Learn more about the Chao Lae people of Thailand

Also known as the sea gypsies or people of the sea, these ingenious people are unique in every sense of the word.

If you ever watched Kevin Costner’s Waterworld, you would get an idea of the lives of the Chao Lae people of Thailand. These ingenious people are known to live and survive in water. Yes, you heard it right, they live in sea (quite literally). These unique tribes sustain themselves on oceans, from the houses they built to the food they eat; everything comes from the sea. So, let’s dive into the fascinating lives of the Chao Lae people of Thailand.

How many ingenious tribes reside in Thailand?

There are two main groups of the ingenious tribe that reside in Thailand, one of them is the hill tribe, and the other one is the Chao Lae tribe. Both of these ethnic groups are quite different from each other culturally, and moreover, they reside at the opposite ends of the country. The hill tribe is settled in the northern and north-western parts of Thailand. The Chao Lae tribes reside in sea that is in the south of Thailand. The Chao Lae tribe is further divided into three sub-groups, known as the Moken, Molken, and UrakLawoi.

The Moken.

The Moken people are known to live on Thai coastline. Their common dwelling place is on the island of Mo Ku Surin. They are the most nomadic of all the Chao Lae people as they are known to live entirely on the sea. They make extensive use of the natural resources to survive; from their houses to food; they sustain themselves through the sea.

The Molken.

The Molken tribe shares many cultural connections with the Moken tribe. but they still differ from each other in many ways. The Molken tribe resides in the South west Thailand. The primary difference between Molken and Moken is that Moken resides exclusively in sea, whereas Molken often moves from sea to land and vice versa.

The UrakLawoi.

The UrakLawoi is the largest out of all three Chao Lae tribes. Its population is close to 2500 who lives close to the coast. Though, all three sub-groups do not share the same language but still share the same sentiments values about material possessions.

As they reside by sea, don’t expect them in very touristy beaches and places such as Patong beach in Phuket. Instead, they prefer staying in a quiet and less noisy neighbourhoods.

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