Exploring Phuket – part 2

Tuesday we had another day by the pool…..very nice!   In the evening we wandered back to Bangla Road, ate at a local restaurant, and sat and people watched. We were constantly being hassled by local hawkers and, this time, we gave in. Richard got a young girl to make him a Morpheus wrist band and I got another bangle.

We should have done this sooner as we just showed our latest purchases to everyone else that came behind and they left us alone LOL. We had dinner at a local restaurant followed by a couple of beers in Mollys listening to live music before heading back to our hotel.

Wednesday we went on a fast catamaran day trip. We relaxed in our room for a while in the morning awaiting our 11.30 am pick up. We travelled to Ao Por Grand Marina and were met by our tour company who then issued us with sarongs, towels and beach shoes for the day and we settled down to a buffet lunch while we waited for other guests to join us. Once everyone was there we were taken down to the docks and boarded the boat, settled into the seats, and the captain took off. It was interesting (well it was for us!) that they had a chart plotter repeater in the main saloon. We watched the captain ramp up the speed and the depths were pretty shallow, which reminded us of the Bahamas.

We enjoyed the spectacular scenery along the way before we made our first stop at La Wa Island. We had hoped for a beer bobbing session but no alcohol was served on the island as it was part of the Phang Nga national park. Never mind…..it was lovely to just bob around in the Andaman Sea.

Back on board – being transported by a traditional long boat – we took off again to Hong Island. Here we were taken by kayak through the limestone tunnels and caves. Very serene place despite the huge numbers of other tourists LOL.

Back to our mother ship and we had a beer on board while we travelled to James Bond island for some photo opportunities. Again more stunning scenery. This place is just plain beautiful.

On the return trip we went very very slowly……seeing one cruising couple enjoying the sunset on the bow of their boat at anchor…..and watched the sun disappear into the clouds. Shame we didn’t get the perfect sunset but it was still beautiful.

We sped back to the marina and then were fed a buffet dinner. We had lots to eat and my stomach didn’t react so looks like that episode is behind me, thankfully! Enjoyed the company of a couple of Australians before we all took off in our different minibuses back to our hotel. We got there about 9pm and we were exhausted from having been out in the weather all day so just had an early night.

Thursday we had another leisurely pool day before heading out to see the Siam Niramit show. We watched a few exhibitions and tried a few samples of local food before heading to the main courtyard to see some parades. Richard even took part in a tug of war with an elephant LOL.

After that we headed into the main auditorium for the show. This was absolutely amazing….stunning costumes….fantastic back drops….a real tale of the history of Thailand. There was even a flowing river, some thunderstorms, pyrotechnics and lots of people flying around. A real West End type production. Really glad we took the opportunity to see this.

After the show we posed for a few pictures with the cast before we were returned to our hotel.

On arrival we decided to go out on the town. We headed towards Bangla Road and found a local restaurant that took our fancy so had some dinner first. Then we walked through the madness stopping for the odd beer or two. Was fun!

Friday we were heading out mid morning to visit the Elephant Sanctuary. This place is where they allow elephants to be elephants. It was very sad to hear the stories of how they are mistreated in Thailand – particularly how their spirits are broken when they are babies – to end up in trekking camps / logging camps / or in the entertainment industry (just like the night before – damn).  Most of this is done by violent means until the elephants behave. Once they outlive their usefulness the owners keep them tethered and often don’t feed them enough so they end up dying a very slow and painful death. The Sanctuary are trying to change mindsets and rescue as many as they can but as the King himself has his own elephants it doesn’t look like any change will come soon. Sigh…..

One of the old girls we met had been working for 70 years – thankfully she is now enjoying her retirement having been rescued by the sanctuary. Our role for the afternoon was to be keepers for the day so we fed them, we hugged them, we covered them and ourselves in mud, we scrubbed them, we rinsed them off and put them to bed. Was a very special way to spend the day. Sadly at the point of publishing this blog the official photos of our afternoon have not yet been put on their Facebook site so you’ll have to do with the few that we captured ourselves.

After we came back and got ourselves cleaned up (literally!) we headed out for our last night on the town. We wandered Bangla Road again and this time we ate in the night market. Then we did a mini bar crawl before finally returning to our hotel in the early hours of Saturday.

Saturday morning we had a late start and then lazed by the pool for the day. Later in the afternoon we got ourselves packed up and then headed to Sam’s Steakhouse, which is part of our hotel. We had the most amazing meal for our last night in Thailand.

Sunday morning we were up at the crack of dawn and in a taxi to the airport by seven – the roads were surprisingly busy for a Sunday so it took about an hour.  We had our checked bags shrink wrapped as we know that Phuket airport has a bit of a reputation for things going missing. Then we dropped them off, ate the contents of the hotel’s supplied breakfast box, and headed through security. This took a while and by the time we got through airside our gate was open so we went straight there.

Eventually they started boarding….so we got on the bus…..across the tarmac and climbed the stairs. We settled in and we took off on time.

Goodbye Phuket.   We had a great time and may be back another day to explore some more.

Our first flight of the day was pretty uneventful and we landed into Singapore about an hour and a half later. The rest of the epic travel adventure will follow shortly!

Bye for now


Exploring Phuket – part 1

Thursday we continued relaxing by the pool.

Later on we headed to our hotel lobby to meet the Govatos family. We had a lovely time in a nice Indian restaurant nearby and caught up on news. They are moving to Phuket shortly and are also looking for another boat so hope to get back on the high seas soon. Was a fun time and we wish them well in their future adventures.

After they had left we wandered into town. We stumbled across Bangla Street – the famous party place – and we were both a bit surprised by how ‘in your face’ it was. We were constantly pestered by hawkers selling anything you could imagine and lots of people offering signs to advertise ‘ping pong’ bars or ‘live ****ing shows’ and everything in between. It seemed weird that these people also appeared to target couples rather than the numbers of single men wandering around. Most bars facing the street had pole dancers too……

There were a lot of western men of all shapes, sizes and ages with beautiful girls on their arms…..and we were trying to work out whether they really were girls or not in this land of the ladyboy LOL. We sat in a bar down a quiet side street and just people watched for a while.  Slightly overwhelmed by all the madness we eventually wandered back towards our hotel and had a relatively early night.

Friday morning we went for a walk along the beach road shopping and had some fun bartering with all the little shop keepers who are selling pretty much the same things.

We managed to get Richard a hat and a new waterproof bag in preparation for our planned speedboat trip as we had left these all on Morphie. Oh well, guess you can never have too many!  Later on we returned to the hotel for a few pool hours.

Finally after a restorative few hours in our air conditioned room we headed out for the evening. We found the big mall and enjoyed wandering through here and watched fried ice cream being made – basically they chop up ice cream with things like Smarties / chocolate etc onto a hot plate. Then when all chopped up into a mush they spread it over the cold plate and then roll it up. Very labour intensive….but looks very tasty….although Richard did think that most ice cream would have aluminium in it with all the vigorous chopping and scraping going on LOL.

We stopped at a local Thai restaurant for dinner and thoroughly enjoyed the food.

We then wandered through the Bangla Road again and weren’t quite so shocked as before – I think you get acclimatised to the madness and are able to turn a blind eye once you know what is going on. We found another small bar tucked away and watched the antics of the girlie staff who were trying to entice men in – one of them was so blatant she just grabbed them by their privates – and it was funny to watch men run off as a result LOL.

After this we headed back towards our hotel and came across an Irish pub called Mollys – we wandered in attracted by the loud music – and ended up staying late. They were really good!

Saturday morning we were up really early and were ready and waiting in the lobby by 8.15 am. On the dot of 8.30 am the little minibus turned up to take us across the island to Chalong pier. We were put into groups – according to which tour you were taking – and we were introduced to the rest of the ‘Monkey’ gang….all Japanese, Thai and German.

We boarded our speedboat and put on our life jackets as instructed. Felt very strange to be on a tourist boat…..

First stop was Racha Yai for some snorkelling. I couldn’t snorkel because my prescription mask is stored on Morphie (must try and plan this better next time) but, to be honest, there were so many boats and tourists I doubt whether many fish would have come out to play. So we just bobbed in the deep water near the stern of the boat.

Back on board we enjoyed some fruit before we took off again – this time to the beach we could see from the snorkelling anchorage. We tied up, momentarily, to a floating pontoon and wandered down to the beach.

We were looking forward to sitting at the beach bar enjoying a few cold ones in the shade only to find out it was open to hotel guests only. This resort – which looked deserted – have definitely missed a trick here as the crowds from the boats were significant. There were some people making money though – from renting beach chairs, umbrellas, huge floating toys and, sadly, baby monkeys being touted around for cuddles and photos.

We purchased some cans of beer from the corner shop and bobbed in the beautiful clear water before returning to our speedboat.

Back on board we headed over to Banana Beach on Koh Hey. We enjoyed watching some boats sailing around – but very few were private – they mostly seemed to be crewed day trip boats. We arrived and tied up alongside the floating pontoon. This was huge and, as the tide was coming in, the pontoon was being picked up and down by the surf so we walked along surfing down waves LOL.  Must be a nightmare for those with walking difficulties!

We arrived to our allocated table for lunch and were surprised by the amount they gave us – from squid soup through to fried chicken with chips. We tucked in and enjoyed the food but sadly wasted loads. We then took ourselves off to a couple of beach chairs and planned to bob again later but swiftly fell asleep.

We awoke to find it was 10 minutes before we were going to be picked up and that the tide had now gone out – so the walk down the pontoon was much easier and we admired the boats coming and going, including tourist longboats.

We boarded our boat and managed to grab a seat in the bow for the fast ride back.

We returned to Chalong pier having had a nice day and treated ourselves to a Durian icecream – very very smelly fruit (think mix between poo and vomit) but apparently a local delicacy. Well the icecream was nice but I started to feel ill just eating it – so Richard finished mine off too.

Back on the minibus to our hotel and I felt bloated and uncomfortable – by now Richard was feeling the same. So we went to bed for a few hours….

At 8pm we got ourselves cleaned up and headed out – still not feeling completely well – to the Drunken Leprechaun Irish pub to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.  Can you believe how short the Thai Leprechauns are LOL!  We had a pint but didn’t particularly enjoy the live music.

So we took ourselves off back to Mollys. The same band were playing and they were great – but we both felt ill – so after just a single drink we headed back to our hotel.

During the night we were both violently ill…..and were still feeling under the weather on Sunday.  We had a basic breakfast and did our laundry in the hotel’s laundromat.   Note to self – do not eat local ice cream ever again!!!!

Later on we returned to the pool for a few hours.   In the evening we were going to go out but I couldn’t venture far from the hotel, just in case, so we decided to have dinner at the Terrazzo restaurant, which is part of our hotel.   We had a nice meal and then retired to bed.

Monday morning, after visiting our in-house tour guide and booking a few more trips, we decided to stay by the pool again and had a really nice time bobbing in the little ‘spa’ pool and enjoying a beer.

Later on we headed out to see the famous Simon Cabaret show.   The cast are 100% men but you wouldn’t believe their costumes and figures…..   Can see how the tourists get hoodwinked LOL.   The show was fun, the miming wasn’t great and the dancing was OK – but the spectacular costumes made up for it.   Glad we saw it.

Today, Tuesday, we are having another lazy day…..

Bye for now


Exploring Singapore – part 2

Monday morning we rode the bus again.

We did the brown line through different parts of the city and then the green line down to Sentosa Island. Sentosa is like being in Disney…..there are theme parks, lots of activities, beaches, free local buses, segways  combined with Universal Studios etc. All very fake and we didn’t venture into any of the parks – we took the little tram ride and stopped off for a beer at a beach restaurant overlooking the huge ships anchored off. Again, even the beach we think was man-made…..

Back to the City we took the red line bus again to explore China Town. We wandered around and found another Michelin-recommended food court and ate one of Singapore’s signature dishes – Hainanese Chicken Rice. Was pretty tasty but not sure we’d repeat the experience LOL. After another late lunch we returned to the hotel for a couple of hours.

In the evening we walked the river to Boat Quay which is a popular destination for both fresh seafood and pubs / restaurants lining the river. We enjoyed a few beers and got chatting to some new friends from London LOL. After a good night we walked back to the hotel and didn’t actually get to bed until 2am. Phew was a long day!!!

Tuesday morning – after a restorative breakfast and coffee in the local mall – we headed off on the MTR to the Marina Bay Sands area. We visited the Art and Science Museum – which is inside the iconic lotus flower building surrounded by lily pads – and then wandered the mall. This is absolutely huge and very high end with the usual array of Gucci, Prada, Versace etc with many floors and amazing laser light chandeliers.

Shopping not really our scene we took a lift up to the Ce La Vi bar on the 58th floor of Tower 3 of the hotel and enjoyed a few glasses of bubbles whilst admiring the most amazing scenery from the port, to the Gardens and across to the City. Plus, of course, our hotel. This was a tip from our airport taxi driver – use the bar and pay S$20 each to access which is then offset against any food or drink ordered. Going up to the observation deck restricts you to just a small part of the hotel roof with no amenities. Great tip!!!

We then crossed the road to the Gardens by the Bay and thoroughly enjoyed the huge Supertree Grove (which is lit at night) and the Skyway. Stunning structures made even more amazing by the natural foliage climbing and flowering up their bases. We did take a selfie but not our best efforts as we are both hot, bothered and squinting at the sun.

Oh yes as well as lots of flowers there were some art installations. Check out this baby boy LOL.

After this we felt a bit jaded so returned again to our hotel.

Later on – our last night in Singapore – we headed off to another recommended food court which sits on the waterfront. More up-market with its proper cutlery and corporate branding on the plates whichever stall you used. My mission was to find some roasted duck – another Singaporean speciality – and Richard decided to have Thai. Really enjoyed it. After dinner we had a beer at a local hostelry and then returned to our hotel.

We enjoyed Singapore a lot and can only marvel at its empty roads, it’s amazing cheap transport systems and its cleanliness. The sights are wonderful, the food is amazing and the people are lovely. It was a fantastic experience.

Wednesday morning we were up bright and early and packed our bags. We put the minimum stuff in our hand luggage cases as, although they were within the size limit, our next flight with Jetstar only allowed 7kg each.. This includes hand bags and computer bags so more restricted than we had realised.. So we packed / unpacked / packed / weighed / unpacked / packed until we had just about achieved it….but only by putting some important things in our checked baggage with some trepidation. Oh well…..we finally checked in our bags which with all the mucking around had risen to 28kgs each….phew!

We then wandered off to find our lounge but only to be told they didn’t supply food at this venue. We headed off in search of food and managed to get some western fare but the time it took was quite something. Never mind….. We then wandered back towards our lounge to see that our gate had opened and we were being told to go straight there. So no lounge for us LOL. We got to the gate and boarded along with lots of Russians, Germans, Japanese and Australians.

The flight was uneventful and we landed into Phuket, Thailand, on time. We got a cab straight to the hotel, checked in and was pleasantly surprised by our refurbished room and went to the Manager’s cocktail party which we had been invited to upon our arrival.

Today – Wednesday – we are lazing by the pool recharging our batteries and are meeting the Govatos family this evening for dinner. This family lost their boat on a reef in Huahine, French Polynesia and we haven’t seen them since. What a coincidence that we are here at the same time. Really looking forward to catching up.

Bye for now


Exploring Singapore – part 1

Thursday afternoon we arrived at Heathrow in good time and queued up for the bag drop which seemed to take a while but eventually we were into the security area and finally spat out the other end. By now we had a couple of hours to kill so headed to the pub for a pint and a sandwich. This turned out to be a big mistake as my credit card got cloned at the contactless touch machine.

Blissfully unaware of the spending spree that the perpetrators of the crime were enjoying on my credit card we boarded the double-decker British Airways flight to Singapore. This was absolutely rammed with very few spare seats obvious. We taxied away on time but then got held as an aircraft ‘tug’ broke down on the runway and we were too big to get by – so that took a while to resolve – and eventually we took off about an hour late.

The flight was a bit bouncy with turbulence – I enjoyed two recent Oscar-nominated movies in Four Billboards and the Darkest Hour – but was slightly irritated trying to stay comfortable with the annoying woman in front of me bouncing around like a lunatic. She seemed to be determined to spill my wine with her seat being moved back and forth at speed on frequent occasions. Sigh….why do I always end up sitting behind them?!?

We arrived into Singapore on Friday afternoon having made up some of the delay. Three huge planes arrived at the same time so the immigration queue was long and slow and it took us a while to get through. By the time we reached the luggage carousels all the bags had been offloaded to the floor so we had to climb through them all to find ours. Thankfully they were there and we just then followed the easy signage to get a taxi. This was the first time we left the air-conditioned terminal and the heat and humidity hit us. Around 32 degrees centigrade with 90% humidity – but not going to complain having escaped from the grips of winter only 24 hours previously!

We got a taxi – got some good sightseeing tips from our driver – and arrived at our hotel which is centrally located near the bay. We checked in, went to our nice-enough room at the Pan Pacific Hotel and got our Singapore clothes unpacked.

We logged into the hotel internet to catch up and spotted an email from the credit card company telling me it was time to pay the bill – so went online, checked the statement, all fine and paid the bill. Of course then I spotted the ‘pending’ transactions which had been approved for numerous on-line Tesco purchases in Nottingham while we had been travelling. So had to phone the fraud team and my cards got cancelled. Just as well we travel with spares and know our address in New Zealand for a while so replacements can be sent over. What a great start!

By now we were pretty tired so we headed to a Chinese restaurant in the attached mall for dinner – puzzled by the balloon art installation – before we returned to the hotel for a beer in the bar before giving in and retiring.

Saturday morning we went out with a plan of walking the bay area and river. We enjoyed the sights across the bay to the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, the lotus flower-shaped museum and the hedgehog-looking Esplanade Theatre and the skyline of the financial district.

Of course we had to fight the other tourists near the symbol of Singapore, the huge Merlion statue on the waterfront (which is a cross between a lion and a fish). Allegedly a Sumatran prince called Sang Nila Utama thought he saw a lion when he set foot on here so he named the island Singapura which means Lion City. However, lions have never existed here so not sure what he might have seen LOL.

We stopped along the way for the occasional bottle of water and a breather in the shade…checking out the unusual art installations…and an empty Boat Quay and Clark Quay as they get ready for the afternoon and evening tourists….

We also walked across the river returning via the historic Raffles area. When Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed here in 1819 the main island itself was 25% smaller than today due to huge reclamation efforts. Raffles is considered to be the ‘architect’ of today’s Singapore with his vision for the future. Since independence from the colonial past Singapore is one of only three sovereign city-states in the world the others being Monaco and Vatican City.

Having walked for about six hours in the heat dodging the occasional shower we were pretty shattered….so returned to our hotel room for some air-conditioned comfort. Later on we headed to the MTR (Singapore’s tube system), having purchased our travel cards, and took ourselves off to Telok Ayer then walked to Lau Pa Sat which is a historic food court.

Lots of lovely grub there but our destination was Boon Tat Street where the street is taken over by hawkers all serving satay each night. We found our favoured hawker and sat down to a ‘couple’ menu which included 10 skewers of king prawns, 10 chicken and 10 beef. Wow….amazing. And all washed down by a pitcher of beer as this was an area where drinking is allowed. Singapore is strictly controlled with fines for everything from chewing gum in public through to taking a particularly foul-smelling fruit onto the tube trains.

We managed to find our way back to the city on foot and found a waterfront bar where we sat and enjoyed the light, fountain and music show over the bay – including Merlion being lit up by lasers. There are also lots of art installations around lighting up at night for the current iLight festival. We then wandered back to our hotel having had a pretty full first day.

Sunday morning we were up early and headed out to the Suntec City mall (just one of a number attached to our hotel) and purchased 48 hour hop-on, hop-off bus tickets. We rode both the yellow and red lines all the way round enjoying the sights and sounds of the city without getting off. We also noticed lots of migrant domestic workers enjoying their day off camping out on the pavements.

We then took the red line again and this time we got off at Little India and enjoyed wandering the streets – I even managed to buy a couple of tops for beach throws – and then found the Tekka Centre which is a food court recommended by Michelin for best Indian hawker fare in the city. Had a lovely curry from Allauddin’s Briyani. Little India is just like being in India with the shops and the sights….but without the cows, the dust, the dirt, the rubbish and open-street urinals LOL. After our food we returned, on the bus, to our hotel for a couple of hours.

At 6pm we went down to our hotel foyer to await our pick up as we had booked a tour to go on the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo. We were collected by a feeder coach and transported to Chinatown and then onto another coach once we’d all been rounded up into different groups. We thoroughly enjoyed our night out and finished it back at the hotel sitting in one of the bar’s pods watching the lifts come and go through our little thatched roof.

Part two of our Singapore adventure to follow soon.  Bye for now


Preparation for Season 6

We have been sat at home watching the snow fall on numerous occasions.  There has been some unusually severe weather here in the UK and, although the snow was only three inches deep at the point of this photo being taken, when combined with temperatures of -12C, it meant that everything was at a standstill with cancelled trains, closed schools, blocked roads and closed airports.     Brrrrrr……

But we had it lucky here in the South East compared to the poor people in Wales who felt the full brunt of hurricane force winds which demolished a whole marina in Holyhead with the loss of all 80+ boats.  Absolute carnage…. check out the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures.

Our hearts go out to everyone who suffered the loss of their boat especially as we had dodged the bullet ourselves this year with a close call from Cyclone Gita that swerved at the last minute towards New Zealand’s South Island.  Phew….

Whilst at home we caught up with lots of family and friends although there have been some occasions that sadly slipped through the net because of the adverse weather curtailing arrangements. It has, though, been a real delight to catch up with folks after such a long time away and especially being home for Christmas. But we have come to hate the cold weather as we have not experienced winter for over five years and it seems to seep right into the old achy bones LOL.

Now we are in preparation mode again as it is time to get ready for the next season. In New Zealand the autumn is about to start so we have decided to break the flights up and do some exploring on the return leg. So we are spending some time in both Singapore and Thailand on our way back….where it should be lovely and hot…..so we are really looking forward to some sun despite our lack of summer clothes which are neatly stored on Morphie LOL.

Whilst we have been away Morphie has had a few jobs done – primarily repairing the gel coat properly after the damage done in the Panama Canal which, amazingly, was over a year ago. We have also had a stainless steel plate installed on the transom to stop the swim ladder damaging the gel coat. There was also some gelcoat damage on the stern seats and some cracks in the stainless rail welds beneath them so that has all been repaired too. She is looking lovely!

Sails have been valeted and await our arrival in the loft. Likewise the canvas is also waiting for our return to the shop. The old autopilot has been repaired and a replacement starter motor, alternator and a few other essential things like paint and varnish should be awaiting our return to Opua.

We have ordered a few things for Morphie whilst at home so the pile of things to take back is growing but is pretty light compared to previous years as we are unusually staying in a country that is renowned for it’s boat building skills so most items can be procured or even fabricated.

We have scheduled works for our return and the main project is replacing our electronics….new radar, AIS, plotters etc. So you can see that the first few months of our return are looking to be pretty busy – and that’s without factoring in both the anti-fouling and the varnishing work.

Meanwhile at home – now that the snow has finally melted – we are having last-minute repairs done to our garden fence which got damaged in one of the storms earlier in the year…… That should keep the neighbours happy!

So feeling excited about our return to New Zealand and getting Morphie ship shape and ready for future adventures on the high seas. Of course there is also sadness mingled in with having to say farewell again to family and friends…but this year we won’t be away for so long and they have got used to our frequent absences now.

See you in Singapore!  Bye for now