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 Рwith the help of Prayo translating Рhow 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.

Acting for tourism amongst the beautiful islands of Krabi, Thailand.

By Connor Newson

A few days ago I arrived at a small village in a remote part of Krabi province, to teach English to the local community. Admittedly this was partly because I was guaranteed free accommodation and food which would definitely help my withering budget, but also because if I was going to volunteer then I would be sure to do something worthwhile. Little did I know that I was about to become an actor for EverydayKrabi.com in their promotional tourism film, and for a group of university students majoring in Tourism Communications with their final film project.

At 5.30am Teo and I (the other volunteer) were awoken at our dorm room and coaxed into a car with bleary eyes. “We need to leave now so we can catch the sun rise” explained A’om, one of the students. Five minutes later we pulled up to the pier of Laem Sak with four other crew members – Punpun, Pueng, Pam, and Floke. We waited by the sea until another car arrived. Dissaya and Toto (of EverydayKrabi.com) climbed out and unloaded the equipment as a fisherman walked by and jumped on a boat to start its engine.

I climbed aboard and watched as a wooden table, two chairs, a picnic basket, and various film equipment was passed from one person on the pier to the other on the boat. We set off into the darkness of early morning, still barely awake and unable to see much around us as we chopped through the gentle swaying of the shallow waves. Minutes later our boat had driven up the bank of an isolated beach that was too small to be called an island, yet large enough for it to need a warning light for passing boats.

The sky had begun its spectacular transformation after we stepped onto land. Above our heads the midnight blue skies merged with a concoction of wispy orange clouds that sprouted from behind the silhouette islands in the distance. Within seconds they had turned a bright candyfloss colour as myself and Teo took our seats beside the conveniently placed table in the centre of the beach. The sun then finally breached the horizon with explosive luminosity. Suddenly the famous Krabi Islands were no longer blackened obstacles in the dark, but beautiful rocky, green canopies seemingly floating on the calm blue sea in their own magical isolation.

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I was distracted by the sound of something more unnatural than rippling waves running up the sand. It was the sound of a Phantom 4 drone that had been launched into the sky, cutting through the air with its four propellers and an underbelly camera directed towards us as we sat in front of the colourful backdrop. I looked at the table in front of me – which was furnished with a table cloth and local sticky rice with banana and coconut wrapped in banana leaf, and a coffee, all laid prettily for a picturesque shot. “Action”, someone from the distance shouted.

We ate whilst the drone circled overhead, with other cameras following on foot for close-up shots. Unlike other roles back in England, I felt no pressure this timeas I was too tired to care and too focused on the much needed coffee in my hands. However, my morning caffeine dose was soon cut short –¬†literally.

“Do you mind if one of us replaces one of you?”, someone called after the cameraman called cut.

The crew explained that they instead thought it best for a female crew member to replace a male for this shot. I guess perpetuating the normality of using a heterosexual couple to sell a romantic breakfast at sunrise is better fitted for this particular scene. Nevertheless, I volunteered to stand out and observe for the rest of the scene.

After wrapping up we hopped back in the boat and sped to a nearby island. We pulled up to a tiny alcove where an unusually large ladder led to a cave inside. We climbed and explored as the cameras and crew followed, occasionally being directed to repeat certain actions. When Theo and I climbed back down, we spotted another crevice for which to squeeze through.

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Credit: Punpun

Inside a small stream ran by our feet as we crawled through the algae-covered ceiling that glowed from the shimmering water. Seconds later we emerged on the other side to a vast open marshland, looking almost untouched with towering rock faces and thriving greenery surrounding us. It looked like a location where The Beach could have been filmed at, the one with Leonardo DiCaprio, and it could easily be one considering their actual location isn’t too far from here.

After taking a couple of steps forward I found my ankles had been completely submerged in the mud. Attempting to move forward was messy. So we ran, trying to move quicker than gravity could take us, for that proved somewhat logical at the time. It was not. And just like that, we had been reborn as children, falling and throwing handfuls of mud at each other, playing in the marshy green paradise.

After a quick swim in the warm sea to rinse our caked selves, and a short journey by boat, we arrived at a private beach hidden inside the masses of floating islands. I relaxed in the sun as the crew figured out the most aesthetically pleasing angles to shoot. Shortly after I was sat on a picnic blanket with Dissaya, the girl from the sunrise scene, chatting away as various cameras filmed the scene.

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The lack of direction was relaxing, despite this meaning that I wasn’t really acting. Instead I was simply a tourist and I guess that is an accurate depiction for both tourism projects. The freedom in our movement limited the extent to which false representations of tourism could be made. After all, one of the most annoying things when travelling is to be sold something that is different to what you were originally told.