After our successful haul out and run down to Malaysia, we came back to Thailand to meet my sister who was flying in from the UK. We spent our first night back in Panwa bay where we met Karel & Phil from Tehani Li and Doris & Rudi from Muk for dinner on the beach. We were going to check in the next day and then go to the airport early the day after, but as luck would have it, there was a public holiday the following day so we headed straight up to Ao Po and stayed the night there. The next morning we picked up a car to go to the airport and pick up my sister Jenetta and then went back down to Au Chalong to check in. Poor Jenetta spent her first day with us running around picking up parts, dropping off laundry, checking-in and all the other things cruisers have to do when they have a car for the day! When she fell asleep in the back of the car we decided we should head back to the boat otherwise she would be up at 2am! She was thrilled to be here – having never sailed before and not having seen Indian Summer – I hope it matches her expectations.
The next day we sailed a couple of miles into Phang Nga Bay to explore the hongs. This area is very special. It has huge limestone cliffs and rock formations rising out of the sea – one some of the islands are caves called ‘Hongs’ that you can paddle a kayak into. Some dry out and you can walk around them, others are like small inland lagoons. They are open to the sky and monkeys live inside them. There are quite a few of them, but we went to Koh Phanak first as it was the nearest island to visit.
We kayaked around a couple of hongs – watching the monkeys clamber over the rocks and entering by going through dramatic caves. These hidden lagoons are all different, most of them dry out at low tide but if you time it right and enter during high tide you find yourself kayaking round these enclosed lakes. They are very popular so we waited until all the tourist boats were either having lunch or had gone home for the day and had them all to ourselves.
We also visited a small stilted muslim village whose sole income is tourism. We wandered around buying some souvenirs for family back home and had lunch overlooking Phang Nga.
We also visited James Bond Island, which is where they filmed The Man With the Golden Gun. We looked for the movie to watch that night but couldn’t find it so we had to contend with our memories. It all came back when we were there – again after 5pm when all the tourists had gone home. We were treated to a lovely sunset and spent about an hour wandering around.
After a few days in Phang Nga bay we headed south to explore some of the southern islands. We called into a bay on Koh Yao Yai island but got bitten by mosquitoes so didn’t stay – we then headed down to Racha. This bay is beautiful with crystal clear blue water and a gorgeous little restaurant overlooking the bay. By lunchtime the next day we were surrounded by screaming tourist boats so we decided to leave and head back to Au Chalong to one of my favourite little beach bars in Phuket – The Beach Bar at Panwa bay.
The week was nearly over, and we had to get back to Ao Po to drop Netta off and pick up our daughter Steph and her friend Orla from Bali. We hired a car and visited the Big Buddha – did some laundry and lunched at the cheapest little restaurant we have yet found. There was only soup on the menu but it was delicious and the whole meal for the three of us cost under $5!
We had a very fast turnaround with only 2 hours between dropping off Netta for her flight to Melbourne and picking up the girls, so we went to the airport bar, had a VERY expensive drink and sadly said our farewells to Netta. It was thrilling to have the girls over though and so we took them to a local market, grabbed some food and headed back to Ao Po where we were staying. Ap Po is a beautiful marina in the north of Phuket. As we didn’t get back until about 9pm, the girls decided to have a swim in the morning before we left. Of course as they had been partying hard in Bali, they didn’t wake up in time and we had to leave before they could jump in. Oh well, there is the whole week to swim!
The weather had turned rotten over night. It was squally, wet, windy and rough. I was sure one or both of the girls would be seasick but to my amazement both of them hung in there and we spent the day rocking and rolling to the island of Phanak so that they could visit the hongs. Because of the rolly seas, they got a local guide to take them in which pacified their mother but the down side was that they only had about 15 minutes inside.
They loved the hong but due to the weather we decided to head south to some beachy places after lunch which would be much more to their liking. The first place we got to was a bay in Koh Yao Yai which had beach bars, clothes shops and massages. We actually spend the afternoon in a bar called Ody’s drinking wine and letting them chill. It was such a lazy afternoon, but Ian & I realised that we had been on the go for 10 weeks now, being on the hard, visa runs, entertaining and we were just as exhausted as the girls. A lazy day was just what we all needed! Later on, I had a massage, the girls sunbathed and Ian went for a walk. We bumped into Jan & Glen from Jennie D on the beach and had dinner with them – back at Ody’s again…
The next day we were sailing along and saw a whole load of inflatable water toys on a deserted beach. We decided to anchor and stay there for the night but then had a visitor on a jet ski. He was Russian and was the owner – he invited us over to have a look at his new venture. We jumped in the dinghy and went over – unaware that we were going to have one of the best afternoons. He was due to open in the New Year and this was a water park – complete with water trampolines, jet skis, kayaks, all sorts of inflatable water toys, restaurants, bars and a zipline in the planning. He then offered to show us around on the quads. We jumped at the chance and spent the next hour or so speeding around this gorgeous little place. Visiting the creek where the kayaking was to be, going up and over the hills to get the views of the bay and ending up racing down the empty beach. It was thrilling and he was so pleased to show it off to us. It is called Duck Ventura and we promised we would tell every one it will be open next year.
Unfortunately he couldn’t come to dinner on Indian Summer that night as he had to go out but it was such a lovely surprising day …
The next day we headed for Railay beach. This beach is a backpackers favourite. There is a lovely walk over to the next day through some very interesting rock formations ending up at a cave where there is an assortment of phalluses on show. The latest trend here is rock climbing and we watched a kid of about 9, scaling a very high cliff. She was fearless – I was frightened just watching her. We had dinner here at a rasta bar listening to reggae music and had a couple of very strong cocktails and headed back to the boat feeling very drunk.
The next day was Christmas Eve. We headed round to the bay we were going to meet up with other cruisers and spent the afternoon swimming and messing around on the beach. We met up with Tehani Li, Jennie D, Max, and Antares for Christmas day lunch on the beach. Karel from Tehani Li had suggested we all produce one present each and play a secret santa with a twist. You can either choose a present from the pile or ‘steal’ a present that someone has already chosen. The twist is that you can only steal three times and then the present stays with the third person. The favourite presents were a set of three smaller tupperware bowls and a larger tupperware container. These presents went back and forth until the third person. We nicknamed this the Christmas dinner tupperware party! Great fun and another great day.
That night we continued drinking on board and spent the night lying on the trampoline. I hate the night before my kids leave – but this one was so much fun I didn’t have time to get too sad. The next day we had to leave early to get the girls to the airport for midday for their flight back to Bali. At about 11am I heard a “OH MY GOD” from Orla as she had just re-read their flight details and their flight was at 10.30 am not 3.30pm! They had missed their flight. We arrived back at Ao Po and had to ring the airline to get their flights changed – luckily they could fly out the next day so we spent another very rolly night at anchor and hired a car the next day to get them to the airport on time the following day. As I knew I would be, as soon as they left I felt sad and deflated. I just love having my kids visit but the feeling when they leave is just awful.
Ian and I had the car for the rest of the day, so we drove around doing boring stuff like laundry, boat stuff, more credit and did our last big provision for India. We are leaving in 2 weeks – wow this year has gone so fast.