|Deadwood in Phuket|
Yesterday we rented a car, not sharing with other friends this time. That is because our friends have cleared out of Thailand and moved on to the Similan Islands to await increasing winds to send them on their way to Sri Lanka. The Similan Islands are a national park of Thailand about 65 miles away from Phuket. We also probably will head there soon. Other friends are currently en route from Langkawi to Phuket but likely will not arrive until after Christmas. So we had a rent car all to ourselves yesterday. And what was the first thing we did? Well, of course, pick up another cruising couple walking in the heat on the very long entrance road from the marina.
I have already forgotten their names, but they are Brits from Guernsey who are participating in the Blue Water Rally round-the-world. Turned out we had planned to go to several of the same places they wanted to go, so they rode along with us for a couple of hours as we visited various chandleries in search of certain brands and models of oil filters and impellers and other such boat candy. And during this process Bill and I learned a bit about Guernsey and Jersey. Guernsey is actually separate from the UK, with their own government and currency and not members of the EU. Enjoyed talking with these folks. They related several problems that members of the BWR encountered in Kupang and Bali. Indonesia turned out to be very expensive for the rally members, well more than $1,000 more than we paid in various Indonesian fees. I think this world renown rally was ripped off royally while in Indonesia.
We dropped them back at Royal Phuket Marina and then visited the Central Festival mall, where we found the nicest and most expensive supermarket on Phuket Island. We went to this mall in search of a replacement battery for my watch. But apparently Rado watches are not sold anywhere on Phuket Island; so when my watch stops I will do without. The nice supermarket had the best-looking cuts of "organic" meats and chicken. We loaded up on as many chicken breast tenders as I thought might fit in our fridge and freezer, plus wonderful thick steaks that we will grill for Christmas dinner. It is too hot to even think about roasting or baking anything normal for Christmas dinner. We will do a tropical yuletide celebration.
Rolly Tasker was not finished cleaning our fore ballooner sail. Somehow the sail bag had been mistakenly placed in the completed section and the work was overlooked. They said they would do it immediately and we could pick it up at closing time at 17:00, which we did. The sail loft could not believe that our sails are almost 8 years old and used for more than half a circumnavigation. Our sails were manufactured by Demi Voile in France and are really good sails. They cost more, but worth the additional cost. Rolly Tasker told us that most sails only last 4 -5 years and that ours look like they should last another 4 or 5 years from now. That was very good news to our ears! All sails are now inspected and in very good condition and back in place on the boat.
Then we dropped off one of our shade awning panels with the Ka-Ka Girls for a zipper replacement. I had noticed that one of the zippers was getting very brittle and teeth are about ready to break off. It must have gotten more direct sun than the other zippers. Figured there was no better time or place than getting it replaced here and now. I also talked with the shop owner about making 2 more shade awnings. He said if we could draw out the specs and email to him that they should be able to finish within only a few days. BTW, almost all the businesses here are open on Christmas Day; but they close for 4 days for New Years.
This morning we measured and sketched diagrams for the proposed fore and aft shade awnings. Bill is emailing the specs to the Ka-Ka Girls shop as I type this blog. If their price quote is anywhere near reasonable then we should have new awnings next week. Then we should be on our way to the Similans and then the Andaman Islands. We learned from the guy in charge of the marina in Cochin that it is possible to visit the Andamans and then go directly to mainland India without waiting the mandatory 2 months between entries. He said the trick is to request a "Domestic Exit" stamp to our visas when we depart the Andaman Islands; and to request a "Domestic Entry" stamp to our visas when we arrive in Cochin. This supposedly allows us to visit both places without being forced to adhere to the 2 month limit between entries. The catch is that one cannot stop anywhere else between the Andaman Islands and mainland India -- that would constitute an International Entry when arriving in Cochin and THAT invalidates the Domestic Exit from the Andaman Islands. Are you confused yet? We did not plan to stop in Sri Lanka or the Maldives before arriving at Cochin, so this is not a problem for us at all. We are delighted to now have the opportunity to visit the Andaman Islands. Given a choice between Sri Lanka or Maldives or Andamans, we would chose the more exotic and less frequented Andaman Islands.
Yesterday we visited the dentist who had been highly recommended by other friends. But to do any of the elective work we were thinking about would take longer than we want to stay here. Phuket is an excellent place for any dental work (and also for other medical needs). Many Australians fly here for dental work because the quality is excellent and the prices superb. Prices are about one-fourth those in the USA. Average price for a crown (cap) for a molar is $200-$225 USD. In Houston last month a dentist quoted $1200-$1400 for the same work. Bill has some fillings that are literally 50 years old, and we thought those should be replaced. Unfortunately, there just isn't time because the dentist said it would take 2 to 3 weeks and we are not willing to be tied down here that long. Sure wish we had known about this dentist when we first arrived in Phuket. BTW, it is within walking distance of Ao Chalong Bay so it is very convenient for boats at anchor. After clearing in with Immigration and Customs, walk down the nearest perpendicular street to the roundabout; turn right and the 32 Dental Clinic is about 1000 meters on the right hand side of the road. Directly across the street is a bank and an inflatable dinghy repair shop. All newly arriving cruisers need to know about this place. There are dental facilities all over the place, but this convenient one comes highly recommended by other cruisers.
This morning we noticed that a newly arrived boat docked 2 slips down from our boat is someone we met way back in Queensland area of Australia. Their son Jaime entertained our grandson Zachary for several days during our sail from Mackay to Cairns. What a surprise to run into them again! They are also headed to the Red Sea and we will talk further with them about our respective sailing plans for the pirate areas.
Now for a few observations.
When shopping around the island we have seen colored eggs that always get my attention. Several stores have had pink eggs for sale. But one shop had green eggs. (Should insert a Doctor Seuss joke here, if I knew one). These appear to be regular chicken eggs except they are colored. The eggs do not appear to be dyed. Something different that I do not understand. We have seen black eggs in Malaysia and are familiar with the speckled eggs found locally. But these pink and green eggs elude me.
Security guards around the island stand at attention and salute people as they drive or walk by their duty stations. Some of them click their heels as they salute, and it always makes me want to say "Achtung" to them as we pass by. Bill, on the other hand, always want to return their salute. He says an un-returned salute is an empty salute. In Patong even the Burger King advertisement shows a guy saluting. We have not seen a Burger King here yet. Maybe they have a guard at the door who salutes customers as they arrive
One day we walked over to Boat Lagoon (the best marina and books up a year in advance). While walking back past the corner 7-Eleven store and gas station, we walked within a few feet of a policeman in the process of arresting a young man on a motorcycle. It was obvious that this young man had attempted to drive away from the gas pump without paying. An undercover cop jumped out of his pick-up truck and yelled at the uniformed cop near the corner. They instantly pulled the young man off that motorcycle and had him spread-eagle on the sidewalk with 2 large guns pointed to the back of his head. Stealing gasoline is obviously taken very seriously here.
Driving around Phuket is interesting and keeps you alert. The outside lane on all busy roads and streets are meant to be used by motorcycles. These lanes are narrower than normal car lanes. These lanes are also often used for parked cars. All this seems very logical. Except for the fact that the motorcycles sometimes go in both directions in the narrow outside lanes. It is obvious that traffic is supposed to flow only in one direction, but the motorcycle drivers just go the wrong way when that is more convenient to them. Every time one parks a car on the side of a road or street, one must look both directions before opening the car door. You expect the traffic to be approaching from the rear of the car, but you might just get hit by the motorcycle coming from the other direction.
We had hoped to leave the marina day after tomorrow (Thursday 23 Dec) to anchor somewhere. Bill said he wanted to spend Christmas at "Ko" Somewhere, at a picturesque beach anchorage---not in a marina. The marina office changed our minds. Due to pro-rata rates of daily vs. monthly, it does not make sense for us to leave the marina until Sunday 26 December. So that is what we will do.
Unless someone invites us to join them for Christmas at anchor, and then plans change yet again.