Monday, December 22, 2014

What's been happening since the last blog

on our way to Krabi on board the ferry
Well, its been a while since we posted anything for you patient reader/readers out their (actually not that long ago it seems) so this will be a what's been going on, catch up blog thingy. OK, lets start at the very beginning.
The house in Khok Kloy blog Diana assures me, she is half way through so I will leave well alone....but add simply that it was a good idea at the time and that living alongside a fairly substantial creek/river is not as romantic as you might think.

We'd only been in the house a few hours when I opened my emails to read the breaking news that my Mum had taken a fall on her cruise of the Kimberley and had been evacuated back to Fremantle Hospital with a broken hip. A real bummer as she had been so excited about this adventure and at 89 years of age, these trips were bound to become more problematical. I rang daily and it sounded like she was in for a longish period of rehab so I decided to fly home and help her through it. I was due back in a month or so for another gastro check up so it wasn't a major upheaval. I spent about 3 weeks as a live in carer and it was a useful time on a number of fronts. It meant she could rest up and let the healing happen. It was also good to be able to help out with the insurance claims and associated paperwork which became quite involved. Peg mended very quickly, being ill or in anyway incapacitated does not sit gently with this lady and a fierce independence was probably the best medicine she was ever going to get.

When she was suitably mobile and good to go back driving, I took my leave and headed off to Anchor View in Busselton. Diana flew down from Phuket about a week later and we had planned to spend about a month in Perth catching up with family and getting my next all clear form Spiro. Sounds like a plan I hear you say but wait.......there's a twist. Our place in Freo had bookings (3 days max) scattered throughout September. It meant we were forever packing up and cleaning one house, and then doing the same 5 days later in the other. Add to that the interminable driving we always do in Perth it made for a taxing few weeks.

So we are now on board flight VA 234 Perth to Phuket with check in luggage full of cat grass, tomato chutney, seeds, lemon butter, fig jam and other items of huge interest to the baggage scanners. It was school holidays so imagine a flight full of families all excited to be on their way to Phuket for their 5 days in the sun. We had seats in the aft section of the plane, very close to the one and only toilet in cattle class. The toilet was hardly used before the mid-flight meal and things were pretty cosy. Once they had all eaten it was like the boxing day sales were on and it was first to the toilet gets the biggest bargain. I was in the aisle seat and due to aircraft designers brief to fit maximum number of human cargo into an inhumanly allocated space, they did away with the aisle. That's right, no aisle. I'm joking, there was an aisle but it was some kind of design joke wide enough for stick figures only. Maybe they had stick figures on the drawings and someone took it seriously.

Anyway, upshot was that it was like being in the middle of a wallaby v all blacks scrum with the all blacks, probably Richie McGaw using his elbow far too much. What is it with toilets on a plane and why do people need to go 3, 4 times......I was counting. Add to this a screaming infant with a register close, but not close enough to the sound barrier and you have life at 30,000 feet. There was a news item recently about some guy on a flight who was trying to open the main door only to be subdued by other do gooder pasengers. Buddy, I know what you're thinking!

Oh, before I forget, Diana also had pneumonia. She copped a cough in the face from our youngest grandson and it just got worse from there. The Doc had given the all clear to fly but it was an arduous flight. Her recuperation was therefore carried out in the aft bunk with Motley curled around her python like while I carried on normal duties. She recovered within a week and it was time therefore to head to our favourite spot in Phang Nga, Koh Yao Noi.
The floating Krathongs

We had a couple of weeks here hanging off a big mooring just outside Thakhao pier and spent the time really getting to know the island. On the first full moon in November Thai Buddhists have a ceremony called Loy Krathong. They make little floats called kathongs, using 8 inch thick slices of banana tree stem and then decorate them with shaped banana leaf and bright yellow flowers. In the middle sits a special long burning candle and the idea is that when the tide turns you push the float out to sea and it floats off carrying with it all the negative stuff we accumulate. It's a  beautiful idea and typical of Buddhist thinking. We made our krethongs and took them back to the boat to be sent off from the swim platform at the turn of the tide. Mine only had a tea candle which lasted about 5 seconds before the wind blew it out. Still, it floated off in the night and with it some of the stuff I'd like to be rid off. There is one thing about tides though that we forgot. They go out and they come in. Next morning floating around us were out floats gratefully returned on the incoming tide. Finding Nirvana maybe isn't so easy after all.

a new piece of deck going in

We are now back in Yacht Haven getting some jobs sorted on the boat and also fixing Diana's retirement visa. This is like home for us now and our evening meals up at Penns are like family gatherings as various yachties gather to eat her famous Thai food, drink the ice cold Singha and talk  of things that go wrong on boats. There is never a break in the conversation, believe me. Till next time. Rob


The house in among the trees
With The Doctor safely moored at Yacht Haven Marina at the top end of Phuket, and the wet season ahead of us we thought some time on land would be interesting. Nick, the marina manager mentioned that there might be a house available right on their street near the small town of Kok Kloi.
Before we knew it the front door was swinging open to an amazing little house in the jungle  overlooking a babbling stream. It certainly had the wow factor with a huge western style kitchen and comfortable living room all opening up with bi fold doors, to a big shaded veranda.

Best spot in the house

Terms were negotiated and we packed up the cat and a few clothes and moved in on a Saturday. Before we had even fully unpacked Rob checked the internet connection and our email. Bad news completely took the shine off the day. Rob's mum had taken a fall and broken her hip while on a trip to the Kimberly in far north Western Australia. She was being airlifted by Flying Doctor back to Perth and her condition was uncertain. After many emails to and fro, Rob decided that he needed to get back home to support her when she was discharged from hospital.

The swimming pool

Our stay in the house changed from a few months to a few weeks while we waited on news about Rob's mum's recovery. She was discharged in record time and Rob went home to ease the transition home. She is an amazing 89 year old who's determination to get well again meant that she was back on her feet and walking in a very short time.

The bustling town of Kok Kloi
In the mean time we made the most of our jungle house. It was situated only a short five minute drive to the typical Thai town of Kok Kloi. It has a reasonable Tesco super market and fabulous early morning and Sunday morning markets. The women sellers at the markets were friendly and helpful and very patient with my poor efforts in their language. We had fun going to the markets and getting to know life in a typical Thai town. The joy was the authenticity of a town that was free of tourists and we found we soon got into the rhythm of  the place.

I love tropical fruit! 

Future chicken roasts

Rob had a craving for a real western style chicken roast one Sunday. Only a little perturbed by the chickens with their feet doing a Mexican wave, we selected the plumpest looking specimen. Back home in the kitchen, Rob quickly slipped into the well oiled (excuse the pun) routine of rubbing the chicken with butter, peeling the potatoes and readying the roasting pan. Curiously the chicken seemed to lack the cavity where you usually put the stuffing or herb.
 "Aaargh! This chicken still has its gizzards" yells Rob as he does a chicken run around the kitchen.
"All you have to do is split it from its bum to its chest and get them out" the veteran chicken plucker (me) says.
"It's got poop in there!!!" cries Rob as his face turns ashen.
"I'm not eating THIS!!!"
We did, but our heart wasn't into the idea any more and what's more, it was so tough and rubbery any remaining enthusiasm was lost by the relentless chewing required to get the poor foul down..

Elephant going home after a day's work. Khao Sok National Park

We rented a car as well as the house so had time to explore the local area with its beautiful Wats (Buddhist temples) and national parks. On one drive we were lucky to see some elephants out with their keepers. The country side is stunning with lush jungle and towering mountains.

The block
We were so taken with the house and the general area that we started looking at land. This one was nearby and had its own little stream. We had the house designed in our heads, but the owner wasn't ready to sell.

There was a bit of a down side to the picture of the beautiful house near the trickling brook. Being the wet season, it rained and rained and then bucketed down! The beautiful babbling brook became a raging torrent that spilled over its banks and instead of tinkling, roared day and night. It was so loud we had to close the windows at night.

The stream after wet season rains.

We had a great few weeks in our jungle house and made good friends from neighbors living nearby.
Next wet season we might do something similar, but on the nearby island of Koh Yao Noi. We love the idea of slow travel. I you like a place, stay a while. Breathe it in, learn the codes, live the life.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


I wonder if they knew to look for the pot of gold.

Not to be put off by the monsoonal weather we set out once more into the magnificent Phang Nga Bay which lies tucked in between the holiday island of Phuket and mainland Thailand. Our first day on anchor had all the right signs with this majestic rainbow embracing the sky.

Wrapped in rainbow!

We have a saying on board our boat when things are going well. "We're going to pay for this!" There's a ledger you see, finely balanced with negatives and positives, red and black. Too much into the black and the bills start coming in. Too much into the red and there's got to be a rainbow coming our way.
Anyway we got the rainbow, now we had to pay. On this trip into the bay unprecedented winds blew with great ferocity from the north west sending mighty bullets into the most protected of anchorages. The anchor dragged, the wind howled and the rain came down, not in sheets but blankets.

Pan Yi or the Sea Gypsy Village as it is known, promised us a reasonable anchorage. It was with great curiosity that we motored cautiously up through a fairly deep channel which threaded its way through the shallow waters of the north of the bay. We were keen to see this unusual village that we had heard so much about.

Approaching Pan Yi ,commonly called The Sea Gypsy Village

As we dropped the anchor we were amazed at the size of this town built almost entirely over the water. There are 360 families or 1,600 people living in this floating fishing village. It is a Muslim village with a beautiful mosque that glows like a second sun in the morning light. On this trip of rainbows we were lucky enough to see the domes lit by the sun and a rainbow that appeared to point to the largest of the minarets.

Blessed by a rainbow

The origin of the village makes an interesting story. In the 18th century three nomadic Malay fishing families made their way north  from Java in search of good fishing grounds . Legend has it that it was agreed that if one of them found a good place to settle they would place a flag high on the hill. The name of the village is "flag" in their original language. The inhabitants are originated from those first three families.

Fishing is still important in Pan Yi

Today fishing is still an important part of village life, but tourism also contributes a huge income. In high season, November to March there can be 3000 tourists daily! There are numerous restaurants facing the water and further into the village there are narrow lane ways crowded with stalls selling tourist nick knacks.

An island with a fur bonnet!

Stall holders selling clothes, jewelry and food stuffs clamor for your attention

As we wandered through the back streets of the village we discovered the amazing mosque, still under construction or renovation, we couldn't tell, and people going about their lives as we all do, all over the world. Some houses looked quite suburban with pot plants and picket fences. It was easy to forget that it was all suspended over water.

The mosque is a place for prayer and a meeting place. Its grandeur reflects  the devotion of the people.

Quite suburban, apart form the huge limestone back drop and the water lapping under neath. 

Some of the footings were wood like this, but some were concrete.

After our exploration of the village we felt like a bit of adventure and ventured forth in our little dinghy with its 3.3hp motor in search of a famous cave that was supposed to be nearby. Our directions were a bit sketchy, but we thought we would just go in the same direction as the tourist boats. The cave was to be found at the end of mangrove tunnel. How hard could it be? Remember the old ledger? Well....

This could be the mangrove tunnel we're looking for.....

 We bravely turned into a tunnel that looked promising. It twisted and turned this way and that. It got narrower and darker as the mangroves leaned in to block the sky.
 "It's got to be just around the next corner surely?"
 "Maybe just around here?"
We could see where we needed to go, or thought we did , but each corner took us in the wrong direction.

Maybe around this corner?

It was getting late in the afternoon and we were getting further away and deeper into the dark mangroves. Mangroves that stretched out for miles and miles. We started to say half joking
 "Lost in the mangroves. Never to be seen again!"
(nervous laugh)

Putting on a brave smile while thinking OMG we're running out of fuel!
 The little motor was running hot and running out of fuel. We had a small jerry of fuel, but no radio, GPS, water, food or mosquito repellent. Finally we gave up, and although we had come miles we decided to retrace our steps and hope the fuel would last the distance. It would be a long hard row all the way back to the boat if we ran out.

At last we saw open water through a gap in the mangroves. We were back into familiar territory.!

Light at the end of the tunnel!

Before long we were in the wide open river with the tourist boats zooming past. We never did find the cave, but it didn't matter. We'd seen enough mangroves to last us a long time!

Tourist boats constantly ferrying people to see the sights.

On the way back we could see the other side of the village with its legendary floating football field, school and hospital. The football field started with some kids desperate for some flat ground to play football. Originally they started putting together floating bits of wood, but now it is much more sophisticated with floating plastic buoyancy. The Panyee Football Club now is one of Thailand's strong youth teams.

The other side of Pan Yi snugged against the huge limestone island,

The football field

This house is for tourists to stay, we think.

The hospital. Accessible only by boat, of course.

Rob was quite taken with this house with its picket fence and two car (boat) garage.
We had never been happier to get back to the boat. the little motor did a great job ad the fuel lasted. You would think after all these years of cruising and boating that we would be a little more prepared! But then it wouldn't have been half the adventure.

From Pan Yi we explored more of the northern end of Phang Gna Bay, but found the anchorages difficult because of swirling winds and waters. We happened to have hit spring tides so the boat was in a constant battle between wind and tide. Koh Yai Noi was the best as it wasn't as steep sided as the other anchorages, so wasn't subject to wind bullets. There is still plenty to explore in this area and we still think the wet season is the best time to do it. I can't imagine what 3000 tourists at Sea Gypsy Village would look or feel like!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Phang Gna Bay Thailand in Pictures

Koh Muk

Here we are anchored on the island of Koh Muk. It looks peaceful now but later that night we were hit by a localised tropical storm that had the boat swinging madly from side to side on its anchor.

This part of Thailand is famous for its "hongs" which means room in Thai. This one is called Emerald Cave and is entered by swimming or paddling through a dark tunnel.
The end of the tunnel opens up to reveal a small beach and jungle garden fully enclosed by towering rock walls.

Out again into the open sea.

Same island but a different side. We joined cruising friends in this beautiful bay. Good food. Good company.

We went exploring and found this great little coffee shop.

The famous Phi Phi Island which is beautiful but.....

crowded with these phizz boats that bring hundreds of tourists to swamp the island

Ao Chalong
The main port for Phuket Island.
This is where we take our passports and boat's papers to clear in to Thailand.

Our anniversary bay.
We took the dinghy to this little bay with drinks and snacks. Unfortunately a very large male monkey had ownership of the beach and demanded food in a very threatening way, so our celebration was a bit hasty!

Exploring in our dinghy.

Koh Lanta celebrates Songkran or the Thai Water Festival. Everyone goes out onto the streets and has a great time spraying water at each other. No chance of staying dry, but it doesn't matter because it is so hot!

We visited a school on the island of Ko Po......

Oral hygiene seems to be a priority. 

Village on Koh Po

Koh Po kids having fun

Old Koh Lanta Town is a lovely laid back town with a few touristy shops and good restaurants overlooking the water.

Koh Lanta Old Town


Koh Lanta restaurants would rival many five star restaurants for location.

Koh Lanta is quiet enough for even me to venture on the roads by bike

But the road hazards are not what we are used to in Perth!

The anchorage at Koh Lanta Old Town. A sombre sight for a yachty. 

Rob doing a good impersonation of Gilligan on Koh Rang Yai.

The arduous 10 minute walk across the island of Koh Rang Yai to the restaurant on the other side.
Watch out for falling coconuts!

The tourists had only an hour to enjoy Koh Rang Yai whereas we could be there indefinitely.

Ahh! Tourists all gone. Time to relax.

Back in the big smoke of Phuket Old Town with its beautifully restored Sino Colonial buildings

A girl's day out exploring Phuket Old Town.

The back lanes of Old Phuket Town.