Ron & Joanne left Pensacola, FL 5 years ago on their Antares Miss Jody. They had originally left for a six month trip to the Caribbean. Somewhere along the way, they lost their direction and now find themselves in Thailand – 7*49’N 98*21’E
Miss Jody and crew have spent the last three months in Thailand. We anchored in Ao Chalong Bay off of the South end of Phuket- Thailand’s most popular Island. There are over 150 boats of all types anchored in the bay. They are spaced 50-100 feet apart until the wind shifts, then it may be closer. We have only been drug onto one time, no damage done. The community along the bay has most everything you might need. Nice grocery stores, cheap restaurants, most with good food. The street leading to the waterfront is lined with bars, touting massage, staffed by beautiful young ladies, offering their services. We have never been in a place where the sex trade is so openly practiced. The locals are very kind and helpful and security is no issue.
We spent time touring the famous Phang Nga Bay. There are over a hundred islands in this area- many of them steep karst [sandstone] outcrops. James Bond Island received it’s name and fame when the Man With the Golden Gun was filmed here. Phi Phi Island is a popular tourist destination and suffered a tremendous loss of life during the tsunami of 2004. We also explored several “hongs” These are areas inside the islands that open up to beautiful bays on the interior of the mountain, accessible only by small caves- many very difficult to find. Every place we anchored we were visited by fisherman selling big beautiful pawns, crab or squid. We enjoyed diving and snorkeling and shelling.
Kristin came to spend time on Miss Jody and explored many of the islands with us. She and I had the luxury of spending two nights at the Hilton Resort- thanks to her Hilton Honors points. We shopped till we dropped and enjoyed several Thai Massages. It was wonderful to get to spend time with her.
Ron and I traveled to Bangkok and Chaing Mai, Thailand’s two largest cities. We toured many beautiful temples and of course did a little shopping. We also spent the day at an elephant park and got to ride through the mountains on Billy, a 30 year old female with her mahout, Suk. My favorite experience was getting to hold a two month old tiger cub and also spend several hours with several bigger tigers. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
We also spent a few days visiting New Delhi and Agra in India. We visited the Taj Mahal- the highlight of the trip. What an amazing place!!! We had been warned about the poverty in India but were still shocked. The shopping center across the road from our hotel looked like a bomb had exploded, cracked and dirty concrete, trash everywhere. The people walking around the stores were nicely dressed and didn’t appear to notice their surroundings. There was a TGI Fridays, MacDonalds and several other nice stores and a huge flat screen TV blasting music videos. There were several homeless people sleeping in the dirt. Such a dichotomy. We traveled by train to Agra -to see the Taj Mahal- and we passed slums built of cardboard, people sleeping in fields and squatting along the railroad tracks using the bathroom. No one seemed to notice as the train sped past. I don’t think we will ever quite get over the shock. It again reminds us how very lucky we are.
We did find frustration with the immigration policy in Thailand. Much of it due to our own decisions and lack of experience. Thailand allows you to stay 90 days and then you have to leave the country. You just have to get stamped out in your passport, enter another country and then you can come right back in. There are entrepreneurs all over Phuket, that organize “visa runs”. Some involve riding a bus for eight hours and then taking a boat to Mynamar. You can get a 15 day extension doing it that way or if you fly out and back- you can get 30 days at the airport. We arrived with a 60 day tourist visa that we got ahead of time from the Thai Embassy in Malaysia. As you can see, this is a money making racket and that we made a nice contribution to- inspite of our best laid plans.
With our initial two month visa in hand, we would be able to go to immigration and get the additional 30 days we needed to stay until the end of December. Well we missed one small very important fact- our sixty day visa was for a single entry. Going to India for three days took care of that. We were shocked when we arrived back in Thailand and were told the visa was no good and they gave us 30 days. This now means that at the end of this new 30 days we will have to leave Thailand. We end up flying to Malaysia and returning to Thailand for the extra time that we need before the weather allows us to head West. This little mistake only cost us $500.00 US dollars.
Of course I can’t leave well enough alone. I realize that my passport will expire September 2011, seems a long way off but looking ahead we decide best to take care of it while we are in Bangkok. So while we are touring Bangkok we visit the US Embassy and apply for the renewal. I will have to fly back in a couple of weeks and pick it up but that is only a $100.00 round trip flight so no worries. The clerk at the counter assures me that they will write a letter for the Thai immigration so they will transfer my Thai visa without a problem. What about my Indian visa, I say? The one I need for us to enter the Andaman Islands on our way to Sri Lanka? I’m told that I will have to visit the Indian Embassy for help with that. No problem they tell me at the Indian Embassy. Bring both passports and we will transfer it for you in 24 hours for $100.00. Now that cheap trip to Bangkok will involve a hotel, etc, etc. Wow! What an adventure.
We are currently waiting for the SE monsoon season to end and the NE monsoon season to begin. This change will make it possible to begin our next leg of 4000 miles to the Red Sea. We hope to make briefstops in the Similan Islands off the coast of Thailand, the Andaman Islands, property of India 400 miles NE of Phuket, then Sri Lanka another 800 miles to the west, then the Maldives 400 miles further to the west, then 2000 miles to the entrance of the Red Sea by March 1, 2011.
We look forward to seeing new places and getting closer to Pensacola, Fl.