Leaving the Land of Smiles, again

the Thai flag, the King’s flag and the Queen’s flag proudly flown on Furthur

The last visa run up, crew arrives and away we go. Again I am leaving a place with a tear in my eye and headed for another adventure. Rarely do I want to leave the places I have visited and with the second year familiarity this stay in Phuket was fantastic. We laughed that the timing was right, always leave before you really want to and you will be glad to return, such is the case with Thailand.

This year’s visit produced great good for Furthur: new air con, 220v electrical system, outboard motor, re- galvanized anchor chain and other small gear. Repaired many small items, yes the doors now open and shut and the dive tanks are easy to fill with the new racks and longer hose. Also did some significant maintenance on both engines; the gen got a good going over and all problems solved. The main got a thorough 5000 miles inspection and service. I have learned to leave Thailand with as many spares and I will need for 6 months; supplies for two oil changes and all the filters I will need. Furthur is standing tall.

New crew on our trip to the Big Buddha

The Captain got some needed maintenance too; many trips to the temple and a renewed connection with Buddhism brought me a new level of peace and happiness. My many Thai friends and especially two special Thai ladies brought me great joy including their escorts to the temples and Big Buddha. I also made new friends with more xpats through the Bay Regatta, one of the highlights of the year.

the lovely Dia at one of our many visits to the BBQ.

Although I did not get as many chances to play music this year I expanded my song book and bought enough equipment (had to be 220v) to do “one man shows” or join the many bands I know in Indo. The crew has learned the critical difference between; I am learning this song—so play it over and over—and I have learned this new song, hahaha.

As a returning visitor I was also able to renew old friendships. There is something invigorating about seeing people you love after a term of absence. I now have a solid group of friends in Phuket and consider it like home. I am already eager to return next winter.

Thailand has found a profound place in my heart, I feel at home there, i have connected with the Thai ways and people. I love the King. Not like I would favor this or that politician or great thinker, I love the King in the Thai way, absolute with no need for definition, I just do. Buddhism speaks to me in a way no other faith has, and I have tried them all. The commonalities with Christianity are profound. I mean real Christianity as spoken by Christ, the teachings of love and tolerance and faith. But the subtle differences are what draws me. The calm peaceful blanket that falls over me when I experience Buddha is what has made the life change for me. 

Sam returns to Furhtur

The new crew had arrived after a few adjustments to the crew list I am very happy with the crew I now have. Sam is returning to Furthur after she joined us for the dive trip to the Samilian Islands. She is a bubbly Brit, always with a smile and eager to work and learn—and play-and dive any time she can. It is so good to have her back. Rosie is “the new girl” and brings a new flag to Furthur, Greece. She is also half Brit. She immediately jumped into the galley and is producing wonderful meals. Rosie has a unique intellect and I foresee many a long and interesting discussion ahead. As is usual the girls formed a fast bond and get along splendidly which is essential to the happiness of the boat.

Rosie joins the crew

So with old friends seen, new ones made, the boat and the spirit renewed we leave the Land of Smiles and head south. I checked out of customs and the next day we pulled out of the marina and the require high tide. We headed to Ko Ha, a group of five islands 43 miles south. This is one of the many National Parks in the Phuket area and a popular dive destination. We pulled up to where the mooring I had used last year to find it gone but another nearby. I dove the mooring line to inspect it and happy it would hold I took Sam on our first dive of the new trip.

This dive is one of my all-time favorites, I used it as the subject of my test briefing in my dive master course. The instructor’s comment was “you really like this dive and show the enthusiasm” yes I do. This dive takes us into 3 wonderful caves. The first cave is the deepest and is guarded by expansive schools of small yellow fist. You enter the cave through the fish and if you are quiet and slow they do not move away making a unique cave entrance. The other two caves are wider and more open and one opens up at the top so you can surface inside the cave. All this was new to Sam who showed her glee by doing the “happy dance” under water and squealing with joy at the surface.

We met two Aussie blokes snorkeling and found one was a dive so we invited him to join us in the morning for a return to the caves. Later we went to their boat for “sundowners”. The girls learned that Aussie boys have a different definition of “just a little bit or rum” in the fruit drink they made.. hahaha. So wobbly a bit I poured them into the dinghy for the ride home.

The next day our Aussie mate joined us to dive the caves again and later we swapped moorings with them and dove the middle island. These are amazing dives, fantastic visibility and abundant life.

I had dove the famed Mend and Deng pinnacles last year but got blown off the mooring early. The weather had been flat calm for a couple of days and I took the chance it would continue. We headed to the isolated rock early and the wind picked up a bit giving me doubt but soon flattened and we hit the site in calm seas and found the one mooring open. This is an expert dive but I now have such confidence in Sam I had no worries. We descended down the mooring line and circled the pinnacle at 27 meters, dropping to 31 a few times, it is a deep dive. Although we did not encounter any of the “big” stuff the site is known for we did have a wonderful time seeing all the unique coral and massive amounts of fish.

Back on the boat we then headed to Ko Rok, a new place. We picked up a mooring over crystal clear water and a field of coral like I had not seen since Tahiti. At the water’s edge a white as snow sandy beach lined by tall palm trees greeted us. As Sam said, this was a “perrrrrrrrfect” place. The girls snorkeled while I did some boat projects. The depth sounder read 15 feet but one tall bommie found its way under Furthur and we bumped a bit as we left.

Next stop on my “the best of Southern Thailand tour” was Ko Muck, home of the best of all the hongs. The girls had heard me speak of this place so many times so the excitement was high. We dropped the hook in the nearby cove along two other cruisers and headed to the cave in the dinghy. We swam into the dark cave with dive lights glowing and then onto the white sandy beach of the hidden lagoon. Even with it being my third visit I was still awestruck by its magnificence. The small lagoon is surrounded by vine covered walls the reach up a couple hundred meters. The girls are completely taken with this place and plan an early morning yoga session in the hong.

the cave at Ko Muk,

Our last stop in Thailand is Ko Lipe, growing to be one of my favorites. We will do a day of diving here and then make the short crossing to Malaysia at Lankawi. So ends another stay in a special place, a place of peace, adventure, love and a place to grow. Thailand for me is not so much a place as a state of mind, I can return here anytime I want by just digging my toes in the sand, clicking my heels and saying “i want to go to the Land of Smiles”.

2 thoughts on “Leaving the Land of Smiles, again”

  1. Hi Brian,
    I love reading your blog. I sent this latest entry on to my friend JonLee who currently is teaching in Salalah, Oman. JonLee lived and taught in northeastern Thailanf for 3 years. She has the same reverence for the country and people as you. I was lucky enough to visit her there and also felt great peace. Thinking of you and hoping that your next adventure is even better.

  2. Brian: Linda and I have enjoyed your blog this past year since meeting you at Seattle Opening Day last year. Are you coming back again this year?

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