Sails billowing in the wind, emerald water sparkling beneath you as your laze on the bowsprit net, sun beating down on the teak decks, turning the skies to shades of fire as it sets into the sea; not a bad way to spend a winter’s day, right?
If island hopping around the coast of Thailand sounds like your idea of heaven, there can be few more idyllic ways to do it than aboard a Star Clippers tall ship. Leave winter behind this year and head for nirvana, calling at these paradisiacal places along the way…
Phuket (Patang Bay)
Your Phuket-to-Phuket round trip starts in Thailand’s most frenetic and famous beach resort. Patang Bay is all things to all people; party under neon lights if you like or sunbathe on some of the world’s best beaches if you don’t. There’s plenty to explore here, from the rainbow of Singo-Portuguese shophouses in the Old Town, to the glittering temple of Wat Chalong. After an energetic start, you’ll be perfectly prepared to leave the island behind and set sail on aquamarine seas.
With much of this untouched island out of bounds to visitors, being here is as close to being cast away as you can imagine. Much of the island’s appeal can be seen from the waters, including its wild mangroves, immaculate beaches and rocky bays, and the sprawling jungle of the Mu Ko Surin National Park.
Fortunately, the waters are free to roam, so slip on your snorkel and take the plunge; Ko Surin is considered one of Asia’s best snorkelling destinations. Whale sharks, sea turtles and shoals of butterfly fish are just some of the marine life you can expect to encounter in the waters around the island.
The only part of Ko Surin that isn’t off limits to visitors is the village settlement of the Moken people. Considered one of the last remaining sea gypsy communities in the world, their intriguing lifestyle is a million miles away from our own.
Nine islands make up the Similian Islands, located just off the Andaman Coast, and the underwater paradise that surrounds them is considered one of the top ten scuba and diving sites in the world. On dry land you will find a beach as stunning as any you’ve ever seen in the brochures, where white sands are scattered with enormous boulders and the greenery of the island’s National Park.
Hin Daeng/Ko Rok Nok
It is often said that when conditions are right, the things you’ll see beneath the crystalline waters of Hin Daeng can trump even those of Similian Island. Daeng means ‘red’ and the island takes its name from the bright red corals that thrive just off its coast. When lazing on the beach or bowsprit net gets tiresome, if ever such a thing was possible, hop into the waters and adjust your eyes to see the 4-metre manta rays that are often spotted.
The Malaysian archipelago of Langkawi is 99 islands of paradise personified. The thick jumpers and grey skies of winter at home will be a distant memory as you laze away your days here; you’re on island time now. If you can tear yourself away from the beaches, the town of Kuah promises a duty-free purchase or two.
Comprising little more than a long slither of sand, Ko Kradan is an island big on nature. Low-tide sees sandbars extend miles into the waters here, so you can stroll with your toes in the sea and swim back to shore when the tides turn in the afternoon. Uninhabited, save for a handful of exclusive resorts, Ko Kradan makes it hard to resist heading for a hammock with little more than your holiday read and a cold drink for company.
Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay is one of the most beautiful and iconic bays in all of Asia, instantly recognisable by the sheer limestone karsts that jut dramatically out of the water. The most famous of them all is James Bond Island, made famous in ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ and worthy of a boat visit to appreciate its sheer scale. Another must-see is the floating fisherman’s village of Koh Panyi, built almost entirely on stilts and, rather strangely, home to a world-class football team.
Those keen to explore can head out in search of sea caves, kayaking through impossibly slender passageways into expansive ‘hongs’ within. Whilst you’re there, keep an eye out for the island’s monkeys, most of which are absolutely uninterested in the presence of passers-by.
Delve between limestone cliffs and emerge into the vast emerald lagoon at the centre of Ko Hong (meaning ‘Room Island’). Paddle the width of this expansive lagoon before refuelling with fried chicken and fresh fruit served straight to the beach. Later, stretch your legs in the National Park, walking the nature trail and keeping an eye out for the lazy monitor lizards that meander in the undergrowth.
Are you ready to trade a wet winter at home for a Thai island adventure? Set sail with Star Clippers in Thailand and Malaysia from December 2016 to April 2017, sailing along the southern Thailand coast and visiting its most stunning islands, many of which are accessible by sea. Speak to your Sales Consultant today on 01246 819 819 for more information.