Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October is a film where Sean Connery plays (comically) a soviet sub commandeer in charge of a sub equipped with new technology, he however wants to defect. The soviets obviously don't want this to happen and are so are trying to hunt down 'Red October'. The US are also trying to find him. This relates to me as I am also trying to find a vessel to sail, and so here is my very own story of hunting for a boat, my own personal 'Red October' or Moby Dick for those literary types.

My tale begins with Welshie deciding to go home in Koh Tao, now not really affecting my plans I didn't want to go to Ko Lanta early and spend weeks there, so I looked in to other options. With Welshie finally leaving me in Krabi after the jaunt in Rai Leh as mentioned, I headed for Phuket in search of my sailing ambitions.

Phuket is the ridicuously tourist area second only to Pattaya (which is so touristy and 'horrible' our Rough Guide has completely dropped it). My first destination in Phuket was Patong, despite it being overly touristy,busy, full of horrible bars and middle aged men with their Thai girlfriends I found it reasonably tolerable. It being touted as expensive I possibly found the cheapest hostel so far and because I'm a savvy traveller, ate cheap street food and spent less money here than almost anywhere else in Thailand. On the mission to find a boat, Success! I found a Hobie Cat for rent for the completely ridiculous price of 1000bht (£20) an hour. Bare in mind a rent for a full day of moped hire in Koh Pha Ngan was 150bht for the whole day. Thinking this extortionate I returned to the hostel to do more research.

I read here that I could rent one on a different beach to the south(Kata) in a quieter area of Phuket for 200bht an hour. Note the ridiculous difference in price here.... we'll find out why. I had always planned to go to Kata after Patong and so I messaged the hostel already booked and checked a bed for the next day. I awoke early and headed straight to Kata for this glorious cheap boat rental. I arrived nice an early and dumped my bag in storage and got a free lift to Kata Noi, the furthest south of all 3 beaches near to Kata. I had breakfast and began my scout, first beach no sign of any boats.... second beach, same story and finally Karon...... NO BOATS. It seems that the 200bht an hour dream was one of those 'too good to be true' occasions. However it wasn't a complete fail as I walked over 10km and felt pretty productive. In the afternoon I booked my boat to Koh Lanta and sipped my welcome cocktail whilst bantering with the Thai bar staff, Kim and Bo. (In doing so I got more free drinks just for sitting around)... Utitilizing my 'savvy' traveller vibe once again I got cheap dinner again by turning left instead of right and heading into town... why anybody would bother eating at the places with ridicuously inflated prices I've no idea, its not even like the food is any better! Phuket is the sort of resort where people travel to a foreign country and then eat British food every single day.
Kata Noi

Kata (I think)

Karon (again I think)

Day 2 in Kata. Knowing there was no boats to be found I went for a morning run along the beach followed by a swim. If I can't sail I may as well be active. I made the mistake of ordering "Danish Meatballs" at lunch which turned out to be a slab of bread with some meat on top and Sauerkraut. I followed this up with a proper steak sandwich! In the evening I had another run/swim narrowly dodging a torrential downpour. I liberated a poor millipede from the bar as the Thai staff were literally too scared of it and headed off for more cheap thai food, topped up with meat on a stick from a roadside bbq (20 pence a stick). I had an early night after watching Black Mirror and prepared for my early start and boat to Koh Lanta.

Two boats later and I'm in Koh Lanta. I arrange to meet Welshies friend who we had both planned to meet, however as I did not actually know her it felt like arranging some kind of weird internet date. I asked one girl if 'She was El?' and embarrassed myself when she was not. Ironically she had been there the whole time also wondering if I was who she was meeting. During the conversation with her and her friend Judith, I learnt that on Long Beach there was a watersport shop who rented Hobies! Success I thought, my hopes lifted and in good spirits I crashed El's Boyfriends dive shop xmas party which was hilarious as they were all wrecked when I got there.

I spent a lazy morning getting breakfast and doing boring admin tasks before getting the moto-taxi to Long Beach, Hobie spotted on the beach I thought this could be it, but I did notice it wasn't fully rigged and the rudders were missing. In conversation with the owner he told me the boat was broken and was "semi-retired, just like me". Spirits again dashed I headed to a nearby bar for an iced chocolate shake and a water. I then went for a swim and a sunbathe to regroup. The hunt for my 'Red October' was and is fast becoming my 'Moby Dick' moment.

I have decided to instead go Windsurfing tomorrow (Xmas day) and combine culture with one last try in Koh Lanta when I visit the east side of the Island and Old Town on boxing day. The hunt is not yet over and recent news has reinvigorated me. It appears my base for New Years in Cambodia may actually definitely have it as shown on the official Sihanoukville Tourist website....

to be continued....

oh and also, Merry Christmas from Thailand!

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