Encounters with Moken people
Moken people inhabit this area since centuries. Basically, they are sea nomads, even if the government tries to concentrate them in settlements. Here, one does find small shops for the locals, even selling toy mobile phones, but even a real one won't work in the area. Tourists are so scarce in the area that the locals not even found out they may sell their rubbish to them: It is the job of the kids to dive for shells and snails for food - the sort of shells that appears in dreams of tropical beaches. I could not find them where ever I went before, only here, on the beaches of Moken villages. The picture shows the second choice, that went over the side after the picture.
The Moken used to live subsidiary on fishing, but as they now are used to diesel engines, they need to make money in order to buy fuel and material. The engines of their longtails boats make such an unbelievable racket, I never understood how people can survive it without getting nuts and deaf. Anyway, local fishermen where a great source of food. Normally, the local boat approached us and simply handed over something for the galley, a large fish for example. Then, the cook handed something back, for example 2 cans of beer, one of Coke and another one of Fanta. That was the deal, smooth and without many words. Everyone seemed to be happy with that. At least we were, as our cook quickly turned the fish into a marvellous meal for 17 people.
As in any other area of the world, we found the local's approach on nature very different. This young lad found a White-Bellied Sea-Eagle in a fishing net and saved it's live 3 days before we met him. His plan was to keep the bird for hawking. As far as we could see, he really tryed to keep the bird in good condition and would try to make sure they make a good team one day.
On the other hand side, some people are so mad that not only we failed to understand them. Our local guide was just as shocked as were were, when learning this guy we just had had a chat with, was an elephant hunter: Two working elephants were set free on the island of Lampi. They normally live in the rainforrest, but occasionally come down to human settlements for the salt of the sea. As they were used to humans, they did not provide problems until this guy attempted to kill the bull. His gun will possibly never be able really to kill an elephant, but certainly wounds him. So the elephant went mad about any sign of human activity and became a real danger on the island. And only days before we came to the place, the elephants went down to the beach with a young baby. This guy shoot again, killed the baby and again wounded the bull. By now, the elephant became a formerly not existing, needless danger to all people on the island. If we had known this before, our chat would have been less friendly, that's for sure.
Local shop on a busy beach on the island of Lampi. © Emma Timbs
Anyway, kids are kids and moken kids grow up partly IN the water. They even learn to control their eyes in a way they can actually see underwater - unlike any other human being in the world.
© picture Liz Castleton