I have just come back from an amazing trip to Thailand on the 'Star Clipper'. It provided the experience of a traditional sailing ship or private yacht with the service and facilities of a traditional cruise though completely different. A truly romantic experience on board a true sail ship.
Our trip started with an indirect flight via Istanbul, not a bad route to travel but allow at least 2 hours to transit as it is a huge airport.
Having flown overnight we transferred about 1 hour north to the Sala Resort in the resort of Mai Khao. I think it was worth the transfer time as it was such a luxury retreat on an exquisite beach so it allowed us to get acclimatised and ready for our great adventure.
The next morning we transferred to the Seaview Hotel in Patong where we completed check in. There was great anticipation and trepidation on my part, getting onto the ship's tender to be transferred to the ship which was anchored off the shore. Suffice to say you need to have a certain level of fitness to disembark the tender and climb the stairs on board. And a sensible pair of shoes. Invest in some 'swimshoes' for getting on and off.
We soon had a cocktail in our hand and the journey began. The interior of the ship was as you would expect, nautical in theme, lovely teak decks, lots of brass and mahogany. The ship features a beautiful dining room, 2 bars and a library it was surprisingly spacious.
My cabin was lovely, double bed, port hole and compact but efficient bathroom. Everything you would need for a comfortable stay, even though small.
The highlight was 'Sailaway' at sunset when the crew started hoisting the sails to the sounds of 'Vangelis'. This became a ritual every evening which no one ever missed. It was a spine tingling experience and never lost it's appeal.
It wasn't a bad day's work to wake up the next morning anchored off the island of Koh Surin in the Surin Maritime National Park just off the Myanmar border. A few hours was spent on the beautiful white powdery beach admiring the emerald green sea. The sports team drop the Zodiacs off the ship and transport the complimentary water sports equipment to shore. This was my favourite spot, though look out for some cheeky monkeys.
Day 2 and 3 were beach stops also. Ko Similan, part of the Similan Islands or 9 islands as they are called. The sand here rivalled anything I have seen in the Indian Ocean. It was like talcum powder. The only downside is this island can be visited by tourists from the mainland so can get quite busy. A climb to the top of a distinctive rock formation is worthwhile but a bit scary if like me you don't like heights.
Koh Rok Nok, part of the Koh Lanta National Park was another beautiful white beach. Especially beautiful with a crescent shaped bay surrounded by cliffs. A highlight of the trip was the next day when we visited Langkawi in Malaysia. The largest island in Malaysia, again lush tropical vegetation, beautiful beaches and limestone cliffs.
We went to a local village and took a cable car, the highest in the world and glided over the rain forest and waterfalls to reach the top and marvel in the panoramic view over as many as 99 islands. For the braver of us, not me I can assure you, there was a bridge you could cross, 700 metres above sea level which spans the landscape.
Koh Kraden was day 6, again more opportunity for swimming, snorkelling and diving. Here you can take the zodiacs and access hidden beaches through the 'Emerald Caves' For this you had to be a strong swimmer. The most dramatic and beautiful place was Phang Nga Bay. The seascape is made up of sheer lime stone cliffs reaching 300 metres in height, it was a truly beautiful sight.
Having the privilege to sail Star Clipper was such a unique experience. Less than 200 guests on board and a high ratio of staff to guests. A beautiful vessel, only 2,298 tones with 16 sails. An authentic natural sailing experience where you can get involve if you wish, pulling the ropes or even climbing the crows nest.
What I will emphasise is the unrivalled service we received from the crew. Nothing was too much bother and not sure when they slept as they never stopped working. This was a beautiful relaxing trip, and experience I hope one day to repeat. Memories made and will never forget.
Thank you Star Clipper!