A Taste of the East Page 3

You know you are in for a different kind of cruising experience when a) the guide book says: “Do not go ashore onto either of the Koh Liang islands. They are sites for the collection of swallow’s nests to make bird’s nest soup. They are patrolled by local Thais armed with automatic weapons;” and b) the charter base manager (ours was Andy Middleton, who runs the Sunsail base in Langkawi, Malaysia)
Author:
Updated:
Original:

From Ko Rok Nok, the nature of the cruise changed as we sailed ever closer to Phuket. The reefs here are increasingly subject to tourist pressure; those close to Phuket are almost completely destroyed. On the other hand, the scenery also became more and more dramatic, with the islands becoming ever more vertical until in every direction we saw limestone cliffs up to 1,00 feet high, riddled with caves, rising directly from the water.

One of these islands is Ko Muk. It has a 250-foot-long twisting tunnel, pitch black once you get around the first bend, which goes through caves with stalactites dripping off the ceiling into a hong–the Thai term for a giant cave in which the roof has collapsed, leaving a circular amphitheater with sheer cliffs rising to the sky on all sides. We saw dozens of these formations as we progressed farther north. Because of its dramatic entry tunnel, Ko Muk is a huge attraction. We found strings of tourists in life jackets, roped together, swimming through the tunnel led by tour guides with headlights. We continued northward from Ko Muk to a secluded anchorage for the night.

Next stop was Ko Phiphi Don, a tourist Mecca where the coral has been utterly destroyed. It was one of the islands that was swept clean in the 2004 tsunami, with great loss of life. We also visited neighboring Ko Pharya Nak, which has a huge cave from which swallows’ nests are collected for bird’s nest soup. The harvesters live inside the cave itself. Immediately to the south is another dramatic hong, called Hong Pileh, which is only accessible by dinghy. We spent the night anchored off the northern end of Ko Phiphi Don, away from the principal tourist areas. There was a fishing village on stilts ashore, backed by dramatic cliffs. Yet another great photo opportunity!

We were now truly sailing into the land of the hongs, with more tunnels and more caves, and ever more dramatic cliffs, islands and scenery, most with not a sign of human habitation. Here and there we found small sandy beaches framed by vertical rock walls with black, white and red stripes. Words and photos cannot capture the drama of Thai geography–like the lionfish, you have to see it to believe it. In most places it was impossible to scale the cliffs to explore ashore. On the one island where we were able to wander, we found an abandoned rubber tree plantation and collected delicious ripe mangoes off the ground. The giant red ants were fierce.

And so we made our way to Sunsail’s Phuket base, where we were welcomed by base manager Ian Hewett and enjoyed a delicious Thai curry in a local open-sided restaurant before catching an early flight home. Our abiding memories are of a cruising area that we now think of as the Virgin Islands on steroids. As in the Virgins, you can sail in protected waters sprinkled with islands, or head offshore on open-water passages. The scenery, however, is more dramatic, the water warmer, the reefs more vibrant, the fish more astonishing, the poisonous varieties more numerous, the heat more intense, the fruits and vegetables more exotic, the local cuisine spicier…

It’s altogether too much to take in during one short cruise. We’ll have to go back.

Related

FB-BHM-1024

SAIL Black History Month Series: James Forten

James Forten was born on September 2, 1766 in Philadelphia to free Black parents Thomas and Margaret Forten. Forten attended a Quaker school as a young child, then went to work with his father who was a sailmaker. His father died when he was still young, and Forten worked ...read more

sailme-app_ SAIL

5 Ways Sail.me Helps You Monetize Your Boat

Ready to earn some extra funds by renting out your boat or yacht? Sail.me is an interactive service that allows you to monetize your boat in a secure, safe, and easy way. A user-friendly app and website will help you manage reservations, add-ons, and set customized routes to ...read more

VendeePromo

2020-21 Vendée Timeline

As a spectator event, France’s Vendée Globe never disappoints, and the 2020-21 edition of the quadrennial round-the-world race was no exception. From equipment failures to climactic rescues, heartbreaking abandonments and a breathtakingly close finish, this edition, which ...read more

valleytrunk3

BVI Chartering in the Pandemic

The week before I flew out to the British Virgin Islands for a bareboat charter, I was having a few second thoughts. The islands had broken out of their Covid-enforced tourism hiatus in December, but the conditions of entry seemed a little stringent: a negative Covid test within ...read more

01-LEAD-windfarm

Sailing Amid Offshore Wind Farms

Here in Europe, the general feeling about green energy from offshore wind turbines has moved on after an initial surge of general skepticism. Concerns raised over cost, threats to seabirds, wind interference and the rest have to some extent been answered, and it’s hard to argue ...read more

LunaRossaPrada

VIDEO: Luna Rossa Wins the Prada Cup

The show has gone on despite last week's Covid panic in Auckland, and the "underdog" Italians are victorious. After being bested by INEOS Team UK in the round robin section, they seemed to have an uphill battle ahead of them going into the finals. However, the Italians have been ...read more

FB-BHM-Cuffe-2048x

SAIL Black History Month Series: Paul Cuffe

Paul Cuffe was born on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts, in 1759. His mother was a Native American woman named Ruth Moses, and his father was Kofi Slocum, a formerly enslaved man from the Ashanti Empire, located in modern-day Ghana. They had 10 children including Paul. His ...read more

Ryan-Finn

Point of SAIL: Ryan Finn on Solo-sailing a Proa Round Cape Horn

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with solo-sailor Ryan Finn, a veteran bluewater passagemaker looking to re-create the famed New York-to-San Francisco clipper aboard the 36ft proa, Jzerro. Although Finn was forced to abandon his first attempt ...read more