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Our boat only moved 1653 nautical miles in 2006, all within a 300 mile strip of coastal Malaysia and Thailand. This is the least amount sailed in any of our cruising years. This area is easy cruising and easy living, and we can understand why many boats stop here forever. With help from son Ben, we started our own website to enable friends and family to learn more about our travels. To see photos, maps and letters written to our families, go to arctracer.com/home and browse. Our website will be an ongoing project, with continuing additions and updates. We also toured nearby countries, had a month-long cruise with a daughter's family, and visited our families in the USA for two months. While we enjoyed another good year, we were saddened by events in the lives of several friends and reminded of how fortunate we are. Here are some highlights:
January - We started the New Year in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where the people are Buddhists and use a different calendar so the celebration was small. We spent many days visiting the magnificent ruins of the ancient Khmer Dynasty, including Angkor Wat and other temples. We saw the Tonle Sap, largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, where the water level rises and falls dramatically with the seasons. Modern Cambodians are trying to recover from the recent wars. They are building huge hotels in hopes that tourists will boost their fragile economy. We visited a silk farm, ate fried crickets and dried snakes, saw water buffalo in rice paddies, and toured in tuk-tuks. Back aboard in Penang, Malaysia, we sailed to Langkawi Island.
February & March - We made our first trip to Thailand, visiting islands between Langkawi and Phuket and sailing the Andaman Sea to explore the Surin and Similan Islands. These islands are practically uninhabited and are among the world's top scuba diving and snorkeling destinations. We saw Giant Moray Eels, a Mouse Deer, a Leopard Shark, Flying Squirrels, "Sea Gypsies" and other marvels.
April & May - Back in Langkawi we buckled down to boat projects such as removing carpet from some walls and applying white paint. The wifi service of Telaga Marina let us use the Internet on board at anchor for the first time. Our culinary adventures continued with our first Sea Cucumbers, rays and the foul-smelling Durian fruit. We enjoyed the island's wildlife, including Water Monitors, Oriental Pied Hornbills, Long-Tailed Macaques, Kingfishers and a Racquet-Tailed Drongo.
June - On another sail to Thailand we previewed Phang Nga Bay and its remarkable islands. Some of these limestone islands are high and eroded, with amazing caves and hongs ("rooms".) These are major tourist attractions, so there are resorts and many boats providing daily tours. We found peaceful anchorages where we were visited by local fishermen ready to barter with shrimp, crabs, fish and lobsters.
July - Daughter Jennifer and some of her family joined us in Phuket to cruise Phang Nga Bay. We all enjoyed sailing among the islands and exploring by dinghy and kayak. We visited "James Bond" Island where "The Man With the Golden Gun" was filmed; Ko Panyi, a Muslim village on stilts above the water; and Ao Chalong to tour Phuket Island. Then we rented a car and drove to Bangkok. This let us see small villages and big plantations in the countryside, see the relaxed attitudes of Thai drivers towards driving regulations, eat real Thai cooking and learn to use squat toilets. In Prachuap Khiri Khan we ran a gauntlet of hungry Macaques (well-fed by tourists) to climb to a hilltop wat. We rode on a longtail boat through canals with a "floating market." In Bangkok we were guided by Sunny, a Thai student who stayed at Jennifer's house a few years ago. He took us to visit huge markets, the Grand Palace, the Emerald Buddha, Wat Pho, and other Bangkok attractions. We stopped on the Myanmar border to renew visas on the way back to Phuket. Jennifer prepared a very memorable 60th birthday party for Nina on the boat in Ao Chalong, complete with balloons, cakes, flowers and banners. Then we sailed again around Phang Nga Bay, visiting Phi-Phi Don and the Chicken Islands. While snorkeling we saw a big snake, our second Lionfish, a school of Razorfish and "Nemo" the Clownfish (a special attraction for our two-year-old grandson.) Back on Phuket they all took an elephant ride to cap their visit to Thailand.
August - Sailed back to Langkawi and left the boat tied to pilings in a marina while we flew to the USA.
September & October - Visited our families in Vermont, New Hampshire, Arizona, Brooklyn, and Washington, DC. There were three big family weddings to attend. We spent much time with our parents, but visited all our children and saw all our siblings too. The time was too short to visit friends.
November & December - Back in Langkawi we worked on the website and boat projects. We hauled out and repainted the bottom of the boat at Rebak Marina, rebuilt since its destruction two years ago by the tsunami. We had nice celebrations with cruising friends during the holidays and enjoyed the tropical weather.
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