january 2010: thailand / singapore / the philippines

Thailand / the Philippines via Singapore (by air) : The Surin Islands to Boracay, the Philippines


Surin Islands (Ko Surin Nua, Ko Surin Tai) – Similan Islands (Ko Tachai, Ko Bon) – Phuket (Bang Tao, Kamala, Kata, Ko Rang Yai, Yacht Haven Marina)
*Tablas Strait and Sibuyan Sea, the Philippines

Jet skiers can be your friends…

A few fireworks. A nightly event.

Fire! Fun?

Six things we have learned

1. The airport “Manila (Clark)” is not in Manila. It is in “Clark”, a town two hours (and US$100) in a taxi away from Manila. The first mate’s fault.
2. In spite of unpromising prospects, the first mate has reached the pinnacle of domestic goddess-ness: she has learned how to bake bread. The best ever. Complete with olives, sun-dried tomatoes and a medley of seeds. Yum. Toya, you are a genius.
3. The average person living in SE Queensland uses more water in one day (approx. 200 litres) than we (both) use in 21 days. [Source: The Courier Mail]
4. Habits are hard to break. After living on Zinc and rationing water for a year now, it is impossible for us to stand under a “normal” shower (i.e., on land) and let the water flood from the faucet. We turn on the tap, get wet; turn off the tap, soap up; turn on the tap, rinse off.
5. Jet skiers are menacing maniacs who deserve to be spiked and racked but (sometimes) they can be your friends (for example, when the engine on our tender conked out and a helpful jet skier towed us 200m back to Zinc).
6. It is tough (yet possible) to mime a small plastic shelled door magnet. In a game of charades with a hardware store assistant in Phuket, we got “door”, then “rubber door stopper”, then “magnet door stopper”, then (finally) “small plastic shelled door magnet”. Phew. Yahoos and high fives all around.

Jules and her bird

Wat Chalong

Big buddha

Five of the best bits

1. Zinc’s hulls cleaned for free…. twice…
(a) A school of little fish ate Zinc’s three inch green beard at the Similan Islands.
(b) The first mate’s mum scrubbed the hulls at Kamala.
[Note: The first mate’s mum is a very good worker but she could not out-do the fish; they were professionals: meticulous, consistent, they even left the anti-foul intact.]
2. John & Juleen do Thailand.
The first mate’s parents joined Zinc for a week to bay-hop the west coast of Phuket. We loved having them on board.
They –
*swam, snorkeled, stand-up paddle boarded (while sitting down)
*island toured, shopped, were dragged along on errands
*walked, dined and were massaged on the beach
*were roused on for bringing sand on board but generally commended for keeping Zinc clean and tidy
*struggled to get in and out of the tender [Note: By the end of the week Jules was springing in and out of the tender with style (better than most people we have had on board). John, on the other hand, did his best moves early in the week…]
3. Beautiful Boracay. The jewel of SE Asia.
Boracay is a tiny island (about 7km long and 1km wide), roughly in the centre of the Philippine archipelago. It sports the best (so we think) tourist beach in Asia – White Beach, great kite boarding and windsurfing, fabulous diving, day spas, mountain biking, horse riding, golf, yoga classes, sailing, chill restaurants and bars serving delicious food and drinks, shopping. Bali and Phuket eat your heart out, Boracay is divine.
4. Kite boarding with Ocean Republic at Bulabog Beach, Boracay. Great instructors, great people, great wind and weather.
5. The first mate’s new full body jumpsuit. Singer?

The skipper, the first mate, the parents (the first mate’s)

The limo home. All class.

Jules scrubbing. John relaxing.

Stand-up paddle boarding sitting down (Juleen’s island in the background)

Three of the worst bits

1. A yachties worst nightmare: we wanted to go home from a new years eve beach party but were unable to do so because our tender was high and dry. We slept on the beach waiting for the tide to come in. Were eaten by mosquitoes. Woke to bugs crawling on our faces. Goodness. What a dreadful way to start 2010. [Note: Luckily the party was fun.]
2. Tourists having “fun” on the west coast of Phuket. Bah humbug.
*Jet skier/banana rider/waterskier/paraglider-funsters. Using Zinc as a turning buoy/obstacle to maneuver around quickly and closely.
*Fire lanterns (comprising a lit candle and wire casing surrounded by rice paper). Released at night from the beaches by tourists (who we surmise leave their brains at home when they go on holiday). The idea is the wind lifts the lanterns into the sky and they float away above the ocean. A pretty sight. Though, what goes up must come down. The components of the lanterns land somewhere as rubbish, always: usually, in the ocean when the flame has extinguished; sometimes on boats, buildings and trees while still alight. Not a pretty sight for the owners of the burning boat/building/tree.
*Fireworks. Every night. Sometimes starting fires. One night we saw two roofs go up in flames.
3. The worst accommodation in the world: 3D Harmony Backpackers, Little India, Singapore. Our room was a dirty noisy smelly box with no windows (but plenty of holes and gaps in the paper thin walls). The first mate’s fault.

Kite city: Bulabog Beach, Boracay

Life is having a great view (e.g., the view from our bed at Mi Sueno on Boracay)

Nature report

*Sea snakes. Three. Sighted while snorkeling at Ko Bon.
*Rubbish. The waters around Phuket are a dump.
*Sea urchins. 20 spikes. Lodging in our feet. They moved in at Boracay. They refused to vacate for some time.

Boracay taxi

Surf report

No “surf” surf to report.

Kite boarding in Boracay was super fun but we are chumps (the first mate more so than the skipper). We can barely kite on flat water and in small wind chop, let alone in surf.

[Note: We are currently surfing on the north shore of Oahu (Hawaii). Check back next month for details and photos of the skipper surfing Waimea Bay.]

Sandcastle magic

The first mate

Dive report

*Surin Islands. Snorkelling: Ko Surin Nua (Same comments as December.)
*Similan Islands. Snorkelling: Ko Bon (A scuba diver checked his depth gauge when he saw us swimming (without tanks) next to him at 15 meters.) Scuba diving: Ko Tachai (Very good. Hard corals and scattered boulders providing great swim-throughs. Colourful fans. The most big fish we have seen in Asia: groupers, trevally, barracuda. Crowded with divers.)
*Juleen Island. Snorkelling. (The first mate and her mum swam a loop around the island. It was “no Great Barrier Reef“ but there were a few interesting creatures: baby barracuda, big jelly fish, big boxfish, a school of small cuttlefish.)

The skipper

Book report

The skipper read:

*We need to talk about Kevin : Lionel Shriver (3 stars)
*Outliers : Malcolm Gladwell (4 stars)
*The symbol : Dan Brown (3 stars)

The first mate read:

*Kingdom of fear : Hunter S Tompson (2.5 stars)
*Outliers : Malcolm Gladwell (3.5 stars)
*Come, tell me how you live : Agatha Christie Mallowan (4 stars)
*The world I live in : Helen Keller (0.5 stars)
*The merry-go-round in the sea : Randolph Stow (4 stars)