… yes really – try the pronounciation!
Peter and Irene on Catspaw had brought our replacement dinghy paddles from Langkawi, and we followed them up the river to Krabi Boat Lagoon Marina which we wanted to see with a view to leaving Pipistrelle there. Though remote and accessed via a narrow channel through mangroves, the marina itself is modern and haulout facilities good. It also enabled us to visit Krabi town and beaches outside Krabi in a hire car, and provision in the supermarkets (Tesco Lotus and ‘Big C’) nearby.
The quality of food we can buy in Thailand, a lot of it western, together with two main international airports, one on Phuket and the other at Krabi, persuaded us that KBL and Thailand provide a better base than Langkawi in Malaysia. If this leaves the impression we are steak and burgers freaks, it is wrong – we are definitely not! Why patronize KFC, MacDonalds and suchlike, when Thai food, cooked by a Thai chef and eaten in Thai surroundings is quite delicious and very reasonably priced. Here some photos:
After a few days at KBL, we said our goodbyes, Peter and Irene heading for Europe, and we south to Koh Pu, Koh Lanta, Koh Muk, and then west via Phi Phi Don to return to Ao Chalong. Koh Lanta is off the well beaten tourist trail, and we enjoyed a few days at a lovely peaceful anchorage at Koh Talabeng with its spectacular cliffs, calm seas and no jellyfish, so swimming in the late afternoon in seawater with a temperature of 34C was a delight.
Lanta Old Town is a quaint traditional Thai fishing community and accessed from the nearby anchorage by rather rickety and dinghy unfriendly steps onto a long modern jetty. There we had a very pleasant lunch at one of the old buildings constructed on stilts.
Koh Muk is famous for The Emerald Cave. You either have to take a kayak through to the huge hong in the island, or in our case snorkel from Pipistrelle, and swim through with a torch held clear of the water to see our way. The tunnel is about 80m long, and as it does not run straight, is pitch black for a considerable time (probably a minute!) and leads to a completely enclosed and circular towering hong complete with a 60m sandy beach. Late afternoon we slipped the mooring to head around to the sheltered east coast, and the fairly shallow but protected bay of Hat Sai Yao. There we spent a couple of nights, dinghied ashore to the Sawadee Resort set on the flat, sandy peninsula where we had lunch and walked through the local Muslim village.
From here we motored back to Koh Lanta and then on to the Phi Phi islands. Phi Phi Le is where ‘The Beach’ with Leonardo de Caprio was filmed. Like the much bigger Phi Phi Don, it is a tourist trap, and several hundred speed boats make their way there every day crisscrossing in all directions, like bees to the honey pot. Both are busy, noisy and not our cup of tea at all, but we found an anchorage at Ao Yongkasem to the north of the main Ton Sai Bay that was peaceful from 1700 onwards and offered clear water with reasonable snorkelling.
Over the last ten years, the Phi Phi Islands have regenerated themselves and recovered to a large extent from the devastation and tragedy of the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004, caused by the massive earthquake west of Sumatra. Though large parts of the area were hit, Phi Phi Don was struck most severely. A popular Christmas destination, it essentially comprises two islands joined by a sand-spit marginally above sea level. The western cliffs were enveloped by two colossal waves that engulfed the north and south bays without warning, leaving the spit under water. In low lying villages there are now signs directing people to higher land – which could be up to 2 km away. Masts carry sirens that act as an early warning system for evacuation.
Back on Pipistrelle, the following morning we left to return to Ao Chalong, a 30 mile sail which turned into another few hours of motoring! In diesel burning company with us was ‘Mabuhay’ from Switzerland with Paul and Marie-Therèse on board. Their son Marcus and granddaughter Jessica had joined them for the Easter holidays. They had been the only other yacht to anchor at Ao Yongkasem, and though we’d known them fleetingly since the San Blas we now had the opportunity to socialise several times.
In Ao Chalong again for the third time we had the inevitable list of ‘things to do’ but knowing the lie of the land better, it seemed a whole lot easier to get ticks in boxes. Yacht Haven beckoned once more, via the island of Koh Naka Yai, this time to the marina, where Pipistrelle will undergo a refit. Extensive work will be done to her teak deck which is showing signs of age, and interior woodwork. Ideally we hope to return her to the pristine state she was in when she left the Wauquiez yard in 2000! More about the refit in a future blog …