Monday, 19 August 2019

To exotic Thailand


To exotic Thailand, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.



I even got a tan.



After a very stressful day in Singapore, where we would have a "turn around" day regularly for the next 4 months, with change of pax (and some crew), spare parts received, provisions received, and services, it was time to start a new cruise.
It is normally a bit tired crew after such a turn around port since these days are normally very long, and especially after we just finished the repositioning from Europe as well.
So after departure we headed east into the Singapore strait, and then northwards along the coast of Malaysia, and in to the Gulf of Thailand.
Yepp, I was heading for Thailand for the first time in my life. This is back in 1995, and for a fresh Second Officer with only  a few months experience, it was a dream come through.
Had always heard about Thailand, but never even had the thought that I would end up there at one point, and travel several countries on the other side of the globe. I really felt I had picked the lottery ticket when I landed this job. The impressions, sights & sounds, came fast, and I had to try to digest it all.



My home away from home.




First, we would have 2 wonderful sea-days, which we spent transiting the southern part of The Gulf of Thailand. Sea-days are as you probably know days where we do not call any ports but just keep moving to next place.
The sea-days are normally very hectic days for the Hotel department, as they have a non-stop program with providing service for the passengers who never can leave the ship. For us belonging to Deck department and Engine department, we love sea-days because we can get done a lot regular maintenance and minor repairs, as well as getting done all the administrative stuff we need to do (reports, checks, planning, etc). 
Love sea-days.

Our first port of call was an anchorage, just off the world famous island of Kho Samui, located in the south western part of the Gulf of Thailand. This group of islands were already famous, but became even more famous as the years passed, with the beaches, resorts with all kinds of accommodations and price classes, bars & restaurants, rainforests, etc. Paradise on earth, until maybe the they over commercialised it some years later.
Regardless, for me new in the region, it was nothing less than an incredible experience to see for the first time. I just had to go ashore after my duties, to see and experience this.


 
One of the ship's tender boats.


Driving tenderboat.




After a day at anchor off the famous island of Kho Samui, with a visit to the beach, some cold ones to drink, and buying a few souvenirs, it was time to move on. We secured the ship's Tender boats, which we used to transport passengers and crew members from and to the ship, we picked up the anchor and continued towards next port, which was Bangkok.
Oh yess, the time was come for me to visit Bangkok. The city with both the good and bad reputation. The city which never sleeps. The city in the famous song "One night in Bangkok". And we were to stay for 2 nights (3 days). Little did I know what this city would mean to me 6-7 years down the road.





Up to Bangkok. River banks flooded.



We picked up the compulsory (maritime) Pilot at 5 AM, just before we enter the Chao Phraya river (which flows through Bangkok). A maritime pilot is usually compulsory in harbour areas/restricted waters in most parts of the world. Regardless whether the ship and crew have been there many times or not. Most of the pilots are very useful as they act like a link between the authorities and the ship, and also have local knowledge about the conditions (river banks, currents, local weather, etc).
So we sailed up the river for a few hours actually, due to the relatively small size of our vessel (only 134 meters long). The bigger cruise ships normally would be alongside in the cargo port of Laem Chabang, which is midway between Bangkok and Pattaya.
The Chao Phraya river is a so called tidal river, which means we also experience high and low tides in the river as well. This will sometimes (especially during rainy season) result in the water breaching the banks and flood the land masses.


Riverbanks flooded

Sunset, Bangkok. Pollution always give nice colours.


Bangkok was, and still is (maybe for not too long) an extremely exotic city, where you really feel that you are far far away from your home. You get this feeling you have been transported to another world, almost. The city is large, lots of traffic, and quite chaotic in some strange organized way (and still is). Takes a long time to really understand it. A mix of old and new building next to each other everywhere.
Small and bigger bars, pubs, hole in the wall waterholes, restaurants and smaller food vendors basically everywhere. Although the smaller food vendors have started to be pushed away from the pavements the last few years. But you still find them all over the city. I read in a book that half of the population in the kingdom is busy serving the other half with food and beverages. 😀😁
Lucky for me, I had several colleagues onboard who had been to these places before, and I just tagged along when we went ashore to taste the local cuisine.


The entire pier was flooded.

The guys rigging the gangway on the flooded pier.


One thing we all learn while there is to be careful when eating local food in Thailand. Doesn't matter if you are used to spicy food (as a westerner), because what you will experience in Thailand is special. I know, many like to brag about the spicy food they can eat. But eat the right (or wrong) food in Thailand, and you are in for a real treat. The food served by many of the street vendors is normally made for the locals, so it can be extremely spicy, and not always made with the Public Health system in mind. The poultry has sometimes been sweating in the heat the entire day, before being served.
So the reaction can be instant....or maybe not. For me it was the opposite. I could no "go" for days, and went to the ship's Doctor, whom just giggled and told me to wait a few more days. It was obvious that he had already been visited in the ship's Hospital by several of my colleagues.




Mmmm, good food.

The locals were more interested in the blond girls. 😉



After the third day (and 2 nights), it was time to leave bangkok, and head down the river again, towards the Gulf Of Thailand. Then we would head towards the island of Kho Kood (ko kut), where we would anchor again, and use our Tender boats for transportation of passengers and crew.
The company would rent a private beach for a day and arrange a beach BBQ and watersports (equipment we carried with the ship) from the beach.



Bosun and his guys prepare a tender boat.


Tender Boat launched.




Kho Kood, beach B-B-Q and watersports. With one of the tender boats alongside..



After Kho Kood, Vietnam.





Next part, Vietnam and Hong Kong.





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