Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Night fishing with Mil

This is Mil. He's a local fisherman and a good mate of Gan's; he built Gan's house and bar with his bare hands. And he's only 26. The people here can turn their hand to anything, it's impressive. We'd been sat having a smoke and beers one night when Gan asked if I liked fishing? Well, not really; the last time I went fishing, I was 13 years old...and it was the only way to get Dawn Thorpe alone so I could get my hand down her knickers. So I wouldn't describe myself as Lancashire's most avid angler, no.

Mil chipped in and said they were off night fishing with a few Burmese lads and, if I wanted in, to be in front of the bar at 6pm. Sounded interesting, and I love boats, so I said Cheers, love to.

In Thailand, they describe everything as being on Thai Time. In other words order a sandwich and, if it's not arrived 30 minutes later, don't get stressed...it's just how it is out here. Just take a deep breath and ask if it's turning up that day. So I got to Gan's at 6.05, and Mil's boat was about to pull away. Didn't imagine the tides weren't on Thai Time, either? He spotted me, and they waited as I waded out to the boat. Immediately we were heading for the sunset, the diminutive Mil expertly guiding the longtail through the swell.

We settled to fish 100 yards from a Thai Navy gunboat. Twenty minutes later and we weren't having much luck, so we upped anchor and headed to the southern tip of Ko Chang. The lights of Ko Phayam danced in the distance as we dropped anchor and lines, the Burmese casting off. No rod for me but, being a free passenger, I wasn't complaining with my line and hook. Pretty soon a couple of the lads were pitching 3' barracuda into the boat before resuming with the fishing. Mil warned me to stay back, as they're vicious bastards and mates of his have lost fingers picking up what they beleived to be dead fish. I watched them breathing their last, bloody foam at their mouths, and resolved to stay clear.

Mil's mate Ay crashed out the beers and noodles. We ate quickly and resumed the fishing. It was around 10pm now and Mil said "You OK sleep on boat?" I hadn't bargained for being out more than an hour or two, especially just wearing shorts and tee-shirts like a tourist. But it'd be churlish to ask to be dropped off when these lads are fishing for their livelihoods. Besides, a bit of adventure never killed anyone. Well, not many. So I hunkered down under some lifejackets and started to fall asleep. The pitch of the sea, and the intermittent screech of unravelling fishing line on reel, helped me on my way.

"Jim. Jim. James."
I started. Who?
"James"
I blinked my eyes open. One of the lads was addressing me. No other honkies on the boat.
"James Bong. You sleep inside boat."
I chuckled.

A couple of nights after I first met Gan and Mil et al, I'd had the bamboo bong in my hand. "This is James. James Bong" I'd said, pointing. They'd laughed. "Ah...zero zero seven" chipped Gan. Some jokes transcend cultures. I think Mil had mentioned this to the rest of the locals at the bar, along with the fact I like a smoke...and they'd started referring to ME as James Bong. So the guy's trying to get me inside the boat where it was warmer, and calling me Jim. I had to laugh, as he looked deadly serious. Did he know it was a joke? Never mind Chinese Whispers...

The fishing continued throughout the night, and a few more beers were sunk. At the last count, there were around 8 big barracuda and various snapper and squid in the catch box. I'd had a couple of strong bites in the night, and got a final one at around 5am. I wrestled it aboard...a bloody balloon fish. Inedible, unless you're Japanese. One of the Burmese grinned, cut the little fella loose and threw him back. Like I say, I'm no fisherman.

Mil dropped me off at 7am that morning. 13 hours on a boat? I was knackered. To cap it all, I got back to my bungalow, and actually had landsickness...everything was still moving. I wolfed down a tuna sandwich and hit the hay, crossing off Night Fishing on the list of 101 Things To Do Before You Die. Cheers, Mil!

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