Fai Tira blog
Christmas Day Saturday 25th December 2010
Phi Phi Don
Thailand 07:43.74N 98:46.20E
Our stay at Ao
Chalong was short, just one night, it was after all only intended to be used to
carry out the administrative entry procedures, but it did have the effect of
giving us a flavour what was to come as we dodged the torrential showers
looking for a cool beer.
didn’t feel as though we’d reached proper Thailand until we arrived
in Yacht Haven Marina, Phuket. The distance between them was short, but all the
time, dancing in the backs of our minds was the knowledge, gleaned from
briefings and rally guide, that the approach could be difficult and unclear.
Also echoing in our ears were the words, from Tony Diment, “Many boats
have run aground, just as they thought they were home”. All this, and our
recent track record of seeking out bits of land close to the surface to park
the boat on, combined with our now non-functioning depth sounder, had the
effect of making the final run in a nervous and edgy affair
Just some of
the views on the passage
needn’t have worried, our assessment of the deep water channel was spot
on, and by the time we’d reached the entrance, we were greeted by one of
the marina’s manned dinghies, whose function was to guide us in, point us
to our appointed dock and co-ordinate the mooring. What an efficient operation,
and before long we were secured, relaxed and taking in our new surroundings.
The marina was
huge, but even so there was no feeling of being overpowered, probably due in
part to what turned out to be our prime location. We were just two hundred
yards from the marina offices with all the facilities close by. It was quiet
without being isolated and with only one neighbouring and un-occupied boat, it
felt quite exclusive. The place was very laid-back, the internet access
(get-at-able on the boat) was powerful and free. The local restaurants also
reflected this general feel of comfort: the food was good and cheap, the
selection wide, the beer cold, the facilities rickety, the staff attractive and
the mosquitoes ferocious!! (well..you can’t have it all).
We were located
some way from the nearest town, but cheap and accessible taxi and car hire had
the effect of reducing any inconvenience to almost nil
So this was it
then, Thailand with all its preconceptions, a place that could almost be
anything you wanted. There was beauty, culture, the exotic, the erotic,
tranquillity and explosion. Did we see all of it?.......Think I might just
leave you to guess!!
after we arrived Peter left the boat to head for the airport to meet Judy, his
Not long after,
started a succession of parties, and the early mornings (that’s going to
bed, not getting up) had an accumulative soporific effect that had us walking
around like a bunch of zombies by the end of the week.
activities, for the first short period, were taken up with the fairly mundane
but important task of taking the first steps to secure our Indian visas.
However, it did give us the opportunity of visiting Phuket town and
experiencing the real Thai community for the first time.
The trip in
took about forty minutes, we were driven by the Blue Water Rally director Tony
Diment. Almost as soon as we left, the skyline started to change as we
drove past a succession of shops, businesses, cafes and bars that fringed the
roadside in an almost unbroken chain, the highlight being an incredible second-hand/scrapyard/shop,
where everything was laid out artistically like a fruit market and must have
stretched for at least fifty yards. There was sophistication,
improvisation, wealth and poverty, but the underlying feeling of comfort was
never far from the surface finally manifesting itself in the relative opulence
displayed by many of the town centre shops and stalls.
For much of our
remaining time here Peter was away at his smart accommodation at the other end
of the island, with Judy, so Jeremy and myself teamed up with the guys from
Lucy Alice and young Richard off Island Kea, hired a vehicle and driver
for 24 hours and ventured out.
island’s quite large, with almost continuous heavy traffic flows
extending travelling time. We had no set itinerary except that we would have,
at some time, to re-provision, and we’d also been told that the infamous
Patong Beach was somewhere that should be visited (preferably at night) before
we could even begin to think of alternative venues, there was an important
briefing to attend and it took up much of the morning.
Mixed in with
the normal information about the prospective cruising destinations for
Christmas and the New Year around this lovely area, was the serious discussion
of security. We had always been conscious of this worrying aspect of the trip,
but now that we were shortly to set on a journey that would take us through the
pirate hot spots; it kind of had the effect of concentrating the mind somewhat
and leaving a small area of disturbance at the back of it!
Anyhow we still
had an island to see, and not much of the day left, and the Buddha on the hill
seemed a good target to aim for.
The Big Buddha
is the focal point of a temple complex being built with publicly donated funds,
and has been under construction for many years. Even now its spectacular
beauty, visible from many miles away, is hugely impressive, but once complete
the whole installation will be stunning. The fundraising seemed to maintain a
delicate and subtle balance. Almost everywhere there were donation boxes and
sales of artefacts and groups sitting around counting the takings, but there
was never any feeling of pressure to buy or contribute, instead the atmosphere
and setting was such that it seemed to induce a desire to donate or purchase.
Richard, just being Richard
A short climb
up the concrete stairs and you emerged into a building site, albeit tidy, where
the construction was underway. Many of the elements of construction were much
in evidence, but it was only now that the full beauty and stature of the
monument became apparent, with intricate detail and craftsmanship displayed in
all its glory.
impression of the finished
The tidy building site
It was late
afternoon by the time we left and headed towards Patong Beach, and just about
dusk as we ventured along the seafront that was doing a passable imitation of
Blackpool’s Golden Mile on a bad day (they do great curries though)
before walking into the centre that would have done credit to Soho in its
heyday, although I imagine its own brand of manic activity has to be almost
unique..... What we were told was right: it’s something that had to be
seen,,,,, but I’m pretty sure once is enough!!
thought it exciting!
advantage of the remainder of our 24 hour hire, the next day, by stocking up on
provisions, followed by a visit to an activity centre, where Richard and I
climbed aboard quad bikes and dashed off through the forests, at what seemed an
indecent speed, dived into vast holes full of elephant dung and pee and managed
to return half an hour later, still in one piece, smiling, but covered, almost
literally, in crap
You should have
seen us on our return!
Much of the
rest of our stay was combined with repairs, preparation and seeking opinions.
There was a bit
of welding to do before we fitted our new, and very expensive, but smart,
bowsprit viewing platform. And I managed to regurgitate some skills of a few
years ago, quite enjoyed flashing around with a welding rod again!.
the repaired manual bilge pump and re-installed it.
I made contact
with Aquadrive, the manufacturers of our suspect drive system and was given
some re-assurances. I also contacted a recommended local marine engineer who
visited the boat, listened for any unwelcome noises and declared that all was
And finally, I
replaced the impeller in the raw water pump, something that had been bugging me
for a long time.... Just in time, some of the blades were getting ready to
With Peter back
on the boat, but Judy stranded in a Bangkok hotel waiting for a flight to the
frozen UK, we set off to explore the nearby islands.
relieved when a text was received confirming that she was finally on a plane,
and we could now enjoy the startling and, for us, uniquely beautiful skyline of
these massive, tree covered pillars of limestone, rising vertically from the
surface of the sea, that contained the exciting hongs and their access passages
through huge unlit caves.
overhanging rock formations and people emerging from a cave into a hong
for Christmas was Phi Phi Dong, our passage taking us past the famous
“James Bond Island” Ko Phing Kan, (where ‘Man with the Golden
Gun’ was filmed).. After once more managing to park the boat on a
sand bank, we arrived Christmas Eve and meet up with the rest of the fleet.
hope it’s a good one
from Pete, John and Jeremy