I've covered Wat Hong Thong before, the bell temple on a pier in the Gulf of Thailand. Well, as I was leaving I discussed it with the driver and found out the fishing boats farm mussels in mussel beds out at sea all along this coast. If I wanted I could go and see the mussel fishermen at work.
It's not quite as straightforward as simply going when you want. The tide needs to be low enough to reach the mussel beds, but high enough for the boat to get out across the mud flats and out to sea. We arranged 9am the next day.These aren't big boats, you can see them above, they can hold 6 passengers, more than that and they can run aground, or rather run amud.
As you leave by the small stream, you get a good view of Wat Hong Thong, but the two stroke engine makes a loud phut-phut-phut sound, which sadly drowns out the bells. But you do get to see the temple's full beauty.
Keep an eye on it, the brain deceives you into thinking it is closer than it really is. Take a close look at this photograph, that circle in the center is the temple but when you look at it through your own eyes, it really seems a lot closer. You're more than half a mile out to sea here.
Each fisherman has his own strip of mussel beds, these are the sticks you can see just above the water level. They each remember where their mussel beds are and only farm those beds.
Mussels grow on the sticks, when enough are growing, they pull the stick up, ready for the harvest. You can see these mussels in the Gulf of Thailand are Green and Turquoise. Far different from the black mussels you see in Europe, it must be the minerals in the water. (See my cooking blog for help on cleaning, storing and cooking mussels, by the way)
Once they're on the boat, harvesting them is simply a matter of scraping them off the stick with a special curved scraping tool. We tried some line fishing too, using mussels as the bait, but sadly didn't catch any fish. Never mind. I took home a bag of fresh Thailand Gulf mussels and a few new recipe ideas for how to cook them.
Costs and Travel
You can get a small tour bus from Imperial Shopping Mall in Bangkok to Khlong Dan market, they pass frequently. Sorry but you'll need a Thai speaker for this, it is not a mainstream tourist thing. The bus cost was 35 baht. Once at Khlong Dan, take the blue bus to Wat Hong Thong, exactly the same as the visit to Wat Hong Thong.
I arranged the fishing boat with the bike-sidecar driver who took me to the temple, but he was very expensive, 1000 Baht for the boat, you can probably negotiate a cheaper rate if you ask directly any of the fishermen along the river. Don't forget that the fishing villages all along this road farm mussels, and fish for shrimp. A bit of negotiation and a helpful Thai speaker and you can arrange fishing trips all along this edge of the coast at many different fishing villages.