23 - 27 January, Phuket Island

Tue 28 Jan 2014 22:44
On Thursday Dadang and I drove to Phuket town to immigration to extend our tourist visas for another 30 days. We arrived at 9am and were out of there in 30 minutes - it was a very efficient service with English and Russian speaking information officers, a photo and photocopy service. We paid 1,900 baht each for the extension(about $60). I don't know if I have mentioned it before but there are almost more Russians in Thailand than Thais - all of the street signs, menus, brochures etc are also in Russian.

In the evening I joined our swedish friends for drinks on their boat followed by dinner at our local restaurant. There were 9 of us - 2 swedish, 2 swiss, 4 dutch and I and the cost was just 980 baht for all of us (about $4 each)

On Friday the installation of the new battery charger and alternator continued for most of the day, but was not completed as a new relay for the regulator was required. The guys returned again on Monday and Tuesday and the new, very expensive lithium batteries are installed and working. Now we just need to go sailing for a few days to notice the difference in power and hours needed for charging the batteries.

I decided to hire a car for a month while Greg is away so I have the freedom to get off the boat and explore. It is a terrific car - a new Honda City - it will be hard to go back to Gary Getz after a month of driving this. I also joined an amazing Health and Sports Club called Thanyapura which is about 15 mins drive away. They have the most impressive facilities - 2 olympics pools, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, track, 2 gyms, meditation centre, physio, chiro, spa, restaurant, bar and hotel. It is also caters to serious athletes and as a bonus for my eyes the Danish and Hungarian swim teams are currently training at the centre.

Sunday was Australia Day, however there was a total alcohol ban in Thailand due to advance voting in their upcoming elections. I am sure the 50,000 Australians in Phuket would have got around it somehow! I understand there will be another alcohol free day on election day this weekend.

I visited the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project which aims to save gibbons and their rainforest habitat through rehabilitation and education. On Phuket, gibbons are illegally kept as pets and are used as tourist attractions - people on the street, beach or in bars charge you to have your photo taken with them. When tourists do this they support the hunting of wild gibbons which are an endangered species. The only way to get a young gibbon is to take it from the wild by killing its mother and father. At the project they work with gibbons that have been taken away by the police or handed in by their owners. They really are beautiful creatures and I was taken with Tam who had been mistreated by his owners and had 1 hand and 1 foot cut off, but he could still manage to swing in his cage, but obviously he would never be returned to the wild. It is well run and relies on donations to survive.

I spent the afternoon at an outlet centre in Phuket town shopping for new sneakers and gym gear and was very satisfied with my purchases - new running shoes, socks, backpack, 2 pairs of gym tights and 2 gym singlets all for less than $200! Look out posh sports centre - no longer a grotty yachty!

On Monday I did a cooking class at the home of Azziza and Suda, the lovely muslim ladies I had befriended in the village. It was wonderful to get an authentic version of everyday Thai cooking. They had sourced the prawns from a fisherman in the village and got the remaining ingredients from a local wet market. We made Tom Yum Goong, green chicken curry and green papaya salad. There is so much preparation that goes into Thai cooking and you need a lot of kitchen space, something that is definitely lacking on the boat. I thoroughly enjoyed it and they were generous giving me lots of the food to take home as well as some western foodstuffs they didn't like such as salad dressings and balsamic vinegar (bonus! - after so much Asian food you appreciate everyday western foods).