News & Insights 9 October 2007

There’s no excuse for Celine Dion

Dinner. Caught fresh.Tuesday 9 October, 9.15pm (Bang-Mud Restaurant, Phuket, Thailand):
The food in this country is stunning. Words don’t adequately describe it, to be honest, but… well… let’s just say that it’s putting “Ladies Eat Free” night at Abra-kebabra into serious perspective. Tony just ordered a groupa fish for his dinner, and shortly afterwards a chef appeared on the little jetty beside the restaurant, hoisted said fish out of the water and disappeared back into the kitchen. 15 minutes later the creature was lying on a plate in front of us, steaming away. The word “fresh” doesn’t even come close…

Canoeing in lagoonsToday we went canoeing in amongst the caverns and lagoons of Phuket’s offshore islands. It was like being on the set of Peter Jackson’s King Kong. We were hanging out with monkeys underneath vast, craggy, richly-foliaged cliff faces and diving off the tour boat into twinkling, sapphire waters. In the past I’ve always found it extremely difficult to sympathise with “gappers” when they insist on dragging you picture-by-picture through their enormous photo albums of elephant rides in Mumbai and feeding endangered spider-monkeys in the Amazon rainforest but, after this, I understand. What a day. And the Thai boat crew who were running the whole thing were just brilliant. Their only slip-up, in fact, was playing the theme song from Titanicover the PA system on the journey back to the mainland. There’s no excuse for Celine Dion at the best of times, but an ode to a shipwreck? On a boat? Perhaps it was meant to be ironic.

Danny and Chris on the boatThe restaurant in which we’re currently eating is only accessible by boat. It’s basically a massive floating platform in the middle of the bay, which means that all the fish just come straight from the sea to your plate. When we arrived we were shown round the various aquariums where the chefs keep their more specialist catches – including one that housed a frisky-looking leopard shark (“No stand too close” was our guide’s advice – his reasoning being, I guess, that if you fall into a four-foot square tub with a shark in it then you’ve pretty much had it) and one containing an excitable gaggle of puffer fish. The Thai chap who was showing us round picked up one of the puffers and shook it around a little until it started to inflate. And it just kept going. Believe me, these things are hilarious. I mean, we’ve all seen puffer fish on Wildlife On One, but face-to-face they really are something else. They are the space-hoppers of the animal kingdom. I was marginally disappointed that it didn’t emit a farting noise when it deflated, but otherwise it was first-class entertainment.

Oh, and apropos of nothing in particular, yesterday afternoon in Phuket Town we identified our first ladyboy. What a moment. My mother would be so proud.

Chris Lightyear

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