Phuket and Bangkok, April 22-26
up the boat after two months aboard was no minor task, and we had the rented
scuba tanks and compressor to return as well. Around midday on April
22, after many dinghy trips ferrying stuff ashore, we bid farewell to Cyrene. We were all a little sad -- she's a superb boat for
sailing and living, and we had grand adventures -- but everyone was
ready for a nice long shower, and the boat was ready for some serious maintenance before spending more time at
sea. A few days later, the first storms of the rainy season hit
the Andaman Sea, so we didn't finish any too soon.
We cleared Thai immigration and customs once again, and then just to keep things exciting we discovered one last logistical complexity: Any boat crew arriving internationally, but wishing to leave Thailand other than on their boat, must visit a special office, fill out special forms, show a plane ticket out of the country (which we purchased hastily when we discovered the rule), and post a bond that's returned after departure. We've yet to figure out the exact rationale for the policy, but we assume there is one. In a shrewd move, Jennifer and the kids were listed as passengers rather than crew, so only Alex was subject to this process.
In the previous travelog we reported that, according to the bevy of seasoned sailors who seem to be permanent fixtures at Chalong Bay's Lighthouse restaurant, we were the first bareboat charter to visit the Mergui Archipelago, ever. Sailor talk now has it that we were also the first bareboat ever to visit the Andaman Islands. Mainstream sailboat charter companies like Sunsail and The Moorings would never let their boats cross international borders, nor would their boats be allowed to venture that far from home base. The only way we were able to pull this off was with the incredible flexibility and help offered by Cyrene's "hometown" owners, Latitude 8 Yachts. Partly, Latitude 8 has a more laissez-faire attitude than the big companies (which had some corresponding down sides, such as a few large end-of-charter charges the new manager had neglected to notify us about -- in the end we negotiated a satisfactory compromise). But it's also the case that Latitude 8 worked very diligently with us, and on our behalf, to make this unusual trip possible.
We spent about 24 hours in Phuket taking numerous showers, getting our laundry done, and visiting with our old friends at Baan Suay guesthouse (including the pool table; photo 1) and down the street at Pro-Tech Dive College. We were almost as sad to leave that little neighborhood as we were to leave Cyrene. Baan Suay's owner Suporn, previously a professional hair stylist, even gave Tim a farewell haircut -- note Tim's short and chic coif in the photos.
We then flew to Bangkok and spent four nights in what's displaced our beloved Barcelona "aparthotel" as best accommodation of the travel-year. In the conveniently located Somerset Park Suanplu hotel, we had a huge, modern, two-bedroom two-bath apartment with living room and kitchen (the latter unneeded thanks to an expansive breakfast buffet plus delicious food on every street corner) and sweeping views over Bangkok in two directions. It was one of those web-search flukes -- after hours finding nothing but high prices and a dearth of family-friendly rooms, Jennifer stumbled upon this place on one of the many Asian hotel booking sites at a surprisingly low price. It looked too good to be true, but apparently it wasn't; we all thoroughly enjoyed the post-boat luxury.
It was Alex and Jennifer's third time in Bangkok, and the second time for the kids, although they were young enough the previous time (4½ and 6 years old) that they remember only bits and pieces. We visited some old favorite sights as well as a few new ones, ran some errands, and, remarkably, slept late and didn't feel a need to pack activities in every second:
With a few days of reliable internet we've finally caught up on photo uploads. There are a lot of photos in total, and despite considerable pruning of the collections, a lot of them seem to look a lot alike. (For one thing, each set finishes with a bunch of underwater photos.) Take a deep breath before starting: