Christmas 2012

Post date: Jan 21, 2013 2:49:17 PM

Our Christmas trip with a healthy yacht

Yes we did it!! we escaped Chalong Bay with a fridge full of food, a new asymmetrical headsail for light winds and plans for a couple of weeks “holiday” for us, sailing, diving, and enjoying the stunning environment. It was just the batteries that were preventing the trip from being perfect. They were not holding charge and the new ones would be delivered after Christmas so we were keeping an eye on the volts.

Our first stop was on the north west coast of Koh Yao Yai, (N 08° 05.162, E 98°31.581) the large island in the middle of the bay. The sky was looking very dark as a large storm cell approached so we quickly rushed for shelter and anchored in a little bay just in time to fill the water bottles, have a very cold shower and wash the decks in this deserted bay. Early the next day we explored a channel into the interior of the island, through the mangroves to a fish farm where grouper were being bred for restaurants. The mangrove channels were so peaceful and full of bird life – sea eagles soaring high above the forest, flashes of brilliant blue and orange alerted us to the presence of kingfishers of many sizes.

Next it was to the extraordinary island of Koh Phanak, (N 08°11.199, E 98°29.137) full of caves, hongs (Thai for room) and nooks to explore in the dinghy. The water was not clear enough to go swimming here but the scenery was wonderful. There were lots of tourist boats here when we arrived, but they left before sunset and we had the place to ourselves. Early the next morning a kayak guide took us in through a cave to the hong. The tide was too high to walk in and too low for the dinghy. Besides there is about 100m of very dark tunnel where there were bats and other cave dwellers. The cave opened out into a beautiful chamber open to the sky were there were green jungle trees and monkeys on a sandy floor. It was like being in a cathedral!! beautiful and serene,the birds and monkey calls like a choir singing.

Our next destination was between the islands at Koh Hong (Phang Na) ( N 08°13.188, E 98°30.226)

there were lots of tourist boats here too but we were able to take our own dinghy into the large hong and explore on our own. Last time we were with a guide and it was a rush to see everything but now we were enjoying it without the aid of a guide. We circumnavigated the island by dinghy and marvelled at the amazing rock formations.

The next day we took Lupari2 to the Muslim stilt village, Koh Panyee. (N 08°20.504, E 98°30.307) This was to be the furthest north we will probably get. It is an amazing little village nestled on the side of a high rock. They are traditionally fishing people but the tourist industry has arrived and many of the families now are involved with the lunchtime tourist trade. There are several restaurants that cater for the influx of thousands of hungry tourists and many souvenir stalls hope to benefit too. We arrived in the late afternoon when the tourists had gone and we went for a very pleasant stroll along the boardwalks through the village. The school children were playing futsal on the floating “stadium” and families were sitting outside their houses enjoying the beautiful evening after the lunch time rush. We did wonder what happened when the ball was kicked out of the playing field – I guess someone got wet . . .

Dogs, alcohol and pig meat are all banned from this island, but there is a thriving cat community. We enjoyed our evening here and enjoyed the peacefulness of the mid channel anchorage.

We explored the nearby channels by dinghy. There were caves where ancient (possibly Neanderthal) people had painted cave walls with pictures and there were reportedly caves to explore on foot. We found the cave art and it was lovely to see it without all the security, entrance fees, special “sacred” significance, interpretive guides etc. They were there in a cave on the side of the river and if you were interested you could take photos of them. Many long tails took visitors to see them too.

Images of Koh Panyee, Muslim stilt village

Our next anchorage was Koh Roi (N 08° 11.550, E 98° 36.593)near the top of Koh Yao Noi (Little Koh Yao) after a day where we sailed mostly with our new enormous headsail. It does what it is meant to do – pull us along in light air. We are very happy with it. This was a very pretty island too with its own small “hong” where we took the dinghy and admired the geology of these amazing structures. Here we met some German visitors who had hired a yacht and had run out of cooking gas. The evening was a very pleasant one with our gas cooking their pizzas and all enjoying the results. This was the night of the Solstice.

We were heading for the other Koh Hong Group on the Krabi side of the bay. The new headsail did its trick again and we picked up a mooring at this really busy island. We took the dinghy ashore and went on the forest walk which was cool and shady, There was still evidence of the 2004 tsunami, longtails in the forest undergrowth many hundreds of metres from the water. We realised how devastating and widespread the tsunami was.

It is not only tsunami damage that wreaked havoc on Thailand's coral islands and environments. So many thousands of tourist visiting all using the water is polluting the coral structures and causing them to die - it is being loved to death . .

We did not stay here as it was not all that comfortable so we took off for Ao Nang Bay on the mainland of Thailand near Krabi Town.

Ao Nang (N 08°01.606 E 98° 49.028)was a pretty bay with a strip of tourist shops along the water front and a raft of longtails on the beach waiting for the tourist traffic to the islands. We did our Christmas shopping here, hired a motorbike to go to Krabi to get some Christmas supplies of food. The road to Krabi was the most stunning road we have ever been on. The scenery was like that in PhangNa Bay but without the water - lush jungle instead.

Christmas Eve we moved to Railay Bay (N 08°00.404 E 98° 49.956)which is very popular with sailors and climbers and went for a long walk through the forest between the steep hills. We were excited to hear the calls of wild gibbons in the forest - happily wild. Then in the evening we, along with good friends went ashore to look for some Christmas activity. One resort had entertainment - traditional dancing and fire twirling on the beach, then it was a light meal of spring rolls and then home to wait for "Santa".

our anchorage at Railay bay A little shrine in the rocks

another shrine - one for the fishermen yes

they are phalluses

beautifully carved fruit display at Christmas Eve dinner

Christmas Day dawned bright and windy. We spent a quiet morning talking to family and friends. And our one Christmas guest was a huge rhinoceros beetle.

Boxing Day dawned and after breakfast we hoisted the sails and had the best day's sail for many, many months. 7 hours without motor to Chalong Bay. We were back and ready for our new batteries to be delivered.