Yes, the week I spent on a yacht with some amazing friends in Thailand was, of course, epic in so many ways. How could it not be?
But I would be lying by omission if I also didn’t mention the bad parts of the week. In truth, there were some negative aspects of The Yacht Week, both surprising and unsurprising, that TYW folks don’t mention in their gorgeous trailer. If you’re heading out to your first Yacht Week, be prepared for the following:
We Could Be Anywhere!
About four days into the week, I was sitting with my crew at dinner on one of the islands when it occurred to me that I hadn’t spoken to any Thai people, except to order in a restaurant or at the bar. I’d only spoken only in English with only other Westerners, talked mainly about US pop culture, eaten watered-down Thai food from tourist trap restaurants and listened to 90s American hip hop on the boat.
I hadn’t eaten any street food, visited a temple or gotten lost while trying to flag down a songthaew. Aside from the Chang beer I’d been downing in questionable quantities every day, I didn’t really feel like I was in Thailand at all.
I remembered the last time I traveled to this amazing country two years ago, a trip with rich memories of visiting wats and chatting with Thai monks, cycling through the countryside alongside water buffalos and trekking to remote hill tribes in the North. This time, I felt like I could have been anywhere in the world. I would have easily had a nearly identical time with these same people in the same yacht off the coast of Southern California. (Obviously, the water would have been colder and murkier! And the scenery obviously not as nice…..but you know what I mean.)
This isn’t a bad thing, per se. I still had an amazing time. But I hate the idea that people fly out to Thailand, do the TYW, and then go home, thinking they’ve “seen Thailand.” This country is so much more than drinking buckets in beach bars and getting shitfaced with other Westerners.
But I guess people have been doing that for years here, not just on TYW. I try to respect that everyone has their own unique travel style, and mine isn’t any better than anyone else’s……but if you do happen to come to Thailand for TYW, be sure to spend some time checking out the rest of the country as well, and meet as many of the friendly locals as you can!
Bros & Divas Galore
Alright, I’ll admit – I was kind of prepared for this one. As I was prepping for TYW, I came across this borderline-offensive “official” packing list from The Yacht Week, and I started to wonder what kind of people this event attracts if they’re advising women to just bring as many “itsy bitsy, teeny weeny bikinis” as they can fit in their bag and demanding that men wear Polos and Sperry’s and be the ones in charge of music and GoPros.
Turns out, my hunches were right – TYW attracts some of the worst kind of bros and douches from around the world. I’m talking about ‘roided up dudes with minimal brain cells who can’t stand up without puffing out their chest and drink so much they usually have to be carried out of the bar. These guys treated yacht week as if it was one big frat party, despite the fact that most of them were closer to 30 than 20, and my girlfriends and I avoided their sloppy drunken gazes and pick-up lines the entire week. It was pretty fun to watch them fist-pumping to EDM until their eyes popped out of their heads though.
It wasn’t just shallow guys that we saw classing it up at Yacht Week however – some of the ladies were worse! I heard a girl complaining that she’d gotten her Louboutin heels wet on the water taxi to the New Years Eve party. And another one complaining that she didn’t get a hot male skipper like we did and wanted her money back. And another one complaining that there wasn’t a Starbucks on Koh Phi Phi.
We even heard of one girl on a friends yacht who’d spent the entire week complaining about how she wasn’t cut out for “roughing it” like this in a third world country.
Yeah, because being on a yacht for a week in paradise is roughing it. STFU.
These were the types of unsavory characters we’d see yelling at servers in the beachfront restaurants that their food took over thirty minutes to arrive and who would blow us off when we tried to make friendly conversation. They spent most of their time during TYW posting pretty pictures on Instagram to prove to their friends at home they were living the dream when they were actually not happy unless they were finding something complain about.
Don’t get me wrong – there were plenty of super amazing humans that I met during TYW. There were just a few really awful ones lurking around at the parties as well…….so be prepared.
Don’t Expect To Have Time For Land Activities
The Yacht Week’s official website lists loads of possible activities on each island to enjoy in your down time, including rock climbing and elephant trekking. Don’t be fooled – for the most part, you won’t have the time or the energy for these things. We mentioned some of them to Matko, and he told us that unless we wake up super early and speed to the next island, we won’t have time for those kinds of non-Yacht Week activities on land. And of course, our hungover asses slept in, or at least tried to.
The exception to this was obviously in Koh Lanta, where we had an awesome few hours to spend exploring the old town in a songthaew (see part one). And also, because we did TYW over the New Year holiday, our itinerary was altered to give us two nights in Koh Phi Phi, so we were able to sneak in an afternoon of diving and an evening of Muay Thai. But that came at the expense of missing TYW’s official pool party, which we heard was super fun. The rest of our time on land was spent either eating meals or attending an official yacht week event. There wasn’t much time for anything else.
No Boat Circle!
One of the biggest selling points when I was deciding to do the Yacht Week Thailand was the incredible photos on their website showing 20 or so yachts in a giant circle with dozens of splashing, laughing partygoers drinking beer in the middle. If you’re looking at the photos now, you’re probably thinking what I thought: Oh what fun they’re having! I want to do that!
Well guess what? They don’t do boat circles in the Thailand Yacht Week anymore. Apparently, it’s an issue with the yacht charter company they use, who don’t want to risk their boats getting scratched up anchoring themselves so closely. We were all a little bummed when we found that out. Sad faces all around.
Cramped & Hot Boat
I was warned, but I still didn’t really understand it until I arrived – the boats are small, cramped, and very hot. If you’re used to sail boats, then you probably already know this, but it’s worth mentioning if you’re not.
We had ten people on the boat, and our boat had four small berths each with their own tiny bathroom. The other two people slept in either the main “living” area or on the upper deck in the open air. And from what I understand, we were lucky. When people from other boats visited, everyone remarked how much bigger our boat was than theirs!
It was cozy, to say the least, which really wouldn’t have been a problem, except that it was also really effing hot. We had an A/C but it only worked the first night when we were plugged in at the dock in Phuket. The rest of the time, especially when the boat wasn’t moving, any area below deck was really toasty.
Add in the heavy swells in Koh Phi Phi and the fact that some nights there were people on our boat hooking up, rendering some spaces off limits for a time, you’ll need to prepare yourself for minimal space and zero privacy. And this definitely means you need to pack light, or at least use bags that can be broken down into smaller parts to store in the small cupboards.
Oh, and don’t expect to get any sleep. Like never ever.
Sleep Deprivation Will Kill You
Why won’t you sleep on Yacht Week?
First of all, you’re on a boat that is rocking pretty significantly from side to side. Only on the first and last night are you docked in a marina – the rest of the time you’ll be anchored off shore, and the wind and swells were pretty brutal in some places. Yes, we were on a single-hull boat and there are catamaran options if you want to spend a bit more, I’ll give them that. But even without the rocking, you’re sharing this boat with ten other people, and you’re likely sleeping in a small, confined space and/or on a hard surface, depending on what part of the boat you decide to lay your head down.
But aside from the comfort aspect of the boat, you’ll find on the Yacht Week that you really don’t want to sleep very much, especially the first several nights. There’s too much going on, too much to see, too many people to meet and too much excitement. You’re in paradise with your best friends! You can sleep when you’re dead!
But if you’re going to Yacht Week, believe me when I say this: don’t neglect to sleep at the beginning.
There were two nights early on when I didn’t sleep at all and decided to just get up and keep going, and I paid the price for it the second half of the week. My immune system was depleted, I got a cold, probably food poisoning, and really horrific seasickness after we got off the boat. On New Year’s Eve, I felt like I was only half there, and I even skipped the last night’s event because I had no desire to do anything other than curl up in a ball and cry.
So trust me – try to sleep as much as you can, whenever you can. Lay off the Thai Red Bull – that shit makes you insane. And if you’re a light sleeper, bring Ambien. You’ll thank me when the second half the week comes and you don’t feel like the walking dead.
“You just need to rally!” or, Health vs. FOMO
Because of the sleep deprivation, the sickness, and the several days of hangovers, there were some nights where I. Just. Didn’t. Feel. Like. Going. Out. Like the third night, and especially the last night. So I didn’t, no matter how many times my crew mates urged me to “rally”. I knew if I went to a party, I’d still feel like shit with no easy escape back to the boat (see part three for more on that). So I stayed back and attempted to sleep.
And I felt really bad about it, because the rest of my crew were from the states and using up their limited vacation time to be there. It was easy for them to dig deep for the energy to continue raging because they wanted to make the most of their time before they headed back to work.
But since I’m traveling indefinitely, for me it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I wanted to protect my health, because once they left I’d be on my own again, and being sick and destroyed on the other side of the world from anyone you know really blows. So I sat some stuff out, and the resulting guilt and FOMO stung. And guess what? I still got really effing sick afterwards, which you’ll hear more about in part three.
I’m fully aware this last bad thing is probably just a sign that I just can’t hang with the cool kids anymore. I won’t blame Yacht Week for this one. But it still sucked.
Continue reading…….move on to Part 3: The Ugly.
But first, enjoy this picture of Matko, our Croatian skipper, eating a banana.