The Andaman Sea is a jeweled masterpiece. More beautiful than almost any ocean I’ve ever seen.
We’re traveling on a Moken vessel. Our journey is about 5 hours. On the boat with a team of researchers led by Dr. Narumon Arunotai from Chula University, the largest university in Thailand. (Dr. Arunotai is in the green shirt and visor.)
It’s a gorgeous journey. There are almost no other vessels. It feels like the sea is our own. I imagine it’s how these clans have lived for centuries. There are five Moken adults and two children returning to Surin Tai, or south Surin, where they live when not on the ocean. The Moken are sea nomads, an extraordinary culture.
During the 2004 tsunami, one of the clan elders realized the birds had stopped singing and knew that something was terribly wrong. He called everyone to board their vessels and sail far out to sea. As a result, this is one of the only groups that sustained no injury.
The boats are carved from trees from the forest on Surin Tai. As with most native cultures, the Moken live intimately with the nature. Their process of boat building involves reverence for the trees they select to make their vessels. These boats are their dwelling places on the water…children are born, loved ones die. Life is lived on this familial watercraft.