Wish You Were Here: On a Boat Somewhere in the Andaman Sea, On the Way to Meet the Andaman Sea Gypsies

by Owen James Burke


Photo: Owen James Burke.

Several months ago, I visited the Burmese and Thai coasts of the Andaman Sea hoping to meet a nationless seafaring people of Austronesian ethnicity known as the Moken or Selung. I wanted to find out how they survive the monsoon months, when pelting rain and violent gales sweep across the Andaman Sea almost daily with little warning and no mercy. This would become one of those days.

An hour after I took this photo, the rain was so heavy and the air so humid that my lenses were completely fogged (and soaked). The seas turned vicious and the swells built steadily. The trusty long tail boat and its nasally weed-wacker outboard engine delivered us home safely enough, despite having to bail the entire trip back ashore. As for the Moken, it would be a few more ill-advised trips in small leaky boats before I’d get to make their acquaintance, but more on that soon.


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