On Christmas Eve we
visited the gibbon sanctuary where they home orphaned animals and attempt to
rehabilitate them for release into the wild. They are absolutely delightful
animals that move by brachiating…swinging on their arms rather than using their
legs. They are particularly endearing as babies and in demand by photographers
to use as attractions for tourist photographs. Although this is forbidden it
still happens, the babies are still taken from the wild and in the process many
adults are killed as gibbons live in extended family groups and many adults try
to fend off the poachers from stealing their babies and are shot. Many of the new ‘owners’ are cruel, some
start to find a growing gibbon a nuisance and some realise that they have done
the wrong thing. The upshot is many damaged orphans which was why we sponsored
one as a Christmas present for Peter!
Peter arrived back
from his adventures on Christmas Eve, so we decided to go to one of the islands
off the East Coast to spend Christmas Day in the sun and have a pleasant
barbecued lunch. Unfortunately the Thai weather had not got the Christmas
message and the wind gradually increased to Force 7 plus. The anchorage became
dangerously rough so we upped anchor and ran before the wind in the gathering
gloom to a safe mooring near the local aquarium. Our Christmas day thus became a
rather hasty meal followed by a rough run 10 miles southward!
We then decided to
explore the touristy west coast of Phuket and found a couple of beautiful
anchorages with clear water for snorkelling and even caught a few squid for the
beach in Phuket.
Hattie in her Thai
fishermen’s trousers but note the bag that she used in Thailand…upstaging the
tourists with her own favoured holiday spot.
There was an
interesting small river that ran behind this beach which we explored by dinghy.
It was almost like being back in Southwold, with the fishing boats moored on
rickety staging, albeit with slightly warmer temperatures.
Much of this part of
Phuket was scarred by tin mining in the past but they are doing a good job of
returning the lakes and wasteland to tourist developments of one sort or
another. For instance there is at least one golf course and there are plans to
build a much needed new marina. We had difficulty finding marina berths and they
are surprisingly expensive too. Malaysia is now a much cheaper place to keep a
boat, although it has yet to develop the range of services that Phuket is well
known for. Phuket is actually getting full of boats that have reached this far
and are now stuck as a result of the piracy in the Indian Ocean. We have met 3
owners who are shipping their boats to the Med and many more are considering
spending the £30,000 shipping fee to avoid the ocean passages around South
Africa. Needless to say there is a feeling that not enough is being done to stop
For New Year we had
been recommended to go to the tourist centre of Patong. This is an amazing
tourist trap full to the brim of every diversion (and a few perversions too)
that many wish for. We avoided It and stayed on the boat after a quick shopping
trip (to Tescos!) to await the fireworks. These started at 7o’clock and went on
non-stop until the early hours of the morning. There must have been literally
tonnes of fireworks let off in a fairly haphazard way all night with a
tremendous crescendo at midnight. We very much like a good firework display but
it is good to have a start, middle and importantly an end to these
Incidentally the dots
of light in the sky are not stars but some of the thousands of lanterns let
adrift from the beach. The lanterns are large (nearly 3 feet) paper affairs
fuelled by burning paraffin, they are very traditional and look beautiful as
they go high into the sky to drift on the wind …and occasionally fall into the
sea. Our sails survived!
Before the fireworks
had really begun, Hattie left us for her long journey home after 3 weeks that
went far too fast for all of us. Sadly Peter was out of action for nearly a week
with a nasty reaction to taking his anti-malaria medication (doxycycline) then
falling asleep shortly afterwards. This gave him a severe form of heartburn that
left him in pain every time he tried to eat. A visit to a good local doc
confirmed our diagnosis and eventually he recovered but rather thinner as these
coast is just stunning with tropical blue waters and dramatic limestone islands
full of caves and sometimes with ‘ hongs’ (hong means a room open to the sky)
entered through shallow sea caves. After New Year we cleared out of Thailand to
start our return to Pangkor. We had just enough time to visit some of these
attractive limestone islands that Peter had not seen such as Phi Phi
We also visited Koh
Muk where there is a limestone tunnel that goes beneath the cliff for about 80
metres into a hong – this collapsed cavern has almost sheer sides with its own
tidal beach and being open to the sky it has a unique flora skirting the beach
and clinging to the fabulous limestone cliffs. The tunnel is the most exciting
part as it is long enough to be pitch dark and has bats clinging to the ceiling.
The most eerie thing is that waves crashing into the caves to one side of the
tunnel make a very scary thumping noise that complements the subterranean
Looking up through the hong ‘s sky-light.
After a night at Koh
Muk we continued our way south stopping at the most southerly Thai Island, once
a penal establishment but now a National park and covered in dense primary
growth rain forest.
We were sad to be
leaving Thailand after a much too brief stay. The scenery is stunning the people
smiley and the climate excellent with much less humidity (at least whilst we
were there) than Malaysia. On the downside it is becoming more expensive to keep
a boat here and surprisingly few of the people speak much English…but then our
Thai is not up to much either.