Go local, go longtail
This is one of our beautiful longtail boats, at Poda Island.
They are the "gondolas" of Southern Thailand, or as one of our guests put it, "the Harley Davisons of the sea".
When you think about it, you can go on a speedboat just about anywhere in the world... but on a longtail, only in Thailand. They may be slightly slower, but then you're on holiday - so what's the rush?
What do the colours mean?
The particular combination of colours on each boat are the choice of the owner, and have no real significance in themselves.
However, the reason for having them dates back to ancient times, when "animism" was the predominant belief system in this region.
The colours are tied on the "head" of the boat to appease the spirits of the seas. They will then protect the boat and its passengers from harm, and bring good luck for fishing.
Why we love longtails
The name "longtail" refers to the long propellor shaft attached directly, or by chains, to the drive shaft of the engine. The tail not only propels the boat but, by and large, is also the steering mechanism. It means the boats can be used in very shallow waters, so they are convenient for fishing which was their original purpose.
The boats are constructed from wood by hand. The boat builders use no plans - the techniques are still handed down from father to son, and each builder has his own distinctive style. They are very solid and seaworthy, and give a surprisingly smooth ride, even in rough weather. If well maintained, they can be used for many years.
Unfortunately, longtails are fast being replaced by speedboats, which are marketed on the basis that they can cover long distances more quickly. It's true... and if visiting eight islands in one day is what you're after, then they are certainly the way to go.
There is a long tradition behind longtail boats - the building, maintaining and driving - a tradition which we are afraid will disappear. And once they are gone, all this knowledge will be lost forever.
So support small business in Ao Nang, and help the many families whose livelihoods depend on longtail boats. And at the same time, help preserve a way of life.