Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand
Not aware that their area offers an exciting and unique learning experience for tourists interested in nature, the dwellers of a small village in Ban Maung District believe it doesn’t hold much attraction for visitors.
As part of their fellowship, the Rotary Peace Fellows of the 27th batch visited the village and accompanied fishers out to the sea in their beautifully decorated boats to observe the traditional way of fishing. The trip turned out to be a memorable experience.
It was, however, sad to see the fishers not happy with their lives. For them, the biggest challenge is to make ends meet. They are worried their new generation is losing interest in the traditional forms of fishing. Also, income is meager, which makes life quite tough.
“You don’t know how much potential this area has; fishing in the deep sea with fishers is a big attraction for tourists,” Peace Fellow Claudia from Italy told the representatives of the local fishery association during a panel discussion. “All you have to do is to organize and market,” she remarked.
Claudia isn’t wrong. The crystal clear waters, sunshine, smooth white sands, and elegantly decorated boats parked on the shore — is a sight for sore eyes.
Indeed, this place provides a perfect setting for people who love nature. Having freshly-cooked crabs, shrimps, and octopus at the seashore under the shade of bamboo huts should be a memorable treat for tourists. So it was for the Rotary fellows. A dessert of fresh wild fruit was icing on the cake.
The fellows picked up shiny and beautifully-shaped shells from the shores. Some planned to make jewelry with them while others thought they would be suitable as wall hangings. The visitors played with children swimming in the sea and took pictures to capture every moment of the trip.
“It is all because of the Rotary Fellowship. Otherwise, we would never be able to interact with local fishers and visit such a beautiful place,” said Lalitha, a fellow from the United States.
While I was just about to have lunch, I heard Azan (the Muslim call to prayer) from a nearby mosque. I asked Dr. Vitoon, Deputy Director of the Rotary Peace Center, that I wanted to go there, and he promptly agreed.
Soon I was following a local fisher to the mosque. He could not understand English, and I didn’t know Thai. The gestures were welcoming, though.
As I arrived at the small mosque, the welcome by the local community was overwhelming. I said my prayers in the women’s section and interacted with the locals. Their warmth made me a fan of the peace and harmony that exists among different faiths in Thailand.
Boarding the boat and balancing it throughout the journey to the deep-sea was a challenge for overweight people like me. Four vessels ferried the group members with each having four fellows and two anglers. If one person moved, the others on board started screaming, calling for a replacement so that the balance could be maintained.
Alfredo, a fellow from Brazil, found the calm and clean sea so tempting he jumped in for a swim. Watching him do that was fun but bringing him back onto the boat was a challenge as the tide was against the ship. Fortunately, the fishers who knew their work quite well came to Alfredo’s rescue.
Another fun part was helping the fishers catch crabs with a net, which they had placed two days ago out at sea. In a small boat, a young angler was seen catching octopus with glass bottles attached to a long string. “They remove the base of the small glass bottles, tie them with a string and drop them into the sea for a day or two. The octopuses tend to hide in such spots,” our translator told us. He said that there were 1,200 bottles attached to the string that was pulled out in front of us. Every third or fourth bottle had an octopus trapped in it.
In the end, each fellow was full of love, empathy, and appreciation for the local community and hoped that the owners of big businesses and the government would play their role to preserve and protect these guardians of nature.
Myra Azam – Pakistan
Rotary Peace Fellows – Class 27