Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Thailand's Latest Craze: Mud Boarding!

The good people of the tiny village of Pak Talae in Petchaburi province, Thailand, have invented a new sport, and think it might just be Thailand’s next craze – mud boarding. Yep, just like snowboarding or wake boarding, but instead of zipping over snow or water, you slide over mud. On a board. On your stomach.

Yes, it’s as dirty as it sounds. And it takes some time to get the hang of it. But if you’re dressed for the occasion and don’t mind making a fool of yourself, it’s actually quite fun. Whether it will actually take over the world of action sport or not is another question … but if it does, you heard it here first!

Pak Talae is located on a wide tidal flat on the Gulf of Thailand, just north of Hua Hin, about three hours drive south of Bangkok. Here, the locals make a living from collecting ark, or “blood cockle” shells, wading out along a kilometre-deep mud flat to pick up the little shells, selling them to a middle-man for 15 baht a kilo.

As I recently discovered, it’s hot, hard and messy work in the midday sun (with the industry driven by tides, collection takes place at low tide, regardless of the time of day). First, you have to be appropriately dressed – and that means putting on long woolly socks, secured by rubber bands, to protect your feet. Walking in this get-up through the sinking quicksand-like mud is pretty amusing, and harder than it sounds.

To make the collection of the ark shells easier and less of a strain on the back, the workers have devised a flat wooden board with a crate or bucket strategically placed in the middle. Workers lie down over the bucket, pushing through the mud with one leg like a scooter. This allows them to propel forward through the mud without having to stoop, while the board doubles as a convenient way to carry the heavy shells.

It’s simple, yet ingenious – but as the locals say, it’s far too much fun just to be a practical tool of the trade! While I admit to being too wussy to give it a shot (my argument being I had no clean clothes to get changed into), some of my fellow journalists had a go on a recent trip, and thought it was an absolute hoot.

The locals certainly thought it was pretty funny, watching their pathetic attempts to slide across the mud! And you’ve got to hand it to them, using tourism as a way of boosting not only their income but also to raise awareness of their lifestyle and livelihood.

                                                  (Pics: Julie Miller 2012)

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