I have one more short Southeast Asia story to tell before I bring my blogs back to the United States. This anecdote, however, is not about the trip I just came back from, but about a vacation that happened years ago. A previous blog (see February 2) was about me letting my ego get in the way of things, and mention of that personal shortcoming reminded me of this old incident. 

Manyu and I, along with my sister Diane and her husband Paul, were touring sea caves near Phuket, Thailand. After taking a tour boat out to a string of islands in the Pacific Ocean, we (along with a half dozen other tourists and a handful of guides) climbed down out of the larger boat into inflatable kayaks. In my kayak, Manyu was in the bow, I was in the stern, and a young Thai man was in the middle. The Thai guy was doing all of the paddling. The outdoorsman in me could not tolerate this arrangement, so I bribed the Thai guy to switch places and give me the paddle. He was reluctant, but I insisted. 

The entrances to the sea caves were exactly at water level. This meant that when waves crested, the openings were beneath the surface. To enter a cave cleanly, a kayak had to glide through the exposed entrance at the precise moment the water was troughing between crests. I misjudged my first attempt. I reached the opening of the cave just as a wave began to crest. The rear two thirds of our kayak, the portion with me and the Thai guy in it, remained outside the cave and gently rode the crest of the wave. Manyu’s section, on the other hand, was trapped inside. The rising water submerged her while simultaneously flattening her up against the roof of the cave entrance. If not for the fact that she was small enough (5 feet tall, 90 pounds) to hunker down lower than the gunwales of the kayak, she would have been hurt. 

This miscalculation occurred in the early 1990s. Manyu and I were dating at the time and not yet husband and wife. She has wised up since then and no longer puts herself in such precarious situations. For example, she and I recently went hiking with two friends in Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park when I tried climbing over a large downed tree that blocked the trail. Our friends were lined up to follow me over the tree, but Manyu hung back. It was only after I slipped, fell about six feet, and landed in briars that she pushed past our friends to lend me a hand. Her comment was, “He does this all of the time.” I hope that she wasn’t still referring to the water caves in Phuket.