„Beyond your expectations!“ By Gerd Roysland
Have you ever been on a trip that leaves you speechless? Ever been on a trip that exceeds your every expectation? If not, I’d like to tell you about our splendid (or SPLENDED, as the Thais like to spell it) trip in Phuket waters.
My friend Dot – really Dorothy, but she prefers Dot, in spite of being regularly mixed up with a well-known UK toilet cleaner liquid called Dot, in the fifties! -, and I are both blessed with very inventive and generous husbands indeed. They had been planning a surprise trip for us for months, of which we knew was going to take place, but we did not know what to expect at all. So, some weeks ago we all went to Phuket, stayed in a nice hotel for a couple of days first, and were then told we should go on a bus tour. A bit taken aback, Dot and I weren’t overly excited by the information, as we didn’t think a bus tour sounded that spectacular.
The bus tour ended in the huge bay south-east on Phuket, Ao Chalong – Ao means bay in Thai. Here we were met by a very friendly South-African guy, Gareth, and his Thai colleague En at the beachfront. They had a little dinghy, and by now we ladies were starting to get the gist of it – yes, I know we’re a bit slow, but so what? They were to take us and our luggage out to one of the boats anchored in the bay. Dot and I still didn’t know what kind of boat, or the size or anything else. When we finally saw our home for the next 5 days, we were in total aw! The “Cataleya” is a huge 58 foot sailing catamaran, and it can sleep up to 14 people. As for our party, we were only 4 guests, and we had the same amount of people as crew! Our lovely South African Gareth as captain, En as engineer, a master Thai sea gypsy cook, Chern, and an extra crewmember, a masseuse called Rai. In other words, we could see they were about to take very good care of us.
Originally over 20 years old, the “Cataleya” is an UK-built catamaran, but her age was not seen at all, as she was in immaculate condition. Totally renovated and refurbished only last year at a yard in Phuket, the boat was a sheer delight. The cockpit in the aft had two big tables under a huge sunroof (on top of the sunroof solar panels were installed), and all the cabins and the indoor saloon with the galley were incredible spacious and light and airy. The same can be said about the whole boat inside and out: Incredibly spacious, light and airy. We loved the décor on the boat; it was so bright, light and happy.
Before we took off, our captain Gareth discussed the trip with us; we looked at the chart and were asked where we would like to go, and whether we would like to go by sail as much as possible. We really did want to sail as much as we could, which means you have to follow the wind and will not necessarily be able to reach specific destinations at specific times. The peace you feel when you move by sail only cannot be compared to anything else; it’s just about the most tranquil feeling ever.
One might ask oneself, what on earth did we do for five days and four nights on a catamaran? The answer is, literally nothing. Such bliss! We lazed, relaxed, read our books, we sunbathed, had excellent foot massages and Thai body massages, we swam in the wonderfully clean water, did some snorkeling, and we anchored by beautiful islands whenever we were so inclined. We took the dinghy out and saw some wonderful grottos and a lush mangrove lagoon. We kayaked; we saw hundreds of spectacular fungi-shaped limestone islands, we had GT’s every day at gin o’clock time (5pm sharp that is, according to Dots husband, Keith), we drank wine. But first and foremost, we ATE! We did nothing but stuff our faces, all the time.