Land travel and new sailing adventures

Our sailing adventures over for 2017, we embarked on some land travel in November, leaving Bali Hai on the hard standing in Rebak Marina, Langkawi, in Malaysia.

Bali Hai goes on “her holidays”

First stop was a flying medical visit to the island of Penang where we also met up with yachtie friends from Charon and Shakti. Thanks to a recommendation by the Charons we stayed at the he excellent boutique hotel Le Dream and enjoyed a great Chinese meal together at the wonderful Tai Tong restaurant in Georgetown.

Dinner with the Charons and the Shaktis

Leaving for Vientiane in Laos in early November we travelled from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur then from KL to Bangkok- a convoluted route but it was a lot cheaper than any of the other options.

The colourful streets of Vientiane

Poor Laos – the country was bombed to hell even though it was never at war.

Tragically many innocent people continue to lose their limbs from ordnance in their agricultural land and near their homes

Monks in Vientiane busy repainting their temple

Keeping fit on the banks of the Mekong River

We spent a few days exploring Vientiane before taking a mini bus to beautiful Vang Vieng where we stayed right on the river at the Elephant Crossing Hotel which had spectacular views over the mountains.

The glorious view from the Elephant Crossing Hotel in Vang Vieng

These mountains are riddled with caves

Many of the caves have an mage of Buddha near the entrance

This one was called the elephant cave for obvious reasons

After an adventurous few days caving, tubing and hiking we climbed on a minibus again to drive to Luang Prabang.

A group about to go tubing in a cave at Vang Vieng. Such fun and being in a group of two our guide took us deeper into the bowels of the mountain.

A short but pleasant hike after exploring a number of caves

No one could have prepared us for the breathtaking views that we experienced as we crossed the mountain ridges. The journey would have to rate as one of the most fabulous I have ever experienced. Thanks to the Yantaras for recommending the ride without talking it up. It totally exceeded expectations.

Looking back at the hair pin bend we had just traversed – hair raising!

Such a glorious view!

Luang Prabang is a gorgeous town situated where the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers meet. The French colonists left a legacy of gracious architecture and fine dining and this mixed with the natural beauty of the town, the many outstanding Buddhist temples and the lively markets makes it a bucket list destination.

The view from our hotel in Luang Prabang

Left behind when the French left Luang Prabang

A typical alleyway in Luang Prabang

There are many French villas in Luang Prabang

Busy streets but just a stone’s throw away…….

……a serene and quiet stretch of river

Coincidently the Shakti crew arrived in Luang Prabang the day we did and we enjoyed some great meals together and shared a wonderful day at an elephant camp.

Many beautiful temples and lots of traditional Laotian architecture to enjoy

The bamboo bridge close to where we stayed

We also spent a delightful day at the Kiang Si water falls. Although pretty crowded, the falls were spectacular and definitely a must-see destination.

The Kiang Si water falls were spectacular

We loved visiting these majestic creatures

From Laos we flew to Vietnam stopping overnight in Hanoi and leaving our heavy suitcases at our Air B n B before heading for the royal city of Hue.

It rained cats and dogs in Hue

The Citadel was flooded

Sadly we had constant rain the whole time we were in Hue so we’re unable to do much sight seeing although we did spend a day exploring the royal citadel which was very enjoyable except for the thorough drenching we received.

A sodden royal citadel

…but beautiful inside

Water water everywhere!

Back in Hanoi it was family time – many of our wider family gathered there to attend the wedding of one of our nephews. We had a wonderful time celebrating twice over – first at a Western style wedding and then a traditional Vietnamese style wedding day.

All too soon it was time to move on again – this time to Brisbane where we stayed with our son and partner. Over the Christmas period we were joined by sailing friends Jan and Jack from Anthem who had flown in from Darwin for the occasion. While they were with us, we met up with Cindy and James from You You who were also home for Christmas.

Christmas festivities

Yachties coffee date

After a busy month in Brisbane catching up with family and friends it was time to be reunited once again with Bali Hai.

We arrived back at Rebak Marina on 10 January to Bali Hai looking the bees knees with her hull polished, her bottom anti fouled and with a very smart brand new propeller. Ready and waiting for the Thailand Rally starting on 15 January 2018.

Always so good to catch up with our sailing buddies

The romantic tale of a recaltricant engine and a happy love match

Penuba, one of the stops in the 2015 Sail2ndonesia Rally, is a small, sleepy town on Pulau Selayar in Riau Province. 

Penuba from the water
We had been made very welcome there during the rally and had enjoyed staying in its well protected and deep harbour which had been highly prized by the Dutch well over a century earlier. 

The rear of the shop houses built by the Dutch on reclaimed land
One of our 2015 rally fleet members (a German born Canadian) had spent longer than he intended there due to engine trouble. In fact he was late in arriving due to engine problems and was forced to return after leaving to catch up with the fleet, as his engine was still playing up. 

Thelassi, our friend’s yacht with the recalcitrant engine
On this return visit he was helped by a young lady who lived with her family in Penuba and spoke excellent English. She was very happy to help our friend find the mechanics for the job using her father’s excellent connections. 

The jetty at Penuba where we parked our dinghies

The rest as they say, is history. They are now happily married and live in a very pleasant, cosy, beachside cottage on the adjacent island of Pulau Singkep, just minutes away from the main town Dabo. 

The beautiful view from the happy couple’s home

We had last seen our friend at Rebak Marina in Langkawi, Malaysia in November 2015 so we were looking forward to catching up with him and also to meeting his wife. 

Walking in the dusk in Penuba

We arrived in the early afternoon and went ashore just as dusk was approaching. Much to our dismay the great little restaurant where we had eaten during the rally was closed – as was every eating place (and there are only about three) in Penuba. Apparently we had arrived on the eve of an important religious holiday!

The Chinese temple

We walked along the small main street which had been built on land reclaimed by the Dutch. The timber walkways and shops are very rickety and look like there hasn’t been much maintenance work done since the Dutch left! 

The rickety walkway over reclaimed land at the entrance to the shop houses
However, each shop is a magnificent rabbit warren of all kinds of goods from fresh fruit and vegetables, to umbrellas, engine oil, notebooks, rice, hats, dried fish, plastic bowls, rope, snack foods and sweets (candies or lollies), pots and pans and brushes – anything you could think of. 

Pretty sure you could buy all the essentials of life here (except for wine!)

We wandered around the waterfront rather disconsolately (we were looking forward to eating off the boat!) but just after we past the Chinese temple as we heard a disembodied voice coming from the shadows in the half light calling our names. It was our friend and his wife!

A lantern in the Chinese Temple
The happy couple

Later on we made a scratch meal with the Yantaras and had a great reunion on Bali Hai. 
The following morning we were inundated by children from the stick village on the tiny island off Penuba town. Apparently their families were Orang Laut (literally Sea people) who at one time lived on sampans but some years ago were granted permission to build homes on the island. 

The children arrived in sampans which they carefully and capably manouevred round to avoid damaging our top sides
The children were so beautiful- happy, enthusiastic, eager to learn, polite and full of energy. They loved being shown round the boat, especially having the water maker and the chart plotter explained (through sign language mainly). 

Our happy visitors
You could tell that they were born to be on the water – even some very tiny ones rowed out to our yachts and they all hopped in and out of their quite unstable sampans with dexterity and confidence. 

Born to it! The children were so nimble and confident on the water and around boats
The first to arrive, two girls and two boys, were happily settled when another five arrived. And then another three. After that they kept on coming and we had to ask some to leave to make room for the next three sampans incoming!

A boatful of visitors
At one point there was so many kids and twice as much confusion and one poor little one (he can’t have been older than four) was left behind. Capt’n Birdseye hoisted him into the dinghy and his sister rowed her sampan back to pick him up. 

This little one got left behind! I almost kept him he was so cute.
In the end we had to ask them all to leave as we had an important lunch date to get to so they obediently filed off the boat clutching their notebooks and pens we had given them as though they were the Crown Jewels. 

Andaman Islands here we come!

We had planned to leave Thailand for Port Blair in the Andaman Islands – the furthest outpost of India that allows visiting yachts – on Friday 17 February. This would have given ample time for provisioning and last minute service checks for the three yachts travelling together – Yantara, Smart Choice and Bali Hai and get us in to Port Blair on Monday 21 February. 

Plotting our leaving date

However, as we have learned previously, when it comes to yachts you can never rely on everything coming together in the way you expect. 

A relatively minor but painful medical issue and a recalcitrant auto helm (self steering) delayed us and plan B was to leave on Monday 21 February.  

It was great for the Bali Hai contingent as it gave us lots of time to service the boat engine, cook and freeze some evening meals for the trip and get a few maintenance jobs completed. 

Beautiful Nai Harn Bay

It was also great to get to know Nai Harn Bay and enjoy some lovely walks, including over the saddle of land (up a very steep hill!) that separates Nai Harn Bay and Ya Nui Bay. 

The skipper walking across the saddle of land

On top of the cliff is a huge white windmill that generates electricity for the local area and which is a landmark for all the boats anchored in the capacious bay below. 

Top of the hill!

Hang gliders jump off the cliff and catch thermals like massive colourful eagles. We watched heart in mouth as they appeared to swoop perilously close to the sails of the windmill. 

Hang gliders perilously close to the windmill

Sightseers and local teenagers arrive on motor bikes to marvel at the view or seize the opportunity for a kiss and a cuddle away from the prying eyes of parents. 

Down the other side is a small beach much favoured by families for its soft sand, fewer crowds and safe swimming. There are a handful of cafes here where we enjoyed a few good value and tasty meals – notably with the Yantaras and Smarties on a couple of occasions. 

Photo opp! Yantara and Smart Choice taking a photo of…..
….this vehicle – a strange sight for Phuket

Plan B didn’t quite work out and our departure was delayed once again but we didn’t mind. We sailed back to Ao Chalong and did a little more shopping and bought fuel from the barge in the middle of the bay. 

Lovely sunset at Ao Chalong

We checked out of Thailand on Wednesday and went back to Nai Harn Bay. It wasn’t a hard place to be – at all!

At this bar you can keep cool while you drink

Or sit out on a deck with fabulous views

As well as enjoying meals at some of the local restaurants we were able to rest and recuperate after the busy-ness of our trip to India. 

Watching the sunset from the deck bar

There were gorgeous sunsets to enjoy and we even saw the “green flash” – a phenomenon only seen under particular conditions when the sun sets. This was my second time, the first being in Hoga Island, Indonesia in 2015. 

Another chocolate box sunset

By Friday 24 February all three boats were ready and raring to head for the Andaman Islands. Final repairs done and medical issues resolved we convened a little way out to sea outside Nai Harn Bay around midday and started the first of what was to be a passage taking three days and nights. 

Andamans here we come!

Andaman Islands here we come!

For more about our trip to the beautiful and fascinating Andaman Islands go to:

The “Joy” of giving

Our friends had left but we had so enjoyed our time on Koh Yao Noi with them that we decided to stay on for another couple of days. 

A beautiful view of karsts, a long tail and Bali Hai
To get around the island you really need to hire motor bikes which was what we did. I was almost feeling like a natural by this time!

Hardly an Easy Rider

Our first point of call (in the pouring rain) was Joy’s boutique and then on to call in at a few other shops to do some Christmas shopping .

The Joy of giving!
Joy had some lovely gifts for sale and we bought quite a few Christmas presents plus some clothes for me! Joy makes shopping at her little store a real pleasure. I was so surprised when she very sweetly presented me a dressing gown as a free gift- how’s that for great sales technique? The “Joy” of giving!

My gift from Joy
We spent some time exploring parts of the island we hadn’t managed to visit before, driving passed emerald green paddy fields stretching as far as the eye could see, with water buffalo wading and wallowing through the watery paddies. 

Paddy fields stretching into the distance

After a while we arrived at a traditional fishing village where all the houses were built on stilts.

Traditional fishing village in Koh Yao Noi

Very young kittens. You can certainly see how Siamese cats have been bred from the forebears of these beauties
We stopped at a tiny little cafe and had marvellous meal of coconut soup with fresh prawns, greens and of course lovely spices.

Our lunch stop – we were the only guests!
After an enjoyable day riding we dropped the bikes back and looked for somewhere to have dinner. 
Evening light on Bali Hai
It was getting dark, and as we walked along the road we wondered why everything seemed closed. Then we realised that not only was it a Monday night but also the night before the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Adha when it is traditional for people to eat dinner with their extended family.

Darkness is about to fall
It started to become really dark and then it started to pour with rain. The only place open was a beach restaurant where we had enjoyed a cold drink earlier and which had just two tables under cover – both full! So we headed for the one and only  bar that was open and waited for the rain to stop. 

The beach cafe during the day

After a time we decided to wander back to find our dinghy and as we went passed the beach restaurant found that there was a table free. We weren’t going to starve after all!

The cafe’s cat advises me what to order
The food was delicious and we noticed for future reference that all cocktails at the beach restaurant were 400 baht (Aus$7.50 or £4.70 each!)

This is the place to buy a cocktail! The have a woodfired pizza oven too

Six go exploring in Koh Yao Noi and discover the secrets of Sabai Corner

Six in a tuk tuk

It was a grey and rainy day on the first day of our friends’ visit to spend time with us on the good ship Bali Hai so we decided that wheeled transport on land was the way to go to allow the six of us to explore the island of Kao Yao Noi. We hired a tuk tuk to have a look round and at the skipper’s insistence, to the delight of some of the crew members and the trepidation of others went to hire motor bikes.

Serious negotiations with Joy to hire motorbikes
First though, there was something more important to accomplish, massages all round to soothe the travellers’ weary bodies. Although quite a small island – and when we there, really quiet – we were spoiled for choice and between us managed to sample a good variety of establishments from the most basic (and great value) to the most luxurious and rather more expensive ones (but still less than half the price of other countries such as Australia and the UK).

Capt’n BirdsEye shows us how it’s done
We followed the skipper’s advice to hire our bikes from Joy, who owns a boutique where she sells lovely clothes and exquisite fabrics, quite unlike the things sold at other shops that are virtually all the same (and probably imported from India). Most of her clothes are handmade by Joy and a band of local ladies and she also has some interesting trinkets and gifts on sale.

A couple of items we bought at Joy’s shop
With two bikes to take then and the rest to follow the next day we took off to see some of the island on bike and tuk tuk.

The skipper following the tuk tuk on his newly acquired motorbike
First stop was the Sabai Corner Bungalows which had a very interesting restaurant and bar – the remarkable thing being that none of us observed the obvious until we had visited several times. Can you see what we failed to notice?

Maybe we are too busy to see what is right in front of our eyes?!
Maybe it was the light?
I think you should see it now
Gradually the secrets of Sabai Bungalows were revealed to us – once we saw one phallus we started to see them everywhere – carved in wood I hasten to add.

How did we miss that?!
All of a sudden we were careful where we put our supporting hand if we were having a lazy lean against something!

But wait  –  there’s more!
After predinner drinks at one of the resort bungalows, we went for dinner at the Rice Paddies restaurant, run by voluble host Frank.

The view of rice paddies from the restaurant
The food was authentic Thai and quite hot – even the milder dishes had a decent bite to them. Tiny little bats flew in and out of the restaurant to nibble at a banana left for them. Frank’s two dogs, looking far too lean and healthy for restaurant dogs, kept us company as we ate.

The tiny little bat eating a banana
One of Frank’s dogs
Six went to bed happy after a their first day exploring Koh Yao Noi. For the visitors the lure of massive beds and outdoor bathrooms with rainforest showers was too much so it was just the two of us who retired to the boat. Despite the squally conditions, it was as always, good to be back on board.

Bali Hai awaiting our return