December 2013 saw the launch of The Yacht Week’s (TYW) introductory route through the southwest islands of Thailand. A leader in week-long yacht charters since 2006, The Yacht Week has become somewhat of an institution among young adventure seekers. I was lucky enough to be invited along for the ride and I’m still spinning out.
Uncharted territory for TYW, the West Coast of Thailand is home to some 39 main islands and a hundred or so smaller ones dotted about the region. Our itinerary unearthed a raft of epic sailing through unspoiled natural beauty. With a fleet of 13 yachts and a crew of 120 TYW alumni from around the world, there was no messing around.
Bookings for TYW Thailand 2014 route open April 1, 2014. To give you a teaser of what’s in store, here are some highlights from our week.
The TYW DJ for Thailand, Todd Van Berkel (TVB) from Melbourne, Australia, put together a sick playlist for us, the top tunes of which are featured here. Listen along as you view the rest of this post.
“It’s catchy, melodic, and involves lusting over a banana.”
“Favorite crowd pleaser for everyone to sing along to, with a perfect summer vibe.”
“Everybody put your hands in the air — TJR can do no wrong with this energetic fast-paced banger.”
Ao Po Grand Marina was our port of departure. This once quiet spot on the island of Phuket is shaping up to rival the first-class international marinas of the West Coast. Located in Phang Nga Bay, where dramatic limestone karsts jut vertically out of the ocean, the marina is attracting hordes of super yachts and sailing yachts alike.
This was there we met Philip, our local skipper. He pulled out regional maps and tide charts and laid down the law about the route. Skippers, crew, and the media team crisscrossed with luggage and camera equipment. Our briefing was interrupted by a TWY alumni:
“Are you guys ready for this!!!?” Rocking a t-shirt with a map of Thailand, his enthusiastic smile was welcomed with familiar high fives. “This is going to be next level!”
I took a deep breath — was I ready for this?
From Ao Po, we sailed northeast towards Koh Roi and anchored off the bay. As soon as the anchor tugged the ocean floor, crew rushed to the top deck, sprinted off the edge, and plummeted into the water! It was GoPro central — a perfect opportunity to get sick footage and explore some local caves. From Koh Roi, we headed out to the night anchorage, south to Ko Yao Noi and the Paradise Resort.
On day 3 we arrived at Railay Beach, one of the locations where Hangover 2 was filmed — which seemed a tad ironic that day. The skippers banded together and executed some impressive maneuvers, harnessing our fleet together in the bay. The long boat was the place to be! Todd spun some wicked tunes and it was, hands down, one the best parties I have ever been to.
From Railay, we turned southwest towards Chicken Island and our night destination of Koh Lanta.
On Koh Lanta, we saw women walking down the dirt roads, barefoot, with over-stuffed rice bags on their heads. Children, maybe as young as 11, driving mopeds, with boxes of fruit precariously balanced on their foot-wide floorboards. Lanta is pretty much the opposite of the hectic woofer-thump of Phuket and the frenetic hustle of big cities like Bangkok.
Next, we left the peaceful pace of Lanta and headed towards the well-developed party island of Koh Phi Phi Don. This island was among the most devastated areas following the 2004 tsunami, but years later you wouldn’t know it. TYW crews escaped the crowds, tucking into the hidden bays and pristine beaches of Phi Phi Don’s smaller cousin, Koh Phi Phi Lee, a protected island that lies a mile to the south. That all said, at night we made full use of the big island’s party life.
After two days on Koh Phi Phi, we made a dash to Maya Bay on Phi Phi Lee, getting a last fix of paradise before our long sail back to Ao Po Grand Marina in Phuket. The last day on the water was one of the best days of my life. Like a family, we maneuvered into a flying-V formation, sailing northwest from Koh Phi Phi towards Khai Nui.
Khai Nui is a privately owned island on the east coast of Phuket. The miniscule, almost deserted rock is home to a shipwrecked beach bar called Chokdee Restaurant & Bar. I took some time out and sat at the back of the bar, watching the pick ‘n’ mix of bikini and swimming togg clad international crew pop champagne corks and sip on a rainbow of cocktails.
A hand reached over my shoulder, and a Spanish crew member grabbed me and pulled me into his arms. Laughing, he shouted, “This is the best week of my life. If you can’t have fun here, you can’t have fun anywhere.”
The day was slipping away from us, but we held on strong and launched into our last leg back to base camp. And as the curtain fell on TYW Thailand, the crews called for an encore. Whispers crept through the fleet, “Should we change our flights? I’m not ready to leave this place, who’s in?”
The TYW Thailand closing party was held at XANA Beach Club, a venue where the Black Eyed Peas had rocked out the previous week. With its stunning beachfront location, 35-meter pool, state-of-the-art sound system, and epic cocktail and food menu, we had an absolute blast.
I am a massive believer that you carve your own destiny. But that week (with a little help from TYW), destiny dealt me a bloody good hand. There’s no doubt that Thailand is going to be a top destination for The Yacht Week in 2014.
If you need to see more, check out TYW’s video teaser from Thailand. Film curated by Albin Sjödin Visuals.
All images courtesy of Beau Pilgrim, an adventure-junkie-slash-nomadic-photographer always searching for shots that make people smile on the inside. Beau has a degree in Nuclear Medicine, tried the 9-5 life and decided instead to document life on the road through his lens. Born in country New South Wales and raised by the coast in Newcastle, Australia, Beau’s passion for the ocean and beach culture strongly parallels his photography. Beau shoots above and below the water and loves fighting the elements to nail the perfect shot. When he’s not behind the lens, he enjoys surfing, kitesurfing, and snowboarding. You can find more of his work at beaupilgrim.com.