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