Some of you might have read a little something about the diving trip with my friends in Southern Thailand last month from our instagram. Each of us took this Covid situation with stride being stuck in the beautiful country, exploring what would have been undiscovered by us otherwise.
This was a week long trip that started from Phuket to Khaolak, then we moved to Surin Islands where we would stay at the National Park on one of the small islands and spend the next four days intensively diving in the beautiful clear and protected sea.
Once on the island, we were greeted by the Moken who came to look after us throughout the trip. For me, that was what was so special about the trip. On our boat, we were accompanied by Captain Aree and his son Payu; two other kids Kangkok and Doang as the boat crew.
These locals or the Moken are sea gypsies (now semi-nomadic) based on the islands of Thailand and Myanmar. They literally were born sometimes in the sea, some on the island. But they would spend most of their lives in the sea - be it in the water or as much as on the boat. Watching these guys in the water is quite something, I would even put them under the same category as fish or sea creatures. But would I say they're Aquamen? No, in Aquaman, they're more of the Trench for their swimming style. They're unhumanly fast and slinky, without the need of fins or even goggles - some of them can see better in sea water than on land.
Since the big fire in 2019 that wiped out everything - a lot more than the loss they directly experienced from the Tsunami in 2004. With the rebuild, the new Moken Village was the one we got to visit. These guys lead a simple life - the men fish each day for the women to cook, only enough to eat; fruits and vegetables are homegrown. The only thing they would need from the mainland is rice.
I got to visit Aree's and Payu's house, their set-up was quite simple - no fridge - which literally means they hunt for food when they need to eat. Isn't that the life we all should aspire to lead? The true sustainability.
On this particular island where the Moken houses are built are open to tourists like us only during the day. The Moken are still very much a closed tribe. They mostly marry within the tribe and do not welcome outsiders. They have their own religion and beliefs, and their own traditions. The new generation may be mildly tainted by new technologies, but they are still naive in the worldly sense (and I hope they will never change). Whereas someone like Aree, our captain (47), is aware of the social media and the current going-ons - he stays the Moken OG and very much true to roots.
Having the benefits of being a group of small islands but on the (Andaman) Oceanside means that the water is extra vivid and clear as the waves subside once in the bay. The deepest point in the Surin Islands sea is about 15 metres. It was just right for us freedive beginners.
Here's my best friend "Mermaid Matina" in the sea on our Tulle Babydoll and Bolero. We were all playing dress-ups with the pieces from By Moumi's latest and previous collections (All Things Pass and Here Sometimes). And why not rope the Moken in!?
Boy, weren't we so excited to have found this sea turtle? I managed to duck dive and swim with him a couple of times and that was pretty special. Payu would tell me later that the Moken name this guy the Remote Turtle, an in-joke that he is controlled by a remote as he appears on-demand. Apparently they would take all tourists to this Tortilla Island to "find some turtles", and the tourists would be fooled every time thinking they hit jackpot. Later, much to my disappointment, "The turtle is always there!" he said.
We're grateful we got this opportunity to visit the islands at its purest state where the nature has restored itself from swarming tourists. Surin Islands aren't always open, they are closed for half a year during the monsoon season when these boys return to their village and be fishermen in the sea.
I leave you with my favorite picture of my sea creature friends. Until we meet again, boys!
Photos: Choltida, Game, Ib, Tang, Bam, Matina, Nee, Peduckk