PHUKET- (This complete editorial can be found at: www.yachtingmatters.com Edition 31)
THE SUPERYACHT GATEWAY TO MYANMAR
By Linda Cartlidge
Superyacht cruising is opening up beyond the usual hubs and marinas of the Mediterranean or Caribbean as facilities are being developed and upgraded around the world. An example of growing superyacht interest and visits made possible through upscale marinas and knowledgeable yachting support is Phuket Island in Thailand.
Dubbed the ‘Monaco of South East Asia’ and acknowledged as the ‘Superyacht Hub of South East Asia’, Phuket Island has many cruising options in the Andaman Sea to nearby secluded bays while offering a luxury lifestyle and well equipped marinas, which also serve as a Gateway to Myanmar.
According to Captain Charlie Dwyer, former skipper of S.Y. Yanneke Too, Thailand’s growing status throughout the Superyacht world community is evident. “Owners and brokers are looking to Asia as the next destination and right at the top is Thailand. The quote I get from most captains is that they have ‘done the Caribbean’ for the past 15 years and they want to find a new and exciting cruising ground. This can be found in abundance in Thailand and on into Myanmar.”
Superyacht owners and captains can select from several highly recommended and developed marinas in Phuket and relax in upscale surroundings before cruising on to stunning anchorages around Phuket and on to Myanmar.
The island’s natural beauty, high end luxury resorts and villas, vibrant nightlife, famed spas and world-class dining coupled with nearby uninhabited island cruising has made Phuket a leading destination to a growing number of superyachts and affluent visitors from throughout the world.
“Leading marinas on the northeast coast of Phuket Island are Yacht Haven Marina and Ao Po Grand Marina.”, notes Gordon Fernandes, GM of Asia Pacific Superyachts Phuket, adding: “The marinas are both a gateway to exploring Phuket’s crystalline blue seas and nearby famed islands and beaches before setting of on a voyage to explore and experience adventures in Myanmar.”
Yacht Haven Marina is an ideal starting point to explore the wonders of Phang Nga with the marina now being upgraded with increased shore side services while adding a further 30 new superyacht berths. Yacht Haven has 320 berths and can cater to vessels up to 100M’s in length.
Ao Po Grand Marina has a capacity of 200 berths and is also well placed for cruising Phang Nga Bay and can host yachts from 6m to 150m with a special focus on facilitating superyachts.
Gordon and Thai owner Jojo and team can handle all the paperwork required for both countries (Thailand and Myanmar) and also offer charter yacht voyages. “Guests can first enjoy cruising some special islands while staying near Phuket”, Gordon explains: “You have Phang Nga Bay with its limestone monoliths rising up out of the sea; or further south the islands of Koh Phi Phi, made famous by the film The Beach. World class diving is within easy reach and guests can laze on the beach, swim, snorkel and look for monkeys and wildlife before heading off to the Similan Islands.”
60nm NW of Phuket, the Similan Islands are classed as one of the top ten global dive destinations; a paradise for diving and snorkeling with generally 30M+ water visibility. A journey to Phuket’s surrounding area offers miles of coastline filled with spectacular beaches, amazing rock formations and superb diving possibilities.
The name Myanmar doesn’t mean a lot to most people as the word has only been associated with a short portion of that country’s long history. Mention the name Burma, however, and it evokes something completely different. Burma is old, exotic, romantic and undiscovered. It is a nation with a long and glorious history and an enormous variety of stunning landscapes, waterways and vistas.
Burma conjures up thoughts of a mystical country steeped in traditions kept untouched by western development, as it was closed to foreigners for decades. The country is fascinating and looking back in time; the poet Rudyard Kipling was thrilled with the country and the people as expressed in the following quote: “This is Burma and it is unlike any land you know about.” Rudyard Kipling, Letters from the East (1898)
Years of military rule meant that the Burmese people did not have access to the ‘information highway’ or even to non-approved books, independent newspapers and magazines, Ford, Coke, McDonalds, Citibank and other international (especially American) brands were seen as a threat; thus banned by the military regime.
The first democratic elections were held in the country on 8th November 2015. A previous election in May of 1990 was not recognized by the ruling military junta and they continued with their non-elected role until early 2016; when a new parliament was sworn in. The new parliament has bought democracy to the country and with it a massive injection has been given to the tourism industry.
Tapping into the attractions In Myanmar’s North, you have the Himalayas which present virgin untouched ski slopes and in the middle of the nation, fascinating places to visit, such as Yangon, where guests can visit the Shew Dragon Pagoda also known as the Golden Pagoda. The base of the stupa is made of bricks covered with gold plates and the crown is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies. The very top—the diamond bud—is tipped with a 76 carat (15 g) diamond.
In Bagan visitors can take a hot air balloon ride over 2,000 still in use, but ruined, temples. In Mandalay life in a former capital city can be experienced and in an area of outstanding beauty, the freshwater Inle Lake beckons.
The dry season for Myanmar is from November until April and the vessel can select an upper Myanmar tour, while basing the yacht in Yangon and then cruise South through the spectacular Mergui Archipelago; or start way down South (approx. 450NM’s South) and check in via Kawthaung (Victoria Point). Generally a vessel checking in at Kawthaung means guests will have started their cruise in Phuket after arrival at the international airport. However, to maximize the time in the Mergui Archipelago guests may also arrive at the small Thai airport in Ranong, located on the Thailand/ Myanmar border.
Upon entering the spectacular Mergui Archipelago yacht visitors will find an area made up of approximately 800 islands covering hundreds of kilometers, with islands varying in size from quite small to hundreds of square kilometers.
To put this in perspective, there are islands bigger than Phuket and they’re totally uninhabited. Why is this? The previous military government felt that it would be a security risk to have towns or villages located in the islands. Thus the islands have mainly been left untouched and there are very few hotels in the area.
A few of island’s local inhabitants are the Moken Sea gypsies. This seafaring race continues to survive on boat building and traditional fishing techniques. In the dry season they travel from island to island on their boats. In the rainy season they tend to be more land-based, taking refuge on a couple of the islands, leaving plenty of areas where guests can have maximum privacy.
A superyacht captain on a journey through the Mergui Archipelago wrote to Gordon Fernandes describing the gypsy fishermen as: “…living within the archipelago - mostly on their boats but venturing ashore to collect firewood from the beaches and water from the streams. They are nomadic and live a simple life sustained by the sea. They have been proven to be excellent pearl divers and fishermen, who only work as much as is required in order to live. We found them friendly and ready to exchange seafood for a few of our dry stores. After the 2004 tsunami, amazing stories came to light of the understanding and perception that the Gypsy fishermen have of the ocean. Villages along this and the Thai coastline were saved because the elders had visions or remembered tales about previous such events – goodness knows how long ago, but they put their knowledge into practice and many lives were saved.”
This area is a superyacht owner’s cruising paradise where the guests can have beaches and entire islands all to themselves. One can get totally ‘lost’ on the islands and not see another yacht or person for the entirety of their cruise. Captain Pellat-Finet, of S.Y. Tiara wrote of his vessel’s experience in the Mergui’s in March of 2016, “An amazing trip in the middle of beautiful deserted islands. It was impossible to count all the pristine yellow sand beaches. A breathtaking experience where nature prevails. We will go again.”
A yacht can cruise to island after island, all with countless beaches under green hills of dense rainforest, their canopies alive with colourful birds and butterflies. Monkeys leave the trees for a stroll along the beach where they find crabs and other dinner items, leaving their tracks along with the many elusive animals living in the forests and at times seen on the beaches and even tigers are said to still be inhabitants of the islands. Wild elephants have been spotted on some of the larger islands, from elephants originally transported from the mainland to work for illegal loggers (to steal the teak from the islands).
The many islands are covered in an extensive range of flora and fauna with outstanding beaches and tropical jungle rainforest to explore. Kayaks can be used up and down the various rivers, gliding under overhanging trees with rivers filled with fish and views of amazing waterfalls.
In advising visiting vessels of Myanmar rules and requirements, the APS GM cautions: “Yachts still need to obtain a cruising license and take a guide on board for the duration of the cruise in Myanmar. The guide is treated as a member of the crew and will represent the owner and captain; speaking directly with authorities to ensure the yacht does not stray into areas where the vessel should not be. A few of the islands have navy bases and the personnel do not generally speak English. This is when the guide is especially viewed as a help and not a hindrance.” These well informed guides will also know the best anchorages and beaches and can have a positive impact on the visitors’ experiences while cruising in the Mergui Archipelago.
Superyacht owners and captains interested in Myanmar inland exploration as well as Mergui Archipelago cruising can view a sample itinerary that includes visits to Yangon; Bagan; Inle Lake; Irrawaddy River Cruise; Mandalay and Mrauk.
For more information contact: