The longtail boat is an icon of the beaches of southern Thailand, and no good tourist comes away without at least one shot of the boats framed by the dramatic karst limestone features of the landscape. They’re very distinctive and photogenic, and I would have taken more shots of them if the weather had been better (this shot taken during the one 2-hour slot we had of bona fide sunshine and blue skies). I particularly enjoy the way the bow gets exaggerated when using the 12mm wide-angle on my Canon EOS 400D (I was probably all of eight inches from the nose of the boat here). The scarf of colour wrapped around the base also adds a nice splash of vibrance to an already spectacular setting.
Despite their picturesque and fitting image, the longtails are a menace for anybody looking for solitude and tranquility. They cart tourists in and out of the beaches by their thousands each day. At any given time two or three of these marine minibuses are beaching themselves on the sand and disgorging two dozen pasty white Europeans to bake beneath a tropical sun for a few days. They clutter every seascape, moored by the score in the shallows just off the waterfront, and their aggressive little two-stroke engines have them buzzing up and down the coastline like wasps, sounding for all the world like lawn-mowers on PCP.
I don’t mean to complain. And I mean that honestly. Any destination, however seemingly idyllic, has its idiosyncrasies and quirks, and the reality of life intervenes no matter how hard you try to pretend it won’t. More importantly, the vessels are a source of income to literally thousands of boatmen up and down the shores of southern Thailand, still recovering following the devastation of the 2004 Tsunami. I think it pays, sometimes, to look behind the picture and sidestep the tropical cliche for a few moments. Equalize the expectations and enjoy the colourful, sensual reality of life for what it is.