-John Eickert

Walking the beaches, looking for just the correct vendor, I was on the Andaman Sea island of Phi Phi Don, in southern Thailand and hoped to find someone with a boat and knowledge about snorkeling in these waters. There were plenty of boats and many vendors eager for my tourism, but I was committed to finding someone who also knew the reefs and fishes. An acquaintance sent me looking for a lady who was good with a boat, a good underwater guide, and made a great lunch. I didn’t find her, instead I settled on Pitanu  and he took me snorkeling. We agreed on an adventure and a price, then Pitanu asked me to be at the boat early the next morning and then he warned me about the pirates.

When I think of pirates, I think of swarthy men sailing the high seas in search of helpless maidens and buried treasure. I walked away, certain Pitanu had tried to peak my interest and create an adventure atmosphere to a simple snorkeling expedition.

I arrived on time the next morning and soon Pitanu slid his boat up to a small quiet beach. He secured the boat while I poked around the small island, which was no larger than a soccer pitch. He gave some tips on how to keep my distance from the limestone rock buttresses, why the coral was fragile, and which fish might be dangerous. The water was clear and warm and we saw many fish. I began to like this small man. We boated to other similar sights, Pitanu keeping his eye on the horizon. I thought he was watching the tide or maybe the wind. We stopped for lunch, fruit and rice, and began discussing Buddhism. Pitanu was delighted I knew so much and we discussed the dharma at length.

Our boat slid up to the last snorkeling sight, the sun was high overhead and hot. We made our last trip under the waves and returned to the boat. Something on the horizon caught Pitanu’s attention and he told me to dive, and to hurry. I looked up to see a longtailed, high-powered boat approaching at speed. I jumped.

The pirates took our boat, everything. Gone were my clothes, my sandals, sunglasses, and a bit of money. Pitanu lost his boat. The pirates called to us inviting us to join them on their boat as we swam, but we did not. Not wanting to chase us, hoping to get away with their boat, the pirates abandoned us there in the Andaman. About 30 minutes of swimming took us to a small island where we spent the night. In the morning, Pitanu was able to signal a fisherman who sailed us back to Phi Phi Don.

Pitanu went to the authorities and I went with him. We spent another day giving testimony and filling out statements, through this Pitanu and I became great friends. I still exchange email with him. Oh, almost a year after our day of snorkeling, he got his boat back.



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