MEN OF SOUTHERN THAILAND: AMAURY, THE FRENCH WITH THAI SOUL
Two traditional Thai long boats made of blackened wood, their bows adorned with colorful garlands approach Sunrise Beach on Koh Lipe island To the surprise of the small group of tourists waiting to board, a young man, blond, tall and slender jumps off one of them. He wears a loose T-shirt, shorts and a funny hat, with a hole on one side. Nevertheless, it suits him perfectly. He speaks English fluently, but with an accent that betrays his French origins. Later on I would find out that he’s 30 and determined to live his life where and how he wishes. “I would like to teach English or music,” he confesses – although he has a PhD in statistics as well as other master degrees – pointing to the black cover he always carries around, which hides a beautfully shaped ukulele, a gift from a dear friend. I tell him that, as a child, I tried to learn to play guitar. I was so shy that after a few lessons I quit. Amaury admits that although he’s travelling alone around the world and gets easily along with strangers, once upon a time he was a shy boy. His father would make him get up in stage and take part into music competition. And he was terrified. It was not until he moved to Oxford, U.K., to study, that he found his voice and confidence.
“I lived in a houseboat on the Thames. Without television, internet or electricity. I had a small battery I used for the audio system because I can not live without music.”
A newbie in England, alone and with no friends in the beginning, Amaury decided to use his spare time to polish his guitar playing skills. He started as an autodidact and after a while he joined jam sessions in pubs. Getting up on stage, in front of people did the trick.
After five years spent in the UK, Amaury sold his belongings and began to travel. The hat with a hole is one of the few things he kept. He found it in the Thames. It looked ugly and dirty but had personality. He cleaned it and he wears it most of the time, but without nostalgia.
“I think man learns as long as he lives. It’s nice to discover new things, to evolve”, says Amaury who has a thing for foreign languages. For his stay in Thailand, me made a deal with the boatmen on Adang Island. He helped them communicate with the foreign tourists (farangs as they call us) and they thaught him Thai and provided him food. They also thought him how to steer a long boat and pump the water out of it Amaury doesn’t have a cell phone and likes to write the important stuff in a notebook with leather covers. He loves animals and could not live in a country that promotes social imbalances. He loves Adang Island that has been his home for over a month for its white sand, as fine as granulated sugar, its people, with warm hearts and wide smiles, their contagious joy. He likes to swim so much that he stay in the water. The end of the day always find him on the beach, contemplating the sunset, when the azure sea turns pink, singing and joking with the boatmen whom he heartily calls his friends.
I tell Amaury about Joe and and the English teacher who can play the blues and Jam Bay, in Khanom. Who knows, maybe Thailand is the “home” he’s looking for.