Monday, 31 March 2014

South to satun

After a couple of days in Ao Chalong with the wind seeming to increase by the day, we headed across to the more sheltered bay of Panwah Beach. There are a couple of restaurants ashore but not much else, much quieter than Chalong Bay and the tourists. The weather seems to be getting warmer by the week as we approach the change in seasons, and when the breeze drops to nothing, the heat seems to intensify. One afternoon we headed into the large weekend Phuket markets with Lawrie and Karen (Tropicali) and meandered up and down the aisles of clothing and food stalls for hours. They are on the same scale as the Chatachuk markets in Bangkok and you could spend hours and hours wandering around and never find the same spot twice. 
The time is getting nearer to our date for lifting out of the water so we must bid farewell to Phuket and start making our way south towards Langkawi and our destination of Satun on the Thailand/Malaysia border. This is where we will leave the boat on the hard stand and head back to Oz to see family. It has been nearly a year and that's too long for me, I am counting down the number of sleeps until we go.
Our first nights stop is Ko Racha Yai, a sheltered bay on the NW corner of the island. On arrival we can see the lovely white sandy beach onshore, unfortunately covered with the obligatory beach umbrellas and sun lounges, and the fast tourists boats lined up wall to wall. We will just wait until 5.00pm when they will have all left before we venture ashore. 


Ashore for dinner and a walk along the softest sand that we have felt in a long time. The 'Racha Resort' which looked quite impressive from the boat is actually spectacular up close - a 5 star property. What a beautiful place for a holiday, though I think if I were paying those prices, I would not appreciate 500 day trippers arriving early morning and staying until dusk invading my privacy. 

Next nights stop is Ko Rok Nok and this is picture postcard material. We dropped the anchor in the channel between the two islands, and the view was over turquoise waters and white beaches and only a couple of other boats in sight. Paradise !! The sunset was amazing as always and we sat upstairs having dinner and marvelling at our surroundings. It is managed by National Parks and therefore a fee to pay to stay. Not cheap, (400 TB per person and 100 TB for the boat = AUS$30 but will cover for up to 5 days stay) Rich if you were only planning an overnight anchorage so maybe we will stay an extra day to get our monies worth - and the snorkelling is meant to be quite good. 

A broken nights sleep with the anchor alarm going off every couple of hours as we pulled up on the chain to the extent our scope with the tide and wind, that coupled with a local Thai fishing boat that had anchored close to us and drifted within 5 meters at one point, only to all be awoken by us blasting them with an air horn to say "too close, too close". They moved on but you don't really sleep soundly after incidents like that. The hope is to sleep in in the morning.
Our morning peace was broken by the arrival of a fast speed boat full of tourists, both by the noise of the engines and the wake that they create as they zoom past our bow. I am sure they think it is great fun to see if they can roll the yachties out of bed by the wash they create ....ha ha !! And then they came, 10 in total over the next half hour and once again were lined up along the beach. I guess everyone wants a piece of this paradise. Late morning one of the public moorings had become available so we up anchored and moved to the spot. Upon diving it looked to be secure and sturdy and would give us more peace of mind and a better nights sleep than the previous night. 
We spent the day snorkelling and again the fish life was impressive. The water is probably the clearest we have come across yet, so this place has to rank above the Surins islands for us. By late afternoon the speed boats had all departed and the place was peaceful once again. Ashore for dinner to the only restaurant catering for the campers, chicken in ginger and chicken in garlic and vegetables with steamed rice and two beers for 400 TB (AUS$13) - hard to beat. 

So it's away from here in the morning and south to Ko Lipe.
We thought Ko Phayam was our pick of the spots so far, that was until we found Ko Lipe. Meeting up with Totem coming from another direction, we both dropped anchor on the north side of Ko Lipe, the smallest of the main islands in the Butang group. Wow, what a place. As beautiful as Ko Phayam but a bit more happening. Tourism is further advanced here but thankfully the new accommodation has been built in the timber bungalow style and quite in keeping with the setting of the island. The sandy beaches were once again the finest and whitest of grains, the waters aqua turquoise blue and the vegetation lush and green. In the distance we could make out the island of Tarantoa, our mid way point from here to Satun on the mainland. A couple of small restaurants on the beach and our meeting point for sundowners - the Boom Boom Bar. Before that, we followed the dirt road across to the other side of the island, the arrival point for all tourists. This was definitely the busy side with 'long tails' filling the beach and wall to wall caf├ęs, souvenir, dive shops, restaurants and massage salons on shore. Lots of backpackers coming and going - reminded us of Gili Air but maybe a bit funkier. This would be worth revisiting tomorrow. Back across to our side, we settled in to the bar to watch the sun go down behind our boats, the background music was a reggae beat to Pink Floyd's words and music - rather cool !!

Interesting neighbours you move from one to the next?

The next day Behan and I headed back into town for a pedicure, what should only have been a 15 minute stroll. One dirt track looks much like the next one and after wandered around for 3/4 hour and still finding ourselves in the midst of local dwellings, we got a 'taxi' for 100TB ($3) who dropped us right in the main part of town. Now we know where all the old golf buggies from Japanese golf courses end up- they are pensioned off to Ko Lipe as taxis. We then settled in for some pampering and enjoyed an hours pedicure and came out with the best looking toes around. Met the guys for lunch then back to the boat for an afternoon siesta before gathering for sundowners again.



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