A Taste of the East Page 3 - Sail Magazine

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:
Publish date:
east_intmarket

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!

east_intfam

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.

thai_map

Related

SouthernOcean

The 50th Anniversary of the Golden Globe

Here we go! The 50th anniversary of the Golden Globe, the first singlehanded nonstop round-the-world race, is upon us. On July 1 one tribute event, the Golden Globe Race 2018, will start out of Les Sables d’Olonne, France, with a fleet of 19 amateur skippers setting out in ...read more

180621-X01-Landing-Page

Volvo Ocean Race Cliffhanger

After racing over 44,000 miles round the world and battling their way past the world’s great capes, including the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, it’s all come down to the final 700-mile leg from Gothenburg, Sweden, to the Hague. Brunel, Mapfre, Dongfeng: going into the ...read more

Stearns Photo

Racing the Solo Mac for a Cause

There are plenty of reasons to do a Chicago-Mac race, and Rich Stearns, who has done literally dozens of ‘em should know. This year, though, he’s doing the Solo-Mac for an especially important reason: to help those with prostate cancer.“Two years ago, I was diagnosed with ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comRafting dangerOne unseen danger when sailing yachts lie alongside one another for a convivial night is that if they happen roll to a wash or begin to move in an unexpected sea, the spreaders can clash ...read more

180615-01 Lead

A Dramatic Comeback in the Volvo

After winning three of the last four legs in the Volvo Ocean Race (and coming in second in the fourth), Dutch-flagged Brunel is now tied for first overall with Spanish-flagged Mapfre and Chinese-flagged Dongfeng following the completion of Leg 10 from Cardiff, Wales, to ...read more

MFS-5-2018-Propan-SP02

Tohatsu LPG-powered 5hp Propane Motor

Gassing it UpTired of ethanol-induced fuel issues? Say goodbye to gasoline. Japanese outboard maker Tohatsu has introduced an LPG-powered 5hp kicker that hooks up to a propane tank for hours of stress-free running. Available in short-, long- or ultra-long-shaft versions, the ...read more