Now I am officially a DMT (dive master in training) at Thailand Dive & Sail and I can bet that most of the other DMT’s have never had this kind of trip to gain experience, and this is just the first steps I do as a trainee. But luckily I didn’t really feel like a trainee, because I had already had so many responsibilities and challenges so this was a good lesson for me.
For the next two days we were to assist a film crew film the Moken who live on the Surin Islands. The logistics started before we even left on the speedboat; I had to help the video crew with their equipment, but besides that I also had to check out where we could fill our tanks. This was quite a story, because I had to go on a live-aboard and luckily Mr. Chocolate (a Thai crew member of the boat) was there to help us out so I could fill the tanks with their compressor and take these tanks back to the islands on a longtail boat. For sure I had to set up and tear down the gear a few times a day, but this is not what I want to talk about now!
The Moken Village at the Surin Islands
We arrive at the Surin islands after quite a choppy speedboat ride. When the waves are high and the captain rides full speed, being on a speedboat is more uncomfortable than being on a longtail boat. The bay where the Moken village is located is coming closer and I can see the first houses on the coastline, a row of bamboo huts, one next to the other. The speedboat is slowing down and I watch the longtail boats passing us, all of them fixed on a line. We slow down and I see the shallow water. I understand now why they are all using these typical boats, because the engine that is connected to the tail of the boat can be pulled up, making iit easier to ride around in shallow waters.
II look around and step on the beach of the village. From a distance it really looked like a lovely bay but now when I am standing here, I have to watch out not to step on broken glass or other rubbish. It’s the same everywhere, I think to myself. These people used to live in harmony with nature and they don’t know how to recycle plastic, glass and other products of our ‘new world’. But to my surprise I see that they have already a dust bin and nearly every house has a kind of basket for their rubbish, so they don’t have to dump their rubbish in the ocean anymore.
For the Moken the ocean is, and was, their world. Sailing from one island to the next and only taking out what they needed. Hook, one of the few Moken that can speak quite good English, is telling us that these days even he has problems to hunt for fish. He also explains that the Moken still hunt for fish in a primitive way. They use one spear and only simple snorkel equipment. It’s a problem for the Moken that the fishing industry from the mainland has increased, because it takes all of the bigger fish out of the ocean which makes it harder for the Moken people to find enough fish in shallow waters. Fishing becomes more time consuming for them because they still use these old hunting methods. Because of this, more and more of the Moken become part of the tourist industry like snorkel guides or they make small souvenirs for tourists, who come for day trips to the village during their liveaboard trip. For a short time these tourists get off the big diving boats and with their big camcorders they pass through. All of this gives me the feeling the whole place is like an open air zoo.
… all this is not stopping me from having one of my best naps in the world, because even though the bamboo is hard, the sound of the wind and the ocean are like a soft mattress to me…
I am staying at the National Park and I can come to the village often. After a few hours of staying in their village, I see already that the Moken look at me in a different way and I am allowed to take a nap on one of the bamboo porches of their houses. In my half dream state I hear the kids running and playing in the ocean and an old village shaman, who sounds more drunk than sober screaming. But all this is not stopping me from having one of my best naps in the world, because even though the bamboo is hard, the sound of the wind and the ocean are like a soft mattress to me.
There are for sure worse places out in the world. Now I have to get up and join Hook on a longtail because I will watch him free diving and help Olivia Wyatt and Kevin Hayden with their documentary and filming project of the Moken.
One Day at the Moken Village Gallery