Visit the Sea Gypsies

If you have an adventurous spirit, for the price of a scooter rental ($6 per day) you can travel about 40 miles from Krabi to the little-visited east coast of Koh Lanta and visit a genuine sea gypsy village. The sea gypsies, known as the Chao Lay by the Thai, were for many years a tribe of landless drifters that only recently took up residence on the southern islands like Koh Lanta. This tribe of seafarers, also known as the Moken, has lived for hundreds of years on the islands off the coast of Thailand and Myanmar, little touched by the ways of the modern world.

This region was heavily damaged by the 2004 tsunami, and many of the villagers lost nearly everything. But thanks to international donations, much of the village has been rebuilt. The owner of Otto's Bar (45/3 Moo 6, Ko Lanta Yai) on Nice Beach in southern Koh Lanta was one of the main people to help gather funds from tourists to rebuild the fishing villages. Visit him and offer a small donation to help the recovery fund for the Chao Lay and he can arrange an informal tour through the mangrove-thick canals. During the full moon in June and November, the sea gypsies perform a religious rite on the beach with a dance called Rong Ngeng designed to bring them prosperity and wealth.


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