Exploring Thailand with owner Gulu Lalvani

Written by Gemma Fottles

When it comes to superyacht cruising grounds, sometimes it may be easy to forget that there is a big wide world to discover outside of the hustle and bustle of the main Mediterranean and Caribbean hotspots. With more and more owners and charter clients opting to stray a little further from the beaten track, here we shine a spotlight on some of the more exciting cruising destinations from all four corners of the world, with the help of the expert Captain’s and Owners who have fallen in love with it. In this issue, we spoke with Gulu Lalvani, owner of the Royal Phuket Marina and avid yachting enthusiast, who takes us through his much-loved favourite 7-day itinerary cruising from Phuket to Myanmar and back. 

Take me to… Phuket

Currently, I own an Italian built Monte Carlo Yachts 70, which I purchased with Simpson Marine. Having owned several yachts throughout my ownership journey - including one of 30-metres - I know that the MCY 70 is perfect for me. I’ve owned her for three years now and I’ve never looked back! At the moment, I keep her behind my villa in the Royal Phuket Marina, which is a perfect location. It’s so easy to head out for impromptu cruising in the area, which is just a delight in Thailand as there are so many breathtaking destinations to visit. Mr Gulu on board MCY
Mr Gulu Lavani on board his MCY yacht

Having cruised in the Thailand area for some years now, I can tell you that my favourite aspect of cruising in this area is the beautiful natural landscape. Pristine beaches and the bluest of blue waters, it’s also much less crowded in terms of tourists and other boats than the hotspots elsewhere in the world. The Thai people are also just the warmest and very welcoming - service is always with a smile. The weather in Thailand definitely plays an important part of my love for this region, too, because there is no particular time to avoid. The East coast of Phuket allows cruising all year round which is a very unique and much-treasured aspect, something that not many parts of the world can boast.

Geographically, Thailand is easily accessible to many scenic cruising grounds and countries. Destinations include our very own the Andaman Islands, as well as Myanmar, Langkawi, India, Vietnam and Singapore. There is simply so much to explore, be it en route to various destinations or just around Thailand. Flying into Thailand to go cruising is made easier with many direct non-stop flights internationally.Andaman Islands

Today, as we all know, Phuket is really a sailor’s dream, whether you love motor or sailboats, and I am absolutely certain that it will become the best destination for yacht cruising in the world in due course. With the support of the Thai government, boating is on a steady increase. It is also easier in bringing yachts into Thailand. I single-handedly convinced the then Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr Thaksin to reduce the import duty on boats from 220% to 0 in 2004 and, in return, I built the purpose-built and award-winning Royal Phuket Marina in Phuket to help make Phuket the Riviera in Asia for yachting.   

Owners who travel to Thailand will find that they keep coming back. I am a big fan of this area, and yachting really is great here, we are generally low on natural disasters and hardly any piracy so making it safe to cruise with a piece of mind. So without further ado, here are just one of many 7-day itineraries I undertake whenever I have the time, starting and finishing in Phuket, visiting Myanmar on the way!

Day 1

Day one of our journey allows the ability to embark from any of the four marinas on Phuket’s coast, including Royal Phuket Marina, Marina Phuket Resort, Yacht Haven Phuket and Ao Po Grand Marina. Take an easy early morning cruise to the beautiful Phang Nga Bay, where you can use the tender to explore the northern reaches of the Bay. Check out the limestone karst island scenery and hidden caves. Return to the yacht and enjoy your first Thai sunset whilst winding down with a cocktail. KrabiDay 2

Get up early and cruise to your next destination: the Koh Hong Archipelago. Made up of a bunch of tiny islands as well as the popular destinations of Krabi, Phi Phi and Railay Bay, the white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters look just like the postcards, and are a haven for relaxing and having fun in the water. After a day of snorkeling and diving, head to Krabi and indulge in freshly caught seafood dishes. Mergui Archipelago

Day 3

Wake up with the sun, and enjoy a peaceful morning on board with a delicious banquet of fresh fruit. When you’re ready, head to the Similan Islands, a truly spectacular destination. Under protection as part of the National Park of Thailand, have a day playing on the water toys, and snorkelling or diving. Protected sea turtles nest on several beaches in this area, so although that means some beaches may be closed for their protection, if you’re lucky, one may join you for a swim. Surin footage

Day 4

Start early today, and make sure you experience Koh Surin, another one of Thailand’s many incredible archipelagos. Not to miss is Koh Tachai and some of the world’s best scuba diving at Richelieu Rock where manta rays and whale sharks are often sighted. By early afternoon, start the journey to Ranong, where you can cross into Myanmar. Once in Myanmar, relax on board and enjoy an evening of fine food and conversation, ready for two days of exploring Myanmar waters.Similan scenery Day 5

The next two days will see you exploring just some of the hundreds of thousands of gorgeous islands that form the Mergui Archipelago. I recommend Lampi Island, home to the indigenous Moken people as well as an abundance of unique nature and wildlife. After exploring the island on foot, jump in the tender to one of the other pristine and totally secluded islands, and enjoy an afternoon of sunbathing and snorkelling the fabulous coral reefs.  

Day 6

With the archipelago only opened up to foreign tourists in the past couple of decades, take the opportunity to explore as many of the pristine islands as possible today. Diving, snorkelling and easy jungle trekking await. 

Day 7

Head back to Ranong and go through immigration to return to Thailand. Cruise back to the west of Phuket and end your Thai journey on a high with a visit to the Amanpuri Report Bay for the best 5-star experience available. For the party animals, head on to Patong Bay for an unforgettable night. 

Need to know: A few things to remember before embarking on your Thai adventure

Although infrastructure catered to superyachts is the best in the region, it’s important to remember that cruising in Thailand is a completely different ball game to your typical hot spots in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. To ensure every second on your South East Asia adventure is everything you want and more, here are some top tips from the experts. 

Ask the locals

Make sure that ahead of your trip, you touch base with some of the local experts in Thailand. The Asia Pacific Superyachts Association provides reliable information for yachts from 30 to 50-metres cruising in the area, whilst brokerage and charter companies like Simpson Marine are always on hand to guide you with breathtaking itineraries and destination advice. 

Embrace the food

Thai cuisine is one of the most delicious and varied in the world. Embrace the food culture, and indulge in an abundance of exciting authentic culinary experiences wherever you visit, with fresh, fragrant dishes available wherever you explore. If your palate craves familiarity, make sure that you have a good source for provisioning. International food items can usually be provided within a couple of days in Phuket, so plan ahead. 

Superyachts welcome

All cruising areas are accessible to all yachts, including those exceeding 50-metres. This means that there is no need for special arrangements or permits, allowing you to explore the wonders of Thailand no matter how big your boat. 

For more information on cruising in the Asia Pacific region or to book your own charter adventure, get in touch with the experts at Simpson Marine at their directly at [email protected].



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