We didn’t venture far from Rebak the first night because we waited for the outgoing tide to leave the marina in the afternoon, then followed s/v Scallywag over to Telaga, which was once upon a time a lovely port and marina. These days it looks sorely worn and unkempt, which seems to be a recurring theme in Malaysia. At the anchorage we ran into an old friend whom we had not laid eyes on in over two years: a British cruiser, Stewart of s/v Nomad. We invited him over for a few beers and enjoyed playing catch-up with him. We had first met Stewart in Tahiti/French Polynesia in 2008.
Afterward we met Paul and Glor over at the marina for a “dine around”. Telaga marina is shaped like a bowl and is encircled by bars and restaurants. We started at one end with drinks and eats and then worked our way around, stopping at each venue for a drink and small dish to share – our version of a progressive dinner. The food choices were great: Japanese, Thai, Tapas, Italian, “pub food”, and Indian. By the time we ended up at the Indian restaurant the boys were feeling no pain!
At 8:30 the next morning we finally departed Malaysia, making it across the Thai border to Koh Adang (koh in Thai translates to “island”). We didn’t venture to shore, as it was just a night stop for us.
Next stop on our little journey was a small island called Koh Rok. It’s part of a marine reserve and has moorings available. We snagged one and then went to shore for a swim and a walk along the beach. There were a lot of tourists here who had arrived en masse in large powerboats and in “longtails”. The beach was gorgeous and the water was so clear! What a relief to be able to swim in clean bays after the murky, fishing net laden waters of Malaysia.
The next morning, we traveled the short distance to Koh Muk where there is a famous “Hong” called the Emerald Cave. “Hong” in Thai translates to “room”. These hongs are actually more like a hole in a donut if viewed from above, and are accessed by entering in through a cave on the face of an island. You then meander through the cave (usually in a kayak), until it literally opens up to a beautiful sandy beach - right inside of the island. They are simply amazing sights! The Emerald Cave can be accessed by swimming in, but we used Paul and Glor’s two-person kayak to navigate the cave. I was a bit uneasy when we first entered because the cave ceiling is very low and the walls felt as though they were closing in on us. It is pitch black in there. Our flashlight only illuminated about a 10-foot diameter in front of us. At one point we took a wrong turn and hit a dead end. Trying to turn the kayak around in this small space was impossible, so we had to back out about 50 feet. It reminded me of the ride at Six Flags where you go into a dark cave and boogey men jump out scaring the bejeesus out of you! Fortunately there were no boogey men, no bats or scary creatures. But the strange sounds and echoes of our paddles moving through the water along with the ocean pulsing in and out of the cave felt a bit otherworldly. Once we emerged from the cave we met the most beautiful crystal clear bay with water gently lapping onto a white sand beach, surrounded by palm trees; just as promised. It would be a wonderful secret getaway were it not for the hundreds of tourists who pour into here, day in and day out.
After our cave adventure, we returned to our respective yachts, which were anchored in a bay around a headland, a couple hundred yards away that was surrounded on two sides by towering limestone walls. In front of us was a very small but pretty beach. We decided to jump in and swim to shore for a look around. The obnoxiously loud and over-packed tourists boats had finally left the area leaving us some peace and quiet. We were standing around in the water just chatting when I began to feel little pinpricks on my body. At first I ignored it thinking it was just the salt in the water irritating my skin, but soon Paul yelped that something was stinging him. Glor and Frank finally began to feel the stings just as Glor said, “Oh! It’s sea lice biting us!” We all jerked and swam so quickly back toward our boats you’d think we were competing for Olympic medals! From now on I’m donning my dive skin when I jump in. Ugh – I’m creeped out just re-living it.
I was getting real uneasy because we had been completely incommunicado for days now. We didn’t have Thai SIM cards for our cell phones or Frank’s iPad. There was no wifi around. Our Sat Phone was out of minutes and our SSB antenna didn’t get reconnected when the riggers put Destiny back in the water, so we didn’t have access to internet, Sailmail or phone service. Last time we were completely out of touch something dreadful had happened back home and no one could reach us. I told Frank I had a bad feeling about this. Of course he said I worry too much (true) and everything was probably fine.
Wednesday, December 19th, we arrived at Phi Phi Don, pronounced pee pee don. It is a thriving tourist island that was all but wiped out in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, but I’m here to tell you it is fully recovered and is teeming with young bodies, loud music and a rhythm all it’s own. Frank and I looked at each other and said. “Wow if only I were 30/40 years younger…” We had lunch at a beach bar and then wandered around a bit. Eventually we spotted a 7 Eleven where we were able to get a phone SIM and picked up wifi at a local bar. As soon as I booted up my computer, the first email I saw was from my brother telling me my mom had suffered a stroke. I was beside myself with anguish.
The email said Mom was taken to a hospital in Houston, my sister was on her way there from Dallas and Mom had been stabilized, whatever that meant at the time. I could not reach anyone back home and was not anywhere in a position that I could even consider getting a flight home. We weren’t even legally checked into Thailand yet. I cannot begin to express my emotional pain, guilt, frustration and grief at this moment in time. The rest of the next couple of days was a blur. I used my entire bank of phone minutes trying to call someone, anyone back home. I connected with my sister very briefly to find that she was with my parents and that everything was being handled, Mom was stable and resting, tests were being run, and that there was no need for me to rush home. Then we were out of touch again until we finally arrived at Yacht Haven Marina, Phuket on the afternoon of December 20th.