Where we met up with Julie, her brother Stefan, sweet baby James and our old friend Jia…
Because of a perceived threat of terrorism, the FCO (UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office) advises “…against all but essential travel…to Southern Songkhla province”, and that includes Hat Yai. That didn’t stop us from visiting a few times during the refit in Satun, when we rushed in and out of the airport or made quick shopping excursions to pick up parts. And nothing was going to stop us from seeing Julie and Jia. This time we saw another side of this pretty city.
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Those of you who have followed us for a while here and on social media, will know that we made great friends with Jia and Julie during our refit, when we spent over a year in his family’s boat yard in Satun,
Jia is a keen fisherman, and while we were there he arranged to take us away from PSS Shipyard for a night on a local squid fishing boat. It was an exhilarating experience to be out on the water with the fishermen, and to fully get to grips with why they use those bright green lights, which you see all around the coastal waters of Phang Nga bay and the Andaman Sea.
Once again, when we met up with Julie and family in Hat Yai this time, we were whisked away for the most delicious lunch at Bon Khao Restaurant overlooking the city. And afterwards we drove to the top of the hill to get a closer look at the golden Thao Mahaprom Four Face Buddha, and that spectacular view.
Jia, who is in his early 30s, suffered a stroke over a year ago and is still lying in a coma. Imperceptibly, though, day by day he is beginning to recover. He is unable to talk, but can communicate with small gestures like raising his eyebrows, blinking and smiling. Julie was pregnant at the time and gave birth to James nine months ago. She is a model of hope and resilience to everyone who knows her, and has remained by Jia’s side, along with his mum and the rest of the strong-knit family, since this tragic incident happened.
This is probably the last chance we will get to see them before we head east, so we really wanted to say goodbye. The three and a half hour drive there and back from Krabi was worth every second we spent with them. We are all willing Jia to hurry up and get better so that they can come back on SY Esper for another fishing trip, anywhere in the world.