Sea Gypsy of Phuket are the oldest inhabitants
They settle in one bay until all the resources there are finished and move on to another bay so giving the nature time to recover. But there is no written history about their whereabouts and culture. The only thing we know is that they lived as nomads without a permanent residence and without writing utensils. Some say they come from former Malay colonies fleeing Burma from the Muslim invasion. Others say they be descended from the Indian Vedas. The Sea Gypsies are split in three ethnic groups – the Moken, Moklen and Urak Lawoi – which speak different languages. While the Moken still live as nomads, mostly in the northern islands of Phuket, the Moklen and Urak Lawoi settled down at the coastlines of Phuket. By now there are three settlements on Phuket. The oldest one is at Rawai and frequently visited by tourists. Another one is 8 k.m. north of Phuket Town at Saphan Bay and the third is located at Siray Island which can be reach by a bridge connecting the island to Phuket. Until know they are still working as fisherman or pearl divers and some collect bird nests which are a delicacy for soup. Other income comes from the tourists which visit their villages daily.
The settlements of the Sea Gypsies give you an insight in an ancient culture – free, colorful, without crime and police – and everybody is very welcome to visit them for a chat, a game of pool or to buy a fish or some of their handicrafts.
The Sea Gypsy village in Rawai is the largest on Phuket Island. This community is predominantly Buddhist, with quite a few quirks of their own, such as burying their dead as opposed to Buddhist cremation and they call their tribe the “Dtee Bak” (Lions of the Seas).
Diving, using antiquated air compressors and garden hoses to supply unfiltered air, accounts for more than 50% of the Gypsies fishing income and making their huge fish traps is hard, labour intensive work and well worth seeing. Gypsy history is at its best vague, as their language, which is partially Malay, cannot be written down hence no authentic records exist to confirm the origins of this ancient race who claim to have been in these waters for over 2000 years.
It is also possible to rent longtail boats and guides to the surrounding islands and to go fishing very easy today as they are along Rawai beach Road