It’s no secret that Thailand has a rich cultural heritage, but the cultural experiences don’t end when you walk away from the dazzling palaces and temples that adorn Bangkok on your personalised Thailand holiday. Further south, nestled on the beautiful shores of the Andaman Sea, you’ll find the once remote fishing village of Rawai. Today, Rawai attracts more visitors than ever before, mainly because of its proximity to Phuket and the draw of bustling resorts like Krabi nearby. Despite its growing stature, Rawai retains traditional charm, and it’s a fascinating place to gain an insight into Moken life. The Moken are a semi-nomadic group of people who originate from an archipelago of 800 islands, which have been claimed by both Burma and Thailand.
About the Moken: a brief history
Moken is a name given to Austronesian tribes, which inhabit both the coastal villages and the islands in the Andaman Sea and Southern Burma. Traditionally, tribes led a semi-nomadic lifestyle, and this is why they are referred to as chao nam or chao le in Thai. These names translate as people of the sea or water. The Moken have a very simplistic way of life, and they use basic tools, combined with their advanced and extensive knowledge of the local waters, to catch and prepare food. The Moken used to travel a lot, spending the dry season out at sea and putting down temporary roots in the monsoon months to shelter from the torrential downpours. When the weather was fine, families and tribes travelled up and down the coast using basic wooden boats known as kabang. The Moken have been riding the waves and living life at sea since the 18th century. Today, life is very different, and many have decided to settle on the shoreline. There are very few traditional kabang in operation and it’s uncommon to spend long periods of time at sea.
Learning more about the Moken in Rawai
As time has passed and the way of life has changed, land-based living has become a feature of modern Moken culture. Today, there’s a large community of Moken people on Rawai Beach, a traditional fishing village located on Phuket Island. The beach was destroyed by the tsunami, but the tribe survived, and today, they have access to healthcare and modern amenities. The way of life is very different, but most are very proud of their culture. As long as you respect their way of life and take care to avoid prying too much as they go about their daily business, observing the Moken in Thailand is a fascinating insight into a different way of doing things – you could say that an experience like this is what travel is all about.