“EMBER! Where you go? I be looking for you,” came a low voice in broken English. If I didn’t know better, I would have mistaken him for a fortune teller. He was a wise old man with weathered skin, always moving in a slow thought out manner. Long white robes draped from his bony frame, and an earthen colored turban was perched above his bushy eyebrows. All he was missing was a glass ball and a book of fortunes.

I met Hutyee Boat (pronounced Ha-jee Boat) the day before in a frenzy to find an available bungalow on Koh Lanta Island. I seemed to have misunderstood what “high season” meant and was in a bit of a housing predicament. “Come, come, sit,” he exclaimed and placed a glass of fluorescent green bubblegum flavored drink in front of my famished figure. “No bungalow now, I call bungalow down the street, they come pick you up in tuk tuk. Maybe you like and stay, I happy. If no, come back tomorrow, you can bungalow with Hutyee Boat.” And that was exactly what I did. As he yelled, “goodbye darling” when the tuk tuk departed, I knew I had a mission to return and befriend the old man.

Now he was motioning for me to sit at the lunch table with his family and placing a heap of rice and sun dried fish in front of me. English was not his forte—in fact, I could probably list off his vocabulary in a minute or so, and “yes” was not on the list. Instead, it was “can.”

“Hutyee Boat, can you show me to my bungalow?” –can, can! “Hutyee Boat, should I pay you now?” –can, can! He did put an exuberant amount of enthusiasm into his speech and it had a special animation that made up for the lack of vocabulary.

As I picked at my meal radiating intense fish fumes, I asked Hutyee Boat about life on the island and his bungalow business. An equal amount of Muslims and Buddhists make up the population of Koh Lanta, and Hutyee Boat and his family fell into the primary category. His name used to be just Boat, but upon making a trek to Mecca, the Hutyee part got added as an honored title. And now he had a whole bungalow settlement named after him.

The reception gazebo seemed to be a hotspot for the guests to hang out. It consisted of a dirt floor, wooden picnic table and hammock. Hutyee Boat listed the names of all the guests on a white board and when they came and went he would yell at them on their porches, “Monica! What you doing today? You want moped?” His enthusiasm was contagious and I always chuckled to myself a little bit at his exclamations.

My days were filled with runs along the beach, naps in my hammock, broken English conversations and a daily dose of street food sampling. Hutyee Boat would see me walking along the street and pull over on his moped just to say hi and ask where I was going. One night, I even ventured beyond my bungalow settlement for a pink Valentines party and live band show on the beach. It was a memorable night, but I realized the beach party scene isn’t for me, and reverted to my hammock and sloth like daily routine.

Eventually, the heat got to me. I could only visit the air conditioned 7-11 so many times in one day, and I realized maybe it was time for me to move on. I packed up, said my goodbyes to my new friend and headed to the northern province of Chiang Mai with hopeful visions of jungle trekking and meditating beneath ornate temples.   

I had been wanting to get to know some locals and experience Thai culture outside of the tourist realm, and meeting Hutyee Boat was the perfect opportunity. Now, looking back on it, I cant help but smile each time I remember his booming voice and kindness.
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Hutyee Boat and me
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Enjoying the porch of my bungalow
 


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