Meet the locals : Thanaporn Boonyanon (Bpow)

By Krabi Magazine Mar 2, 2013
KM: Bpow, it’s great to see you again and thanks so much for letting us come and visit you today - I know how busy you are. How are you?

B: Not bad at all, thanks - and it’s good to see you too!

KM: Bpow, you are something of an institution here in Ao Nang and everyone has a good word to say about you. Tell us a little about your story - how did you come to be here running The Massaman?

B: I am originally from Nakon Si Thammarat in the north of Thailand and when I hit 19 years of age, I started to ask some serious questions about myself and the world around me. I always had a thirst for knowledge and a desire to explore and see what lay around the next corner! At school I took a couple of extra classes - one in electronics and another in rubber tree agriculture - and I discovered a love for agriculture that I wanted to pursue. At the time, agriculture production here in Thailand was very basic and we were just starting to learn how to streamline our processes. The government realised the need for us to get up to speed with this and so they started a program for volunteers like me to travel overseas to study and learn from other countries. So before I knew it I was off to Israel for the adventure of my life!

KM: Israel? Really??

B: Ha ha! Yeah I know. Bet you didn’t know that? There I was, living in a kibbutz with no words of English at all but started to learn with the help from other volunteers I was with from all over the world. I remember an Australian guy helping me a lot in the evenings. This was where I began to learn a lot of things about life outside of Thailand that have served me to this day.

KM: How long were you there for?

B: 10 months the first time, but I returned several times over the next 6 years to help other new volunteers and Thai people who were in the same position I was in at the time.

KM: So how did you end up in Krabi?

B: I received a phone call from a friend of mine in Krabi offering me a job at the Krabi Sea View Resort. I felt it was the right time in my life to go and see another part of Thailand, and with my new skills in English, I was confident in the position - so off I went.

KM: It wasn’t as simple as that though, was it? I heard that you had some “hiccups”…..

B: Yes, you could say that. After a year in Krabi I started up my own tour company as well as a restaurant with a business partner. Unfortunately I was involved in a traffic accident that I had to pay a lot of money for, and ended up selling everything to pay for it. Back home to Nakon I went!

KM: Ouch. That must have been tough for you after your big dreams of leaving home to start a new life here?

B: It was, but I knew that I was going to make something of myself someday. And 6 months after I went home, the phone rang again. This time it was the dive shop Aquavision with a job offer for me. They wanted me to come and work for them selling dives, talking to customers, etc. I was over the moon! Off to Krabi I went again.

KM: You’re persistent, I’ll give you that. So I’m guessing that this was your introduction to the world of diving? You are well known for your experience of the dive sites around here, tell us more about that.

B: Over the course of 2 years working with Aquavision, I learned to dive with them and I fell in love with the underwater world. This was back in 1999 and I remember diving the Bida sites many times. They were breathtaking, with some of the largest sea fans you were even likely to see. The coral reefs were stunning and there were leopard sharks everywhere. It was common to see 7, 8 or 9 of them on a regular dive. It pains me to see how things have changed over the years.

KM: You are well known around Krabi for your dive maps and the incredible detail in them. We often joke that you must know every rock underwater - but judging by the drawings, that’s not far wrong!

B: I began sketching the maps as, to be honest, I had no idea where I was going underwater! I did not know the dives sites and at that time there were no real maps for us to learn from. Over the years, with my own experience and information taken from other experienced divers, I compiled a collection of my maps and made them into a book. Some people urged me to sell them, and so I did just that. I’m very proud of my maps and they are still selling pretty well every year.

KM: I remember my days working on the dive boats here and your maps were the only ones we would use. It’s quite an achievement so well Meet the Locals Thanaporn Boonyanon (Bpow) If you live in Krabi I’m guessing that you just might have a smile on your face about now. If you are a visitor here, then get ready to meet one of the nicest people you are likely to encounter anywhere. A real icon of Krabi, Bpow has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the underwater world and is the undisputed king of the Massaman curry. 40 done you! So the rest is history then? That’s how you came to stay in Krabi?

B: Ha! No, not quite. The owners changed at Aquavision and we really did not get along. The time came when I could not work with them any more and I left - once again back home to the North.

KM: You serious? Again?? What were you doing there?

B: I decided to start growing watermelons.

KM: Watermelons?

B: Yes, watermelons. That and some other vegetables, using my knowledge from my time spent in Israel.

KM: Why do I feel this didn’t quite work out…?

B: You guessed it. There was an extremely dry summer one year and not enough water available for my watermelons. So I lost a lot of money and was back to square one!

KM: This is starting to sound like a movie plot, Bpow. So then what?

B: Well, I now knew how to speak English and dive, so I got work diving on Koh Lanta during the high seasons and Ao Nang in the low. I did this for 4 years. KM: So apart from your diving, the other thing you are renowned for is your restaurant, “The Massaman”. This is one of the best loved places for us local ex-pats as, well, your food is great. I remember yours was one of the first places I ate at when I arrived in Krabi.

B: I was always looking for something new to focus on. I loved the diving part of my life but was also keen on doing something on the side, something different. Like all Thais, I love food and my Mother’s speciality was the Massaman curry - so I named my new restaurant after her creation and strived to provide good, home cooked recipes that I hoped people would enjoy.

KM: Well, it worked. You are known to have the best massaman in town and every time I see your place it seems to be filled with people and getting larger at the same time! The people and the restaurant...

B: I am proud of the fact that my first restaurant all those years ago could seat 20 people over 6 tables, and now I can seat 76 people at The Massaman. I employ 15 staff too, and every year I am honoured to have locals and visitors alike come to my place and enjoy my food. It keeps me really busy as I come to the restaurant myself most evenings to help cook the food, serve and meet my customers - but I love it.

KM: So what do you see for your future then Bpow? Will you finally stay in Ao Nang this time?

B: Definitely! I love Ao Nang and it is my “home-away-from-home” now. I am also happily married with 2 young sons, so I am finally “putting down roots” here!

KM: One thing we have to mention is this “Red Line” that has been causing a lot of controversy around the town. Basically, the road down to the beach is to be widened, but this will mean that a lot of places that have outside seating will have to remove them by Feb 28th - to behind this red line that has been drawn to mark the boundary of the new road. You have had to remove your “Red Balcony Bar” already, which is a real shame. How do you feel about this road widening move?

B: This is a major issue that is affecting hundreds of people and business in Ao Nang. I have been here for many years now and have witnessed a lot of changes in that time. In my opinion, the money that has been allocated to widen the road should be used to clean up Ao Nang instead. This is a much more urgent and serious issue and needs to be addressed now. We will have to see what comes of this road widening scheme. I was very sad to take away the “Red Balcony”, but I did not want to get involved with the politics of all of this. I was easier this way.

KM: I know that you are not alone in this Bpow - many others are up in arms too about the road widening and how it will affect the town. I also agree that the money for this would be more wisely spent on cleaning up the place with more rubbish bins, removal procedures, recycling and better infrastructure before allowing even more people to drive into the centre of the town. Let’s see what happens. At least you won’t have to close - there would be riots in the streets if that happened!

B: Haha! Thanks, it’s nice to know my food is appreciated.

KM: Bpow, thanks so much for taking the time out to tell us your story. It’s always a pleasure. Now, if I can have some pumpkin curry to go….

Catch Bpow at The Massaman on the road to Mc Donalds on the right. If you want the best dive maps in the area, drop him a line on 081 272 0568

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