Family Time!

Monday 14th December
We're back in Thailand after saying our final fairwell to Malaysia and have been enjoying cruising the beautiful waters of Phang Nga Bay for the last six weeks. Caroline's mum and younger brother flew out to phuket from England for a few weeks visit and for the first time we experienced cruising with a full boat. The rolling and creaking took a while for everyone to get used to, something we've become completely oblivious to meant a few sleepless nights for those who are used to sleeping in the peace and quiet of a house!
Keeping busy we explored many of Phang Nga bay's Hongs and caves by Kayaks and discovered some great beaches for snorkelling and just relaxing. During the third week of their visit we met up with Caroline's older brother 'Peter' and his new wife 'Lisa' who were also out in Thailand for their two week honeymoon. We spent two days with them in Krabi province on mainland Thailand, taking them out for a sail the first day then hiring a Jeep the second to drive out to one of the national park's in Krabi's Rainforest.
A bit of a family overload for Jimmy as this was the first time he'd met any of them but it all went perfectly and we were lucky to have great weather the whole time. Yesterday we took Tom to the airport for a final fairwell and once again after five weeks we're alone on Blue Moon. We've hired a car for two days to stock up at Phukets great supermarkets as we prepare to leave in January for the Med. So once again it's back to trying to figure out what we'll need on board to last us roughly four months especially for our long beat up the Red sea where we'll have little opportunity to replenish our fresh supplies.

The Kingdom of Thailand.

Monday 18th May

We checked into Thailand at Ao Chalong Bay on Phuket Island on the 20th February with a two month tourist visa in hand and not a clue where to go next. Having missed the window to the Red Sea by little more than a couple of weeks we were still trying to come to the terms of spending a whole year cruising here in Asia and what we would do with that time! After checking in we headed north towards the Burmese border and once out of the touristy areas we got to see some of rural Thailand where small fishing villages built on stilts still line the bays. The people living here are referred to as “Sea Gypsies” and play an important role in the fabric of Thai people.

For centuries the “Gypsies” have been the initial contact and buffer for the Kingdom in dealing with foreigners arriving by sea. Villages appear all long the coast line tucked in to protect them from the strong monsoon winds and assist their communal fishing activities. Most structures are small bungalow huts made from Bamboo with thatched reed walls and if prosperous capped by tin roofs. . Self sufficiency seems to be a theme as most live among live stock of chickens, ducks and the occasional cow. Fishing is the center of their lives and mostly done with gill nets and fish traps.

The traps are made of local saplings bent into a curved doghouse structure with a few banana leaves or reeds to cover the top. It acts as a little hut that fish enter to seek shelter and can not exit once past the opening in the front. Long lines of nylon cord are secured to the traps and tied to a float. The floats can be as simple as a few old water bottles or elaborate 6 foot poles of bamboo with flags of varying colors. These floats are found scattered just about everywhere and make for difficult navigation in the clear light of day and almost impossible for us to avoid at night, thus we stuck to making day passages and keeping a very good watch.

After sailing up the coast we headed out to the National Park islands of the Surin’s and Similan’s where we found some of the best snorkeling and diving we’d seen in a long time. With pristine reef and an abundance of tropical fish we spent weeks kayaking around with our snorkels finding new dive spots and great beaches. The national park charges a small fee which gave us unlimited use of the many mooring buoys which meant we didn’t have to drop the anchor once!! After running out of food we headed back to the famous party town of Patong on Phuket island to restock the fridge at the Carrefour supermarket and then headed east around the island into Phang Nga bay.

The islands of Phang Nga have been made famous as scenes in such movies as ‘The Beach’ and James Bonds “the man with the golden gun’. With towering limestone cliffs pitted with caves and gulley and the unique Emerald green waters and white sandy beaches every island is picture perfect. We spent our time exploring the hongs (bays inside the cliffs hidden from the outside) and watching monkeys scale the cliff faces until once again it was time to head back to civilization.

Since 1927 Thailand has been ruled by its longest reigning monarch ‘His Majesty Bhumibal Adulyadej’, still as popular today as when he first came to power eighty two years ago. The king’s influence can be seen throughout the country with his pictures lining most street corners and we even had to stand for a five minute ‘ode to the king’, including pictures of his life and his favourite music, before sitting down to watch a movie at the local cinema in Phuket. It’s obvious he’s extremely popular and it’s really nice to see a country of people who seem to genuinely adore their monarch.

The Thai people are kind and extremely friendly but obviously affected by the thousands of tourists who flock here each year to squat under umbrella laden beaches ordering cheap drinks and massages. We often felt like we were invading the local’s privacy as maybe one too many tourist has rubbed them up the wrong way. Or maybe it’s just the fact that so many white western males come here to date and often marry the local women making tough competition for the local guys and giving some areas a pretty seedy feel!

The Thai food has been a real treat. Most restaurants offering a menu the size of a small novel including everything from Curries, Local salads, noodle and rice dishes, an array of fresh seafood and even the more popular western dishes. The food is always fresh and very reasonably priced; we could buy a kilo of fresh prawns for the equivalent of US$ 6-10. Traditionally the Thai’s use ‘a lot’ of Garlic and hot peppers in their dishes which takes a lot of getting used to but still doesn’t hide the delicious flavors…It’s worth visiting Thailand just for the food!!

Chinese New year in Penang, Malaysia.

Tuesday 3rd February

Leaving Singapore we were finally able breath a sigh of relief that our engine worries were kick back into cruising mode and enjoy being on the open road once again. 

That was over three weeks ago and since then it's been a whirlwind trip to rush hundreds of miles north to Langkawi just to make the decision that yes we are to late and we will have to spend a full season here in Asia!

Over the SSB radio and email we've said our goodbyes to all those friends we wont be continuing the adventure with this year and hope that they have a fantastic trip through the Red Sea. To Ingvil & Gunnar on s/v Helen Kate and Astrid, Jasper & Marijn on s/v Antares, we send all our love and will cherish the memories...Thank you (we also expect a room to stay in when we come visit you next year so don't think your rid of us that easily!!). ..Missing you already.

Thus our year in Asia has begun and After spending a week in Langkawi discovering all the great duty free stores; where a bottle of rum will set you back 28 Ringgit (roughly US$8 or 5 British Pounds) and every kind Chocolate you can imagine is stacked to the ceiling at ridiculously low prices, we hired a moped to check out the main island. We found some great anchor spots and marinas which I'm sure we'll become familiar with over time and enjoyed the spectacular scenery with almost a hundred islands covered in lush green vegetation and snow white sandy beaches...Heaven.

Our bliss was slightly obstructed, however, when we found out that we would need to pick up a visa if we wanted to spend longer than a month cruising the Thai islands. So we upped anchor and headed back 50 miles the way we'd just come to the island of Pulau Penang where the Thai embassy is located. The city of Georgetown is the business end of the island and was once the hub of the British east India company when they first arrived in Malaysia. Unlike Singapore, Penang didn't fair well with the decline of the British Empire and has left an interesting mix of Chinese and Indian cultures without the high tech attitude. The architecture in the old town is beautiful, though slightly neglected, it gives an eclectic feel with narrow streets crammed from top to bottom with colourful decorations and a temple or mosque at every corner.

For those of you who aren't up with your knowledge of Chinese cultural events the 25th of January is Chinese New Year's eve and for all those born in the year of the 'Ox' this is your lucky year! Unfortunately we weren't here in time for that celebration but we were lucky enough be in town for the Jade Emperor God's Birthday on the 1st of February which also marks the end of the week long holiday.
With over 10 thousand people packing the streets of Georgetown it was a fantastic night of Dragon dances, stage and puppet shows on every corner, craft fairs, 'a lot' of incense burning and my favourite....street vendors selling an array of delicious food! Georgetown is great at any time for finding yummy meals but on this night the chefs were out in force selling everything from Smoked salmon kebabs to squid stir fry and steaming bowls of Curry mie to giant spring rolls packed full with who knows what. The celebrations went on all through the night with fireworks and singing that we could still here from the boat in the early hours...these Chinese really know how to have a good time.

The next day, however, was back to business as usual and so with visas in hand it's time for us to head back to Langkawi to do a final stock up before sailing to thailand... but not before we have one last curry of course!
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