The Fisherfolks of Haigyikyun

Haigyikyun, Myanmar

The first fisherman of the day heads into the water with his gear.

Myanmar, December 2016:  Tucked at the southernmost tip of the Ayeyarwady Region of Myanmar, at the point where the mystic currents of the Andaman Sea meet the glorious tides of the Bay of Bengal, is Haigyikyun, a rustic seaside town of Ngaputaw Township. While its stunning beaches and glimmering pagodas would easily qualify it as a tourist spot, the place is still relatively obscure due to its remoteness.  It takes at least 6 hours of land travel through winding roads from the nearest city of Pathein or at least 10 hours from the nearest airport at the country’s capital of Yangon to get there.

Haigyikyun Town, Myanmar

On most days in December, the beaches of Haigyikyun are teeming with activity — not with avid surfers or bikini-clad tourists, but with men combing the waves with their fine nets.  Their sheer number tell of the abundance of the thing that they’re trying to catch; their courage to dare the unfriendly waves indicate the value of the potential catch.

But the long travel  I had to endure to get there in December was greatly rewarded – I got there just in time to witness a strange fishing activity.   The shores were teeming with people — not avid surfers nor bikini-clad sun-bathers — but village men in the water combing the waves with fine nets attached to bamboo poles or on the boats using very large nets.  The activity was both strange and amazing to me.  It was almost as if whole villages were in the water, doing the same activity.

Haigyikyun, Myanmar

The rolling waves do not deter the men from going after their target

Hiagyikyun Town, Myanmar

With a fishing gear made of bamboo poles and a fine net, his young boy joins the village men in combing the waters

Haigyikyun, Myanmar

Fishing boats too, manned by a troop of fishermen and armed with much larger nets; do their fishing near the shore where big waves endlessly roll on the sand.

Haigryikyun, Myanmar

Boats and men seem to compete for the prize catch

Haigykyun, Myanmar

And the prize catch is this: tiny shrimps that are abundant on these shores at this time of the year.

Haigyikyun, Myanmar

The women collect what the men catch, clean and classify them and then later, either dry them or turn them into shrimp paste — a delicacy that is very popular in the region and could earn them 3 to 5 dollars a kilo, depending on the quality.

Haigyikyun, Myanmar

To an outsider, the work appear too tedious and the potential income doesn’t sound much but the villagers along this coast apparently depend on it. And they strive hard to get a good catch from the break of dawn until the sun sinks into the sea.