Have you seen this headlining photo on the Snapshots section of my blog website? Wondered where it was from and when I’d get to its story? Well, today’s your lucky day!
We island hopped our way up the Pacific coastline of Southern Thailand, meeting up with another family, friends of ours who had moved to Hong Kong from Canada. Island hopping in a longtail boat back in 2002, the conditions were a bit rustic, rocking with the waves and motoring our way along in those iconic boats…you know the ones. You see them in many a shot taken along the pristine waters of Thailand’s ocean coastline with their long prows draped in colourful prayer flags and motors attached to very long shafted propellers out back. The boats were noisy and the engines smelly, but the kids had a blast, riding on the roof, the raised wooden deck by the prow or under the shelter of the centre tarped section.
It was so much fun, sailing the coastal waterways, using a baited fishing line to pull in squid the traditional way (no rods were used… just a Fishing line and a hook and our bare hands), cooking fresh fish on make-shift barbecues (metal pails with charcoal briquettes and a metal rack over top used right on the boat deck), exploring the amazing limestone karsts that formed the backbone of the island chain there, and landing on the shores of deserted islands with absolutely pristine white sands to muck about, swim, relax and explore while our boatmen prepared our lunch for the day.
When we did this trip, it was 2002, and digital cameras were brand new on the scene. It was very early days for the digital camera, but even then, they had a view screen and you could snap a photo and then see how it turned out, right after it was taken.
This was amazing, brand new technology at the time. Miraculous. And it was a BIG deal to the children we swam and played with on the shores of Ko Sukhorn.
At the time, Ko Sukhorn was an island, off-the-beaten path and rarely visited by tourists. Rubber tapping and fishing were the primary occupations of those living on the island. Tourism was only just beginning there at the turn of the century. In fact, Ko Tarutao, an island that we travelled to after our island hopping, had made the place popular because it was the site of Survivor Thailand, filmed there that same year.
These boys were shy, because they did not see tourists very often. But they were also very curious… perhaps emboldened by the fact that they were walking along the beach in a pack and because we had kids that were a little younger than them. Thais seemed, by and large, to have a far easier time approaching you and relating to you, in more remote, untouristed areas, if you had children with you.
As the boys played with our daughter and warmed up to our family, I began snapping photos, capturing the moment. Our daughter was in there, like a dirty shirt. Well, with her dirty shirt, actually. This was back at a time when she happily got mucky and wore her clothes in the ocean without a second’s hesitation, before the appearance of make-up and style on her personal horizon!
When the boys discovered that they could actually see themselves in the camera screen, they began horsing around and posing. “Like GQ!” they’d exclaim as they staged their looks, stood stock still, and then sprinted behind the camera to see how it turned out.
It was a “first” moment for them, and it was so neat to give that to them. Capturing them, (I want to say “on film,” but perhaps “in pixels” is more appropriate?), became the basis of a series of fun, unguarded moments. The camera was the device through which we communicated, being unable to speak more than pleasantries and numbers in Thai ourselves. Their lighthearted sense of play throughout was infectious. And we were able to feel at one with them… with no cultural diferences driving us apart. Nothing relegating us to the role of tourist-observer and them to the role of be-well-behaved-in-front-of-tourists local children.
It was candid. It was spirited. It was fun. It was liberating.
Imagine. Camera as the ultimate connector, pre-Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Here are more shots from that series. Enjoy!