Chapter two, phase one -Sailing Happy Eva

Today, we checked out of our luxury home base, Mai Khao Palm Beach Resort. We did some elaborate work provisioning yesterday, and we have lots of really yummy European food, “Farang Food Paradise”. Farang means non-Asian foreigners. It doesn’t feel derogative like “Gringo” in Mexico.

Now a taxi ride to Yachthaven Marina, with all our fear and supplies. Green, our taxi driver is a Muslim. Honest, patient, kind and helpful. He showed us where to shop and waited around while we were trying to figure out what is what and how things work.  Surprisingly good English.

In CheapMarket we shopped for food bags (no ziplock)  and the proper produce, here it means pineapple, papaya, bananas – lots of them, limes, mango and mangustin .

At the Elite office in the Marina, Ulrich is ready to give us the chart talk. Sweat dripping as we load all our luggage and supplies on Happy Eva and receive guidance. The hot season has began and in the middle of the day there is very little escape unless you are in an air conditioned room. The Marina though is one of the nicest we have been in, beautiful, clean, nice deck, modern facilities and an expensive restaurant. Last lunch on land and off we sail.

oz Cast off with the help of the marina crue
Raising the sails
We have the proper colors – joint command: Thailand and Israel
First night anchoring at Koh Yao Yai 16 kiles from Phuket
First sunset at sea

Leaving Pai – too short a stay

Back down the hill to Chiang Mai.

Sad very sad. But we’ll be back. Just enough bustle. Just enough hip. We do raise the average age of every room we enter.

We spent a lot of fun time with the Two Roses. Very fun and thoughtful girls. Red Rose  is on our bus back to Chiang Mai. She flys home to Australia really soon. Too sad. We had a lovely good bye dinner together in which we shared dare travel stories. Rose Lily from Birmingham, UK stayed for a couple more days for more adventure. We will  meet again for her good bye dinner in Chiang Mai’s falafel restaurant down the street from our hotel.

Chiang Mai is very hip- the Boulder of North Thailand.

Our train arrived forty-five minutes late. Quick two-row ride (small pickup truck with two facing rows of seats, covered) to Arbol’s place, “honestly”, owned by a newly-expat Chinese. Not ideal. We’ll see.

Sunset on the train 10 hour ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Our Chinese host gave us a ride to a down home Thai restaurant. A very late dinner, Thai all the way, good and cheap.

Breakfast hunt found Japanese-Mexican (whatever this means) style, Suzu Cafe, open with good coffee and omelettes. The “Tacos baguette” has no tortilla, but beans, rice, cheese on a toasted baguette slice.

We’re near the airport take-off path. A problem.

it’s Makha Bucha. Look it up!

Departure from Bangkok

To my huge surprise, I really like Bangkok. Why why?

It’s vibrant and real. Lots of levels, from tides of Asian tourists in modern fancy hotels to very poor streets.

That mall, centalwOrld. I actually wanted to shop there. And we did. uniqlo. And an optometrist shop fixed my venerable Serengeti sunglasses for nothing.

Our long-day tour guide, “Om”, was a Buddhist monk for a year, a while back. He looked exactly like a monk should look. In fact, exactly like Buddha. Including smile. And Buddha’s we saw — in all sizes, positions, glorious temples and Grand Palace.

I had a great meal at a building-top restaurant, “Chyna”. Ori was ill, so I owe her a night out in Bangkok. I walked home, through the streets by the station. Pretty grim, but felt safe.

We checked out, smoothly. Tuk-tuk to the station, found our platform. On schedule – we don’t want to miss the train – a long scenic ride to Chiang Mai. I’m looking forward to it. I love trains.

Traveling heavy. We didn’t do laundry in the hotel. In Chaing Mai it will be much cheaper.

On our way to Chiang Mai. Picking up passengers as we leave Bangkok.

On the train, second class, there is complimentary service of buns (filled with bean paste) and drinks.

Our speed is better than most Amtrak trains.

Bird-watching from the train. Herons, ducks, osprey and other raptors.

The Dogs of Salad Beach

There’s a pack of dogs that wander the community and beach of Salad Beach. No collars, healthy-looking, very well behaved. Do they belong to anyone?

They wander the beach, sleeping, of course, a lot. Begging food from the diners and their tables. Always polite. Responsive to “No” – they simply wander off. They understand English. Not everyone here does.
They are all the same size and the same indeterminate breed. Tan, maybe white with black markings.
We like them. Ori has her favorite, which she feeds fish.

A Boat trip to Bottle Beach

Well, we swam at Bottle beach but we really liked snorkeling at Khom beach and Kho Ma beach stopping for lunch at Chalok Lum beach. And

in case you wondered – all of them are your dream picture of a white sand, tropical paradise.

We chartered our very own longboat with boat-driver. The one in charge of the business had to go to the doctor for a routine check of her four-month pregnancy. The boat-driver was her husband. Congratulations all around.

We drove over increasingly high waves for about half-an-hour to Bottle Beach to swim. Very remote, calm and peaceful. I learned that there is a place too remote and peaceful even or me. Very beautiful, like all these bays.

We could not go to Thong Nai Pan Yai Beach, which Matan recommended — too much swell on the east side of the island. Next time.

Then we headed back for the best of the trip: snorkeling. At Haad Khom and Haad (which means beach in Thai) Mae. Just fantastic snorkeling, jumping straight from the boat. Lots and lots of species of healthy reef fish. Big schools of Rabbit fish. A school can cruise along, in tight formation, until there’s a signal (?) and most converge on a rock covered with coral and begin feeding. A ball of swirling yellow and silver. Fish are upside down, tilted sideways, washed by small currents, curled into tight curves. Smaller fish hover on the edges, feeding on the debris that the Rabbitfish have kicked up. Then the school swoops on.

An occasional Butterfly fish too. Incredibly bright Damselfish. A Parrot fish, showing off its iridescent greens and blues.

When we discovered a huge school of yellow and black striped fish, we followed them on their meandering after reef food. First it looks like they attack the coral all at once and then continue to the next spot in perfect orderly manner. We both were hypnotized completely mindless of time.

These too

I find that I come to exist completely below the surface. Breathing effortlessly with snorkel. Diving down every now and again, rising by natural buoyancy, breaking the surface only with snorkel to clear and continue breathing. I become a water-mammal. For a loooong time.

Day Trip to Koh Tao (and another island)

I’ll skip to the good stuff.  We snorkeled off the boat close-in to Koh Tao.  Fantastically beautiful coast line.  Great great snorkeling.  Coral reef in perfect condition.  I think I saw thirty species of coral fish, including the ever-amazing Parrot Fish.

On Koh Nangyun
I’m trying to be a bandit Mexican boatboy
Wandering, looking for snorkeling

Koh Tao was the big deal

Our fifth Phase – Villa Cha-Cha, Salad Beach (This is the actual Thai name-forget about the healthy green stuff), Koh Phangan

We boarded the ferry smoothly, after a two-hour taxi ride from Khao Sok to Surat Thani (private, to avoid innumerable stops). The ticket voucher from Montania hotel quickly became real (pretty) tickets for the ferry. Comfortable outdoor waiting area, filled with excited travelers. We had fruit shakes and then boarded, wearing our “Koh Phangan” stickers proudly.

Imagine three islands on the east side of Thailand planted in the midst of the South Chinese Ocean. Koh Phangan is the middle island, also known as a desirable Israeli destination. Yes! We found them – the Israelies.

Transfer smoothly to taxi to four-wheel-drive to Villa Cha-Cha at the end of a windy road. Always everything runs smoothly, with predictable schedule and costs. Thailand is that way, gentle, graceful and with a sense of order and cleanliness.

Our room on the second floor is spacious and comfortable. We have almost figured out how to use the air-conditioning (mazgan) correctly. Breakfast included, but Ori unhappy with offerings — we’ll remedy that.

Breakfast at Cha Cha

Yes, that is indeed sushi.

Sunset over the water. A more-glorious-than-usual sunset with ripples of clouds in the sky, echoing the ripples on the water. New moon over the Gulf of Thailand. No pictures last night, but stay tuned.

Dinner on the beach, candles and dripping lights, which I actually like. Not crowded, but we’re early birds, finishing dinner by 21:00.

Ori has two spiritual direction sessions, early morning – to accommodate clients in vastly different time zones. The WiFi connection spotty and not very reliable.

The bay, about a kilometer across is beautiful, but the swimming only so-so. Shallow water, lots of sea cucumbers (more than a little disgusting). I snorkeled right out and through the abundant seaweed. Mistake. The crunchy species is irritating to the skin, especially to the exposed shaven head. Careful! I saw a small bit of coral, some fishes. Minimal reef.

We’ll start exploration of the island today. Will we make the trek to Bottle Beach, or water taxi? Scooter is probably not good for the challenging road around the island. It turns out, the road does not circle the island — there is a gap where you must trek to Bottle Beach. Oh my.

We’ll plan a full-day snorkeling trip to Koh Tao and Koh Nanguyan. Lots of the Angthong Marine Park – on many islands of the archipelago.

Tonight we will celebrate our third Shabbat in Thailand. Dinner on the beach includes candles. We will bless the wine and the bread.

Shabbat Shalom!

Sunsets are not too bad here.

We return to Khao Lak National Park

On the edge of the park, deep in the jungle we stay at an exceptional resort Montania Lifestyle Hotel — with fantastic views of three “phanoms” (limestone cliffy peaks), swimming pool just in front of our cabin, attentive staff.  On our first day, Ori and I took Thai massage with Herbal compress.  Everytime, take Herbal compress!  It’s like hot herby rocks pressed on all the places of your body that you want pressed.  Ori and I lie on two tables, with two young Thai women working on us.  We chat a little.  We hear the soft music of their sweet Thai voices during the whole massage.

Breakfast included, is great for me: vegetables, tropical fruit, scrambled eggs, white toast.  Sitting on the Elephant Freedom Veranda, listening to the jungle birds.  The maitre’d asked if I liked Thailand, and I said “I’m not ever leaving.”  Give me a house in the jungle close to the beach and I’m happy forever.