Monday, 23 June 2014

Krabi almost 7 weeks on

Hi to all again,
Time flies. It's hard to believe that we have been here nearly 7 weeks. We moved from our earlier accommodation at Be Rich Guesthouse to the Udomlalp Resort which sounds much grander than it is. Our previous accommodation was costing us 6500 Baht (NZD232) per month and now the new place is 9000 Baht (NZD321) which isn't a great increase. Our main reason for the move was that there was absolutely no English spoken at Be Rich and so it was a continuing problem in just trying to organise changes of linen and other boring domestic matters!! The new place is more interesting and Add, who along with her husband Sawing owns the place, does speak some English. We are in a studio unit (no. V8!!) which, along with 9 others is built on stilts over and surrounding a muddy pond which has lilies and fish in it. Quite unusual and picturesque but there are mossies! So we can't sit out on our verandah of an evening as we wish to avoid as much as possible getting bitten and running the risk of Malaria and/or Dengue. The units are all air conditioned but again there are no cooking facilities so we have to either buy items that need no preparation at local markets or eat out. We buy lots of fruit and have discovered cooked chicken rolls and smoked pork hocks which have a surprising amount of meat on them. Just lately there have been the red Lychees which are huge and delicious. Apart from that there are mangoes - smaller than those we enjoyed in Queensland but equally sweet and tasty - bananas of course, Australian oranges, apples from France, NZ and Australia - no prizes for guessing which ones we buy! - and Kiwifruit from France and now NZ.
On the health front things have been a little fraught. Jim's sciatica flared up with a vengeance a week ago last Saturday and so we decided to go to the Krabi International Hospital rather than trying more traditional Thai massage. It was touch and go whether Jim could get to the car (about 50 metres) such was the pain but eventually he made it and then it was 20 kms to the hospital. KIH is only 5 months old and state of the art. There was a fleet of wheelchairs at the Emergency front entrance and Jim was duly deposited into one - a new experience for sure!! But just at that time it sure beat walking, even with the aid of Des's stick. We both decided to register as Jean needed to talk to someone about her on-going hip/ligament problems. We are really a couple of old crocks that's for sure. Just as well these ailments hadn't presented themselves this time last year when we were at Guruliya Bay on the western side of the Wessel Islands, (north of Arnhem Land, Northern Territory) on our way to Darwin. We'd had some good sails but very little respite from the constant SE winds. This year is such a contrast and very welcome for that. Not to say that we didn't enjoy most aspects of the sail from Cairns, but we badly needed this "time off". All this seems so bizarre when we remember all that has happened between now and then, especially the lout from "Tintin" who we hadn't even met this time last year. It'll be too soon if we ever meet again, that's for sure!!
Anyway, we both saw a Thai doctor who ordered X-rays for us both and an MRI scan for Jim. The latter was also a new experience; you lie prone under a massive disc which hovers just above chest height. Jim was told the process would take 45 mins and not to move at all during that time. No problem - it was all so comfortable that he went to sleep and was only awakened when the machine gave off some loud and very annoying noises. When all that was over a herniated disc was diagnosed which had been impinging on one of the sciatic nerves (there are 5) and causing extreme pain and discomfort down the left leg. Apart from the obligatory anti inflammatories there are some specific exercises to do and Jean is riding shotgun to ensure that this brutal regime is adhered to!! Jean has been having a series of appointments with a physiotherapist and that seems to be giving good results apart from a hiccup last weekend when it was her turn to be in a wheel chair. But at the moment we seem to be both on the mend.
A comment about the hospital - when you enter it's like walking into a luxury resort foyer with smiling uniformed staff ready to greet you. The service is warm and friendly and facilities second to none. Only problem is that comparatively few speak much English (even our doctor) and so meaningful discussion about whatever ails one is trying. It is certainly something they need to get to grips with if they wish to compete longterm with Malaysia in the "medical tourism" stakes.
The Tiare is coming along. The latest is that we have decided, subject to the availability of a suitable carpenter, to raise the height of the cockpit sole (floor to landlubbers) by 120 mm. This will make entry and exit far easier (particularly for more and more decrepit old sailors) and also make sitting in the cockpit more comfortable. It might even mean that the cockpit drains get rid of water instead of at present admitting more than goes out!! New varnish and paint everywhere with the decks sanded and the old girl is looking great. All the engineering and electrical work is done and all that remains is the new cockpit bimini and raising of the sole. We have done minimal work ourselves of late due to our ailments but also the labour rates are so reasonable and the workers so skilled (superyacht standard) that it's made sense to have some more things done.
We continue to live at our "resort" built over a dugout swamp. It's picturesque but we live in airconditioned luxury with everything closed to avoid the mossies. The weather at times lives up to its monniker - the wet season but there are sufficient dry spells to allow work to be done. Driving continues to be an extreme exercise in defensive driving and one should never be lured into a false sense of security. Similarities to sailing really in that regard. Just today we were almost lured into starting on a green light and realised just in time that someone had turned the light standard so that the green looked for all the world like it applied to 2 sets of diverging traffic. A close call.
A couple of weeks ago we were kindly invited to a Sunday lunch at a beach about 30 kms from here by Des, Ked and their crew. It was a delightful experience sitting around a large table on the sand under a tree not unlike a NZ Pohutukawa in growth habit with massive horizontally growing branches but much larger leaves. There was a seafood restaurant there and the food was served in great abundance - beautiful Thai flavours and wonderful and at times hilarious company. There were Des and Ked, A, Wit and his wife, Ning and Yoon, and Joo - hope we haven't left anyone out. A, Ked and Joo speak good English but we feel very inadequate in that area. We are in Thailand and so should make more of an effort to speak Thai! However, our 2 month visas expire on July 5th. and although we can obtain a 1 month extension, it isn't long enough to fully assimilate into Thai culture, especially when our focus is the refit of the boat.
Still, after we return up here in a few months after going back to Langkawi (Malaysia) and cruising back up here amongst the spectacular limestone Karst islands of this region maybe we will be able to make ourselves understood. Good morning is sawadi ka (speaking to a woman) and sawadi kap to a man. Thankyou is koppen ka. That's about the extent of our Thai language skills at the moment.
Well, there's another fascinating account of our time here in Thailand - more to come that's for sure.
With love to everyone,
Jim and Jean

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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Fwd: Update from Krabi and Krabi Boat lagoon

----- Original Message -----
To: "2XS - Peter & Marguerite" <>
Subject: Update from Krabi and Krabi Boat lagoon
Date: 03 Jun 2014 12:20:08 -0000
From: zmq5985

We feel another blog coming on and it's at least a fortnight since the last one so here we go again............
Firstly the OLD GIRL - the "Tiare Taporo III". Things are moving ahead rapidly and we have been more than satisfied with the excellent work that Popeye Marine have been doing. A is the star of the show, having finished painting the mast and doing most of the varnish sanding and recoating. It was decided after all that it wasn't necessary to pull the mast out and instead A spent many hours up there sanding, cleaning off with Acetone, masking, undercoating and finally two coats of International Toplac. And often in blazing heat. It is a fabulous job and sparkles in the sun. A is a great and skillful worker. All Jim did was let her down the mast by degrees as the work progressed. We must also mention Wit who is a competent engineer and stainless steel fabricator. Wit has been organising the cutlass bearing replacement and all the work on the engine including repairing the stainless steel damage. He managed with some innovative thinking to repair the pulpit in situ with cutting and welding on site, but the aft solar panel support is a bit more problematic. However, with the electrician's help that will happen also. Then there is Seart who has replaced all the teak fastening deck plugs in the teak deck plus a very small area of rotted teak planking and Sombat, who will deal with the minor electrical issues as well as repairing the refrigeration. We now even have a ship's stamp (chop) with the name and registration around the outside and ""TT3" inside. We are sure our Aussie friends will approve as they don't seem to be able to get their tongues around a simple Tahitian name!
We've had 2 missions which took a bit of time - one was obtaining very common oil and fuel filters and the other organising a suitable tint for our deckpaint which gets applied on the coachroof. Probably getting supplies is about the most frustrating thing about being here but once you get to know your way around, things start falling into place. However, there is a constant language problem. We have taken to getting notes written in Thai for us to show to various people when the matter is important and/or somewhat complicated. And you do need transport while here - a car is preferable and we are paying 18000 Baht per month (NZD645 - or NZD21.21/day)for a late model automatic Toyota Vios with full insurance. We eventually found an automotive supply business quite close to Krabi Town and it was an education just being there. Everything is CASH - and not just there either. The owner sits at a desk in the middle of everything and sends his minions off to obtain various items out the back. Meanwhile a seemingly endless amount of cash passes across the desk as the goods are sold. No computerised inventory control and probably for a reason!!Excavator gearbox parts, plastic hose, belts, oil, batteries - the list goes on. They ordered and eventually supplied the filters we needed. We also obtained some International deck paint (white) from East Marine in Phuket (they also have a shop at KBL which is open one day per fortnight at the moment) and a tin of yellow Jotun from a paint shop in Krabi Town. Plus a measuring jug and spoons to ensure that we mix a consistent quantity to hopefully get a cream. Everything takes time but here one cannot be in a hurry and it is surprisingly relaxing to simply enter into the local way of things. Having said that, the work in the boatyard is proceeding very efficiently. We are hopeful that another 10-14 days will see us back in the water.
The one thing we must stress is that most foreign boat owners we are sure still have a perception that "there is nothing in the way of services at Krabi". Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Through Popeye there is engineering, stainless steel, electrical, and all manner of shipwright work (fibreglass, timber, steel - you name it) competently and efficiently available at extremely competitive rates. So, to avoid the ever escalating prices in Langkawi and Phuket, our absolute recommendation is to give very serious consideration to Krabi Boat lagoon and in particular, Des Kearns and his wife Ked at Popeye Marine. Des is a marine surveyor by profession and they both have had extensive large scale boat restoration experience with Ked having had her own painting contracting business which employed up to 40 employees in its heyday. Well, that's enough of the commercial......!!!
Secondly - living generally. Probably the biggest issue we are finding is the predeliction for most Thai cooks and chefs for adding Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) to food. Depending on your point of view MSG is either harmless, a mildly harmful food additive, or as in the case with Jean and others, something to be avoided at all costs as it produces severe symptoms such as nausea, stomach cramps, shortness of breath, and badly affected eyesight with sore eyes. These symptoms can persist for 24 hours or more and are debilitating to say the least. The long term effect to people like Jean with severe sensitivity to MSG, along with people who may not experience any overt symptoms can only be guessed at. We have a note written in Thai requesting that MSG not be added to restaurant food but cannot always be sure that it is complied with. The habit of adding MSG is so prevalent here that it is a continual problem and of course it is also added to many processed foods. The problem here is that all the ingredient lists on packaging are written in Thai and therefore impossible for us to decipher. However, there is a restaurant group called MK which advertises the fact that they do not put MSG in their food and their menus are great. They have an electric induction hob in the middle of the table where you can cook your own raw ingredients from the menu (meat, seafood and veges) or you can order without cooking yourself. A brilliant concept with great tasty food and obviously highly successful as the restaurants are usually crowded. Usually between 400 and 500 Baht for a 2 course meal for both of us - approx. NZD16.
Jean still has a ligament problem with her hips and Jim has lately developed a painful Sciatica condition. But we have been recommended to a particular health massage clinic quite close to where we are living, and on Monday we both had a 2 hour session. You lie on a wooden platform with thin mattresses and the masseuse gets up on the platform with you. They then mainly use their body weight (and even pushing with their feet against thighs) to work the various muscles and ligaments which at times is quite painful but the results have been spectacular. And all for 600 Baht (NZD21.50) for the 2 hours for the 2 of us. We'll probably have at least 2 more treatments over the next week or so and hopefully we'll soon be bouncing around like spring chickens again. Jim's Sciatica was so painful on Monday morning that Des lent him a walking stick - made from teak and "all part of the service"!! They even offered to make him a new leg - either in timber or stainless steel, but being a timber enthusiast, Jim has opted for the timber version - in teak of course and all nicely varnished with Sikkens by A!!
Language is also a problem but usually we manage to eventually make ourselves understood. Equally signs and all manner of printed material are usually written in Thai which can be frustrating when looking out for road signs for example but to be fair many are also written in English.
We have been twice on successive Sundays (Saturday is a normal working day) to a restaurant at Tupkaek Beach which is right on the water about 40 kms from here and well away from the tourist hordes. It is a really pleasant place to be - drinking Chang beer and eating their delicious food such as prawns in tamarind sauce. A slap up meal is no more than NZD35 for both of us and that's expensive by Thai standards.
The weather, although it is supposed to be the wet season from May to October, is largely fine with a SW breeze but occasionally there is a day with showers and then it affects the painting schedule. Temperature during the day is usually in the low 30's C and at night the high 20's. Humidity is high - around 90% most times so paint drying is often slow and allowance needs to be made for quite common late afternoon showers. But the humidity is very beneficial as far as any drying out of the wooden hull is concerned. Fortunately her orientation is almost exactly east west and the sun right overhead so the hull is always in the shade. We or A water the hull every evening to aid in keeping her wooden hull moist. We have found that after about 10 am it becomes too hot (for us) to work although of late we haven't been doing much of that what with the Sciatica and all! That reminds us - we must remember to give Des back his walking stick!!
We've just moved house about half a kilometre along the road to the Udomlalp Resort. It is only costing us about a third more than where we were before and that was 6500 Baht per month - NZD233. It consists of a dozen one bedroom units built out over and around a muddy green "lake" but they are new and clean and all on one level.
And finally, to those of you who might occasionally hear or read the news, and might possibly have spared us a thought being caught in this nasty military coup here in Thailand, we say thank you for your expressions of concern. However, apart from maybe one or two there hasn't been any expression of concern from anywhere. No wonder Jonkey is a shoe-in for September with the general apathy that is about - but not if we've anything to do with it.
Anyway, in case anyone is interested, there has been no sign of a military coup anywhere here in SW Thailand. And it seems that as the politicians that were in power have been so corrupt and unwilling to accept any opposition point of view, the military intervention has been the only alternative facing Thailand. A real concern here is the situation that might develop when the King dies. He is greatly revered by most Thais and he is reputed to be in poor health with the succession in some doubt. It certainly has the potential to be quite destabilising to say the least. The military will remain in power for as long as it takes to bang a few heads together and that could take a while. They've already put a stop to a few corrupt practices and corruption is at a high level in Thailand, as it is indeed in many parts of Asia. So, all power to them.
Don't worry (as if anyone was), we are quite safe!!!
With that we will cease this diatribe.......
Lots of love from us...........
Jim and Jean
s.v. Tiare Taporo III
Krabi Boat Lagoon Hardstand
----- End of Original Message -----

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