For Beth, paddleboarding was her new nirvana for the week and she’d have several opportunities to ply her new passion. For me, it was a couple of excellent massages in the ship’s humble spa cabana that took me to my happy place.
Nearly every day was a beach day, with wet landings delivering us to similar arches of white sand framed by jagged rocks and brilliant turquoise water on kohs (or islands) throughout the Andaman whose names we would jumble. We walked along the beaches in the hot sun catching up on each other’s lives, and cooled down in the surf with our hats and sunglasses on, grinning endlessly at our good fortune for being where we were.
The first port was Koh Surin to the north of Phuket and within view of Myanmar, where Beth took her first try ever at paddleboarding. In no time she was standing on her board and paddling around the perimeter of the swimming area like a teenager, reveling in her success.
Another day was the Similan Islands National Park, an archipelago of 11 islands, and the busiest beach we’d encounter all week. Scores of buzzing speedboats brought day- trippers from Phuket and Krabi, their powerful outboard engines revving loudly as they nudged their sterns into the sand to disgorge and collect their charges. We joined the masses, finding a spot for our towels in the soft, white sand and happily observing the throngs in their orange lifejackets take selfies and burying one another in the sand. Most of the jet boats were gone by about 3:30 p.m., suddenly leaving the beach nearly deserted.
Koh Kradan, part of the Hat Chao Mai National Park, was our favorite beach day. As we snorkeled, we spotted eels, giant clams, and sea urchins as schools of brightly colored tropical fish swam within inches of our masks; other passengers went diving with the ship’s resident dive master. We bobbed in the water like old ladies — and Beth went paddleboarding again.
The crew set up lunch on the beach, grilling delicious chicken, sausages, and burgers. Afterward, we went for a 20-minute trek across the island, scampering down a short steep path before reaching a secluded, rock-framed cove that looked like a film set. It capped the end to a perfect day.
In Langkawi, Malaysia, our only non-Thai port, Beth and I signed up for an active tour that combined guided kayaking through the fascinating mangroves of the Kilim Geoforest Park followed by a sweaty two-mile jungle hike in the Raya mountains where we spotted langurs, great hornbills, and long-tailed macaques. Meanwhile, Sheila chose a less active, but truly exhilarating, tour — a mile-long 2,000-foot-high cable car ride between the peaks of the Machinchang Mountains near the Langkawi’s west coast. I couldn’t stomach that height, but loved hearing about it later.
On the last day of the cruise, we anchored in Phang Nga Bay and selected the jet boat excursion to “James Bond Island,” where parts of The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed in the 1970s. The best part was the speedboat ride to and from the island, sitting near the powerful outboard motors as our hair and cover- ups whipped around in the wind, each of us lost in thought as we marveled the otherworldly forest of karsts growing out of the sea.
Through 2019, Star Clipper sails weeklong Andaman Sea cruises October through April, spending the other half of the year cruising in the Indonesian archipelago round-trip from Bali.