October 30, 2008


We had already had a taste of life on this huge floating gin palace in the Mediterranean when we used to accompany E and other friends for 14 juillet firework celebrations off Cannes and then skirt the coast westwards to St Tropez or eastwards to Monte Carlo and Portofino. Often if time was short, we would all take a helicopter from Nice airport direct to wherever the yacht happened to be moored to ensure a quick getaway.

On one occasion, paparazzi must have somehow inveigled their way aboard when I later discovered back in the UK photographs of P and myself splattered all over Tatler taken during a spectacular onboard party attended by a number of household names. Champagne must have been flowing very freely that night since none of us had the least inkling we were being snapped…

This time, though, E asked P where we were going to spend the Christmas break that year. When P replied we’d intended to fly to Malaysia to escape the worst of the British winter, E immediately offered him the loan of the 130 foot cruiser! Fully crewed, it could pick us up from Langkawi where we had intended to spend Christmas and take us anywhere in South East Asia!

We were already familiar with the vessel, having often stayed in one of its double staterooms. This time though we had time to explore further her interior and huge sundeck with its bar and lounge area. And the yacht took us along the Malaysian coast to Thailand where we stopped off at any island along the way that took our fancy. And there’s no shortage of those - Phang Nga Bay alone has 67!

And so we lazily cruised the Andaman Sea sailing from Krabi and Ko Phi Phi to the Trang Archipelago and beyond, making the most of the speed boats and wet skis to explore dramatic limestone ‘karsts’ or crags, which rise from the water’s edge and valley floors to sheer vertical heights in excess of 900 meters and the hidden bays - ‘hongs’ - within.

Needless to say champagne again flowed like water and we were consulted daily by the chef about meals that would have put any land-based three star Michelin restaurant to shame.

For a couple of blissful weeks, we lived in a parallel universe. As far from the mundaneness of life as is humanly possible. Waited on by a crew used to providing the highest standards of service concomitant with a pleasure craft of that class. In short, a universe of extreme wealth, supreme luxury.

But like all good things, the trip came to an end and we returned to ‘normal’, everyday life. For P, the invitation had been accepted without fear or favour. But I can quite see how tempting it must be for, say, a politician in a billionaire’s yacht or villa. And, moreover, how difficult not to be seduced by the power and influence such wealth wields...

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