A fishy tale at Phuket harbour, Thailand
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phuket Leisure: A fishy tale

 A Fishy Tale at Phuket Harbour

At Sang Arun Pier, where Thai fishermen haul-in their weekly and bi-weekly catch,you get transported to another world, another time

Phuket Harbour, just a hop, skip and jump from Robinson's Department Store in Phuket Town, is so completely different, so utterly out of the ordinary, that unless you have an interest in commercial fishing, you have to be very advent urous to vent ure out there. Not only that, but to really experience the excitement, the exhilaration and to witness for yourself the "big one that didn't get away, the best time to visit this bustling market and commercial processing plant is before 6am. At Sang Arun Pier, where Thai fishermen haul-in their weekly and bi-weekly catch, you get transported to another world, another time. To experience the fishwife haggling over crates of live crab with dealers of the finest establishments on the island, enduring an unbearably strong odour whilst watching the sunrise over Si Reh Island, is perhaps worth at least one early-morning jaunt.

Thai fishermen from Phuket ply the waters of the Andaman Sea hauling in 10, 000 -20, 000 kilos of fish in a two-week period. Stretching well into the Bay of Bengal, the Andaman Sea is one of the richest marine-life regions of the world. Fresh seafood from this area is not only shipped worldwide, but is also flash-frozen and canned. Other than the large quantities of fish, the daily catch brought into Sang Arun Pier include 500 kilos of shrimp, 100 -200 kilos of crab and 500 -1, 000 kilos of squid.

Over one hundred fishing boats dock daily at the pier. Each boat is at least 22 metres long, crewed by about eight to ten fishermen. "The biggest catches are in Febr uary. November, December and January are the worst" advises a tired- looking fisherman. He is happy to go home after a two-week trip. But he only gets one day to rest and spend time with this family. "Tomorrow, we leave again. We go close to Burma" he says...

Dealers from all over Phuket throng to the pier before 6:30 am. Nat urally the first ones to get there get the best deals. The unsold catch is processed at the factory on the premises. Fish heads and other discarded parts are ground into pig food, emitting an unbearably strong odour. Amazingly, t wo men processing without masks don't seem to notice the horrid smells emanating from the discards.

At other parts of the pier, where larger ships are docked, automatic conveyor-belts are lowered into the ship's hold. Fish is transferred via these belts into large containers. They are then transported to various locations, not only around Phuket but also, all over Thailand.

Several women sort the squid, crab, fish and shrimp brimming in big plastic tubs. They laugh and joke, holding up a thin needlefish, quickly tossing it in the unwanted pile. A fish market scene repeated the world over.


- May Issue, 2002

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