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Back To Thailand Part 2 Onto Thailand Part 4 Return To Home

Having had my fill of rustic isolation on Koh Lanta for now, I decided to head over to Koh Phi Phi and perhaps meet a few people, have a few beers and generally re-engage socially with the world again. Of course, the fishing rods were still strapped to the rucksack, for better or worse.

But before heading over to the islands, it was time to renew the visa- entailing a day long bus journey from Krabi down to the town of Hat Yai in the south and then onto the Malaysian border to do the necessary paperwork, before heading back the same day to arrive back at Krabi late that evening. Not an inspiring day particularly, but notable for one reason only: David Hughes.

Initially I was pleased to see another farang when I jumped on the bus at 7am that morning, after all, it would be someone to talk to during what would be a long old day. I just didn't realise how long it was going to seem. Lets see... where do I start? Well, he was 42, and originated from Gold Coast, Australia, had been living in Thailand for 15 months, and had lived in England, South Africa, the Philippines and Hong Kong. 
Ok? Everybody happy this far? Then I shall continue... 

He had been expelled from 4 schools for everything from punching a teacher to calling the headmistress a "fat whore", was deported from Hong Kong at 15, had been arrested a multitude of times for various misdemeanours (culminating in a particularly stormy court appearance whereby he told the judge to "go f*** himself", as you do). His dad was a local politician (and live-one!) in the Gold Coast, who had done 8 months for supplying weapons to Nigeria, while our David had been doing drug runs for the Triads in Hong Kong at age 13. He had been a bouncer, a security guard, was an expert in martial arts, played cricket for Kent and Middlesex in England and somewhere in South Africa, while having an international career with Australia as one of the fastest pace bowlers they have ever produced, albeit that his claim to fame was for disagreeing with an umpiring decision and throwing his bat at the official. Now, bear with me. He was working as builder and developer in Thailand, but was also a fully qualified doctor, although wasn't allowed to practice due to having to take morphine for a broken back. Despite all his expulsions he found school easy due to his photographic memory, even if his Attention Deficit Syndrome was a bit of a hindrance.

This problem was offset by his IQ of 216, however, which it seems was nothing, because one of the (4) girls he had been engaged to had an IQ of 246. He had fought for Australia in Borneo, killed numerous people in action and watched people blown to pieces in front of him. During the tsunami he saved the lives of many people by virtually taking over the running of the Krabi District 

Hospital cos it seems the Thais hadn't got a clue what they were doing. Then again, he was a regular down there after all, since in his 15 months in Thailand he had broken his foot, his leg, his right elbow, his left arm; all this to join the 54 (yes, 54) broken ribs and the 17 (yes, 17) broken noses of his chequered past- the latest of which occurred while having it away with a Thai hooker and she just got a bit carried away, so intense was her climax. Seriously. And just when you thought his luck couldn't get any tougher he also had chronic asthma (for which, of course, he was a guinea pig for a new wonder drug and therefore listed in that cornerstone of medical literature, the 'Asthma Journal'), he was having steroid injections for some pain or other, and had allergies to mushrooms and seafood that had seen him 'die' 7 times... I think you may be getting the picture. 

The needle on my Bullshitometer was in the red all day until I arrived with great relief back at my room in Krabi, where, once my bonce had stopped spinning, I hastily scribbled down as many of the salient points as I could remember from my encounter with Chuck "Lexington-Einstein" Norris so as to share them with you all here. I got most of them I think, but I'm sure there will be one or two I missed. Or maybe it was all true and I'm just being a little harsh...? He did actually give me his mobile number "in case I needed anything while I was in Thailand", which was nice of him. I think I'm more likely to give Ted Bundy a call though to be honest.


"The Very Public Face Of Madness". Does anybody know this man?

Jumping off the ferry at the pier of Koh Phi Phi and bulldozing through the usual scrum of hawkers, the first thing that struck me was the shocking damage still spread around the place. The wave had surged it's way right through and over the thin central strip in the centre of the island at Ton Sai beach, sweeping buildings, trees and of course people before it. People were working clearing the area, but still piles of rocks, glass, timber and rubble littered coconut groves; empty, derelict shells of buildings that were spared stood empty, their windows and doors blasted clean from the walls. 

I was told that in the immediate aftermath of the disaster that the sand, mud and rubbish was left deposited in the streets up to the top of the door frames, so for the island to be functioning and to have been cleared to the extent it has been was little short of miraculous. Much of the work now is being carried out by holidaying and backpacking volunteers under the banner of the Hi Phi Phi organisation, and with the aid of local people - mainly supervised by Thais in hammocks. They should be congratulated. 

The strange thing is, I was told that Koh Phi Phi (and Koh Lanta for that matter) received no aid, governmental or otherwise. Of course, the cynic in me wonders who's pocket the millions of dollars of aid donated by the world's population has ended up in? It sure as hell isn't the guy who's pieced together what's left of his Sunset Bar on the beach at Phi Phi. For all the damage that was still visible, the island still has some beautiful beaches and views, and the diving on the coral reefs was quite breathtaking - the clear blue 

 

From the quaintly idyllic architecture of downtown Hat Yai...

...and back to the Andaman coast to try and find some more sun and fish.

sea giving visibility of 25 metres or more on each dive (and a water temperature of 32 degrees too). It's definitely a place that's still worth visiting. In fact it should be visited, because that is the best way to ultimately help the surviving inhabitants and businesses.

During the dives we saw Turtles, Banded Sea Snakes, Barracuda (including a HUGE one), Leopard Sharks, Stonefish, Jacks, large Grouper, Triggerfish, Parrotfish... So many species of flora and fauna, so although fishing was obviously not permitted near any of the dive sites, this was more than enough inspiration to arrange a bit of angling with the local longtail boats down on the beach. The usual bartering was carried out (arse...), and a couple of days sorted out.

As seems to be standard on the Andaman, a boat full of Snapper, Wrasse and Grouper species accompanied multi-coloured Triggerfish, Parrotfish and others I have no idea of the name of at the moment. A very nice day out on the turquoise ocean. However, the boatman, who looked like he was about to fall asleep at any moment- even when he was driving the boat (a bit worrying)- was not so happy:

"Current not good now. Good in 4 day", he says.
Ok. So we arranged for the second day out to be in 4 days time. As we sat there, suddenly, in the distance, we saw a large billfish free-jumping from the water! 
"That's what we want!!'" I said, pointing vehemently straight at the disturbance. The boatman looked at me as if to say 'I'm sure you do mate'. 'Need livebait. Big rod and reel'.

After many hand signals and some broken verbal communication, I thought we had it sorted that next time out, we'd go and get some livebaits and get adrift and try to have a tug of war with a Sailfish- something which I was more than excited about, being a bit of a sad act. That evening, some of the fish were taken back to the bungalow, where the bloke looking after the place set about barbecuing them wrapped in banana leaves for anyone who cared to try them to just dig in. All good.

Four days later we were back out on the deep blue sea, me  accompanied by my Exage boat rod and TLD, ready to do battle with some heavyweight adversaries. Out onto the ocean we steamed, and then suddenly we stopped- just a couple of kilometres out near the Viking Cave at the side of sister island Koh Phi Phi Lai.

"Pla Mong". Malabar Trevally. New species!






















Koh Phi Phi viewpoint as another hectic day draws to a close...

"Erm... Sailfish?', I asked., 'Pla Kratong Lom?'.

"Very windy today sir", was all he said. The frustrations of just trying to get some of the fishing I had in my mind's eye here are far in excess of anything I had ever expected. But what can you do, other than just shrug your shoulders?

In the end, we had a nice enough day, catching fish after fish, and lots of different colours and species. We chased some schools of baitfish around for a bit after Bonito and Trevally - eventually meeting with some success when a Malabar Trevally grabbed a Toby lure as it was wound through the boiling frenzy of fish at high speed.

Another bag of Snapper were barbecued on the banana leaves back at the bungalow that night. As we sat around, I was watching the unsettling spectre of the Thai's picking the eyeballs out of the fish and eating them, and, worst of all one of the blokes putting the whole of a fish skull in his mouth and sucking it, noisily, like a carp taking bread off the surface of a pond, until there was just a matted, 

 


Yet another Grouper from the rocks. A bit of contact with yer big brother would be nice.

tangled mash of bones left to be spat into the bushes. While we ate, one of the Thai's was now asking when I was going fishing again:
"Depends. I want to fish Sailfish, but I can't seem to get onto the ocean cos no one will take me to have a go at it".
"You need Tuk. Tuk fish Sailfish", one of them replied. He then explained that Tuk could be found with his longtail boat down on one of the beaches. Now this I had to investigate, so the next morning I was down on the beach asking around. The first couple of people I asked either didn't understand or didn't know the bloke. The third did:
"Tuk gone. Tsunami". Oh. And that was that.

After this the monsoon weather really closed in for a two or three days, with warm, sunny mornings giving way to torrential rain and heavy winds during the afternoon and evening. And now no one would go out fishing, since it was possible to get stuck out there in the bad weather at the flip of a coin, so quickly would the weather change. So what can a bloke do to pass the time of day... and night... and day... at least until the weather got better?

With Phi Phi being Phi Phi there was no shortage of people up for a load of ale and a late night every

Fat Triggerfish. You freak.

 


A pair of beautifully coloured Wrasse- one on each dropper of the rig. You couldn't paint them. After all they wouldn't lay still long enough would they?

night, and that was the way it panned out, until eventually, after a 'quick lunchtime beer' with this maniac (but amusing) bloke from Northampton called Ross turned into a 12 hour plus bender of Chang and Singha beer, neat rum and endless bottles of Sang Som whisky at a quid fifty a bottle. 

This culminated in a sleep on a bar table, an involuntary nose dive that Robert Pires would have been proud of, and waking up looking like a sack of pink brussel sprouts cos I had so many mozzie bites all over me. Nice. Looking good and feeling great. 

Fishermen living in the caves of the islands off Koh Phi Phi.

When I eventually came round and checked my e-mails the next day, one was from Jean Francois back in Bangkok asking if I'd like to join him and his side-kick Kik in doing a recce of some new waters back further up north. The perfect excuse to get back on the rails and back onto the fishing.

Goodbyes said to everyone, including the really nice people at the Tropical Garden Bungalows, and back on the ferry to Krabi, then the cramped bus (14 people plus luggage in something not much bigger than a Renault Espace) to Surat Thani to catch the train to Bangkok. This rucksack of mine is really getting to be a pain in the arse to drag down the street. Now christened 'Quasi', on the basis that it's an embarrassing green lump on my back that causes small children to stare and point and grown adults to snigger. Now I know how the freak from France felt.

Another smooth as silk and cheap-as-chips train journey again (although it's more Sunday Express than Surat Express), and back to the now strangely familiar streets of the city. However, what was going to be a couple of nights there turned into about five nights due to sorting out some logistical issues (we couldn't get permission to fish the first place we had planned to fish at), and after padding the streets for hours on end, taking in the sights, sounds (and smells), photographing some of the normal everyday stuff of Bangkok, it was good to finally be getting out of there and heading for the country again.

 

"50 Baht. Now. Or the cat goes in the fan".

Ross from Northampton. Just add beer and fags.

Above & Below: The 83 Storey Baiyoke Tower dominates the Bangkok skyline... Whichever way you look at it.

So off we go, an early morning departure for Jean Francois, his ex-pat friend Patrick, Kik and yours truly. We called in to a pet shop(!?) to pick up bait, which consisted of a bag full of koi carp (there still seems something sacrilegious about using one of those for bait to me) and some bottles of white cockroaches, which are specially fed on white rice meal to give them their distinctive colouring, and after negotiating the horrific traffic some 2 and half hours later we arrived at a fairly small, muddy coloured lake. 

The temperatures were soaring as we (well, Jean Francois) talked to the old fella who owned the lake and the tackle was set up. The idea was that if the lake fished well, we'd fish overnight and leave the next day. As we rigged two rods each, fish splashed regularly over the surface- some of them pretty sizeable, and we were anticipating a great day's fishing, especially since we were told that the lake hadn't been fished for years. Soon the baits were in position- a selection of baits and rigs cast amongst the rolling fish, reeds and snags in front of us.

I Bangkok.

Right: About 40 degrees, I was in shorts and a vest and soaked in sweat. This bloke was working on site. I think the thumbs up means he's still alive in there.

 
 

The sun beat down relentlessly, and as much as I had all intentions of moving about the lake and trying all kinds of 'mobile' techniques, the shear heat and humidity, combined with zero in terms of breeze had us all cowering for shade and water. As the day wore on, even the fish activity diminished further and further

To cut a long story short, we tried everything (I even finally moved spot a couple of times to where there appeared to be more fish activity- once the clouds had moved over a bit!). But we failed. Between the four of us, and eight rods, sitting soaked with sweat in the red hot sunshine, just one bite was had when Patrick went to lure fish down one side of the lake (again, when the clouds had started to move in on the scene) and managed to get a nice sized Jungle Perch. But that was it. Nada. Very frustrating with so many fish jumping everywhere initially. Needless to say, it was back to Bangkok rather than stay the night - timing it right just after dark, as a huge thunderstorm rolled in again.

Turfing up a day or two later at Jean Francois' apartment to head off for part 2 of the recce trip, I was greeted with the bad news that he had hurt his back and needed to head for hospital to get it sorted.

Briefly I thought this was going to leave me up poo creek, but he had rung ahead to the people at the lakes near Nakom Prathom to let them know I was going to be on my own, and side-kick Kik had prepared some groundbait for me to take, which I picked up on the way. Excellent.

Three or maybe four hours later I stepped out of the bus at the lakes and got sorted out. Now, problem was that at least most other places I'd been to one or two of the people knew maybe a little English. Here, they knew as much as I do Thai. However, they had a really nice bungalow at the edge of the lake for me to stay in, at a good price too, and all looked good as, yet again a array of fish crashing, rolling and topping all across the lake- although recent events kept me from getting too carried away about such things!

I had a plumb about to check the depths and bottom make up, and set a marker from a small dinghy at about 50 yards out in 8 feet of water, the bottom seeming clear gravel in this area. A big load of Kik's groundbait was distributed around it, then two of the spiral 'method' feeders with tiny polystyrene balls were positioned in the middle of it all.

Back in Bangkok, someone's fishpond is looking a little barren this morning.

 Strangely, despite fish rolling and leaping all around the place, not a bite came to the rods, until I changed one of the baits to a white cockroach, whereby, once darkness had descended, a couple of Striped Snakehead and an Asian Redtail Catfish succumbed to temptation. Two new species to me, so I was happy with that, although I couldn't help thinking that more action should have been forthcoming. Next day, after catching some Archer Fish on bread- which are so cute, and some Marbled Gobies on a bunch of tiny fry scooped from the margins, which aren't quite as cute, I decided to start ringing the changes in the hope of unlocking the combination. 


Marbled Goby head.

The people living at the lake were really kind, although neither of us had a clue what the other was on about, but each day they would bring meals and drinks down to the spot I was fishing at - it really was like fishing in luxury at times. Unfortunately I could only remember the Thai name for fried rice when under pressure (Khao Phat... pronounced Cow Pat- see what I mean?), so for three days that was all I ate. Still, it was really good food though, and it was ideal to fish until late at night then just wind in, go up the steps and crash out on the bed, then get up before dawn, walk down the steps and cast out!

Patrick and a Jungle Perch. I went skiing in France once, and the instructor kept going "Bend ze kneez! Bend ze kneez!". When Jean Francois photographs a fish it goes more like "Extend ze armz! Extend ze armz!".

Archer fish - dead cute.






















Things that make you go 'Hmmmm'.

In fact, they were so friendly that after a couple of days the smiley lady bringing my food and drinks down to the lake tapped my shoulder before she left, and then stuttered "You - be - my - husband?". I guess there's no point beating around the bush. Not quite sure how to do a Thai polite rejection I smiled, shook my head and then buried my face in the bowl. I just hoped I hadn't lined myself up for some tampered chicken.

The action on the rods wasn't as hectic as it really should have been, and despite trying different baits, hook sizes etc etc etc. And suddenly this bloke turns up with his rods strapped to his moped and sets up not 20 feet away to my left.
"Oh hello", methinks.
He throws in some bait about 10 yards out, and drops a small spiral feeder into the spot, draping a piece of wet tissue paper onto the bow in his line. Within minutes, I heard a 'swoosh', and he was playing a nice sized Tilapia to the net.
"Oh hello", methinks.
Although I did notice that the fish did seem to be coming in sideways...

"You be my husband?"   'Kinell!

Within minutes he's repeating the act with an even larger Tilapia. 
"What the...?" 
So I had to have a look at this. Gesturing to the man for him to hold up his catch so I could take a snap, all became clear. His feeder had a 'stinger' treble hook off the end of it, and two short pieces of mono with about size 6 hooks tied to them, again, one at each end, and what he as doing was waiting for the tissue paper to twitch as the Tilapia pecked at the feeder and then striking to impale the fish any old how. All very sporting! 

Thank heavens for Enterprise Plastic Sweetcorn.

One of the Striped Snakehead  that nobbled a livebait fished close to the reedbeds.

 

Occasionally you'd hear a 'swoosh' again and look round to see yer man removing some scales from his hook(s). I've been pretty desperate, but not that desperate. One other spooky thing- these two guys turned up and set up a rod each about 10 yards to my right the next day. Then one of them sees I was casting to the baited marker... so he does the same, his feeder landing about 6 feet away from mine. I can only pray this bloke doesn't turn up at a carp lake in England, for that, my friends, would be seen as fighting talk. I just smiled and nodded. And I had a rod set up for Snakeheads etc, and at times it was left propped up some bushes behind me.  Intermittently, a couple of the local blokes would come along and just pick it up and have a few casts. "Help yourself then mate!".

Red Ants dissect their prey. Not very often I've felt sorry for a beetle, but it did remind me of the old Stones number, 'Sympathy for the Weevil'.   (Sorry).

Eventually the fish started to fall to my rods regularly, with Yellow Belly Barbs, more Archer Fish, more Gobies, catfish and a few Striped Snakeheads rapping the rod tips around, so by the time I left the lake for Kanchanaburi I was quite satisfied with what had been caught. I suppose I would have liked some bigger fish, but then again, I didn't see any of the few local fellas fishing there catch anything of great size either. Maybe it was the intense heat (again).

So, Kanchanaburi it is then - until next time...

Back To Thailand Part 2 Onto Thailand Part 4 Return To Home
 

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