Friday, February 27, 2009

February 26, 2009 - Nai Harn, Phuket, Thailand

One morning, while waiting for the local bus, I finally got to experience a little bit of the real Thailand - something that hasn't been built or staged for the benefit of tourists. I wandered into the local wat (or temple). I spent a few minutes walking around the grounds, under towering pine trees, watching local families arrive on motorbikes for their morning prayers. As I circled back out towards the temple gate, I heard a noise that sounded like someone moaning. I looked over to see a family of five gathered around the hood of a shiny new pickup truck. They were all dressed in jeans and polo shirts, but they had kicked off their sandals and were standing barefoot in the dust. In the center of the group was a monk, wearing flowing orange robes. In one hand the monk held a blue and white porcelain jar. The monk's other hand rested on the hood of the pickup truck. His shaved head was bowed forward and his eyes were closed as he muttered incantations over the hood of the truck. The sound that drew my attention wasn't coming from him. The keening was coming from the oldest woman in the group, who was wearing a pink suit jacket over her polo shirt. She was rocking back and forth, moaning. As the monk prayed, her cries became more agitated and high pitched. She stretched her arms towards the hood of the truck. Her whole body was shaking as she let out a cry and fainted dead away into the arms of a young man standing behind her. The monk stopped praying. Before he moved around the open driver's door to begin to bless the cab, he looked directly at me. As he made eye contact I felt like an intruder. And I was a little worried that whatever evil spirit they had just exercised from the truck might be looking for a new home, so I hightailed it out of there before it attached itself to me.

When we arrived in Nai Harn a few days ago we were excited to see some boats that we knew in the anchorage, friends from the Indonesia rally. We were caught up in boat projects for the first two days here. Sten changed a seal on the transmission and the oil in the main engine and did some preventative maintenance on the refrigeration motor. Meanwhile I did a provisioning run and some sail repair (if I had known how much time I would be spending with a needle in my hand I would have paid more attention when my mom tried to teach me to embroider!). On our second evening in Nai Harn we got together with some friends for dinner at one of the many small restaurants that line the beach here. We caught up on what everyone had been up to these past three months, and their plans for the coming season.

We also met an adventurous couple on Alishan, a Taswell 43, who introduced us to the Thai sauna experience (and here Sten had been thinking that the engine room was his Thai sauna experience). The real sauna smelled like tiger balm and lemongrass and was so hot that we could only spend a few minutes at a time in it. Afterwards we had massages and went out for some really tasty Thai food, which was a nice change as so much of the Thai we've had has been seriously mediocre - dumbed down for tourists, I guess.

We had a fun night out with Marijke and Jaap, capped off with a tragically funny mistimed dinghy launch through the surf crashing on Nai Harn beach. If we hadn't had dry bags to protect our cameras and wallets, our poor timing would have been tragic. As we did, it was just funny. And wet. The next day Jaap helped Sten get some charting software up and running and we got some fur therapy, hanging out with their two cats while we checked out a tiny portion of Marijke's amazing shell collection. Check out this picture of a very seasick Wakame - I'm trying to convince Sten to let me make it our screen saver as it cracks me up every time I look at it.

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