Dienstag, 29. November 2011

The lucky charm

The lucky charm
© Eike-Christian Heine

After we got off the minibus, we found ourselves directly in front of a Pizzeria, run by an Italian and his Thai wife. We ordered Pizza, first one and then another half liter of white wine. Along with the second bottle we received a worried advice: "It’s very hot out there in Thailand!"

We stepped out of the air-conditioned restaurant and into Surat Thani's midday heat. It didn't bother us. In high spirits we ran through the streets, stopped at street vendors, laughed, photographed. We had more than four hours before we had to catch the bus to the airport.

After a short stroll we saw the Tapi. His high waters had flooded the houses on the shore several centimeters. We sat down in the shades of a decorated and somewhat decayed pavilion. Dozed next to the other waiters. A heavily tattooed couple lay in a knot on a bench. The girl absent-mindedly picked her armpit hair with tweezers. A schoolboy was bored. Some older ladies chatted quietly. 

The driver of a longtailboat approached us. Rich in gesture he said: "Tour. Come! One hour. 100 Baht." Dull with heat and wine we sat on our bench. Remembered that you are supposed always to approach your drivers yourself. If being approached, an everlasting and inescapable odyssey through dozens of shops might follow. But the boat slowly filled with passengers. He seemed nice. We had plenty of time. We jumped on.

The motors of longtailboats sound just like helicopters. Under the merciless sun and with an ear-battering rattle we started our cruise. In the wide delta the houses sat on stilts, protected from the high waters. Bit by bit we dropped off our passengers. They jumped on overflown stages, climbed houses and boats. We made a quick halt and there the next passenger jumped off.

By now we sat under the shelter of an umbrella given to us by our captain. When after three-fourths of an hour we were the only ones left on board he turned to us, gesturing and smiling: "Me. Mother. Ten. Minutes. Come!" The next stop was his parent's house.

Over a five meter long stage covered by some centimeters of floodwater and into an open room. Brown wood on the floor, the ceiling and the walls. The used and polished wood felt soft and cool under the naked feet. On the walls were the national flag, the yellow flag of the dynasty, king and queen.

The radio monotonously announced the lottery's winning numbers. Father, mother, son held dozens of tickets. Paced through the room. Our captain made us look out the window where he threw a hand full of food waste in a lake. The water's surface simmered shortly: Behind the house there was a fishpond.

More numbers from the radio. Then excitement. After a few minutes we understood. The mother had won 4.000 Bath, equaling 100 Euros. Kathrin was chosen the lucky charm. I asked if i might take a picture. The men put on shirts. All stood in a row, leaving a good half meter between one another. As I raised the camera the mother turned to Kathrin, pressed her and held onto her. Laughing I took the pictures.

On the way back we stopped by a school, picked up some teachers and pupils. The women called Kathrin immediately in their midst, took her under their umbrellas, started chatting. I was left sitting by myself, looking on the water, the houses on stilts and the other rattling boats.

We had to run to catch our bus. 

Waiting pavilion
© Eike-Christian Heine
Trip on the Tapi
© Eike-Christian Heine
Lotto winners
© Eike-Christian Heine
Lotto winners
© Eike-Christian Heine
Lotto winners
© Eike-Christian Heine
On the way home
© Eike-Christian Heine
On the way home
© Eike-Christian Heine

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