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Sailing the southern Phuket seas

PHUKET: It came as a surprise that after having lived more than 10 years in Southeast Asia, I have only recently begun to discover the real Phuket.

Tuesday 6 November 2012, 06:28PM

In February of this year, I joined my boyfriend Philippe on his sailing boat Dali, as we began what we hoped to be a long adventure across the world.

To start off however, we decided to test the waters (quite literally) and visit the renowned islands around the west coast of Thailand.

We set sail from Langkawi, and anchored in many beautiful islands along the way, such as the Butang group, Koh Rok, Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi. These islands provided us with a variety of stunning anchorages and diverse island landscapes.

We appreciated it all; from empty beaches in Koh Adang, where you feel all alone in the world, to the stunning water and vibrant reefs off Koh Rok. The very relaxed atmosphere in Koh Lanta contrasted with the extremely busy nightlife of Phi Phi Bay, where anchoring is a mess but the party lives up to its name.

From these islands, we continued to make our way north to Phuket. Approaching Phuket by boat, you are offered a wide spectrum of possible anchorages, depending obviously on season and personal preference.

Ao Chalong is the obligatory check-in point, though we would skip anchoring there if we had the choice. Dive boats fill up their tanks all night in preparation for early morning trips and the imminent threat of a nearby boat dragging onto you keeps both Captain and crew half awake all night.

Our preferred stop is the nearby Ao Yon, which provides a shallow and protected anchorage or mooring. It is a local ‘yachtie’ hangout, which means that you will always be met by a friendly face upon reaching shore.

In the past month however, due mostly to the early arrival of the southwest monsoon season, we have traded our usual mooring for a berth in the north of Phuket.

As we prepared to welcome Philippe’s brother on the boat, we sailed from Ao Yon towards Phang Nga Bay. Despite the daily dose of torrential rain, we were not disappointed with the great spectacle provided by this group of majestic islands. 

As vacations can never last forever (in the work and sailing world alike), we bade farewell to Philippe’s brother and prepared for a few weeks of work and repairs on the boat.

We chose a marina on the northeastern coast of the island, which provided great protection during this month’s heavy storms. Though the work was delayed considerably by the weather, we took advantage of the opportunity to explore the island further. 

It is something else to see Phuket in the midst of heavy rainfall, after a week without blue skies. The tourists begin to dwindle as they head indoors for entertainment and the island’s true colours can be seen. 

Phuket Town quickly became one of our favourite places on the island. The small city centre is a rich and complex combination that features beautiful architecture, traditional workshops as well as trendy cafés, bars and restaurants.

Walking through the streets, it is easy to appreciate the mix of Thai, European and Chinese heritage, showcased on the façades of many historical buildings. 

Another remarkable bonus of Phuket town is its curious lack of tourists. While it seems the majority of visitors head to the shopping malls for rainy weather entertainment, we would recommend having a quiet coffee and cake on one of the quaint street-side cafés or visiting one of the many small art galleries. 

Both as a tourist destination and as a waypoint on our travels, we have found Phuket to be a dynamic and accommodating island. For those that want to explore, it offers many beaches – each with its own character and clientele.

The island is also a great point of departure for those looking to travel to nearby destinations. Earlier this year, we made the most of Phuket’s ideal location and stopped here on our way up to the Similan and Surin islands. 

In preparation for the journey, we made sure to replenish our supplies. Another great advantage of Phuket is that it offers a wide variety of supermarkets, catering to every budget. Between SuperCheap and Villa Market, we happily stocked up before leaving Ao Yon in the direction of Bang Tao.

During the three weeks that we sailed, we were stunned by the amazing clarity of turquoise waters, the gorgeous delicate whites of the sand and the lush vegetation and animal life of the different anchorages. 

In short, we have come to love Phuket both as a destination in itself and as a useful and welcoming stopover.

In the coming weeks, we will be travelling to the east coast of Thailand in search of new amazing anchorages. You can follow our journey at

– Iva Agüero.



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