Curry with pangasius. Grilled garlic prawns. These both belong in a Thai holiday. A bamboo terrace on the water. A cold drink and a tasty snack served on a palm leaf. The fish comes fresh from the sea, the waiter points to the surf as if the fish had washed ashore and landed on your plate.
Unfortunately, nothing could be farther from the truth. For that one precious fish fillet, men and boys dragged nets for nights on end and hoisted them into ships. Some are missing a little finger, or sometimes even a whole hand or part of an arm. The net is as strong as six horses and will drag you along if you are not paying attention from, say, lack of sleep. If you were to fall overboard, then there’s nothing left but a sailor’s grave.
at De Balie. This is, in short, the story: the sea off Thailand has been overfished so badly that fishing boats need to go further and further into the water. Traditional fishermen don’t want to be away from home for months on end, so men and boys are recruited to do the job. Sometimes they are even tempted, with a mysterious woman waiting for them in a sultry hotel room. When they awake the next morning, the woman is gone and their bed is on the boat. They are at sea for years on end. These men lose five or ten years of their lives, sometimes even more.