Tag Archives: Bangkok

40 Hours Lost at Sea

A story I wrote in Bangkok about two Bangladeshi sailors forced to jump ship in the middle of a wicked storm off the coast of Phuket in 2013 has just gone up on the Reader’s Digest website.

Mobarak Hossain and Raeq Fairooz, both in their 20s, survived two days floating in the Andaman Sea amid four-metre waves. The piece is a Reader’s Digest “Drama in Real Life” feature, and it’s a harrowing tale. Mobarak and Raeq spent hours on the phone with me—Mobarak from ports of call across the Persian Gulf (we were sometimes interrupted by the call to prayer)—explaining how they got through the ordeal, which included discovering the bodies of fellow crew mates on the rough waters, and the constant threat of shark attack.

Want to thank Montreal artist Steven P. Hughes for his amazing illustrations. Also a few people I consulted in my reporting, but who we did not have space to mention in the piece: Capt. Mohiuddin Abdul Kadir, the CEO of Interport Maritime Limited, which insured Mobarak and Raeq’s ship, the M.V. Hope, and who gave me important background on the accident; Capt. Richard Dunham, an instructor at the Australian Maritime College, in Tasmania, who talked me through the ins and outs of high-seas rescue operations; Dr. Michael Jacobs, co-author of A Comprehensive Guide to Marine Medicine, who explained what 40 hours in stormy seas will do to the human body; and Michael de Min, of Mike’s Fishing Adventures, located on Havelock Island in the Andaman Islands, who described the dangers associated with the waters off the Thai coast.

I also got to work with Ying Panyapon, the excellent Bangkok-based fixer and interpreter, who tackled the hard problem of persuading the Royal Thai Navy to speak to us about its part in responding to the M.V. Hope disaster.

Caught in the middle of Yangon, Bangkok and D.C.

IMG_0645Just writing a quick update from Bangkok, where I am busy preparing a couple of stories for publication. Passed through Washington, D.C. last month for an interview, and managed to get the Frank Capra tour in as well. Late in August my story on “astrologer pundits” in Myanmar—political analysts whose newspaper commentary depends in part on horoscopes—ran in The Christian Science Monitor (I reported that story with the help of photographer Arthur Nazaryan and Sam Aung Moon, our fixer-translator; you can read it here). A few weeks ago I appeared on the CBC Radio One interview program “Q with Jian Ghomeshi” to talk about two of the astrologers I profiled in the Monitor—San-Zarni Bo, a half-blind pro-democracy astrologer, and Zayar Ko, a former soldier whose predictions tend to favour Myanmar’s current quasi-civilian government (you can listen to that segment, which includes an account of how San-Zarni Bo lost sight in one eye, here). A long magazine piece I began reporting in April of last year is now in its end stages, but until that’s truly finished I will continue to surface here—and elsewhere—only intermittently.


The surreality of the familiar


Touched down in Bangkok the other day for the first time in 25 years. The smells—that odd mix of coriander and sewage—just as I remember, and just as intoxicating. But in my old neighbourhood the city has erupted upwards, turning to chrome or ribbons of concrete. Walked from Asoke to the Chao Phraya River, through the new glistening shopping district, then the ancient storefronts of golden Buddhas beyond that. As I neared the temple complexes along the river, bypassing the fast-talking tuk-tuk drivers under the spires of Wat Ratchabophit, the old Bangkok of my childhood sprang up and welcomed me, that blur of candy-coloured traffic.