I arrived in Phuket on the afternoon of Monday, November 9, and planned to head to the southern end of the island. I had heard that cruisers often stop in Chalong Bay and that a few yacht clubs had sprouted as a result.
My trip south on Phuket was quite an adventure. My cab driver was a lunatic, driving at twice the speed limit, passing on blind curves, driving on the shoulder, and driving without headlights. When we arrived at my hotel, he turned to me and said, “Good driver, huh? Tip for me?” I tipped him, but just because I was grateful to be alive!
I checked into the beachfront hotel, Kantary Bay Hotel, where I had made advance reservations. The friendly staff showed me to my room, which was an amazing suite with a living room, kitchen, and huge balcony overlooking the swimming pool directly below, and the island-freckled Andaman Sea beyond. I also received access to the neighboring, upper-scale sister hotel, Cape Panwa Hotel, whose best feature in my opinion was the piano bar and the complementary 2 free drinks. It was a great deal for just $60/night.
I spent the next two days exploring the area by foot and by motorbike, and visited a few local sailing organizations along the way. Exploring by motorbike was very fun, except I had to be very careful since they drive on the left over here.
The first day I met with Chris, from www.day-sailing-phuket.com. He was very nice but unfortunately the news he had for me was not what I wanted to hear: I was too early in the season, and even at “high season” there just is not that much activity. In addition, most of the sailing is on catamarans, which I don’t have any experience on. He referred me to a couple other sailing organizations that I could check out the next day.
The second day, I rented a motorbike and visited two more organizations. The Phuket Yacht Club at Chalong Bay had good facilities and beachfront bar operation. Unfortunately, the manager delivered the same message as Chris: too early. After downing a delicious mango shake at their bar, I left a notice on the bulletin board to broadcast my availability as crew.
Next, I went to the Phuket Cruising Club, which was a bit hard to find. This basically turned out to be a beachfront bar with a sign out front that said “Phuket Cruising Club”. I wasn’t sure if it was just a joke, or if some activity did happen here periodically. While waiting for the owner to return from errands, I enjoyed a beer and soaked in the view. The owner never showed. So, with a slight sense of defeat after two days of poking around, I hopped on the motorbike and headed back along the windy road to my hotel.
On the way back to the hotel, I weighed my options. (A) Wait around in Phuket for a couple of weeks, hoping that the sailing activity picks up? (B) Put sailing on hold, and continue my journey, pursuing one of the volunteer opportunities I’ve found on www.helpx.net? In either case, I could still monitor sailing opportunities via www.findacrew.net.
I chose option (B). I would feel better moving on and doing something productive, knowing that sailing will eventually come. So I decided to leave Phuket in the morning.
I would head to a small, lesser-known island, Ko Jum, to help the management at Uza-Beach Residence. There was no direct route, which was fine with me. A bit of island-hopping sounded fun.
So the next morning I hired a taxi to take me to Phuket Town (thankfully with a safer driver this time). Upon arriving, I walked down to the bustling Bang Rong Pier and chatted to the locals about hiring a boat to take me to my next island adventure...