A few days ago we met up with some friends from Seattle and the 300 Peaks (www.300peaks.com) paragliding crew for an awesome adventure in Thailand. Our home base is a small town called Pak Nam Pran, about 2-3 hours south of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand:
Our first flying day (Monday), we checked out the Dolphin Bay site. It is a pretty beach with lots of (sharp!) shells. We had breakfast at the hotel across from the beach -- minced pork with chilies over rice and instant coffee. It was delicious!
Graham drove the boat and the boys did tow launches, getting up to some 900m and then flying the coastal mountains (hills?) and fluffy clouds. The winds turned south (parallel to the beach) and got a little stronger, so I tried to do a reverse launch for the tow, but found that my kiting skills were a little rusty. After several failed attempts, I opted to practice my kiting on the beach (shoes required) and enjoy the ocean view.
That night we had dinner at the local beach restuarant and bar: Nids. Again, the food was delicious and the wine was tasty too.
For our second day, we took the boat to Paradise Bay. I finally got on tow, but realized that my towing skills were rusty too! It was much harder to keep the tow line taut than I remembered, but Graham did a good job and I got up to about 500m despite me working against him. Josh and Matty connected with some good thermals under the clouds and went XC (more about that later), but I just headed to the coastal hills for some soaring.
When I hit the first hill, I was just 95 meters high -- basically time to start getting ready to land. But I stuck in there, doing gentle figure-eights until I eventually got up to 200m. A hour into my flight, I decided it to was time to try the next hill to the north (I think -- the ocean is to the east here, which is totally confusing me). I got up on that little hill and topped out around 220m. I was feeling pretty good and even saw a couple monkeys in the trees below.
That's when Graham came on the radio and said something to the effect of, "Michelle, that beach to the north (south?) of launch is a private beach and it would be great if you could land either where you launched or the next beach down the coast. The guy who owns that place is someone really important and I'm not sure what would happen if you land there. Of course, if you need to land there, please do and I'll pick you up. But it would better if you landed somewhere else."
Gulp! I had been looking down at that lovely, pristine beach with its green grassy lawn in the middle graced with a big "H" and thinking it myself, "what a glorious place to land." New plan! The beach one bay away had clear sand for half of it and cute patio umbrellas for the second half, so I could land there. I radioed back to Graham to let him know that (1) there was another beach I could land at and (2) I wasn't intending to land anytime soon. Well, that of course was the magic phrase to ensure that my flight would soon come to end. I flew around a little more and then decided to hop to the next small hill where I found no lift. So I opted for the fourth beach and landed in what I'm guessing what a little fishing village. (There were about a dozen fishing boats docked there.) Graham and David came and fetched me and my glider with the boat, which I reached by wading in the surf up to my shoulders while wearing a cotton skirt and tee shirt. Too bad I didn't think to put on my bikini first!
Another great day in paradise...