Friday, February 06, 2009

February 4, 2009 - Ko Muk, Trang Province, Thailand

These guys have been trying to launch themselves aboard Mata'irea since Singapore. At one point in the Malacca Strait we thought we had hit something, but when we discovered scales on the foredeck we realized that actually something had hit us. These fish fly through the air so fast that it took us until today to get a picture of one.
After talking to some cruisers at Ko Tarutao, who described an unbelievable hong that we could take the dinghy into through long, dark cavern, we decided to head for Ko Muk. Along the way we passed a series of spectacular limestone islands, with their pink and white cliffs rising steeply out of emerald green water.
Ko Phetra, its razorback ridge of limestone cliffs, covered with jungle and populated by birds, whose edible nests are gathered by intrepid climbers.

A longtail fishing in the shaddow of Ko Phetra

Arriving at Ko Muk, we dropped anchor in the most spectacular anchorage we have seen since the Marquesas. Lush, verdant cliffs surrounded us and the water was the clearest we've seen since we left Indonesia three months ago. We launched the dinghy and, while we waited for the tide to drop and the last of the day trippers to leave, Sten tinkered with the dinghy engine while I washed our disintegrating mainsail cover. Once the tide was low enough, we headed over to Tham Morakot, also known as the Emerald Cave.

The entrance to the cave is just to the right of the sign at water level.
Inside the entrance of the cave the water around us glowed a luminous aquamarine from the light seeping under the edges of the cave walls. The glowing water sparkled on the ceiling of the cave, illuminating stalactites and a colony of bats. As we headed deeper into the cave, all ambient light disappeared, and we switched on a divelight. Sten rowed while I swung the light around, picking out a path for us. After about 80 meters and a few wrong turns, we emerged from the tunnel into a saltwater lagoon, surrounded by soaring limestone cliffs.

The hong was empty but for us and three eagles circling overhead. It was utterly still and peaceful. This place had a spiritual feel to it, like the feeling one might get within a ring of standing stones or an ancient temple. We soaked up the atmosphere for a while, then reversed our course out of the tunnel.

That night, this spectacular anchorage slipped a few notches on our list of favorite places as a current induced chop entered the anchorage. We were bouncing around so much that Sten went to sleep in the salon. Then, around 1am the longtail fishing fleet started buzzing us. The first time they went by I was dreaming about mowing the lawn before I woke up and realized that the dream was induced by the unmuffled engines on the longtails, which sound just like lawnmowers, only much, much louder.

A longtail fishing at sunset off of Ko Muk

The next morning, we took advantage of the clean, clear water and spent some time cleaning the hull. After a few hours of work, we headed down to the next bay in the dinghy to find some lunch at one of the resorts that line the beach of Hat Farang. When we rounded the corner, we figured out where the rest of the boats we had been anchored with the night before had gone. We also ran into some old friends who had arrived that day. So after a tasty Thai lunch, and with happy hour looming, we headed back up to our anchorage and brought Mata'irea down to the main anchorage.

Mata'irea anchored at Ko Muk's southern anchorage

That night we had drinks on board a Nordhaven. We've been admiring these motoryachts from a distance for years, so it was very cool to get onboard and have a look around one. The southern anchorage was a lot calmer, if not quite as spectacular as the northern one. We both enjoyed a good night's sleep.

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