Burma IslandsMyanmar Islands
The Myeik Archipelago, the pristine islands of southern Burma
Panoramic views from the Macleod Island hills in the Myeik Archipelago, Burma, with Hein, the leader of Burma. Panoramic views from the Macleod Island hills in the Myeik Archipelago, Burma, with Hein, the leader of Burma. Simile at Anchorage in the Myeik Archipelago, South Burma. Simile at Anchorage in the Myeik Archipelago, South Burma.
Moken ( "Sea Gypsy") on Bo Cho Island in the Myeik Archipelago, Burma. Moken ( "Sea Gypsy") on Bo Cho Island in the Myeik Archipelago, Burma. See Gypsy (Moken) kids in the Bo Cho Island community, Myeik Archipelago, Burma. See Gypsy (Moken) kids in the Bo Cho Island community, Myeik Archipelago, Burma.
Sea Gypsy (Moken) fisherboat on 115 Island with the Simile in the back. The Myeik Archipelago, Burma. Sea Gypsy (Moken) fisherboat on 115 Island with the Simile in the back. The Myeik Archipelago, Burma. Sea Gypsy (Moken) Fisherboat in the Myeik Archipelago, Burma. Sea Gypsy (Moken) Fisherboat in the Myeik Archipelago, Burma.
The tiger and sea gypsy tales that could be found on the islands and the adventures of discovering such a large inhabited and undeveloped island were fascinating to me. For a whole weekend we spent cruising the islands, visiting empty islands, going for a swim, snorkelling and observing the sunrise and sunset from empty moorings; the only transport we saw was one or two small octopus boats or diving boats.
The number of visitors to Burma has increased constantly since the lifting of the tourist blackout - two of us had just been in Rangoon (also known as Yangon), Mandalay and the South. But these islands are still hard to reach due to official regulations, making you feel like the ultimative adventures.
At the end of the evening we reached 115 Iceland. This was the third of the journey and not the first of the islands we went to, but it was the first time we met man. Shortly after we had anchored, two small wood vessels with kids were rowing in them to welcome us.
It was our first meeting with the Moken or Sogetians. Later we took the tender to the isle where we encountered two or three Moken family and saw them setting up storage under the saplings. Nyaung Wee Moken teams sail around the islands in a small convoi of small wood vessels, stay on an islet for up to two month, fish and dive to see gherkins until the wet-season when they get back to their Nyaung Wee bases.
When we said goodbye to the Moken, we took a stroll through the jungles to the other side of the Moken. On the other side of the archipelago, the empty shore was lined with blue waters, with dried and powdered masses of whitish mussels and small whitish shrimps scampering back and forth.
Each mussel is alive," said Michael Forbes, the captain of our ship, when we later recounted the mussels to him. Some fella recently put a conch on the barge and it began to move. "When we - seven people - had landed on the ship two nights earlier with her three-man team and a tour leader, Michael said to us that we would go to islands where we would see no one, where the beach did not have a footprint, where the moorings did not need to be divided.
On the first mornings, in front of the prow of the ship, we saw Dolphin leaping and later followed a Marsh Harrier behind the ship, who watched our line. Approaching the first islands, I admire the dense rainforest with long stripes of long snow at the bottom - sandy beaches that glow in the light of the rays of the sun and glow like the pagoda that we had seen all over the area.
In some places the waters were bluish, in others bluish, and each of the islands was dense with all kinds of sapwoods. Spending the whole week cruising or cruising between the islands, we anchored at sunset and put ourselves in curry, lettuce, rice as well as fishing for catch.
There was no noise as we slept every single evening, rocking softly off the canoe. We' ve been hearing tales of what could be on the islands - like the bulls said they were abandoned on an isle when the lumberjacks were apprehended.
At Swinton Island we took the tender to the shore and gathered fire wood for a campfire and a BBQ in the evenings. The majority of these islands in Burma - known as the vanished realm of wildlife - are uncharted, so no one knows which kinds live in the jungles. Researchers believe that now that isolated parts of Burma such as these are opening up, they may find endangered specimens, although there is still little entry - very few vessels have permission to bypass these islands (only two Yachts and a fistful of dive boats), although further approvals are anticipated next year.
Late in the month we went to one of the few populated islands, Bo Cho Island, where many Moken are located. Its long, sweeping coastline is fringed by palms and the shoreline was full of wood boatmen. There is a small hamlet behind it with stores and homes on stilt.
At first the villagers around us shyly raved, played and giggled and kept our arms as we went through the town upstairs. We' re gonna get some snack and go back to the sail. When we started and waded out to our tender, a little dark-haired Moken gal with thick thinaka on her face came up to me and gave me a gleaming shell.
Boating tours depart from Kawthaung in Burma (also known as Myanmar) and according to the organizer the venue is either Phuket, Thailand (Intrepid Travel) at the Ranong, Thailand, (Burma Boating) or Kawthaung (Mergui Princess) frontier camp. Myeik Archipelago is a prohibited area and group visa is issued at the point of exit and costs $30 per capita.
Every trip has extra costs for the Mergui Archipelago National Park/Port (please ask any operator). Yangong is four hours by car from Phuket International Airport and several carriers operate flights from San Francisco to Phuket (with stopovers). From $1,216, a one-way ticket from Phuket to San Francisco with Singapore Airways, inclusive of tax and handling fee, with a stop-over in Singapore. www.singaporeair.com, (800) 742-3333.
From $1,260 inclusive of tax and fees, a one-way ticket back from Phuket to San Francisco with Cathay Pacific includes a stop in Hong Kong. www.cathaypacific. com/us, (800) 233-2742. From $1,739 inclusive of tax and fees, with stops in Seoul and Seattle, a one-way ticket from Phuket to San Francisco with Delta costs www.delta. com or (800) 221-1212.
Includes a nine night Burma Sailing Cruise around the islands of the Myeik Archipelago from $1,795 incl. transportation back from Phuket to the islands, double cab ins with skipper and most board. Myanmar Boating: Kawthaung, Burma. Rangoon, Burma. On a motorized (non-sailing) voyage, this vessel will make snorkelling and kayak rides in the Mergui Archipelago lasting between three and six nights.