Sailing from Phuket for a day

by Andy Burrows
The marine industry has shot up since the Thai government lowered boat import tax from 200 per cent down to 0 per cent. Sailors here will not want for spectacular scenery and sailing. The deep-blue water sailing of the Andaman Sea off the west coast is a joy for all yachties, while the east coast calm Phang Nga Bay offers year-round activity and spectacular, unique scenery.

Phuket's powdery-sanded west coast beaches and the dark, deep blue waters are famed the world over. The west coast also offers the highest concentration of entertainment and accommodation. However, all the marinas are on the southern and eastern coasts, which are sheltered all year round.

"The sailing here is incredible," says Bob Welders, a tourist from Australia, "I spend most of my time on the water and the rest eating the great seafood and partying in Patong - you can't beat Phuket."

Marinas are all the craze in Phuket and are popping up anywhere possible, to accommodate the rich influx of yachts from around the world. Many yachties are moving towards relocating their yachts from Europe or the Caribbean as mooring fees are much lower. The island is shaping itself as an international yachting and sailing centre.

Thus, you'll have no problems finding a daytrip sailing from Phuket. Phuket online tourist resource There are a range of charting companies as well as schools offering ASA and RYA certification. Those wanting to sail the Andaman for a day will probably head for the Similan Islands. This collection of nine incredible islands is located in a marine national park, which has kept them picture perfect. The Similans are a top diving destination and the sands above are no less stunning than the corals below.

The other option, and probably the best option during the green season, is to take your sailing to the east coast, to the waters of Phang Nga Bay. The islands and karst rock formations dotted all through the bay provide the most unique scenery in the world. Besides tying up and swimming to the uninhabited rocks and beaches, you can spend time exploring the 'haung' ('rooms' open to the sky and surrounded by rock, accessed by walking or wading through a cave entrance).

If you're looking for a restaurant, try sailing to Koh Yao Noi and visit The Paradise, where lunch is served in an open-air pavilion on the beach. Nearby Koh Yao Yai is the largest island in Phang Nga Bay and it takes roughly an hour to get there by sailboat.

You won't want to miss the Phi Phi Islands, just a few hours sail away. Phi Phi Don is the largest island and popular with a younger crowd for its diving, cute bungalows and extensive nightlife. The national park beaches of Phi Phi Leh, the location for the filming of the 1990s movie The Beach, have a pretty and relaxed atmosphere. Beyond Phi Phi is Krabi, which is reserved and much like Phuket was back in the 1980s.

Closer to Phuket, just 20kms away, lie the islands of Koh Racha Yai and Noi. These are both still undeveloped for the most part and Racha Yai offers accommodation. Phuket cruising guide There are two beaches on Racha Yai, one deep and one shallow - but both lovely. Koh Khai is just within sight of the eastern shore of Phuket and good for snorkelling.

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