There are so many different names on the maps and charts for this place I’m not really sure what it’s called.
Heres the track of today’s passage, 5 knots wind on the nose in a millpond like sea, very pleasant, however the wind picked up as a squall arrived near the end, and it’s still drizzling now at 19:30. We are at anchor up a little river, opposite what is supposed to be Thailand’s biggest fishing port. Will put pictures up when I get some power for the MacBook.
Tomorrow we leave early for Ko Similan, I’m a bit apprehensive as we need to pick up a scarce mooring, and the dive boats will beat us there and take them all. Failing that we have to anchor in 15-25 metres of water. I do need to be able to do this, as it won’t be the first time, but that’s very deep, I have to put out 125 metres of rope and chain worst case, and consider a swinging circle of some 200m. Should be fun.
Just a quick update as we are sitting at anchor here in ban Khan, I think, and we have a slow 4g data connection.
we left the Yacht Haven late yesterday morning, had a peaceful overnight anchor stop near port chalong, then onto here today. Tomorrow we head further north to a little inlet at Ban Thap Lamu, near the Burmese, Myanmar border for an overnight stop before going west out to the similan islands , where we will stop for a couple of days. This is supposed to be a great spot for snorkelling, and we both just bought new snorkels to try.
We packed a lot in to our day out in the car last Wednesday. The priority was to get our visas extended in order to be legal until we leave to fly back to the UK next month. Paul had heard the queues and waiting times could be long and drawn out so we got to the immigration office fairly early on an extremely hot and humid morning. The building was surprisingly small for a place that has to deal with so many people on a daily basis, and predictably, the procedure was anything but smooth. The first room we entered had a relatively small queue of people, all clutching the same sheaf of papers we had (forms, passports, documents etc). Three officials were sitting behind a desk processing couples, families or single people. This bit didn’t take too long and it was interesting to watch and listen to the people in front, and those being interviewed – no chance of privacy in such an enclosed room. When it was our turn and we presented our forms, we discovered that we needed passport photos to attach to one of the forms. We had guessed as much while waiting and I had gone out to see where we’d need to get them done. In the adjoining room a very glum-looking lady was sitting at the information hatch. I asked her politely where we had to go to get photos taken and she looked at me as if I had insulted her with the worst phrase she’d ever heard. I guessed she might be having a bad day (we all get them I thought), so I ploughed on and she eventually pointed at the window, which had a display of the prices for a set of six small photos. I smiled and asked if the photos were taken here (meaning where I was stood) and she muttered yes. We stood staring at each other for a while – I actually thought she was going to take the picture there and then. Eventually I tentatively asked exactly where we would have to go and with a weary sigh and a scowl she told me that a fee of £4 had to be paid first, then we could go in to her office and she would photograph us. I went back to the queue and told this to Paul and he said he’d been hoping we might not need the photos. He thought I was probably exaggerating when I said how grumpy the lady was. Her mood hadn’t really improved when we approached to ask pretty much the same questions I had already asked. I suppose she is heartily sick of hearing the same queries every day, and pointing to the information sign doesn’t really clarify matters. Anyway once we had paid and were inside she was a bit more friendly. She took the pictures with her mobile phone and ushered us back out to wait for five minutes.
Once we had the pictures and the correctly filled out forms, we went back to the other building where we spoke to the lovely lady who had dealt with us first. She was unable to complete our application and issue us with tickets for the next bit because their computer system was down and they were uncertain when it would be up and running again. She told us to go and have some lunch, which I thought was a splendid idea. However, we thought we might as well do the other things on the agenda first. Paul collected his new sails from Rolly Tasker and then we went to Boat Lagoon to get rope for the anchor. By then it was time to go back to the immigration office. There were a lot more people there and some were going through the same scenario of discovering they needed to leave the room to get photos taken. It’s an undeniably frustrating process but despite this, the staff (apart from the aforementioned lady) and the people waiting were cheerful, calm and patient. It was quite fascinating to sit in the next bit, which was set out much like a doctor’s waiting room, with our numbered tickets and watch the staff working. There were some interesting characters among the people waiting, too ;).
All of that cost us about £50 each but we are now legal and I’m pleased to have some specific country stamps in my passport, which I’ve never had before (well there has to be something for that amount of money). It was mid afternoon by the time we left and still very hot so a trip to a beach seemed the thing to do. We found a nice one called Yon Beach which had a bar next to it called The Ship Inn and had a much needed cold drink there.
The beach wasn’t really suitable for a swim so we drove on, making for Kata Beach on the west coast. On the way I spotted a bookshop in the most unlikely, but beautiful location and couldn’t resist stopping to take a look. Paul stayed in the car to check directions to the beach and I spent another nice 40 minutes or so browsing the second hand books – the only customer in there, while the lady shop assistant was busy learning English on a CD language course in the adjoining (sadly empty) cafe in the next room.
We stopped again to check out a viewing platform on the highest part of the drive. There were a lot of steps to climb but it was worth it when we got to the top.
It was quite late by the time we finally reached the beach at Kata. I didn’t fancy a swim so sat enjoying the view while Paul went in. We had dinner in one of the nearby restaurants after that. It’s a delight eating out in Thailand because they are so friendly and the food is always freshly cooked. We watched both our meals being prepared and the lovely lady who served us was keen to get some of her own wine for me as they didn’t serve it there but I assured her a beer would be fine.
For the final part of the day we went back to Patong to have another walk around. It was a lot busier than on our previous visit. The pavements were crowded and by then I was aching so much with all the walking and standing it was hard not to respond to the many offers of massages. Plenty of people were having them, in rooms in full view of passersby. They offer head massages, foot massages, neck and shoulder, or full body. It’s a shame there are often salacious connotations associated with Thai massages because most of them are completely ok. I’m definitely going to have one at the marina before we return. With all the back breaking work we’ve been doing recently to get the boat ready for our 10 day trip on Monday, I need one to soothe my aching muscles ;).
The weather is still trying to make up its mind, as you can see below there are still some spectacular squalls passing through, but I think this week might see an end to it all.
The main job this week was to get the visas extended, however the new sails were finished on Tuesday, so I combined a trip to the immigration office in Phuket town with a trip to Rolly Tasker’s sail loft.
First the immigration office was very busy, and after a bit of flapping with photocopies, passport type pictures and initial paper checking we were ready to get a ticket and join the queue, just then the power failed and we were told to come back in the afternoon and join an even bigger queue. So off we popped to the sail loft.
The sails looked great, I particularly enjoyed seeing them folded up perfectly. Something you can never really do on a boat cruising, as there’s never that much space, either on the boat or dockside.
This is the Yankee pictured above, clew on the bottom left. It’s massive. I have no idea where the term Yankee originated, but it’s quite an old term, as this type of setup I have with the front headsail flying from the tip of the bowsprit is a very traditional arrangement, not usually seen on modern boats.
This headsail has an adjustable leech line and foot line, I have no idea why it has a foot line, perhaps it will become obvious when I start sailing with it. The Leech line goes up to the head and back down the through the luff, as you cant reach the clew from the deck, it flies so high.
After the sailmakers we headed over to AME at the boat lagoon to get bits and pieces. I have read enough from the anchoring book to feel confident that I have to have a nylon snubber in my anchor setup, and that it can’t run from the anchor platform roller, in a F8 the twisting forces on the bowsprit are massive, also without a snubber, the chain has no slack once you get to 35 ish knots of sustained wind, so the shock loads on the anchor and deck gear are excessive. I have decided to rig up a snubber that runs from the lower bobstay fitting at the waterline, for 5 meters to the chain. I have sketched the theory below.
The snubber line cost me some £40 in bits, I bought a proper chain grip like this one, which is designed to hold the chain properly.
This design looks the part, but after reading my anchoring book, I found out this puts a lot of stress on the link it pulls on, and when calculating loads in the overall anchoring system, from, holding power, to breaking loads on chains, it really is a case of knowing ‘your weakest link’. Sorry about that 🙁
From the chandlers, back to immigration, and we were relieved to see the traffic lights working again on the way, hopefully meaning the power was back. Not so relieved to see scores of people queuing outside the office, but it seems that was for something else. We got in the extension queue and only had about 8 people ahead of us, so after an hour or so and we were done. The man ahead of Kathy had overstayed by two days, and received a heavy fine, as he got the passport back, the immigration officer told him that next time he saw him, he might give him a ten year visa, when the man looked at him a bit confused, the officer said quietly, “for your prison stay” and then waved him away.
From there we headed out to a beach overlooking Chalong bay for a drink and rest.
Then onto the west coast via a cross country route we hadn’t used before. I had a lovely swim at Kata beach as Kathy watched the sunset;
We then popped into Patong town for some shopping and then home.
On Monday we set sail for ten days, before coming home. Im thinking we will head up towards Myanmar, and look at the NW coast of Thailand, we can do Phang Na bay on the way south in January. I have agreed to get the bowsprit replaced in January as well, so it’s going to be busy then.
Due to the time difference we were able to follow the developments of the US election as they happened, and we listened in amazement and with sinking hearts as Trump’s victory became a certainty. Like millions of people around the world we heard the reactions, the speeches, the pundits, and the comedians as events unfolded, and later we went up to the bar and eavesdropped on the conversations taking place there. One Australian lady was concerning herself with the sort of first lady Melania Trump will make and concluded that there hadn’t been a glamorous one in The White House since Jackie Kennedy. Oh well, that’s all right then!
Aside from that, it was boat chores for the first part of the week, which included another trip up the mast for Paul.
The clouds in the picture built up during the afternoon, but before that it had been a hot and sunny day. We waited until the sun wasn’t as fierce before setting off on another trip to the village of Ban Koh En. This time, we took the back roads so that we could see what it was like in the inner part, behind the main street. It was lovely – obviously more residential- with each one-storey house distinct from its neighbour. Most people were sitting outside, cooking, chatting or just enjoying the cooler evening air. I took some pictures in an attempt to show how unique the houses are. I’m not sure their charm comes through though.
We drew considerably more stares here than in the main street, but they were accompanied by friendly smiles, not ‘this is a local town for local people’ hostility. The children, in particular took an interest in us, and delighted in practising their English phrases on us as they sped past, running or on their bikes. Word must have spread, because eventually a little group of them gathered behind us and joined us as we ambled along. We enjoyed a humorous interchange with them, using hand signals smiles and their few words of English. I suspect they also delighted in saying some of the more naughty Thai words, judging by their hysterical giggles when we could only smile and nod in response (I would have found that hilarious at their age too :)). They were thrilled to have their photo taken and kept saying ‘I love you’ when they left us. The little one in the pushchair hardly took her eyes off Paul the whole time.
Further on, we came upon the local school where a football match was taking place in the field. There is a real sense of community in Koh En and I grow more fond of it each time we pass through it. We bought some bread, and then decided to walk to the very end of the village to buy some bananas. The sky grew darker as we walked and by the time we came out of the shop, the rain had started to fall. It was so heavy, we had no option but to take shelter under the shop’s canopy where there was a bench in front of a table bearing homemade sweets and cakes and a couple of hand made wooden boats. The rain provided quite a spectacle in that it coincided with twilight and we were overlooking a forest across the busy main road. It created an eerie vision of darkness, rain and trees, lit up intermittently by car headlights. We were joined by a few motorcyclists who were typically dressed in only vests/T shirts and shorts and we all sat and waited and waited while the rain showed no sign of stopping or getting lighter. Paul looked at a rain radar website on his phone to see if he could gauge how long it might last and it proved to be extremely accurate (and fascinating). We’ve used it several times since. When it finally stopped, we walked to a restaurant at the far end of the marina that had been recommended by an American guy called Giles. Named ‘Papa Mama’, it wasn’t an Italian restaurant as the name suggested. It was fairly busy, and had a ‘rustic’ feel to it. We were told to take whatever drinks we wanted from the fridge in the centre, take a seat, choose our meals from a menu and then go to the counter to inform the lady who’d greeted us what we wanted. Both of us chose a rice dish (Paul’s with fish and mine with vegetables). It was cooked to order either by her or her husband in the kitchen on show in the corner of the restaurant. Lovely hot, tasty food and we ate at a table overlooking the water.
There was another storm during the night; heavy rain with loud thunder claps and we had to get up to get all the windows and hatches shut. Friday was hot and sunny again and we spent a good deal of it listening to more discussions and comedy shows on the radio relating to the US election. At the Deck Bar we watched an evening storm. The rain radar site means we can now time it so that we know exactly when to leave the boat before the rain begins and how long it will last for (is it worth ordering another drink?).
On Saturday morning we collected our hire car and met up with Giles who needed a lift to Chalong. It was nice to chat with him and hear all about his experiences on the journey there, especially as he has a great, rich southern Californian accent. He’s been here quite a while and provides us with useful information and recommendations. After we’d dropped him off at the wonderfully named Coconut Boat Yard, we drove on to Yanui Beach, at Giles’s recommendation. It was a charming little cove on the southern tip of the island: thankfully lacking the usual touristy ‘strip-style’ bars, restaurants and stalls. All that was on the beach was a shack offering Thai massages, and a few people laying on the beautifully soft sand. It was such a hot day, Paul wasted no time in getting into the water for a swim. I hadn’t intended to go in, thinking the waves looked a bit big and they’d knocked a few people off their feet (I know…I’m a namby pamby) but the heat was beginning to feel unbearable and Paul said it was gorgeously cool in the sea. It didn’t take me long to change my mind and discover he was right – it was wonderfully refreshing. There were a few sharp and big rocks to negotiate on the way but well worth the effort. We stayed in for quite a while, and I did get thrown off my feet by the waves but it was fun :). We sat on the sand for a while afterwards until it got too hot.
We were ready for some refreshment by then, and went to cross the road to go to one of the beach restaurants. We’d noticed a heavy police and military presence throughout the day and by this time there seemed to be more. Traffic was being controlled (or rather, uniformed guys were waving on traffic that was going in that direction anyway) and whistles were being blown, and we were helped across the road. Paul asked what was happening and the response was something to do with The King and memorial event. Local people were all dressed in black and white, the official mourning colours(?), and stalls were set up along the roadside offering free food and drink. It looked to me more like a very dignified celebration of his life to mark the end of the first part of the mourning period. Lunch was lovely, at a garden table in the sun. I was able to request a tomato toastie (repeatedly assuring the waitress that I really didn’t want cheese in it).
It was fortunate we had our beach experience at that point because the rain started again as we left. Shopping was next on the agenda so it hardly mattered. We went to a succession of shops to pick up various items while we had the car, and the only thing worth noting is that we decided to buy some Durian to try. Paul had seen a lady in one supermarket buying loads of it, and urging the assistant to ensure she got every last bit of the fruit into the tray. It really must be great, we thought, despite the vile smell. We were shocked at the price (£3 for a few slices of it). It was carefully wrapped in another plastic bag at the checkout (no charge for bags here yet). We tried it later, with a little trepidation, trying not to be put off by the smell. Paul went first and I wasn’t encouraged by his expression but thought I’d better try some before I went off the whole idea if he hated it. It was horrid. The texture was like an overripe avocado (slimy) and the taste was ‘oniony’, meaty even. It tasted like the smell of tripe and onions! It’s a mystery why it’s so popular, but despite the price, ours went straight in the bin and then straight off the boat into the communal bin. Next we will try dragon fruit and hope for a better outcome.
Firs off, I keep getting this message on my phone. Any Thai readers out there?
So after the trip to the Soi Dog home, I had a lazy Tuesday, Wednesday was spent planning the work, and reading a big book about anchoring, I never thought you could fill a book on this subject, but so far I have read a third of the book, and we still haven’t got to the anchoring bit. Fascinating learning the history of Anchors, Chain, Windlasses etc, well at least I think so. For example, “The bitter end” is very much an anchoring term that found its way into common use.
Yesterday and today I got stuck into fitting the all the new kit onto the boat. I modified the old anchor bracket on the stern to fit the new kedge anchor. Then I attached the new lifebuoy with it’s hi-tech fancy LED light that turns on when it hits water. My old one used to turn on when it was the right way up, as a spring and gravity comprised the switch, however in a big sea, the boat would sometimes ride up on a wave quickly and the light would come on briefly making us jump in the cockpit as if a searchlight had been shone on us. I also repaired the life-sling and its case as it had some UV damage. Just need a danbouy to complete the safety gear. The new fenders now hang, looking very smart.
I also restocked our flare container and removed the oldest flares. Once the stern of the boat was sorted, it was up the mast to fit a new halyard, put the missing screw into the wind sensor, and recalibrate it.
The new green halyard is there for emergencies really, but can be used for various things like holding up a canopy, climbing the mast, or swinging small children around.
I also replaced the blocks (pulleys) on the spreaders which are used to fly the visiting flags, or courtesy flags as they are called, along with their halyards. These halyards hoist other flags and pendants as well, like signal flags, should I ever need to “expect anyone to do their duty”. Protocol says you must fly a little flag for the country you are visiting when you hit their waters. Flag etiquette can get quite confusing, I have a club flag for the Cruising Association, and I still can’t work out where to fly it, every position on the boat has a status and priority, club ensigns should be flown from the top of the mast, something thats hard to do on a sailing boat, flying it on the port spreader is a no no, and to demote it to a lower status than the courtesy flag, flown on the starboard side is also a no no, so I’m up for suggestions. I have never met anyone from the flag police, but I’m told the are a serious bunch, not to be messed with 😉
I fixed the staysail furler, which I had trouble with when I lost the staysail over the side. When I had re-hoisted, after recovering the lost halyard, I had put a twist before the twist preventer at the top of the furler. This had now become off centre, but was easy to fix. Just need a sail to put on there now.
Skip this if you don’t know what a preventer is, but basically it stops the boom flying around doing damage when you the wind catches the wrong side of the mainsail. It can be very destructive, to the crew and the boat.
To answer Tim’s comment, I have a dutchman system which is a combination of Kicking Strap/Vang (UK/USA names) and also acts as a preventer. This has worked well so far, I need to tune it better, but this is fine for daytime runs, in lighter winds, were it’s unlikely for the boom to hit the water. The main worry about the Dutchman is that it attaches to the boom around the midpoint, so if you roll on a fast run, and a bit of mainsail hits the water, the forces on the boom can be quite strong, and I have heard of booms snapping at the centre point because of this. So for this reason I have gone for a belt and braces solution that allows me secure the end of the boom as well, in a more traditional manner. After consultation with members of the baba internet group, and reading up on other ideas, in particular one by Brion Toss, I have implemented, or started to, a system that should prove useful.
First I had to learn how to do a eye splice in braid on braid rope, as you can see I need to work on this a bit more. But I can see now, how once I get a proper fid, and take a little bit of time to mark my cuts properly, then it should be a doddle.
So basically I have a strap around the end of the boom, and on each side a line of rope runs from this to the end of the boom near the gooseneck connection at the mast.
The strap is there to spread the load around the boom, rather than have it focused on a couple of pop rivets, or self tappers that would normally hold a pad eye on. The eyes at the mast end allow me to hook them onto a cleat like prong, which I will fit later, once I have made the eyes proper. Another little trick is some elastic will be sewn into the outer braid that will cause the lines to contract and stay snug on the cleat/prong.
These lines aren’t enough on their own to do much, but a second line, made of 12mm 3 strand nylon runs from near the cockpit,
up to the forward hawse pipe, out over the side and back to the stanchion just aft of the mast, or most aft stay.
here it is clipped to the stanchion with a carabiner.
So I have a line either side of the boom, and a line running the length of each side of the boat.
To operate the preventer, you walk to the mast, unclip the eye from the boom and attach it to the carabiner on the stanchion on that side, retire to the cockpit and tighten. I haven’t tried it yet, and I don’t know if I can leave them both connected at the same time, or if I need to go to the mast if I want to Jibe. we shall see. The nylon is designed to put some elasticity into the system, so the shocks if the boom hit the water can be absorbed a bit easier. I need to do proper eyes, and the elastic bit, but the system is good to go for now, so I will test it in a few days time when we head out. Also, the line not in use, which I intend to call the ‘Lazy Preventor’ can be used as a forward stay for a poled out genoa, when running.
As I write this now, there are two converging thunderstorms heading right at us. The sky is full of lightning and I have unplugged all the aerials, Im expecting one heck of a storm.
Last night we sat in the bar here and I had a coconut, which is really nice, don’t know what took me so long. Also it looks like a little house or tent, which is nice.
Today we walked around the back streets of the village and made friends with some local kids. They were so sweet, they practiced their english on us, which amounted to “Hello, What is your name” “My name is…” , which was great for such young kids, much better than my Thai so far. When they left us the older girl shouted to us “We love you” which was wonderful. The people here are very kind and generous, probably my favourite country so far.
Tonight we checked out a local Thai eatery down on the waterfront just a few minutes walk from the Marina. Excellent, cheap and delicious.
After Paul returned from an early morning excursion to sort out more boat business, we set off on the short journey to the Mai Khao area where the above organisation is located. We had already learned the whereabouts of the turn off in the road we needed to take, having passed it every time we went out in the car, but I hadn’t expected the road to carry on for the distance it did. It seemed we were going further into the country which made sense considering it’s a facility that cares for hundreds of dogs and cats. I had been aware of its existence and the work they do for several years because a friend of mine’s son works there and she had invited me to like their facebook page. It was thrilling to know that I was going to see it at last after following their pictures and updates for so long. We drove through tiny picturesque villages and lush countryside with fields of golden pineapples on either side of us. It had rained a lot during the night but as we drove along the narrow empty roads, the sun came out and by the time we reached the place, it was very hot. There were a lot of cars lining the track that led up to the entrance which I was pleased to see because up until then we had seen hardly any and I wasn’t sure what to expect or how the visit would work, as we hadn’t actually booked a tour. We could hear barking and yapping as we got nearer and I half expected a group of excitable dogs to appear as a welcoming committee at any moment. I was pleased to see that the photographic tribute to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej showed him surrounded by, and cuddling, some of the dogs. He was a great supporter of their work apparently.
I needn’t have worried about what to expect. We followed the path a little way behind a family group up to the entrance and saw them go straight into the information tent. Before we got to that, however a friendly man came bounding up to greet us and to ask if we wanted to join the tour that would start in five minutes at 11am. I told him we hadn’t booked but he said it didn’t matter and told us to wait in the information tent with the others and someone would explain the details to us. The tent doubled as a refreshment area for staff breaks and several of them were chatting with visitors, answering questions and there was even a dog adoption process taking place. A lady from Wales introduced herself and gave us a form to fill in about where we’d heard of the place, our nationality etc etc. I did that while Paul read all about the work the charity carries out on the information boards. Dianne comes to Phuket every year with her husband to spend a few weeks volunteering at the centre. She was the one who commented it was the wettest November they’d ever experienced.
Our tour guide was European (I’d missed the part of her introduction that specified where from, along with her name unfortunately) and she began by giving us a brief talk on the history of the organisation, its work with other charities worldwide, and an overview of what they do. There were about 8 of us in the group, including a French couple with their little boy. The mum had to keep translating what was being said to her husband and son but the delays when that happened provided a chance to look around. I spotted a cage opposite that housed the cats. The ones I could see were laying on their beds staring out at us. I wondered if the barking bothered them much. Unfortunately the picture I took of them didn’t come out and for some reason they weren’t part of the tour itself but we were told we could spend some time with them afterwards if we wanted to. We were unable to do this as we had to return the car by 1pm.
We were taken to each area of the centre and informed what it is used for, and about some of the staff working there and their particular roles. One area we came to was very poignant with its sign displaying just 3 letters: DMT. It stands for Dog Meat Trade and is where those rescued from that vile business are kept. Known as ‘The Trade of Shame’ it is totally illegal but still thousands of dogs are smuggled across Thailand’s Mekong River for use in the Vietnamese dog meat trade. Heartbreakingly, some of the dogs are much-loved family pets that have been stolen. The dogs in this area were the most silent of all those we saw and were laying contentedly on the concrete pipes in their cages. It might be a romantic notion of mine but the thought occurred to me that it was almost as if they were aware of the fate they’d been saved from and were simply grateful to lie there with their companions.
In all of the compounds there were volunteers stroking, cuddling, and reassuring the dogs. We learned that the centre’s permanent residents, such as the blind, very old or terminally ill dogs tend to have the same carers because of the comforting bond that develops between them. Luckily there are plenty of local and long term volunteers for this purpose but volunteers come from all parts of the world and can stay for days, weeks or months depending on personal circumstances and visa requirements. We visited the hospital, the behavioural unit, the old-age facility and, right next to it, the ‘mum and puppies’ unit which delighted the little boy in our group. The puppies are usually adopted by families fairly quickly but with so much work being done to make them suitable for re-homing, more and more of the older dogs are being successfully adopted too.
There is far too much being done and going on at the foundation to explain it all in detail in this post but the main aims of the centre are:
To reduce the stray population through sterilisation
To treat sick and injured animals
To shelter victims of cruelty who can no longer live on the streets
To re-home suitable animals
To feed animals who would otherwise go hungry
To educate local communities about animal welfare
To stop the barbaric and illegal dog meat trade and support those rescued from it
When the tour ended I went off to the merchandise area with others who wanted to buy things, while Paul waited at the information tent and left a very generous donation in their box. I left full of admiration for the workers and volunteers. It’s heartening to know so much is being done to help vulnerable animals. More pics of the visit below with a link in case anyone wants to know more about the organisation.
…To quote Shakespeare! The title is also the name of a painting by Norman Garstin that I’m very fond of, which is of Newlyn seafront on a rainy day with ladies holding umbrellas, and some wet-looking dogs on the prom. The weather here has brought that scene and those words to mind a few times this week because the promised end to the rainy season, at the beginning of November shows no sign of happening yet. It’s not much of a problem though; the showers are heavy and some last longer than others but all we have to do is close all the windows and hatches if on board the boat, or take shelter when outside. Several people, including long term marina residents, local workers and radio presenters have declared that it’s the worst start to the high season they can ever remember. A good deal of last week was spent just relaxing on board – doing pleasant things like listening to readings from Alan Bennet’s new book, some Radio 4 comedy shows, and reading and catching up on episodes of Have I got News For You. We also both tackled the cleaning of the cooker using copious amounts of Mr Muscle and a fair bit of elbow grease to get rid of ingrained fat, grease and burned-on food. Most evenings during the week we go to the bar – not for the sunset, more to enjoy the view, say Hi to a few boat owners we’ve come to know a little, have a cuddle with the cute black cat, and to glance at the headlines on the muted TV News channel. It will be interesting to see what replaces the US election mania next week.
On Wednesday, after another walk in the delightful Koh En Village where we not only managed to buy both bananas and bread, we were amused to see a chicken crossing the road, prompting Paul to ask it the obvious question ‘why did you do that?’
We had dinner in the bar later that evening and I managed to order a Papaya Salad which is a traditional Thai dish. To request that it had no added shrimp, all I had to say was ‘jay’, pronounced ‘jear’ and they know that means strictly no meat or fish. Most Thai dishes are not vegetarian but they are more than happy to cook any dish on the menu without meat, fish or eggs if you ask. The salad was nice but it was the spiciest meal I’ve had for years thanks to the chilli dressing. My lips and tongue were on fire – not really what you expect from a salad. The following evening we were treated to a spectacular thunderstorm while in the bar. It had been hot and very humid all day and we watched the sky get slowly darker. It was very atmospheric, ethereal almost. The lightning took the form of a long horizontal line on the horizon and lit the sky for several seconds. When the rain came, it was one of the heaviest downpours I’ve seen. For the first time during a rain shower, we all had to move our chairs further back from the terrace to avoid getting soaked. Back on the boat I made a variation on a traditional autumn favourite for dinner: potatoes (not jacket unfortunately) fried with leeks, baked beans and veggie sausages.
The rain continued to fall for most of Friday, and we were prepared for another day of lazing on the boat on Saturday, since the hire car was booked for Sunday and Monday but Paul got a phone call at 10am to let him know a car was available after all if we still wanted it. After collecting it at 1pm, our first stop was Boat Lagoon where Paul went to buy items from the chandlery and I went to the very expensive supermarket. Using the currency converter on my phone prevented me from buying several of the tempting goodies in there, including a box of veggie burgers for £6.50, and I came out with just a box of crispbread, and some pitta bread. On we went to Rolly Tasker to buy ropes. I stayed in the car reading about our next destination while Paul was in there. Wat Chalong Temple is listed as one of the ten ‘must sees’ in Phuket. I learned that it houses a bone fragment that is supposedly from the Lord Buddha himself. The only other thing I read that interested me was the description of the beehive-shaped structure where firecrackers are lit regularly to repel evil spirits and to give thanks for answered prayers. As we approached, I could tell it was an undeniably impressive building but I was more interested in the amount of dogs that were strolling around. They seemed to be everywhere, along with several cats I spotted enjoying the shade of nearby buildings. Some of the dogs were laying on the benches provided for tourists and it was clear that they were long-term ‘residents’. All were well fed and healthy-looking and I was curious to know the story behind them. Later, I looked it up and discovered there isn’t really any reason: they are just ‘there’ and they get fed by various charities. It seems fitting in such a place anyway.
The temple was…ok. If I’m honest I feel that once I’ve seen one of the temples, any others are bound to look very similar and I don’t know enough about Buddhism to have my interest ignited, although I have a high regard for its peace and harmony outlook on life. The three gilded statues covered in gold flakes were fascinating; the effect was like their glittery gold skin was peeling off and floating away in the breeze. We heard the firecrackers while we were inside the temple. It sounded like rapid gunfire and made me jump until I realised what it was. The date was November 5th so at least we heard some fireworks! When we got closer to have a proper look it was too loud to stand too close, and the aroma of gunpowder was pungent. I guess the animals have got used to it all because they weren’t unduly bothered. I did wonder how the hearing of the guy who has to light the strip of crackers every five minutes fares though. In the photo below you can see him stood to the right of the beehive. Hopefully he has ear defenders under his hat.
Before leaving to drive to the night market I had a quick look around the gift stalls outside in case there was a book or leaflet with more information on the temple and its animals. Nothing like that, but there were lots of buddha statues :).
The night market wasn’t too far away, or difficult to find. Parking posed the main problem when we got to the area. Cars lined both sides of the busy road with a long line of slow moving traffic looking for spaces: it was clearly a popular place. Luckily we found one down a side road and walked over to check out the market. It was huge! The more we walked around the more impressed and delighted I became. Stallholders urge you to browse their wares if you so much as glimpse at them, and it was often too tempting not to. They’re only too pleased to explain things and are willing to haggle regarding prices. The smells coming from the food vendors were wonderful and the dishes and products on display looked very tasty. We tried things from quite a few, including some fried potatoes on a stick and filled pancakes in the shape of a fish! We found a bar and sat to have a drink and a rest soaking up the atmosphere and watching more customers pour in. I plan to revisit before we go home and have a longer meander around the stalls.
The intention on Sunday was to visit The Soi Dog Foundation but but we discovered that its opening hours had changed and it was no longer open to visitors at weekend so we postponed it until the following morning. Instead, we headed out to the southern part of Khao Phra’s National Park. The plan was to do a nature walk and to see the second largest waterfall in Phuket (we’d seen the largest in the northern area of the park). On the way there I discovered that I’m not very good at navigating using a mobile phone displaying google earth maps! We took a few wrong turns which led to us seeing some very pretty rural villages we wouldn’t otherwise have seen ;). The edges of these country roads have a fair few chickens, goats, dogs and cows on show but unlike Malaysia, no monkeys. We saw rubber tree plantations, ramshackle farm buildings, and always the rainforest area we were headed for, looking lush and tall in the distance. The photo below is just before we drove down an extremely steep slope on a road that had seen better days to look at an adventure pursuit area, curious to see the ‘canopy climb’. It was a hairy descent!
The place proved to be well worth the drive down. It was so peaceful and picturesque, with a lake as still as a mill pond. It had turned hot and sunny by then too after the usual wet start to the day so we took a few pictures and braved the drive back up the steep road.
Next, it was on to the nearby Ton Sai Waterfall. Again, we paid an entrance fee of £4 each and parked in a car park with only a few cars in. This waterfall didn’t seem to be as popular as the Bang-Pae one but we noticed some people bathing in the bottom pool’s running water as they had been at that one. Following the sign pointing the way to the top of the waterfall, we began the trail. The first part meant crossing the fast running shallow river, which I did with some trepidation, always thinking about the possibility of leeches. The surrounding rainforest foliage was lovely – lush, tall, green and dense. It was good to know that the gibbons released from the rehabilitation project ended up in there. More people were enjoying slashing around in the clear running water as we went further up, and we had to cross another stream. Afterwards, we were just about to ascend the narrow path when I spotted a giant millipede on the ground in front. I yelled to Paul, who stepped back and his foot went 0n it causing it to curl up and show its legs wriggling frantically. I freaked out and screamed loudly – a complete automatic reaction, I hate displays like that but couldn’t stop myself. Luckily the noise of the water muffled my screeching, and once it had been shunted out of the way I elected to stay and wait in a clearing while Paul continued to the top.
When he returned and we cautiously went back down, we saw a sign for a nature walk, and as it was still early we decided to follow it. I resolved to be brave despite the path appearing to look very similar to the millipede one. The walk was nice, I had a real sense of being in the jungle as we stooped underneath the foliage and branches, trying not to look too closely at the ground before me. The humidity in there soaked me in minutes and the sounds around us were, well…jungle-like. Eventually we arrived at the very same path that I’d seen the millipede on. We had ended up walking the whole trail without realising it and I felt rather pleased with myself. Back at the car, I sat down in the passenger seat, looked down and saw a small black ‘twig’ on my leg at the same time as I suspected what it might be. I slapped it off and saw it move on the ground in a way that could only mean it was indeed a leech! My worst nightmare about Asian creepy crawlies had come true. I didn’t scream this time but it took me a while to stop shaking and slapping at myself in case there were more. And that was my first and last rainforest walk!
As I publish this, it looks increasingly like Trump will win the US election :(. Another line from Shakespeare’s ‘Clown’ song in Twelfth Night comes to mind, the meaning of which is underneath it – I only hope it proves to be the case.
By swaggering could I never thrive, my bullying and blustering didn’t work.
We found an English language radio station that explained a bit more about the king Bhumibol Adulyadej mourning arrangements yesterday. I had wondered if Thailand was the first country I had visited that didn’t have pop music on FM, but it seems all the stations have restricted their output to sombre chanting and readings. The only exception being music that the king was directly connected to. Apparently he was quite an accomplished musician, along with many other talents, like sailing and sport in general. Next week the 14th Nov marks the end of the initial 1 month mourning, and entertainment venues, stations and organisations are able to resume activities, however they have mostly decided to wait until the end of January when the 3 month mourning mark is reached. The mourning period, which I thought was set at one year, was referred to today as ‘one year minimum’. It’s hard to imagine such a thing happening back home. Even when our queen goes, it won’t be anything like this.
All government offices and most businesses have tributes to the king set up at their entrance, and the draping of black and white ribbons is everywhere.
I spent many hundreds of pounds this weekend at the chandlers, and I still haven’t bought the expensive stuff yet. I can’t get a liferaft or Offshore Danbouy here. That’s one of the worst bits about yachting, the very expensive stuff that you don’t want to skimp on, should, if you do the rest right, never get used. Best to think of it as insurance, however I have made some good claims on my insurance in the past, like getting a new iPhone when I dropped it in the lake, so that doesn’t seem so bad. I’m about to put a £3000 liferaft in the bin, that has never been used. Not to mention hundreds of pounds worth of flares that are way past their sell by date.
Still I have a lot of new running rigging (ropes to pull the sails up), new signal halyards and blocks, and a lot of ropes and fittings from which I’m going to build a fancy boom preventer system with. basically this is a system that stops the boom flying around and knocking your head off. I also have a good complement of new flares and other safety gear on board. The new fenders I bought look great, just disappointed to have just received an email from a UK chandler offering them at half price this morning. A new dinghy pump and PVC repair kit were added to the bag, Finally I picked up an anchor and a few metres of chain to use as a kedge and hang off the back of the boat, this gives me three anchors and 200 metres of rode in total, so that should do for now.
Buddhas (Wat Chalong) After the chandlers and the rope manufacturers it was on to the Wat Chalong buddhist temple. From the temple we headed over to the Naka Night market, which is a huge, mostly covered, market with stalls selling everything you would expect, t-shirts, caps, fabrics, tourist stuff, and it seemed to be a popular destination for day trippers heading over by the coach load from the western side of the island. Every now and then you would here a tannoy shouting for ‘shirley to hurry up as the coach is about to depart’. There was a great selection of food on offer, and we both enjoyed snacks
Finally a trip to central market on the way home, this is the only food market/mall we haven’t seen on the island, and we needed some groceries, so we had a look. It turned out the food hall was actually owned by Waitrose, so on the plus side, we bought some lovely fresh bread, and other rare European items, but also left a lot of basics out because of the high prices.
Sunday we headed off to look at the western side of the rain forest here. This is where the gibbons are released, but further in than we would go. We couldn’t find the animal sanctuary we were looking for, but did find some interesting places over run and quite wild. We ended up at the Ton Sai waterfall, which was great. Sadly Kathy really did find herself in room 101 this time with the attack of the giant millipedes, and leeches dropping on her. I expect she might mention this in her blog later 😉
A Rubber plantation
Not sure what happened her, but this was at the end of a road, and I had to drive down the steepest hill I have ever seen to get here. As we approached the hill down to this spot, the road disappeared in front of me, I really couldn’t see the road until the car was so steeply angled that there was no way I could reverse back. So in for a penny.., down we went. The only comparison I could think of was the big dipper, when you reach the top, you don’t realise just how steep the drop is until it’s way too late. I was praying there was another route out, as I couldn’t imagine our little hire car getting back up the hill. Of course it was a dead end.
Before I returned the car, we had time to visit the Soi Dog foundation, they do very good work for stray dogs and shockingly, dogs rescued from the meat trade, it’s quite a thriving business shipping dogs north to Vietnam where they come to a terrible end. Kathy will post more on this I’m sure.
Finally, although it seems like there is very little boating activity going on, we are waiting for the sun to come out, then we are heading off to explore the local area. I have now heard a lot of local people mention how this year has been the worst in living memory for rain, frequency and amount, and how the monsoon season is running late. The weather has us down for clouds and rain all week, with shockingly low temperatures of 27c on some days.
I will spend this week finishing off the refit of the boat, I checked on the sails and they are in production now, and might be ready next week. The bigger plan is developing, my current thoughts are to aim for Seattle USA for next August. This means leaving here in February and heading to, Malaysia, Singapore, possibly the Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, then the interesting bit for me, the Aleutian islands. It’s a lot to fit into one year and presents a lot of challenges, so I’m doing research on winds, currents etc. Anyone who is reading this and thinks it sounds hard, it’s not hard at all, I have been following one family via their blog for a long time now, and they left for world cruising with babies and are still going strong, do check out their blog, they are a great example of how to just get on and do it. Here is a huff post article about the family.