We’d been eyeing a table piled with box lunches, fresh fruit, and bunches of orchids and hoped this abundance was for us.
A mini-bus pulled up at the turning circle and disgorged a bundle of Buddhist monks who immediately began a prayer meeting for a group of young women who’d been waiting alongside us, just outside the hotel.
Once the chanting stopped, the women left bits and pieces of their own newly blessed, and rather meager looking, lunches at the hotel shrine, and then went on their way to work at roadside massage parlors, souvenir shops , and bars.
The monks had brought a two-handled plastic bucket with the capacity of a supermarket trolley. They loaded all the treats on the table into this, and then hopped back into the minibus and left.
We were waiting for our own transportation to the harbor. This turned out to be a much less commodious songthaew. Thank goodness many of the other passengers were Japanese and petite.
I was lucky to snag a seat– one of five people who did– in the front cabin, behind the driver. The girls were part of a crew of twenty-two in the back, in space intended to seat about 10.
“Don’t worry safe safe” said the driver to all of us squashed in the front as he negotiated sharp bends on impossible hills, while overtaking bare-chested old-man Brits on rented motorbikes, and being overtaken by polo-shirt and jeans-clad Thai boys on their own machines. These boys all had collar length, soft,black hair that fluffed behind them as they rode, making me long to stroke their necks. I had no desire for any contact with the wizened Brits at all.
“Welcome, Welcome I am Superman” said the blithe,lithe boy-man checking our tickets at the boat. ” Don’t worry ’bout a thing.. Every little thing gonna be all right. Superman got this”
All of this turned out to be true.
When it was time to snorkel, Superman and a very nice Thai Tourist (whose back will probably never be the same again) manhandled me over the edge of the boat and down the narrow-runged, deep-stepped ladder. They did the work of both my knees.
“Superman is strong. Superman will save you.”
I can swim, an enormous advantage of being nine-tenths hot air. Stephanie had no problem getting into the water, but she doesn’t swim. She wasn’t in any danger as, like the rest of us, she was wearing a life jacket. But she didn’t seem likely to be going very far.
“You look, I guide” said Superman. He gave each of us the end of a float to hold, and towed us for 45 minutes. Star and the other 50 passengers were left to their own deep-water devices.
Underwater was other- worldly. Huge sea cabbages. Black Sea urchins. Great grapey things like softening footballs that opened and shut their lipless mouths when Superman teased them with his fin. Coral, of course.
The fish were blue with black stripes, and yellow with black stripes, or lit in neon colors. Shoals of small fish flurries around us like willow leaves, but in Autumn colors. The water was warm as a bath, and beautifully clear.
With a boost from Superman, I got back on the boat without incident.
At our next stop, the boat unfurled a huge inflatable slide. Superman went down first, splashing a bucket of sudsy water to make the slide super-slippery. Steph and I declined to follow him, but Star did it, along with some fearless Japanese and Russian kids under ten, and the kind of young men who had been cannon-balling off the side of the boat all day.
At the third stop , a long floating jetty made of intersecting 4D jigsaw pieces, about three foot wide.
“Hold my hand and go in front of me” I said to Star because I can’t walk straight and maintain my balance even on non-swaying surfaces.
She obliged but Superman also took my other hand, dancing along beside me like a Sea Sprite, still singing Bob Marley songs.
“When you ready come back shout Superman three times. I come”
Star and I taught Steph how to float in the blue water of the secluded, sandy bay. There were hermit crabs on the beach. And, strangely, a baby deer which stretched under the shade of a picnic table and allowed itself to be licked by a kitten.
There was no need to call Clark Kent– Superman was there right as we got out of the water.
We ended our day stiff with sunburn, salt water , and unexpected amounts of exercise. It was a great feeling.
Thank-you Superman for saving a day that could have been disappointing, frustrating and humiliating. Practical empathy: that’s your real superpower
Our island-hopping tour left Bang Bao in the south of Koh Chang at 9am. Just go to the pier at the end of Bang Bao market and ask for Superman.