“I was the only child in the family who was a bit of a delinquent. I didn’t feel like my parents raised me to be myself and they always put me in this box. Sometimes I did things they didn’t approve of, which was ironic. After coming back from my travels, I now have the courage to talk about everything with them, using reasons.”
Habib Kodae, a 34 year-old travel operator in the three southern Thai provinces who runs the page Bibbike added that if he didn’t rebel, he wouldn’t have had fun travel stories to share with us today. His most recent trip was the eight-day kayaking trip from one end of the Pattani river to another before exiting into the Gulf of Thailand.
The whole length of Pattani river then into the Gulf of Thailand?
“It started with me being curious. I’d always known that I wanted to try this waterway route but I didn’t have anyone to do it with until someone in Chiang Mai asked me if I was interested in going with him. I said yes right away. I’d experienced all forms of traveling except for this, and I thought I could get to Pattani river from Betong.
I didn’t even think about how I would be able to afford a kayak, but I bit the bullet and used some of my savings to buy it. I think I made the right decision, because once this COVID thing is over, I probably won’t be able to take time off work to go on this sort of trip for several days.
“We spent a total of eight days on this kayaking mission. It was just the two of us in our kayaks and we took turns taking photos of one another. The overall distance from one end of the river to another end is around 200 kilometers from Betong. After a hard day of kayaking, we would get on land to spend the night. We made our stop at Yarom near Betong airport before continuing kayaking towards Aiyoeweng. This beautiful stretch of river is where kayakers from all over the world come to do white water rafting. Here, the water falls from 2-3-meter height into white foams on the bottom. It was so beautiful.
After Aiyoeweng, we kayaked into Bang Lang Dam where the water was so still. On our right, the view was just phenomenal while on the left, roads stretched on the left. I’d never realized our country was so beautiful.”
“We spent our first three days just taking in the scenery. However, on the fourth day when we carried our kayaks to the front of the dam, we met a team who asked us to help with their project. The task was to take photos of the surrounding environment and measure the depth of the river in different spots because there was a big flood in the three southern provinces in January this year.
Traveling and spending the night in Bannang Sata, Yala, Pattani dam, and Yarang, we concluded our trip in Pattini city on the eighth day.
The other team helped us out with some traveling expenses and, in return, we did the research that would go towards their planning a framework for strategy development.”
No water, no abundance of resources
“While kayaking, I noticed that 99% of the villagers’ houses don’t face the river. For a very few that does, though, you don’t see trash at their front door because people litter into the river.”
“I saw first hand how rivers play such an important role in our natural resources. Each day of kayaking brought us to a different environment. We experienced how clear and cool the rapids were at the beginning of our trip. Then we got to the lake, we learned what dam gave us and what it took from us. Seeing the differences between the front and the back of the dam, you’ll see flaws in how the government has handled and managed this area. How could it benefit the people living in the area when you don’t talk to them?”
“When we entered Yala, we saw how a river could contribute to tourism and agriculture, brining huge income to benefit people living there. Once we got to the other side of Yarang, we saw how people catch fish using floating baskets. Making a living this way, they don’t have to rely on tourism as much. In Pattani, we also saw how people’s lives have been linked to waterways for more than 400 years.”
“When we’re on the road, we’re higher than a river and we see what most people see. Once we’re in the river, we have to look up towards the land and, from this angle, we also see great beauty.”
Change of perspective towards tourism
“I tell my travel stories to people in an attempt to change their mindset towards traveling. Most followers on my page believe that you need to have money in order to travel. Or they would ask questions like ‘Is it safe?’ or ‘I don’t have friends to travel with, can I go solo? I don’t really care about likes, but if my content helps someone shift their perspective or encourage them to make a change, I’d call that a success. That’s the message I try to convey.”
What do you think of the popular opinion that the three southern provinces are dangerous?
“It’s dangerous everywhere. In Bangkok, you could get run over by a bus. These three provinces are the same. Just don’t go into red zones or carry a gun when you go to those areas.”
“My role is to give advice and recommendations to people who are interested in learning about the three southern provinces. My place has now become a gathering spot for tourists and travelers from everywhere, Thais or foreigners.”
“Anyone wanting to experience the three southern provinces in a new light, come visit and stay at my place. I’ll show you just how beautiful these places actually are.”
How would you change the perspective of those living in the three provinces?
“I want to tell them that it’s ok to make friends with foreigners or Bangkokians. Doesn’t matter if you can speak English or not.”
“Each guest is different. I recently had a German friend who came to me because he was scouting for a movie location. I took him on a little tour and helped him as much as I could. That’s what I do.”
Healthy body, healthy mind
“The more I travel, the more my body has adjusted to it. Once you’re strong and healthy, you’ll be able to cope with stress and pressure. Your mind will then get stronger. On the other hand, if your body is weak, your mind will become weak also. Before I deal with a problem, my body will signal to me that it’s ok and that I’m strong enough for it.”
“Every time I get into this sort of activity, it’s usually when I’m feeling tired or discouraged. At the time, I was reflecting on my career, wondering which direction I should go to: being a tour guide or running a tour company. Once the trip was over, I felt that I was more centered and focused on dealing with my problems.”
For those planning a kayaking trip once the COVID is over and done with, go give him a follow at Habib Kodae Facebook page for great tips.