I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to be a documentary TV host in Thailand for several years. It has taken me around the country, introduced me to fascinating people and places, and humbly proven that I didn’t know as much about this country as I thought I did!

One of my favourite subjects on this thread is the amazing occupations and lifestyles of rural Thais. From agriculture to fishing to home industries, I’ve witnessed some brilliant innovation and creative lifestyles.

One such occupation is the traditional fishermen who use a variety of ingenious techniques to catch fish, often without modern equipment or technology.  A few years ago I went to cover the phenomenon of the “Rua Phi Lok”, or ghost boat, in English. It is a brilliant – almost inconceivably simple – technique to catch river fish, especially in central provinces such as Chacheongsao, Rayong, Chantaburi, Petchburi, Lobpuri, etc. 

It works like this: local fishermen and women use small wooden flat-bottom boats, and paint a plank of wood bright white, then tilt the plank slightly into the water to capture moonlight in the evening (yes, this is fishing in the dark), or a handheld strobe light in the absence of a glowing moon. A small net with little posts is rigged up on the opposite side of the boat approximately 100cm above the boat’s gunwale (railing). They slowly paddle the boat dragging a rake-type device to stir up the water and summon the fish. The fish are startled when confronting the gleaming white plank, triggering an instinct to jump over the plank, where they hit the small net, and fall into the boat. Just like that. Catch of the day (night). Voila!

No electric shocks, no industrial nets tangling up marine life on the riverbed. “Rua” means boat in Thai, and “Phi Lok” means “fooled by ghosts”. 

I admit being skeptical that this would work, so was rightly delighted when we caught 4-5 fresh tilapia and striped catfish within minutes while doing an old episode of Long Krung. I’m no fisherman, but what a surprise for me and likely most people from outside Southeast Asia to witness this environmentally-friendly, minimal-investment method of fishing. Ideal for low-impact sustainable economies. 

Just another amazing rural lifestyle segment from this fascinating corner of the planet.