Tuesday, 28 June 2016

The Mergui Archipelago (day 2)

Events of Sunday, 24th April 2016

The sea remained calm overnight as we lay at anchor off Ba Wel Island, so I slept fairly well in the unfamiliar surroundings, We enjoyed an excellent European-style cooked breakfast in the dining area on the open aft deck, as the nearby fishing vessels set off for the day. I was amused by the sight of a powered vessel, with the customary Chinese-made, noisy, single-cylinder diesel engine driving a 'long tail' propellor, towing a number of small boats each with one man taking his ease as they moved to the fishing ground. The deck of the larger boat carried three more small boats. Presumably, when they reached a suitable location, all the small boats would fish independently, positioning themselves using the pair of T-handled oars each boat carried.

Powered fishing boat leaving Ba Wel Island, towing small boats.

The islands in this area are the home of the remaining 'Moken Sea Gypsies' who do not use fishing nets. Originally, the men practiced spear-fishing from small boats whilst women would dive for sea urchins. Our ship sailed to one of the islands where the simple life style of the 'Sea Gypsies' survives - Nyaung Wee Island, south of Lampi Island.

We approached Naung Wee, a heavily-wooded, hilly island from the east. As we came nearer, we could see a village of simple buildings straggling along a narrow, white sand shore. Behind the village, a steep path led diagonally up the hillside to a small, golden pagoda.

Nyaung Wee Island, Mergui Archipelago.

We anchored in the bay among a variety of vessels and our dinghy was brought alongside to take the guests ashore. As we clambered onto the narrow beach, we were quickly joined by the young local children who took their visitors by the hand and conducted us along the single village 'street'.

Being conducted through the village by the young local children.

It may not have been entirely coincidental that we ended up at the village shop where our Burma Boating guide arranged some simple treats for the young people.

Nyaung Wee Island: At the village shop.

The neat pedestrian street ran parallel to the shore, in between two rows of wooden-framed buildings, lifted a few feet off the ground. Walls were either woven bamboo, wooden planks or galvanised iron and roofs were clad with galvanised iron sheets or, in a few cases, thatch. Each building had a mains water supply, provided from a system of blue HDPE distribution pipes with plastic isolating cocks which was simply laid in the sand on either side of the walkway. At least one beach-side property sported a satellite dish. One house was being re-built, revealing the no doubt effective but rather crude building techniques adopted.

Nyaung Wee Island: Rebuilding a house.

We passed the Government primary school (closed, as our visit was in the holiday period as well as on a Sunday) and returned to our waiting dinghy. The bay had numerous moored small boats, of various sizes, testifying to the importance of the sea to the villagers. A few boats had the familiar diesel engine with 'long-tail' propellor but most were wooden dug-outs with the characteristic T-handled oars.

Nyaung Wee Island, Mergui Archipelago.

I felt rather wistful as 'Meta IV' left the island and its interesting community but lunch was available and we'd been promised a visit later to a beach on an uninhabited island called variously Clara Island or, more prosaically, island 115.

This trip ashore was definitely for pleasure, allowing swimming and snorkelling from the white sand beach.

Clara Island beach visit, with 'Meta IV' in the background.

Following some problems with my knees made worse by the exertions of my trip earlier in the year (described here), I again declined the temptations of swimming in the delightfully warm water but the dinghy had also towed a moulded plastic 2-person kayak to the beach for those interested. I eventually decided to take out the kayak and, after initial difficulty launching from the soft sand, had a marvellous interlude slowly paddling around the bay.

Clara Island beach visit: The kayak patiently awaits its next user.

Our dinghy returned the guests to 'Meta IV' for relaxation prior to the evening meal. Meanwhile, the ship was positioned to a suitable overnight anchorage off Nyaung Wee. As the previous night at Ba Wel, we soon found ourselves in the company of a number of fishing vessels also anchoring for the night. They maintained what might be thought a 'respectful' distance but I found their presence rather comforting. I'm afraid that once the evening meal was finished, I was finding myself quite ready for bed so I didn't delay long before retiring.

Related posts

My report on the following day aboard 'Meta IV' can be found here.

All my posts on my trip to Myanmar in 2016 can be found here.

My pictures

Pictures in this article can be viewed uncropped by clicking on the image. To view in other resolutions or download, select from the albums below:-

Nyaung Wee Island, Mergui Archipelago.
Beach visit (115).

All my pictures taken on my trip to Burma in 2016 are in the collection Burma, 2016.