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                              RACHA ISLAND & PHI PHI ISLANDS                                                                                                 

We left Patong's frenzied chaotic haste behind as we set sail for a few weeks of cruising. Our plan was to sail around Ko Yao Yai, the island that separates Phuket from Krabi, taking in the spectacular PHANG NGA BAY.

There are over 100 islands in the bay, and the geology varies from low gently sloping mountains to the steep outcrops for which the bay is most famous.

Most of the islands are uninhabited, offering secluded anchorages under soaring cliffs fringed with jungle, and while the bay itself is not so large, the number of islands, hidden inlets, caves, hongs and mangrove channels to be explored by dinghy is unlimited.

RACHA ISLANDS

January 2   We had a moderate sail from Patong, with the wind on again, off again. We spent our first night at Ko Racha, an rocky island with few beaches but crystal clear water. We had a great snorkel before heading to the the beach in search of a restaurant. After a short walk to the middle of the island, we came across an open air restaurant. A lively Chinese Thai waiter entertained us with his antics and we had the most incredible "Hot Pan" dish.

Gord on Guitar

After dinner we wandered into a Reggae Bar. Although we were the only ones there, the locals immediately made an attempt to entertain us. Gord joined them with guitar until the regular guitarist showed up. We patiently sat through his renditions until we could bear it no longer!

A punching bag beckoning Chris & Craig in the black of the night.

PHI PHI ISLANDS

January3  

We sailed east to the famous Koh Phi Phi Group of Islands. It was not long before the breathtaking rock formations rising from the vivid turquoise waters that surround the islands came into view.

Phi Phi Lei - Maya Bay

As we approached the smaller uninhabited island of Phi Phi Lei, we could see the activity from sea canoes, long tails and overloaded tour boats that were flooding in and out of the anchorage.  

We picked up a mooring ball in front of the stunning high craggy rock formation backdrop, into which was carved a little sandy beach.

It was such a hot day that we took to the water immediately and spent several hours enthralled by all the pretty fish.

 

Then a trip to the beach which was still crowded by lazing sunscreen-lathered day trippers.

A little sandy path led us past a guano, through the jungle, to the hole in the rock which leads to the other side of the island. Unfortunately, the tide was too low to climb through.

By late afternoon, the tourists departed on the cruise boats and longtails and tranquility returned to the bay


We had no sooner finished our supper when the wind started to pick up. It was not long before we were bouncing around on our mooring ball, frequently getting dangerously close to Labarca who was tied to a mooring next to us. With a threat of the wind picking up and the anchorage becoming untenable, we fought the turbulence and managed to hoist the motor and lift the dinghy on the deck for a fast midnight getaway!

Circumnavigating Phi Phi Lei

Although we had a rough night at the anchorage by morning the seas had settled. We dropped the dinghy back into the water and prepared to scope out Phi Phi Lei by dinghy.

The limestone island is riddled with caves, crevices and inlets that open up into hidden, silent lagoons.

The iridescent turquoise color of the water is pure magic but most impressive is the crazy rock formations. The island looks like a huge candle with rock dripping down its overhangs like wax.

Viking Cave

Just north of Maya Bay is a huge cave, closed to the public, but we could see it clearly by dinghy. The cave is laden with a network of rickety tall bamboo trellises extending upward into the gloomy upper recesses of the cave's ceiling. Skilled workers dangerously climb to the highest reaches of the cave in search of delicate swiftlet saliva nests.

The nests are collected for Bird's Nest Soup, a Chinese delicacy that can bring as much as $1200 US per nest, more $ ounce for ounce than gold!

Bird's Nest Collecting

is big business, lucrative and tightly controlled. The nests, made from the bird's spittle, are so precious that armed guards protect the sites off season to protect the baby swiftlets and the nests from poachers.

Inlets and Lagoons

We diverged through an opening in the sheer sided sea mountains and found ourselves in a serene lagoon which we shared with only a longtail.

At a corner of the lagoon we squeezed through a split in the rock face and immerged into our own little pond. It would have been a paradise if not for the proverbial floating garbage that was trapped in the pool.

We continued to explore crevices and inlets, and tiny sandy beaches tucked unobtrusively in hidden spots.

Continuing to marvel at the abstract artwork formed from the stalactites that hung on the OUTSIDE of the cliffs, we finally came to the site where we had ventured from Maya Beach through the Hole in the Wall. We all had a marvelous snorkel amidst numerous diverse fish and colorful coral in the pristine warm waters of the lagoon.

We returned to Ascension and made ready to head over to Phi Phi Don, the hub of the tourist activity in the islands. Although the tsunami virtually destroyed the main village and tourist area, the island has managed to rebuild and again attracts visitors to its shops, restaurants and resorts.

Phi Phi Don

We secured our anchor in Ton Sai Bay against the dramatic natural beauty of a towering rock wall bounded by a reef.  Speedboats drifted on their moorings in front of the plentiful resorts along the sandy palm fringed shoreline.

Ashore we wandered through the cheap and cheerful tourist ghetto of souvenir shops, mini-marts, dive centers, tour counters, and the like. There were plenty of restaurants to choose from and we had dinner with John & Sue (Ocelot)


Boys' Nite Out

Jan 6     Gord took Chris and Craig bar hopping in Phi Phi Don. I wish they had a camera for all the stories that they shared the next day. Although they had a really good time, Chris and Craig paid the price. Pictured here is their assumed position for the entire day, their only needs being a place to sleep, water and a fan!


Next morn we hoisted the dinghy on deck and set sail for Krabi and Phang Nga Bay

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