, September 15, 2014

Let's eat

One of the things Thailand is known for is its cheap and abundant food, not to mention it's DELICIOUS!. The choices where to buy are varied. If one wants to mix with the locals for traditional fare, vibrant outdoor markets are everywhere with the best prices. They are always crowded with enthusiastic and inquisitive buyers.

People and motorscooters everywhere

As well as food to take home or food to eat on the spot, you can also find housewares, handicrafts, clothing, shoes, knickknacks, etc. for sale.

Anything and everything

The streets are lined with eateries and bars with good and inexpensive menus so we end up eating out a lot. It's less expensive to eat out than to cook on the boat, plus we don't heat up the boat with hot burners or oven. Dinner out for 2 with a wine or beer each is typically less than $10 total.

For more American food stuffs, there are modern air conditioned grocery stores typical of the western world but you pay for the price above the local outdoor market price. There are at least 2 very modern and big malls that make the tourists and expats feel at home. A couple of them are so large, you can easily get lost!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Eventful anchorage

Our sedate life at anchor in Chalong Harbour (south Phuket, Thailand) has been punctuated by some interesting and lively events.

Clear skies showed us the brilliance of the blazing white supermoon as it was the closest to the earth while it was full. We never knew that the orbit of the moon is elliptical which brings it closer to earth at times. At the risk of sounding trekky, the technical name for supermoon is the perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system, just in case you were wondering.

We arrived in Thailand during the rainy southwest monsoon season that brings unsettled weather. Actually as I am writing this, a squall passed through with gale force winds and horizontal rain that lasted an hour. Surprisingly, no boats dragged. The bottom is muddy sand and excellent holding.

A week ago, we had a similar rain event. We opened up a deck watertank fitting and let the rain fill our 50-gallon starboard tank in about 10 minutes! At times, we've been caught by a sudden downpour while out on the motorcycle but we could duck in under cover and wait it out which usually doesn't last very long. At least it's warm.

Then in heavy winds once again, a boat behind us with no one on board escaped its mooring. Jordan thought the mooring line looked chafed. It drifted over to a distant muddy shore and grounded. We unfortunately couldn't do anything to help as water had leaked into our outboard fuel tank so it wouldn't start. We tried the VHF with no response - no one turns them on at anchor here! But fortunately, the boat had the owner's phone number posted on the side and someone from shore called him. The owner was able to move his boat at high tide and re-moor it. We saw its anchor light on later in the evening. So all ended well.

Another night, we awoke to the sound of booms at 01:30. Fireworks are common here but this was different. Jordan got up and looked out and saw that a big dive boat had exploded and was engulfed in flames!

Boom!

As we watched, there were a couple of more loud explosions. It was surrounded by other boats, and being downwind, we were a bit worried that once the boat's mooring line burned, it could drift towards us. But once it burned to the waterline, a couple of police boats tied a line to it and towed it to where it's cremated remains sank to its water grave. We later learned that only 1 crew man was on board when it exploded who promptly jumped overboard and was soon picked up, unharmed.

Wow...it's been an exciting month so far!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What about the coup?

We are visiting Thailand during expanded military control. Basically, the military lost patience with the dysfunctional federal ministers who couldn't get their act together and do their job. So the military said "enough" and kicked out the bickering bunch and took pragmatic control. By definition, a coup. But if you worry about visiting Thailand from news reports, in our opinion, you can dispel your misgivings.

As tourists, particularly in this area of Phuket a long way from the capital of Bangkok, we don't see the effects. It's been business as usual for the most part, but just recently, the military has taken the opportunity to tidy some things up around here. Over the years, there has been a lot of uncontrolled development and lax enforcement of proper laws and procedures and abuses as a result of corruption at the more local government levels.

One of the obvious military influences here has been the tidying up of the beach areas which were festooned with illegal buildings and vendors on public beaches. So the beaches here have been purged of ramshackle premises and illegal beach chair renters that dominated and monopolized the otherwise pleasant beach experience. Beach by beach, they came in with soldiers and equipment, and by day's end, it was cleared out with many carted off to jail.

Remnants of dismantled structures

The illegal taxi mafia were targeted as well as corrupt local officials and apparently the jails are full as the accused wait due process. Basically the military has taken overdue action and given notice to all levels of officials to "Do your job or there will be consequences."

Military worries? None for us as we enjoy our stay in Thailand.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Keeping busy in Thailand

Now in Thailand, our first order of business was getting hooked up with a national cell phone company for WiFi so that we could internet from the boat and also get our cell phone functioning.

To get around for the first few days, we rented a motorscooter for about the equivalent of $7 per day. However as our plans are to be in this area for quite some time and wanting to do some distant land travels, we bought a used Honda Phantom motorcycle. It's quite a process though to purchase, license, and register a vehicle and took us about 7 hours over 2 days to get it done.

When we got our vehicle sticker, we noticed that the expiry year was dated 2558 and learned that Thailand follows the Solar Calendar - not the Christian Calendar. Their calendar is 543 years ahead of ours, and for a moment there, we were confused and thought maybe we had been sailing just a little too long!

We're now mobile

It was our 10th anniversary so for a change of walls and some luxury we booked into the orchid filled Kata Beach Resort only a few miles from our anchorage. There were beautiful glorious orchids everywhere...at the reception counter, surrounding the lounging area, on dining tables, in the rooms...

Just a sample

We've been meeting up often with our sailing friends of Morning Glory. They have been at Phuket Island for a few months now taking advantage of cheap labour to get some major work done on their 45-foot catamaran. They sailed from eastern US the same year we left Victoria BC (Canada). We first met them in the South Pacific and again in many exotic places along a similar route to us. They joined us in the village of Kata for a splendid dinner.

Jordan and I hung out at poolside - swimming, sunning, and reading - and feasted at the breakfast buffet.

Pool overlooking the Andaman Sea 

As much as we love Sea Turtle, it is nice to spend an occasional night out!

Andaman Sea in background

Friday, August 01, 2014

Phuket

Without turning the motor on, we pulled anchor and sailed 3.5 of the 4 hours to the southerly end of the well-known Island of Phuket ducking and weaving at times to avoid coastal fishing boats and their nets.

For miles out, our approach was under the watchful eyes of the familiar Big Buddha on top of the hill overlooking the bay. We had visited it on a previous visit to Phuket. We joined a motley multitude fleet at anchor in the big Chalong Harbour (N07°49.252' E098°22.210').

Chalong Bay is an official port and the long, 700-metre pier has the offices out at the end to process the entry of foreign boats. It's a bustling part of Phuket. Dozens of day tripping, speedy tourist boats are based here and skim past leaving large wakes, heading off to close islands.

After picking an anchoring spot in the pack in somewhat shallow waters, we dinghied in to get processed. However we arrived just as they were packing up for an early close and we only got half done. It was Friday, and as they seemed nonchalant about having us come back the next day, we wandered into the busy town to check things out.

Chalong Bay in background

We walked down the long concrete pier (visible on the far right extending from shore) which is structurally sound but the floating concrete docks are all coming apart from recent storms and surges. With large rusting bolts, some are now tied together with thick rope and are grinding away against each other. All day and night, you can hear the creaks and groans in their death throes. This is very unusual as we were told that that the facilities are only about 3 years old!

Phuket's main public pier

Docks haphazardly tied together with ropes