Just Another Day by the Andaman Sea

April 2017, Bokpyin Township, Thaninthayi Region, Myanmar:  On the week before the annual celebration of the “Thingyan” or Water Festival, Myanmar’s equivalent to the New Year Holidays; I visited Bokpyin, a remote town in the Thaninthayi Division of Myanmar.  The township is among the poorest in Myanmar and is remotely situated along a narrow stretch of land that is split with Thailand at the country’s southernmost tip.  The long strip of land faces the touristy Mergui Archipelago and the faithful Andaman Sea.  The town is actually closer to Bangkok than to Yangon and many locals casually do business across the border and can fluently speak the Thai language.

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A father and son team off-loads their net from the boat while checking for any fish still stuck in it.

A number of large palm plantations provide employment to the local workforce but majority of the town folks are engaged in fishing.  Indeed, the Andaman Sea and its shores are considered a vital part of the everyday life of the locals.

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A lady helps sort the fish caught by her husband and son in their net

It was an unplanned tour of the township that brought me to this sleepy fishing village of Thae Phyu.  While this was not my fist time to visit the town, my hosts, knowing that I do a lot of photography, were always eager to show me places they think I’d be interested to feature in my stories.  We just finished visiting a  newly built pagoda situated on a hill in the middle of a vast palm plantation when our lead driver decided to bring us to this seaside village.  There, on the shore, under the shade of  big tree, they set a tarpaulin on the sand and we sat there, watching the leisurely routine of the fisherfolks while chatting about life in this lovely seaside community.

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A woman displays a few kilos of trevally which she intends to peddle around town

Of course, my fascination for capturing rural life in Myanmar kept me and my cameras busy, making me leave the picnic area from time to time to capture the attractive scenery or some interesting activities nearby.  And then, as if expressing their appreciation for our unannounced visit, local beer and coconuts started arriving at our picnic area, together with some food, mostly from the day’s catch of the friendly local fishermen, and some of them quite exotic including some jellyfish salad (yes, jellyfish!) and barbecued clam meat.

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Young girls and boys carry buckets filled with seashells on their heads. The vast mangroves and inter-tidal area provides an abundance of seashells.

And so the little unplanned picnic went on for a while as more food and local friends and colleagues joined us.  And when it was time to go, we profusely thanked our hosts, took some more photos of them and with them, and then, with very full stomachs, drove back to the town proper.  I actually enjoyed the unique taste and texture of the jellyfish salad and, deep inside me, I was thankful that my stomach survived the little adventure.  The visit was one of my most memorable of this town so far.

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Depending on the season, these boys can make as much as 70,000 kyats (around $50) a day from the seashells they have gathered from the shore.

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A couple of fishermen check their boat for leaks

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A middle-aged lady heads home with the seashells she has collected for the day

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While the adults are busy in their fishing boats or gathering seashells, these two kids chose to play on the shore. Their hair have been dyed red in preparation for the annual “Thingyan” (Water Festival) celebration.

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A troop of shell gatherers head home with their catch for the day

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