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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Longtail boat to Railey Beach

Five reasons to be wary of the journey – and yet you’ll go for it:
Why do we love to walk into danger? Good sense cautions us against pursuing a particular course of action and yet we crash on regardless.
The problem with the longtail boat (Ruea Hang Yao) is that no one warns you about what you are going in for. Take off your shoes, wade through the water, push the boat and clamber on. And get thoroughly wet even before the journey begins. We learnt it the hard way.
 
Heading for the Longtail
 
The outbound journey is frightening. The boat heads straight out into the sea, pitching into the huge incoming waves. 15 to 30 degrees is the boat’s tilt I bet. We hang on to the seat as best as we can to prevent ourselves from sliding down and out into the deep. And yet have the presence of mind to protect the camera and our wallets from getting wet – clothes be damned!
The boatman isn’t bothered because he’s using all his strength and concentration to steer the boat with the long handle that’s connected directly to the propeller - via the truck engine powering the longtail boat. The boat pitches nauseously and then dips sharply as it skittles from trough to trough, from wave to wave. It yaws, it sways and it rolls. And not till he has put enough water between himself and the coastline, does the boatman turn the boat so that it runs parallel to the shore. Now the ride is smoother – perhaps we too have got used to the capricious craft.
The safety of the life jacket? What’s that? Some ancient relics are tucked between the rafters and the tarpaulin roof. But whether they work is a moot question. So if you can’t swim, God bless you. Yes it takes a bit of guts to go in the long tail boats. The great consolation being that these guys have been there for decades if not centuries and if the safety record was really terrible, they would probably have ceased to exist.
On the return journey from Railey beach, the famed Thai smile once again showed its true nature when the boatmen refused to take us back to AoNang until we had paid multiples of the official fare. In certain cultures it’s called blackmail. We try to hold on and bargain – as all the guide books advise – but with the storm clouds gathering in the distance, we crumble quickly and succumb to his extortion.

Do go in for this trip for:  
  1.  Excitement 
  2. Danger 
  3. Adrenaline rush  
  4. It’s the cheapest way to travel to Railey 
  5. You’ll remember the journey for a long time
But do your research before getting on to the long tail boat, and don’t get seduced by the Thai smile...

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