A Travellerspoint blog

Paradise in the wake

Back on the mainland!

semi-overcast
View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

I realized a while ago that I've never spent more than a week’s time on a place with a beach. Like, ever. Ko Phangan was not the exception. People and friends kept telling me to stay for the full moon party; what was the point of leaving just before the main event? But as the week came to an end, I really wasn't enjoying the place anymore. So it’s now in my wake, party or no. I took a ferry and left the islands. In a matter of hours I was back on the mainland, paradise gone. It wasn't really paradise for me though.

Just a bit

Just a bit


It must be said, there’s more to Ko Phangan than the party. It is a beautiful place, with clear water to snorkel or dive, and plenty of jungly hiking trails crisscrossing the island. I met some great people there, found my own gaze reflected on stranger’s eyes more than once. It’s a great feeling, to look into someone’s eyes briefly, and knowing you’re the same as him. No words spoken. None needed.

The Haadrin Beach, home to the world famous Full Moon Party

The Haadrin Beach, home to the world famous Full Moon Party


I guess my experience would have been a bit different if I’d arrived somewhere else on the island. But I got to Haad Rin, party center. Just a two hour hike north lies another, hippier (the wealthy kind of hippie) place, Haad Tien. Or there's the more relaxed Ban Kai, slightly west up the beach. They seem nice enough! But Haad Rin wasn't my kind of paradise. Don’t go there if broke!
And it’s not the easiest place to meet people either, and it's not just my impression. Being a big party place, lots come in tight groups, or in couples, and are not really open to chatting. Still people talk about how much sex you can have in this party land. Yet I’m not very into drunken chicks, and sober girls are being constantly harassed by drunken vultures, so we honest folk get offed away with the rest... I did make friends with people in my hostel though! Two Chilean students who slept right next to me (no such a thing as privacy in the Hostel), and there was a couple that I got along with. He is a traveler too, of similar spirits, and was celebrating his 28th birthday there. I get the feeling we'll meet again somewhere.
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I took to long walks along the beach, or over gorgeous wooden bridges that round some rocky outcroppings, so you walk with the waves crashing under you. Every time I walked back on a road someone stopped to offer me a ride. A Canadian traveler, a French diving student, a German tourist and a Korean partygoer, they all brought me to or from Haad Rin on their scooter, nothing else than a smile in return. Not to mention the trucker that brought me from the small pier to the main ferry station in Koh Samui! I was wondering what to do, chatting at a juice stand, when he spurted "I’ll take you! No charge!" I’m not going to wait for someone to say this twice! He almost got me to the mainland for free, and was sad that he couldn't get me any further. And that wasn't the only one! Once in the train station, a woman waved a couple pieces of papaya at me, so I made my way over. I made sure she wasn't trying to sell anything to me, then sat down on my rucksack. She didn't speak English, but kept on talking anyway. From time to time she would use some english word and I'd get a glimpse of understanding. But mainly it was just nodding, smiling sheepishly, eating papaya and refusing her rice and curry. We waited until my train arrived, and then I left for Bangkok. In the end she pushed a 20 baat bill and a handkerchief into my satchel, and I offered her one of mine in return. I will never know even her name or story, yet I carry her handkerchief.

Onwards!

Onwards!


Not all is cheer and joy in Thailand though. Only most of it. As of yet, the only item I've lost is my water bottle, snatched from my bag when inside the luggage compartment in a bus. Not a great loss, especially considering I got it from a trash can in Oregon. But it was a good water bottle, I hope it serves its new master well. So there’s that, and the fact that that I caught a cold on that last night train to Bangkok. I can’t remember the last time I was sick, so I guess I was overdue. So no news from Bangkok! Even though I’m in this bright new city, all I want to do is crawl under a blanket and sleep.

And I’d rather sacrifice two days resting up in Bangkok, for I intend to catch the 05:55 train tomorrow to Cambodia. I’ll visit finally one of the few places in the world that give me a physical reaction upon thought: the Angkor complex.

Meanwhile, the introspective journey continues. I think I found a path to follow, on one of those beach walks. I bought a plane ticket back to Turkey, for April. And it seems I may meet my sister there. After months away both of us, that would be awesome. And it's back to Europe after that. But April's far away! A whole month!

So see you after the ruins!

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Posted by Zaspirucho 10:45 Archived in Thailand Tagged diving hiking beach thailand island beautiful party paradise full_moon snorkeling backpacking koh scooter phangan hitchhiking Comments (0)

Onwards!

Some Malaysia, Singapore and now Thailand!


View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

For months I had been feeding the fantasy of a great sailing adventure spanning thousands of miles and innumerable seas and islands. When that thought came to its abrupt end, I was left in the labyrinth of decision. A thousand doors around me, each leading on a different path, all equal, all great. Which to choose? But just you wait, keep your eyes and mind open, and all will fall into place. So in the meantime, to give Time some time, I took to touristing.
After regrouping with my thoughts in Kuala Lumpur. I met with my friend Petrina and together we left for Malacca. Three months earlier we'd met in KL, and we had both gone on sailing adventures. Now we met again and exchanged stories. Turns out her experience was not too different from mine, with her captain’s company and attitude being only manageable, then building up to becoming intolerable, at which point two of the three crew left, and she ended up back in Malaysia, just as me. We both required some company, and with the approaching Lunar New Year Celebration, Malacca looked like a good place to be.
101_1119.jpgIt's a happy place

It's a happy place

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There’s a couple of things they don’t tell you about Malacca. First that, well, there's no beach! True, they never do quite say there is one, but being by the sea and all… There is an island nearby, and beaches will be easily found there. I guess. We didn't go there. Instead we walked around Chinatown and Little India, ate laksa here and sate there, and had a good time. But our hostel was not IN Chinatown, rather in the budget hostels quarter, right next to the tower of the eerie sound. That’s the second thing they don’t tell you. Don’t stay anywhere near that tower! It cuts the wind in such a way that an eerie, ethereal and invasive sound is created. It will crawl up your spine and enter your dreams… Other than that, with its Portuguese, Chinese and Dutch backgrounds and monuments, the place is nice enough. Petrina stayed a couple more days, but for me Malacca was over quickly, and in the traveler’s style we said goodbye while walking, backpacks on, each going their own way. On, towards the next destination! For me it was to be Singapore.

'Later!

'Later!


Now Singapore I really liked! It is a very modern city, and big too, but very nice. It is clean and walking friendly; it feels safe. I walked around it for hours on end, and it only felt more comfortable. The water’s clean too! And people were very smiley. For a big, modern city, I felt the atmosphere surprisingly relaxed. Had a chat with a retired Singaporean while we had lunch in a Chinese restaurant, outside a metro station. No worries, no rush.
Although I don’t need no excuse to visit a place, this time I had one. Some weeks earlier a high school friend had gotten me into contact with a friend of hers, saying we had similar ways of thinking, and we’d surely enjoy chatting. That was still back in India. And that was it. And that would have been it, for I thought she was in Japan. But in the weeks that passed she had moved to Singapore to study! Now in Malacca, being a few hours away from her and not coming to visit… that would have been a royal shame, no? So I hopped on a bus and set off to meet her in person! I knew I would like her, no shocker there! I was surprised by what I found in the city though.
101_1235.jpgHappy Year of the Horse!

Happy Year of the Horse!


Singapore is as modern and expensive as it is reputed to be. The price numbers there are the same as in Malaysia, it's just that one’s in riggit, and the other in dollars. Yet it’s also smiley and very walking friendly. The water is fresh and safe to drink, there is food everywhere and some places are open until very late at night, and there are parks and museums galore. It is a city worth visiting. I stayed at the Empire Hostel, for about 10 SGD a night, or 28 RM, a lot less than I expected.
As for attractions, people kept saying I should go to their Disneyland resorts and casinos island. Instead I spent a day in the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum. I was so amazed by all that I saw there, the relics, the ceremony, the information (to some I would say the presence too), that I became stupefied. I went upstairs and had a long nap in the Roof Garden, in the Pagoda of the 10 000 Buddhas. And that name’s no exaggeration either! 101_1240.jpgAll full of wonders

All full of wonders


On another day I walked around with my newly met friend Haruka. We made our way to the Supertree Grove, in the Gardens by the Bay. You can spend hours there, going up and down (literally) and eating and marveling at both the natural and man-made wonders there. We timed our visit for sunset though. We knew the place would light up at night, still we did not expect the show of light and music that awaited us. I would definitely recommend a visit!

It's worth a look!

It's worth a look!

And now, after some traveling, I am in Thailand.
Lets elaborate on that poor sentence. It resumes two nights of sleeping on a train seat, with a layover in Kuala Lumpur (where, as it happened, I could see Petrina once more!). By the second morning I was in Thailand, and at the border I met two travelers, an aussie and a dutch, and spent the rest of the day with them. We had beer for breakfast and noodle soup for lunch, then beer for dessert. The next train was very late and we had to run with all our things to the pier, to catch our night ferries. They were going to Koh Tao, but my destination would be Koh Phangan. We said goodbye traveler style. And didn't look back.

With the sun I stepped unto one of the biggest party islands in the world. And here I am. Still unsure of what is to come, still open to whatever may!
I don't think I'll party tonight though. I have a bed for luck's sake!

Posted by Zaspirucho 06:07 Archived in Thailand Tagged malacca kuala_lumpur singapore travel train thailand malaysia backpacking koh phangan Comments (0)

Back in Asia

So where to from here?

semi-overcast 25 °C
View Liberty Goes East on Zaspirucho's travel map.

I have been trying to explain why I abandoned the Liberty. It's been difficult to tell without making it sound horrible. But it wasn't. The sailing was great. It was an awesome trip fixing the ship then crossing from India to Malaysia... So why did I leave? There were no big incidents. Just a build up of small details. Well, I'll try explaining once more. So let’s start at the beginning.
When we left India we were shaded by the continent, so we had barely any wind. And Liberty is a heavy thing, so it needs WIND to get moving. Leaving the Indian coast, and then sailing southeast past Sri Lanka, that was interesting. India shades the wind, and Sri Lanka too, so in that channel between them… That was the roughest passage we had, with young rambunctious waves, and plenty of cargo ships to look out for. The A.I.S. radar kept beeping all the time. And after that, the deep blue.

I do mean blue

I do mean blue


As we sailed east, the currents would push us south, and so strong they were that even when the compass said we were going full southeast, the GPS would say full South. Rarely would those two agree. Then, once the currents abated, we continued southeast, towards the Equator and beyond. We had good wind, nice weather. For days we didn't need to adjust the sails. We ate pancakes, we read and watched the clouds move. That day came though, when we changed course, avoiding the flimsy equatorial weather and went up and around Sumatra. There we anchored next to an island and made a two day illegal visit to a fishing village, where I had my first good coffee since Kuala Lumpur. After some more days motoring and watching out for cargo ships, we crossed the Strait of Malacca, and then, one month later, it was all over. The wind on my skin, the warm waves flowing on deck, the rain washing the salt off my face, the dolphins playing on the bow, they are were now just memories to treasure, of my sailing adventure on the Indian Ocean.

Dancing would describe it better!

Dancing would describe it better!


When we were nearing departure, when we were docked still, I started looking at prices of sailboats in New Zealand. Maybe I could get my own when I got there! Where would I sail her? What to do? Where to go? I was also wondering though, what could I do different from this Captain? I wasn't learning too much; a trick here, a useful technique there… I was rather applying all I’d ever learned before, and that felt good too. It wasn't the work that bothered me. It was the delays. One week at a time, one day at a time. And we worked in such an inefficient way, that things just didn't get done. We toiled for a full week, well into the night, yet the essential tasks kept getting postponed. And Gerd had openly told us that he gets very nervous before departure. We learned though, he also behaves like a jerk when he’s nervous. But everything would be better when we’re at sea, I kept telling Tiho. Just wait till we’re sailing, and we're relaxed. Everything will be fine then.
And while things DID get better at sea, they never actually got to be fine. Somehow, everything felt like this was the first time ever that the Liberty set sail. Say, for example, how can someone have lived in there for years, yet have no place to keep the food? Gerd insisted upon keeping the potatoes in their sack, in a shelf in the galley. When they started rotting, his solution was to spread them on the floor. So on one side of the table the floor was taken up by his 2 meter wooden statue, on the other we had potatoes… The onions he kept in a crate inside the bathroom; in the least ventilated place in the ship. I took it as my duty to sort out the rotten or moldy ones. At some point ALL of them were moldy. This is just an example of how unprepared we were for the trip.

But the sailing was good. NOW I was learning. A ship is a big mash up of so many complicated systems! The steering, the sailing, the engine and communications... Many new words, lots of new meanings! The metal sheen over the evening sky, the halo around the moon, and the shape of the waves. Some things I learned from Gerd, and some from books. We talked a bit, read some more and slept a lot. For almost a week there is no mention in my journal of the captain’s craziness, most only sunrises, wind and distant lands.
It was around New Year that the mood shifted... “Will the whole trip be like this?” reads my journal, “saying one thing, then doing another?” Two weeks into the sailing, ten weeks since I’d first seen the ship, and I still could not feel at home. Everyday Gerd became more morose, distraught, and openly rude; definitely not a good company. I started thinking of time and money. I wasn't really happy, and spending way too much of both to be in a place where I wasn't happy… I decided first I wouldn't go all the way to New Zealand. It would be New Caledonia for me, then I'd make my own way south. Then it was “wherever we are in July”. Then June. But then disaster struck! We broke the sails, we had no gas, and we turned for Malaysia. I was ecstatic. Such was the feeling of release at having a chance to leave the boat soon; land so close at hand, that I decided to go no further.
I had known from the very start that it would be difficult, I just didn't know how much so. Not the sailing, not the working, I enjoyed those! But being a part of someone else’s story… not having power of decision, having to ask for permission to move or adjust or do anything, go anywhere; not being responsible for myself, being only a character, part of the crew, part of the boat. Liberty just didn't live up to its name, not for me, and I didn't see that changing anytime soon. Then I was given a second chance to explore Asia, and I took it. This is, after all, the first time I've been this side of the world!
So now I’m back in Malaysia, where this journey started last October, that chapter closed, a new one beginning. I pour over maps and visa requirements, I chat with my fellow travelers and learn of routes, tricks and places. Very soon I will move on. I enjoy the anxiety of possibility, of decision. Where, how and when? That awaits so be seen, there’s no rush. No rush at all.

What is to come, will come. In the meantime, Happy New Years everyone!!

Happy year of the Horse!

Happy year of the Horse!

Posted by Zaspirucho 07:12 Archived in Malaysia Tagged travel malaysia sailing equator liberty crew desertion crazy_captain Comments (1)

The turnaround

Fifty miles off the Equator

all seasons in one day 25 °C

“No more coffee??” You could almost see the blood leaving Gerd’s face. We were fifty miles north of the equator, yet still far from the coast of Sumatra. It was a fine day, gentle wind blue sky. The date, January the 3rd.

One of those days

One of those days

Since morning, Gerd had been in what Tiho and I had taken to call ‘the mood’. That is, when he gets haggard, quiet, and tries to do everything at once. He becomes very rude and difficult to be around. During this spells of inefficient activity he uses very few words and barks directions at everyone, with always a sneer and a smartass reply at the ready. But after ten weeks with the guy we were used to this; we just stayed out of his way, of did as he said. This day turned out different thogh. This day his musings led him to do the one big thing he had postponed for almost a month now: he decided to weigh the gas bottle.
Our 16 kilo gas bottle had been refilled in India, after two failed attempts at getting a good local cooking device. It had done a good job. But we were six people back then, and there’d been cooking aplenty. The original estimate had been that the full bottle would last eight weeks. By this the 3rd of January , seven of those weeks had already slipped by. So neither Tihomir nor I were the least surprised when we found out we had around two kilos left of propane. We had urged Gerd to weigh the bottle while still in India. We had strongly advised at getting a second one. The Captain had dismissed our concerns, “It will last, it will last” he would say. Yet we weren't even nearly half way to our destination, yet less than a fifth of the gas remained. That day at sea, when confronted with the facts, for once Gerd became speechless.
We the crew had long since made our minds to a life of rice and explained thus to Gerd. How, if we wanted to make last ten days’ worth of gas into another forty, drastic changes would ensue. One big pot of rice a day, maybe pasta or potatoes on the pressure cooker, and specially, he would have no more coffee. “I just make hot water! And everyone benefits from it!” he cried defensively, knowing it was not true. Tihomir could very well live without his tea, and it’d been at least a week since I’d given up coffee... After some more talking and thinking, he came up with a solution. “I don’t want to go into full survival mode. Rice like a monastery, and no coffee! No. I think we change course, go to Malaysia...”

Now THAT caught us unprepared. This would effectively cut the journey by half, the new estimate being ten days! Our minds filled with swirling images or land, people and pizza. Merely ten days!!

Weather changes quickly down there!

Weather changes quickly down there!


But Gerd’s decisions are as stable as the equatorial weather. By that very evening he called us out to the pilot house. It was squally outside, on and off showers and sudden gusts of wind. While he steered and we stood in the bleary, wet cabin, he monologued at will. After much thought it turned out, he had decided that having no means to cook our food ‘could’ actually be considered an emergency. No matter he'd nearly call me an idiot for mentioning that earlier, huh? He now saw no real reason to leave our course, especially with this wonderful wind we were having. In fact we should try to make the most of it, go as fast as possible. We should probably reef the sails, go the safe way and have a pleasant sail. Or better yet, set a watch and hand steer through the night! Thus I was left at the wheel, mood as dark as the weather, cursing our lack of cheese for the hundredth time.
A squall passed. Another came. Then there was no wind. Slowly the wind came back. We gained speed: 1.1 knots, 1.3, 1.7, 2. Then it picked up, from three knots we jumped to 4 and five. I had just eased the mainsail a bit when a gust brought us up to a good seven knots. We heeled so suddenly and heavily that there was no need for me to call out to Gerd and Tiho. As I fully released the main, Gerd tried to steer downwind, to ease the pressure on the sails. But no, the wind was to strong, the sails had to come down. As Tiho steered Gerd released the halyard, and I ran to the bow, caught the sail and brought it down, lashing it to the deck, trying not to get blown off the ship by the wind or flooding waves. We brought the mainsail down as well, just leaving a small foresail on. Even then, with almost no canvas up, we were making a good 3.8 knots. So we set the self-steering and went to bed, thinking all was fine. Yet morning had another story to tell.
With the first light, we tried hoisting the sails, but the main had a big hole where a baton no longer stood, and the foresail was even worse. Two big gashes looked back at us, each a full arm's lenght (the pictures died with my iphone, but that's another story). It tore as soon as it was released... We could temporarily mend the holes by hand, we could, but to properly fix them, a good sewing machine would be required. Even a sailmaker maybe. The thing is, Gerd had spent a good six months in Dili and found none to speak of… So we looked at each other. It was decided for sure then. We set up the reserve mainsail (which was the better one anyway), and turned north. We never reached the Equator.

And we rounded Sumatra...

And we rounded Sumatra...

We had no more technical issues, and plenty of pancakes, potato salads and noodles. We rounded the tip of Sumatra and crossed the Strait of Malacca. A good 17 days later we arrived at the Malaysian port of Lumut, after much toil and motoring. And on January the 20th, after a night anchored in quarantine, Gerd got up and put the kettle on. But surely, as expected, there was no more gas.

Posted by Zaspirucho 18:53 Archived in Indonesia Tagged food boat sailing plans wind equator liberty emergency Comments (3)

Sailin' fine!

Somewhere off Trivandrum

sunny

Sailing is like a game of cards, or a tabletop game. They explain it to you in great detail, you think you understand, and then on the first round you realize you have no idea what you’re doing. By the second round you’ve got half of it, and a few rounds later you wonder how it is you had doubts in the first place. So it is a bit similar here. We’re realizing that no matter how much we read and talk and demonstrate, doing is quite different.
Feels like longer we’ve been out here, even if it’s just a couple of days. Maybe it is because many things can happen in a day, so they feel very, very long. Or because we’ve been on this boat for more than two months now. Also might be because the nights are active too. Unless there’s absolutely no wind. Like last night… but even then I was woken up by the radar, big ships coming our way, it said. Nothing dangerous, just have to keep them in sight. Until now, only one cargo ship we’ve had to contact.
There are certain rules in the sea. For example, any ship that overtakes another has to take it into account (meaning go around it). Also, as a very general rule, sailboats have the right of way. So it is interesting to see a big cargo ship changing its course for us. A bit different than the land world. Here go are all equals, all creatures of the sea.
Creatures I say, not people, for it seems we have a passenger on the boat. Gerd went up the mast and, to everyone’s surprise, out flew a big, sleepy and startled fishing owl. It would not be strange it if made of our mast its new base for a few days at least. And under the boat we have a few resident fish under the boat as well. We’ve been sailing next to the shore to have some land or sea breeze, depending on the time of day, so there are some hours when there is no wind. Flat. So twice now we’ve gone swimming and diving and scraping the hull. We like the birds, and the fish too, but not the mollusks. Sorry, mollusks, it’s just how it is!
We’re almost at the tip of India. now There’s just no wind in this place, that’s why we hug the coast. But there is wind up ahead, we can see it in the maps and forecasts. So as soon as we get there, we’ll start shooting off towards the south point of Sri Lanka. More than twenty knots of wind over there! Better than our lazy three knot wind of the past days!
It’s great being out here. We ate flying fish today, it was given to us by some fishermen as thanks for not going through their net. It was better than the usual boats who come to us asking for cigarettes and alcohol. If we had brought a couple bottles of vodka with us, we’d be bathing in fish oil by now. But there are no drugs on this boat. Well, just the 20 kilos of coffee and tea! Apart from that, no drugs: no alcohol, nicotine or pot. No meat or cheese either! I’ve been craving a grilled cheese sandwich for a couple of weeks now. I’ll have to wait ‘til Dili for that... We’ll arrive there as planned it seems, sometime during the next 40-50 days. In the meantime, we are learning steadily. The other day I successfully hoisted and dropped the foresail on my own, with no fuck-ups. As if to compensate, I also dropped it into the sea. We lost some potatoes to the maggots, and a couple of old green beans. Apart for that, we are great! Healthy and tanned!
I’ll later try to add some photos, if we get another internet session before leaving the coast! But if not, well, see you later!

Posted by Zaspirucho 01:11 Archived in India Tagged fishing sailing fishermen liberty open_sea Comments (0)

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