I was terrified. We were roaring up a klong (canal in Thai) off the Chao Praya river in a rocket boat, a sort of thin, elongated canoe with a pickup engine in the back, attached to a barrel of diesel oil, a rudder and a propeller. The gunwales were no more than 8 inches above the surface of the water. I know because I was clutching them as hard as I could. Life jackets? Hah!
I’ve always had a phobia about any water deeper than a bathtub, and even though I finally learned, as an adult, how to swim, I don’t. I was terrified. We sat on benches raised about 3 inches off the bottom of the boat. Gene sat in front of me, our guide Wall sat behind. There was enough room between us to sit yoga fashion, getting that good old inner thigh stretch. The name rocket boat was not chosen idly. That sucker moved! Have I mentioned that I was terrified?
We had come out to Thonburi, the old part of Bangkok where people still live on the remaining klongs, washing themselves, their children and their laundry in the brown water, buying many of their goods from small boats poled by single women in oddly shaped hats. Thonburi is across the river from the busy modern city that has filled all the old klongs and built 40 story condominium towers over them, and in its outer reaches feels like a different place entirely. Our initial entry into the klongs was via longtail boat, a high-prowed 50-foot boat with a motor attached to a very long pole that extends another 10 feet behind it. This was daunting enough, but they buzz around all over the river and I’ve been in one before, so although I didn’t like it, it didn’t freak me out.
Eventually however, we got to a somewhat narrower canal where apparently the longtail had to be exchanged for the shallower draft of the rocket boat. I’m sure there was a good reason; it couldn’t have just been to frighten the farang woman out of her wits. Actually, I was unable to speak so there’s no way Wall could have known. And after 10 or 15 minutes of white-knuckled terror, a very surprising thing happened…I calmed down. I began to enjoy it. I even unclenched my hands enough to wave back at the children and adults who waved at us as we sped by. I was fine.
I did hit Gene though when he mentioned later that he was sorry he was sitting in front so he couldn’t see my face.
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