16 January 2016

The Vanishing Sea Gypsies - Myeik (Mergui) Archipelago

Sea gypsies! 
What a great name. 

Myanmar sea gypsies, who call themselves "Moken", live on boats.

They're easy to spot - they travel with one bigger boat, called Moken Kabang, and a bunch of little boats, called Moken Sabang.
The harbor of Ma Kyone Galet, with Moken boats. One of the few places on land where they come.
The Myanmar government is trying to get the Moken to settle on land.
Send their kids to school, probably pay taxes, be counted. 

But the sea around the Myeik Archipelago is still host to dozens of wooden "Moken" boats. 
They live their own lifestyle, on the water, in their own handmade boats. 

Speak their own languages. 
Some of the last sea gypsies in the world.

Moken Sabang - the little boats.
When the Moken saw our boat...
this woman and her son paddled over to trade fish for rice and fruit. 
She had the fish, we gave them rice and fruit. 

There aren't many boats out here - only Moken and squid fishermen.


Myanmar squid fishing boats look just as strange to us. 
- Squid fishing! The lights on the "arms" light up at night to attract the squid. 

The strings of electric wiring look VERY sketchy.


The blue tubs are to separate the different types of fish. 
Then they're transferred to a larger boat, which takes the catch to the port town. 

So these boats might not return to port for a long while. 
This is a BIG archipelago, and we only traveled the southern part.

Fishing traps - handmade on one of the beaches.
Several times, we traded beers for squid - 4 cold beers for a whole BUCKET of fresh squid and fish!


Erik with a variety of crabs, fish, and squid. For 4 beers.
The Myeik Archipelago is off the coast of Myanmar. 
There are about 800 islands. 
Only a handful are inhabited. 

You can't visit the islands unless you're on a liveaboard boat. 
There are no hotels, no guesthouses, no ferries. 
No place to buy provisions. 
We fished - successfully - and enjoyed fresh wahoo sushi 30 minutes later!

Irish Captain Brian and a tasty wahoo.

Erik making wahoo sushi.
At night, the Moken link their boats together. 
They hang out, eat, tell stories - things people do when they live on boats. 

We could hear the sounds of their voices from our boat. 
Sometimes music.

They were curious about us, and very friendly. 
When they took off in the mornings, they'd circle our boat for a closer look and wave. 
-Guess we look as strange to them as they do to us.

Wonder what the Moken thought of this mode of transport-?
We visited the Moken village of Ma Kyone Galet, and the kids were pretty excited to see us. 
They're learning Burmese (not their native language) and English. 

We were definitely a "happening" at this school!


Erik - with tanaka - tries to include the shy kids in the photo, too.
These girls are Myanmar, not Moken. 
They were temporarily in Myeik for an exchange program.


They were genuinely surprised to find we didn't know what "tanaka" is - the paste made from a tree bark they all use for protection against the sun - and had fun putting it on Erik.



We were introduced to everyone. 
This old woman, they told us, is 120 years old! 
And her friend, a sprightly 90 year old. 

The young girl is wearing tanaka.

When you're 120, you can wear what you please.
We took paddleboards and kayaks up a mangrove-filled river at dusk.
(Unfortunately, it was also filled with sand flies-).
Saw sting rays and hornbills. 

It was about sunset, and very loud. 
Sounded like monkeys, but luckily - the sound came from birds and a cicada-like insect. 

Good. 
I'd hate to run into monkeys with nothing but a paddleboard.

If you look closely, there's a fresh waterfall on the beach. 
While snorkeling, we discovered a large sea snake, violet and black vertical stripes. 
I read that Myanmar is home to more types of venomous snakes - than anywhere else in the world. 

As the snake became interested in us - a speedy getaway was in order.

Stan, Trish and Erik, who joined us from his home in Bangkok.
The feeling of being so far away from civilization was overwhelming. 
We showered under fresh waterfalls on deserted islands. 

Snorkeled, swam, read, watched stars.
No one around but fishing boats and sea gypsies. 

Sea gypsies! 
Indeed.

Beach BBQ with fresh fish. And wine. Our catamaran in the distance.
Zoe III - "home" for us in Myeik. 
Erik took GoPro videos while there - here's the short video of the edited results. 

https://youtu.be/F-aKh207uhM

(Watch it - it's amazing!) 
I can't help thinking that it is hopelessly beautiful and impossibly romantic.

Thank you to all who made it possible....!

1 comment:

  1. What an adventure! It all sounds so amazing. Glad to hear you're having such a great time. Be safe!!!

    ReplyDelete