Relax with the fish

By Connor Newson

Recently I have found myself feeling weighed down with being constantly busy, however not from having to navigate around a different country or adapt to other cultures as you would expect when abroad. Instead my mind has been occupied with less exciting matters such as planning English lessons or where to go next, stressing over visas and money and what my plan in life shall be, even thinking of different ways to publicise this travel blog (suggestions are welcome – it’s tough). It all seems to be at the forefront of my mind right now. And no matter how ludicrous it seems, becoming mindlessly conditioned to the normality of life is easier than you’d think, even in the most spectacular environments. The reality of this normalisation means that the culture and beauty that surrounds me constantly can sometimes be taken for granted. Fortunately, it is my day off from teaching and the staff at Bulan Anda Baba Resort have managed to distract me from these overbearing concerns.

The day begins the same as it has for the past week – walking down to the bamboo restaurant for breakfast and continuing with some sort of chore on my laptop. The sights from this slight elevation are as breathtaking as it always is, so I really shouldn’t have much to complain about. Especially with a stunning panoramic view of Laemsak bay with its tall trees, calming sea, and towering rock islands. As I tuck into some delicious vegetable fried rice, with traditional dessert wrapped in banana leaf, a three-person canoe is carried down the short hill and left by the water. Prayo, a student of mine and Teo’s, explains that the three of us should grab our life vests because the canoe is waiting for us. It is at this point that I decide to sack off the work and agree to take a break to enjoy what is around me – something I feel we all tend to forget the value of doing.

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A few minutes later the three of us are sat inside our little red canoe, beginning to paddle as we sway gently to the small waves passing beneath us. Ahead of us is a vast openess of water, of which we need to cross. I’m not sure if it because my mind is stuck in work mode, or whether I am just excited to be out on the shimmering turquoise waters – perhaps a bit of both – but I begin with a overly heavy stroke; one that would suggest urgency. It wasn’t until Teo called to me from the back seat to relax and enjoy the moment that I realised my lingering tension. Despite being out in the open waters of southern Thailand, my mind and body remain stressed. So I begin to slow my thoughts and my breathing, and give the water on each side of the canoe a gentle push.

After half an hour of cruising, we had crossed the bay and drifted to the edge of a floating fish farm. Its vast crosshatched wooden structure is supported by the frequent positioning of large polystyrene blocks to keep it afloat. In the centre is a platform with a roof for shade where Pu, another of our students, had been waiting for us. She is harvesting seaweed from a net-like contraption that I can only assume is some sort of catalyst for its growth. We pull ourselves up and rest in the shade for a few minutes, watching as two local fisherman replant some smaller pieces of seaweed in new and empty nets.

However, a few minutes of shade is all we need before we begin diving and jumping into the fish-filled waters. Despite the warmth of the midday sea, to say that the sudden rush of water is refreshing is an understatement. In fact it is enough to persuade us to keep on swimming out into the open waters once more. I turn on my back and float for a while, staring into the clear blue sky with the sun beating down on my body as my submerged ears listen to the silence of the ocean. My thoughts are calmed once again. Soon enough we arrive at another isolated fish farm, not too different to the one we had just come from – only this one had its own little shack and hammock.

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With Prayo by our side we are able to communicate with the stranded farmer, Nong, who invites us on deck to show us around. I climb aboard the wood that runs around the large nets beneath the water. As I do so I spot a lobster clutching the inside of one of the nets. Nong, the fisherman, begins reeling in the net to allow for a closer look. He takes a few steps to one side, urging me to follow as he reels in the adjacent net to reveal a hoard of large fish splashing as they rise to the searing heat of open air. There are maybe ten more nets containing some sort of sea life on board this floating farm.

“Coffee?” he asks, in surprisingly well enunciated English.

We of course accept, eager to listen to the story and life of a floating fisherman. We walk over to his small bamboo shack which has two lightbulbs fitted to the ceiling and a solar panel attached to the roof. As he serves us coffee, I lay down in the hammock with a view of his birdcage, the rippling sea, and the mountainous islands in the distance. Nong begins to explain – with the help of Prayo translating – how he used to be a guide for tourists in Koh Phi Phi before building his fish farm here in Krabi. Much to my surprise, the life of a fisherman here is pretty comfortable. With two of his seven lobsters due to be sold next month for 200,000 Baht (approx £4600), this, plus the income from his various other fishy inhabitants makes for a fulsome living wage. Despite his success, what captivates me more than this is the location, or more importantly, how relaxed I feel now.

As I sway with the waves inside this hammock, effortlessly listening to Nong’s story, I am taken back to a few hours earlier. I was sat in the tranquillity of an deserted bamboo bar surrounded by sights that are otherwise seen inside exotic travel brochures, yet my head was buried in the world of a touchscreen laptop, stressed and tired from the worries of life. But for now I relax, breathing in the salty sea air and taking some time out to slow from the frustrated modern world.

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