Thursday, January 31, 2013

Freedom Way, Way, Way Off the Bay

A note: Internet has been sketchy, at best, until the past few days. So, for all of you watching for travel updates, I apologize for the delay. but, I have been keeping notes and hope to continue blogging as time and free wi-fi allow.
I am also having trouble getting pictures to load, so we will have to do with a narrative until I return home (unless you are my facebook friend -I have been posting a few pictures there.

We have expanded our cruising ground this winter, far beyond the Chesapeake Bay, the ICW and Florida's Treasure Coast. After early two years of anticipation, we spent 9 days earlier this month cruising the Andaman Sea in Thailand. From the beginning I said " If we are going to the other side of the world, we are going to see as much as we can." Thailand would just be the beginning.
So, on January 12 we departed Philadelphia, and after 3 planes rides and about 26 hours we arrived in Bangkok, Thailand late on January 13th. Fully 12 hours, and on the other side of the world, from Philly.

A city of 15 million,Bangkok sprawls in all directions under a smoggy sky:

The next day and a half were filled with Buddhas, temples, Thai food, longtails, pink taxis, tuk-tuks, traffic, traffic, traffic, laughs and adventures. The six of us (Al & Donna Dave & Jenny), were primarily escorted by our sweet guide Ms. Tippy, but we also found our way across the city on our own. It was a fast paced few days and a good introduction to Asia.

On January 16th we flew south to Phuket for the Cruising Club of Americas's National Cruise on the Andaman Sea. After a day and a half at the Angsana Laguna Resort enjoying cocktails by the pool and meeting our fellow sailors, we boarded our chartered 39' sailing catamaran, the 'Moo Shu', and we were off.
Clear turquoise waters, limestone cliffs, white sand beaches, snorkeling, and starry nights marked our days at sea. We thanked the gods of air conditioning for keeping us cool in the afternoon heat, and we praised our "Navi-Guesser" Dave for plotting a route that was scenic and efficient.

While on the water it was hard to picture the water surge, and resulting death and destruction caused by the 2004tsunami, but onshore in the Phi Phi Don area it was evident. At a Muslim fishing village we heard the first hand story from a young man who greeted us at the concrete pier and offered us a personal tour of his village of 70 people. He described the force of the water washing away then old wooden pier across their harbor. Only one life was lost, an in-law of his brother. I believe more lives were spared because many of the towns people were at sea fishing at the time and the children were in school 3Km inland. The remnants of the pier, piles of wood and metal, and new siding on houses
all served as memories of that destructive event. Our visit to that village is one of my most significant memories of our sailing trip. The pride of our guide, the scent of the fish being smoked on large grills in a corner of the village, the sound of young boys pretending that their bikes were motorcycles, the green spires of the elaborate mosque standing in sharp contrast to the humble homes lining the harbor, and the small children saying hello and blowing kisses remain firmly planted in my minds eye.
Back on shore we were happy for a long hot shower, a good nights sleep in a real bed and the chance to hear where other members of the CCA group had ventured during our week upon the Andaman Sea. Despite the fact that there were nearly 150 of us sailing about 30 boats, we only saw a few other boats all week. Some we saw in a distance, and one night we joined a cockpit cocktail party.
After a final goodbye to Phuket, culminating in the chance to launch Sky Lanterns from the beach, it was time to say goodbye to Thailand, Land of Smiles, and head to Cambodia.

Stay tuned for more.....