They roar onto the beach like an invading force — dozens of sleek boats carrying tightly packed loads of uniformly life-jacketed new arrivals for a day in the sun. We stand there in our wet swimsuits, cheek-by-jowl with the masses, a mob intent on having a good time, leaping in the air and posing with selfie sticks and screaming with an eardrum-piercing mix of shock and glee when the waves disturb their photographic frenzies, crashing into them from behind. For a moment, it appears that our escape will be blocked. But then, hand on the tiller of our trusty dinghy, our skipper comes to the rescue.

Squeezing into a narrow gap between two monster motorboats, Chokchai Kongthong, cool as a cucumber in his Ray-Bans, loads us quickly into the small craft, my young niece and nephew gamely and quickly scrambling aboard, my sister situating herself near the bow to help my brother-in-law as he leaps inside, rolling to the floor as we back away, finding open water before another load of day-trippers arrives from Phuket… [read more]