Where the hell are Similan islands?

Every day of every year must be special and unforgettable. But two days every year must double beat that: my birthday and the New Year night. Since early age I had this very magical fascination with New Year night, although my parents ruined Ded Moroz (the Russian, much more cool, version of Santa) for me very quickly. Anyway, all these fireworks and heaps of Russian salad and cakes and presents – I love it to bits.

I entered the new year 2013 in a smashing but sleepy mood.

You see, I had to race some 1,000 km by hitchhiking to get to the place where I least expected and wanted to be on a New Years eve: Phuket. Phuket is perhaps the trashiest place on Earth, where young British students on gap year come to get laid, where old German men come to dance on the table with ladyboys and Russian women come accompanying their speedo-clad husbands and nagging about rising prices for cheap Chinese clothes in local stores. Phuket is a bit of a different planet, too. On New Year’s eve especially, each bar looks a bit like Chalmun Cantina from Star Wars.

Phuket has about the same level of ethnic and gender diversity
Phuket has about the same level of ethnic and gender diversity

Don’t get me wrong: for those who really want to have a loud countdown on the beach, fly a burning lantern into the air and occasionally set a palm tree on fire, watch glorious fireworks, dance on a massive inflatable platform in the sea, and then wake up with your underpants on your head and full of sand, covered in colourful artificial puke, somewhere under the table, Phuket is great.

Anyway, after a few awesome hitchhiking rides, including one where the 4 guys in the car were apparently Thai police and kept chasing other cars and snapping photos of the number plates, I got to Phuket and ended up on board ‘Furthur’ with cap’n Brian and two other crewmateys, Julie and Sam. We set sailing towards the Similan islands in the Andaman sea early morning on the 2nd of January. Well, Brian did, we were deep asleep.

Meet captain Brian, heading towards the horizon.
Meet captain Brian, heading towards the horizon.

Now who is Brian? Brian is the captain of Furthur, and I found him back in October through Findacrew. Later I heard about Brian from a mutual friend in Borneo. Brian has been sailing for over 6 years, and Southeast Asia keeps growing on him, so Brian finds it impossible to leave. Instead, with seasonal tides and winds, ‘Furthur’ moves between Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo, Thailand, and Philippines, exploring the high seas and the colourful world under the ocean waters. Brian also has one of the fullest and coolest profiles on Findacrew, with multiple references from different people who had the honor to keep the watch on his MV.

My crewmateys Sam and Julie, on our first diving trip.
My crewmateys Sam and Julie, on our first diving trip.

Our 10 days in the Andaman sea were a continuity of ‘dive-eat-sleep-repeat’ with intermissions of movie evenings, poo poo platters with loads of cheese, turtle watching and scrambling on rocks.

When we ran out of bread, twas time to make some of our own!
When we ran out of bread, twas time to make some of our own!

Similan islands are located right in the middle of Andaman sea, between Thailand and Sri Lanka. They belong to Thailand, and one – to the princess personally, although I doubt she spends a lot of time on an uninhabited island 60 nm from dry land. On one of the islands, you can find some sort of resort and hiking paths (about 100 m long), but frankly speaking the only way to travel here is with a dive center from Phuket or Krabi – a 5-day long live aboard trip that costs quite a lot, but includes amazing diving with turtles, barracudas, eels, in pristine blue waters. A lot of people come here on their private yachts, but by ‘a lot’ I mean somewhat between 10 and 15 boats moored at each small island at a considerable distance from each other. Human interaction here is totally optional, and you can always sail to your own serene bay to gaze at the blue waters and orange sunset.

A hole in the wall. And ripples in the sky. And sounds of silence.
A hole in the wall. And ripples in the sky. And sounds of silence.

One day, we had a turtle circling our boat for a solid half an hour, curious and fearless creature of the sea.
Turtle

Brian is full of stories and songs, mostly from the glorious 60s, and we had some good times singing ‘Me and Bobby Magee’ and ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, to his guitar and my ukulele, and every other evening we’d gather in the common room to watch some Star Trek (why Brian did not call his MV ‘Furthur Enterprise’ is beyond my understanding) or K-Pax.

Very much like Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Brian loves his chair.
Very much like Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Brian loves his chair.

Every evening, before starting our dinner, we had to complete the ritual of ‘I am grateful’, to say a couple of words about the day and the things it brought to us. I do not know how this tradition was born, but I find it wonderful. Even though most of the evenings we were so hungry that having a speech between the cooking and the eating part was unbearable.

Poo poo platter. Every evening. 6 pm. Don't miss it!
Poo poo platter. Every evening. 6 pm. Don’t miss it!

The most amazing thing about living on a boat is possibility to sleep outside, on the deck, and gaze at the starry sky until you fall asleep. No buzzing mosquitoes, no city noise, no smelly feet walking around you, just the calming swashing and splashing of sea water. Perhaps a kraken crawling up to get you.

Mountaineering underwater style.
Mountaineering underwater style.
The eel sees you and winks with its blue eye.
The eel sees you and winks with its blue eye.
Those blue lagoons that you dream about, Similan islands
Those blue lagoons that you dream about, Similan islands
Unicorn fish. I'd rather give it another name.
Unicorn fish. I’d rather give it another name.

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And they will spoil you forever.
And they will spoil you forever.
Clown triggerfish. Not so funny when it attacks you
Clown triggerfish. Not so funny when it attacks you
Brains or walnuts?
Brains or walnuts?
Small sea spies
Small sea spies
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