I had absolutely no idea that it was possible to go fishing in the Andaman Sea off the Khao Lak region of Thailand. The idea was that my wife and I would enjoy ten days of luxury and relaxation in a beautiful hotel by the beach. It was by complete coincidence that I discovered that one of the kitchen porters, Eue, was very keen to encourage guests to accompany him and his friends on fishing expeditions in his boat.
Viewed from beach, the Andaman Sea was the epitome of sapphire blue tranquillity. It appeared both idyllic and inviting; the prospect of floating upon it whilst wielding a fishing rod was hard to resist. But I did; for several days.
In casual conversation with my travelling companion, I was able to discuss the diverse advantages of spending some time at sea with local fishermen. Obviously, my main objective was to add to the three words of Thai that I had learned so far; in so doing, it would allow me to better engage with the hotel staff and local people.
Then there was the fascinating Thai culture of which I had a smidgen of understanding. A few hours in the company of a small group of the indigenous people would, undoubtedly, lead to a deeper insight into the lives of these gentle, delightful folks. I may have suggested that my smidgen of Thai combined with Eue’s smattering of English might lead us both to a deeper understanding of each other’s way of life, a vital step forward in these days of international misunderstandings.
I thought that I was doing really well, noting a few nods of apparent agreement as the days went by. This was, of course, purely delusional on my part and eventually the inevitable happened. I recall that it was over breakfast, whilst I carefully explained my desire to develop a greater understanding of Buddhism by engaging with the local fishermen; my dear wife suddenly leaned over the table towards me, removed her sunglasses with a flourish, looked me straight in the eyes and made a brief pronouncement, which I will paraphrase. “For goodness’ sake, stop waffling on and tell Eue that you’ll go fishing with him.”
The following sublime morning I waded out to Eue’s boat; ignore images of charming little fishing smacks in Whitby harbour. This was a traditional Thai long boat propelled by a three-litre diesel engine mounted on scaffolding poles at the rear. There is no silencer and the engine also belches impressive volumes of black smoke. During an hour long journey to the fishing grounds, I learned nothing of Thai language or culture because I couldn’t hear myself think.