To travel this part of the country it needs a flight to Yangon and from there going south by aircraft, car and ship. An alternative would be to book a live aboard diving package in Phuket on a private yacht, there are several companies operating this adventure trip.
This are spots in the ocean in front of a very long coastal strip in the Mergui or Myeik Archipelago with over 800 exotic islands, that could the ultimate tourist destination if they would make it more easy for tourists and investors to come in. This is in the Andaman Sea with Thailand to the south and the Nicobar islands of India to the west.
Currently this is not a cheap destination because of the problems the best would be to move in via a live aboard scuba diving trip from Phuket. Some dive companies there have licenses for that. This would be an inclusive tour since you will be on the yacht for the journey.
From December to April is the main Holiday season and that also would be the best time to visit this remote corner in the Indian Ocean. Is someone is really interested the best is to use the Andaman resort off Kawthaung as a base because this place (resort and casino) has a license to operate trip into the island world. Snorkeling, boating,swimming, kayaking, fishing and gambling is available there. They also have big and a small cruise ship for exploring real exotic beaches on the islands of south Myanmar.
A Brief History about what has happened amongst these islands since men first came to live
and move amongst them, there is no record, and there never will be any now. Here and there only the curtain of the unknown is lifted for a passing moment. Their main, and it would seem their earliest, human interest centre in the colony of the Salone, which has made of these islands its last refuge, building beach huts to stay. Actually there is no beach with infrastructure at any island around similar to Patong Beach about 600 km further down in Thailand.
The trip from Yangon to south Myanmar’s islands can be done either by air, road or ship. Road travel stops at Myeik because from here southwards is no road.
Most of the country behind Dawai is under control of private companies and they don’t let others know what’s going on. We board the steamer at the river port and start a slow floating. It needs enormous patience to make this cruise because it’s slow and the ship is quite old but the reward is a unique journey.
Yangon river and ocean port, vessels handled are only up to around 20.000tons
English and Dutch vessels stopped here often in their sailing from India to Penang, today Malaysia. But most people have been of Thai, Mon, Indian and Chinese origin which is still the same today.
That could be a great adventure destination in the country once they make the access more easy, read more.
During colonial times the islands were the domain of the British who’s Empire stretched from India down to Penang Georgetown in Malaysia. They took the pearls from the Salone divers and gave them opium and alcohol, after they got addicted the British colonialists played “hard ball” with them.
The attrition of time and the cruelty of man have worn away the race to its present proportions. It has too long bowed down its head, too long ceased to make any effort after greater things to have any future before it.
The Malay who is of kin will acknowledge no relationship, and in times that are past he has been its most cruel oppressor. Myanmar or Burma and Malaysia have a long common colonial area, very close was the relation between Phuket and Penang island in Malaysia.
Myeik archipelago and Salone
To enjoy this adventure trip
the best is to book a scuba diving live aboard trip atPhuket Thailand. If they would open the Myanmar Thailandborder a little bit more it would be a ideal travel combination to tour the islands and after to move up to Thailand’s Kanchanaburi province to enjoy the great nature around the huge reservoir.
But until now (2013) there is a total gridlock to any progress on border issues, since there is no real problem it must be the remains of a twisted mind.
The Salone are around for far more than a thousand years. Also Phi Phi islands in neighboring Thailand have a big sea gypsies community, one is at Rawai Beach in Phuket, on the Surin Islands and even much further south on Ko Lipe in the Tarutao Archipelago, there they call them Moken, read more.
When or whence the sea gypsies came to the Andaman Sea, one can only guess ; and whether they had any human predecessors it is difficult even to conjecture. But it is probable that they are an extremely ancient people of that aboriginal stock which populated the mainland before the advent of the Htai.
The main body of these aborigines drifted away under the pressure of the Htai to the south, there to merge with the Malay.
A fragment of them retreated to the shelter of the islands, others cut off from civilizing influences, they have made no progress, and too weak to face their adversaries, they have developed the nomadic life, the habit of few possessions, of flight at the sight of a stranger at south Myanmar islands.
Almost the first account of the Myeik or Mergui archipelago, written by a European traveler, is that of Caesar Frederick the Venetian. It has all the charm and interest of early travel ; and is best told in the language of his time.
” From the port of Pechinco,” he says, ” I went to Cochin, and from Cochin to Melacca, whence I departed for Pegu – Bago eight hundred miles distant, that voyage was to be made in twenty five or thirty days, but we were for months, and at the end of three months our Ship was without victual’s.
The Pilot told us that wee were by his altitude from a city called Tenassiry -Tenasserim, a city in the Kingdom of Pegu – Bago, -today its around Ranong- and these his words were not true, but we were (as it were) in the middle of many Myanmar slands, and many uninhabited rocks, and there were also some Portuguese that affirmed that they knew the land.
Being amongst these rocks, and from the land which is over against Tenassary – Tenasserim, with great scarcities of victual’s, and that by the saying of the pylate and two Portugal’s holding them firm that we were in front of the aforesaid harbor, we determined to go thither with our boat and fetch victual’s, and that the ship should stay for us in a place assigned.
We were twenty and eight persons in the boat that went for victual’s, and on a day about twelve of the clock we went from the Ship, assuring ourselves to be in the harbor before night in the afore said port.
We rowed all that day, and a great part of the next night and all the next day without finding harbor, or any sign of good landing, and this came to pass through the evil counsel of the two Portuguese that were with us.
” For we had overshot the harbor and left it behind us, in such wise that we had lost the land, inhabited with the ship, and we twenty eight men had no manner of victual with us in the boat, but it was the Lords will that one of the Mariners had brought a little rice with him in the boat to barter away for some other thing, and it was not so much
The natives are Salone, also named sea gypsies
Kadan Kyun or King Island under the British is the largest in the Mergui Archipelago, size is 450 km², the highest hill is 767 m which is also the highest point in the archipelago.
but three or four men would have eaten it at a meal : I took the government of this rice promising by the help of God that rice should be nourishment for us until it pleased god to send us to some place that was inhabited, and when I slept I put the rice into my bosom because they should not rob it from me : We were nine days rowing along the coast, without finding anything but countries uninhabited, and deserts Island, where if we had found but grass it would have seemed sugar unto us, but wee could not find any, yet wee found a few leaves of a tree, and they were so hard that we could not chew them.
We had water and wood sufficient, and as we rowed, we could go but by flowing water, for when it was ebbing water, we made fast our boat to the bank of one of these Islands, and in these nine days that we rowed, we found a cave or nest of turtle eggs, wherein was a hundred and forty four eggs, the which was a great help unto us : these eggs are as big as a hens egg, and have no shell about them but a tender skin, every day we boil a kettle full of them eggs with an handful of rice in the broth thereof.
It pleased God that at the end of nine days, we discovered certain fishermen, a fishing with small boats, and wee rowed towards them, with a good cheer for I think there were never more glad than we were, for we were so sore afflicted with penuries that we could scarce stand on our legs. The first village that we came too, was in the Gulf of Tavoy -Dawai, under the King of Pegu -Bago.”
His adventures occurred about the year 1567, and it is certain that at that time the islands were well known to the Portuguese. For it is on record that a fleet of Portuguese ships sent by the Viceroy of Goa about the year 545, to search for an island of gold in the Bay of Bengal found it in a manner, by taking to piracy and preying on passing vessels from the shelter offered by the archipelago. ”
For eight months and more,” says Ferdinand Mendez Pinto, ” our hundred Portugal had scoured up and down this coast in four well rigged Foists, wherewith they had taken three and twenty rich ships, and many other lesser vessels, so that they which used to sail in those parts were so terrified with the sole name of the Portugal’s, as they quitted their Commerce, without use of their shipping ;
By this increase of trade the Custom houses of the Ports of Tanancarim, Juncalan, Merguim, Vagarun, and Tavay fell much in their Revenue, in so much that those people were constrained to give notice of it to the Emperor of Sornan, King of Siam, and Sovereign Lord of all that Country, beseeching him to give a remedy to this mischief, whereof every one complained.”
The king dispatched against the pirates a fleet of ” five Foists, four Galliots,and one Gally Royal,” under the command .of a Turkish adventurer, named Heredrin Mahomet ; and ” Within these vessels he had eight hundred Mahometans, men of combat (besides the Mariners) amongst the which were three hundred Janizaries, as for the rest they were Turks, Greeks, Malabars, Achems, and Mogores, all choyce men, and so disciplined that their captain held the victory already for most assured
Sea gypsy harpooning off Myanmar green island
Salone Village in the Mergui or Myeik Archipelago
Salone Sea Gypsies living on the Boat between the
Myanmar pristine islands
The Portuguese Trace in south Myanmar
Kawthaung between Myanmar and Thailand longtail boat
The Portuguese were nevertheless victorious. The dog Heredrin Mahomet was slain amongst the rest, and in this great action God was so gracious to our men, and gave them their victory at so cheap a rate that they had but one young man killed, and nine Portugal’s hurt.”
In later days Ilha Grande, now known as King’s Island, was bestowed on the French by the King of Siam or Thailand, and might have become, with its ample bay, an important settlement. But it was never used, except in later days by French ships of war, during the wars between England and France, as a place from which to attack and capture British merchant vessels ; and as a place of refuge, when British ships of war were abroad or somewhere between Kawthaung (Victoria Point and Penang).
Almost the first English attempt to navigate the islands and prepare a chart of the archipelago was made by Captain Forrest, whose journal of the Esther brig, from Bengal to Quedah, narrates how, in 1783, he was driven amongst the islands by the monsoon winds, and gave to many of them names (which they still bear) ” in remembrance of Friends whom I Honor and Respect,” and others ” according to striking appearances and figures.”
The ardent helfer spent a whole winter here in 1838-9, shortly before his death from an Andamanese arrow. Since then many persons have visited the islands, and more than one effort has been made to reclaim the Salone to Christianity and civilization.
But little has been done towards the complete exploration of the archipelago. Its islands range from bare rocks to rich territories .
like those of Kisseraing and King’s susceptible of the finest cultivation. Their fauna include elephants, rhinoceroses, and tigers, and the whale may often be seen plunging amidst the calm of their interior seas of south Myanmar.
Maps of the south
A island map
was helpful on our way to the Islands. The launch, with loud heart beating, drives a pathway through the narrow strait. Turning our backs upon Mergui and the Myanmar islands near the coast, now hidden behind Patit, we reach a space of green sun-touched water, with low mangrove swamps upon our larboard bows. Upon our starboard the mountains of King’s Island, cloven to a third of their height by dark lines of swamp forest, reach into the heart of the swooning clouds. We are steering south by west for the island country, and the most notable object in view is the pyramid of Merghi Island, sixteen hundred feet above the sea. Nearer, several others lie in our way, outlined in solid forms against the misty blue of their lofty companion. Away under the opal sky, there is a narrow mirror-like calm, which makes the islands in its compass seem unreal ; mere phantoms of the vision suspended between earth and heaven. In striking contrast, the sailing-boats of the coast fishers are cut in black patterns against the clouds. No two consecutive moments present the same spectacle. The clouds over the Myanmar islands of the Andaman Sea melt from one ecstasy of beauty into another ; the sea, played upon by the wind, is one instant billowy and placid as oil, another crimped with laughter, a third a meadow of diamonds in the sudden sun ; and the brave launch, leaping forward, overcomes space, so that the dreamiest island becomes a reality, the most palpable one of woods and precipices a dream.
A Chinese junk with the double diamonds of black sail suspended above their small hulls, fill the eye with the spectacle of their grace ; saying that man has never invented anything more in harmony with nature than a sail at south Myanmar.
The junks driven by the wind, come up in a great flight, with the swell of a bevy of portly matrons, all ribbons and bosom ; the wrecker, very surly and dirty, overtakes us to starboard, flinging silver from his bows ; and in the offing there is the first Salone boat moving to the impulse of a small white sail.
The wrecker looks evil enough for any trade, and as he leaves us behind him in spite of all our pace, is like a big cur in a run after Jack, outpacing some gallant little panting fox-terrier, all heart and pluck, but too short dear fellow, in his legs to keep ahead. No matter ; we will come in yet.
The Salone here is eloquent of the irony which relegates this beautiful islands of the Andaman Sea to an abject and dying race. Their rich luxuriance is beyond belief. They look as if they were forests sprung from the bottom of the sea. There is scarcely an inch of them that does not teem with life. There are islands of such length and altitude that they might be portions of a continent, and others, happily, that are palpable islands, with the sea in a ring all round them,
Salone sea gypsies at a festival with pearl decoration
waiting for you or me to go along and give them a name. And out of the misty void each moment, new islands are born like stars on a summer night. As the afternoon grows we steer for a silver strait, all molten and a-fire, between blue
Burmese islands of the Andaman Sea
portals. And passing through them we come up a wide sea, Ross and Elphinstone in long mountains on the west, Burnett behind us, and Merghi Islands hard on our left ; dark blue, with a lane of sea between and faint purple ridges beyond. It is a lane that invites one to enter. On Cantor, a brief way ahead, with single palms in outline on its crest, there is a settlement of Salone, learning, or trying to learn, the hard alphabet of civilization.As the afternoon wanes and earth moves up against the sun, the Myanmar islands that have been every color all day, from tropic green to misty northern blue, turn to their proper purple. In the cast a curtain of velvet rain blots out the main of bay and peak and cove ; but elsewhere each island stands out distinct and clear in its own serene personality. Nearest to us now and happily appropriate to the season of our voyage are the Christmas Islands.
The sea is billowy, undulating, tumultuous almost. In a bigger ship it’s swell would pass unnoticed, but our Marguerite is a small craft. We are steering for the criddles in twenty fathoms of water, but the gunner has his eyes on a sunken rock the shape of some Salone houseboats are at the horizon. Soon we shall turn away to the south Myanmar islands to anchor for the night in the bay of the Amboyna disaster. The white clouds above the rain purple of Morrison’s Bay catch the lessening light and fling it down upon the sea, which straight’ way becomes all silver as though the moon were up. Between Court and criddles there is nothing but the monsoon sea.
And so we come upon the glory of the closing day. The sun’s golden light, stealing out from under clouds, sends a long stream of fire down the sea, fills with lightning a diadem of cloud that sits upon the brows of the Mew Stone, and swiftly turns that island, purple a moment earlier, into such a haze of supernatural flame as our eyes dare not look upon. It is flame cut in flame, and no more an Mergui Archipelago island.
Andaman Sea an a Salone village and beach
Cruising the Mergui Archipelago with a catamaran
Mergui Archipelago Island Beach and kids playing
In a little while the pageant is over. The great world swings up like a porpoise in the sea ; the sun’s last arc of fire is swallowed in the void, and the Mew Stone, in the instant of its passing, becomes the darkest purple under the firmament.
For a rose haze still lingers upon the fringes of the sea, and clouds in a great circle catch up and reflect the fragments of prismatic color into which the pure sunlight is now broken.
The sky becomes a palette, the sea a pool of pink. And as the grey closes in, the patch last touched by the sun grows iridescent as a pearl, in waves upon waves of transient blending color.
South Myanmar Trip with the big cruising ship
A south Myanmar trip,
there is a subtle and deeper fascination in the dark. The world closes in and leaves us the centre of a new universe. I seem by some miracle to have been brought here into the midst of these lonely islands, and the panting dauntless engine that has brought me is like another carpet of Solomon magically put at my service. For, a month ago, I was afoot in the greatest of cities, a straw on the driving tide of its life ; this morning I was ashore, near a court-house, a prison, and a town ; and now, in the company of nameless shadowy islands, I am being swiftly borne away upon the bosom of the dark. A star shines out on the horizon like a beacon or a lighthouse, larger than any star I have ever seen ; grey clouds drift like phantoms in the wake of the departed sun, and each moment the constellations grow in multitude and splendor
what to do is not the question anymore
after you read through out website. Steering by instinct through the pitchy night along Andaman beaches , we cast anchor at last in the wake of the wrecked Amboyna ; and the speculative salvage-man in blue garments, his feet naked, comes on board to tell me how he has fought with Chinese and Malay, been prisoner and escaped ; how he has lived for three and thirty years in the East, and has a wife and children in Scotland, but finds folk at home cold and indifferent to one who has spent his life abroad. The cry of all old wanderers. I pass the night on the floor of the launch with nothing between my vision and the stars.
The Andaman sea
is but a yard below, the roof shelters me without shutting out the sky. All my world for the time is about me ; the gunner, the sea-gunny, the engineer, and the crew. And here on the trackless seas, the sentiment of our common humanity surpasses all lesser considerations. The same conditions affect us all alike.
Some time in the night I wake, and my eyes are dazzled by the lustrous moon hung up in the firmament above me. Strung along the east there is a chain of islands each link a mountain pyramid, the pale sea between crinkling with the first breeze of the dawn.
The first familiar object that greets me is the Marguerite’s gig in the wake of the golden dawn ; the crew in her fishing with lines. Far away in the distance a ship is passing silently, a phantom amidst the islands.
Turning to look about me I find that we are at anchor in a small bay, which lies but half awake in an arm of Bentinck Island. As the sun climbs, the island turns a rich and golden green, its beauty reflected in the olive water. At the yellow sand along the sea-edge are some beach huts of Salone people. Little valleys run down it to the sea, a thousand birds are singing their unfamiliar matins to the day, and trees with long white trunks shining in the light, break up the mass of foliage into aisles, and make the island seem like some Gothic cathedral wrought in an Oriental texture. A few paces off lies the disheveled Amboyna, her funnel once black, now rust-red in the sea air.
Salone or sea gypsies.
During the night the launch and the schooner Bertha developed an intimacy, and the dawn as it came stealing over the seas, found them linked in an embrace of their anchor chains. When at length we got away, day had broken, and we steered into the lake of water between Jane and Charlotte, and thence across the sea to Bushby in the track of the departed gypsies. In the far distance I could trace the smoke of their moving fires, and the gleam of an oar blade as it caught the sun. Skate were flapping about in the sea, and a shoal of small fish leaped and plunged, pursuing and pursued ; the war of nature incessant under the smiling surface of life. The Sisters, all blue and green now, lay strung in a line upon the western sea, and Mimosa San was fading out of sight. Father and Son, a solemn couple, greeted us on the south. I hailed the Chinaman as we came up to him, and he sent off a present of green-snail shells, and a polite message to say that the Salone would rendezvous in his neighborhood in the evening after the day’s work.
The green-snail shell is a beautiful object, deep sea-green without, white and iridescent within. All the beauty of the sunset is by some miracle of nature caught and imprisoned in the mould of this deep-sea dweller. And so as we went on, I came upon the Salone in the clear green water, under a rocky coast. There were several boats, and from one a man with a Burman air about him, a very merry fellow, signaled to us to come up that he might look upon us. In the boats before me there were men and women, children and boys, but the young unmarried girls must have hidden themselves away, for I could sec none. The children were of a fairer complexion than their parents, and all but the very youngest were at work with oar or punting pole. The most attractive child of all was a girl almost grown up, bedecked with beads, and swathed in a single garment of blue cloth. She had brown eyes and dark ringlets, and was so frightened at being photographed, that she broke into tears, and was with difficulty reassured. As it was, the tears lay in a rim about her eyes long after she had ceased to cry ; and she could not be persuaded to resume the pole, which she used at the prow of her father’s boat with an admirable grace. Behind her in the recesses of the boat crouched her grandmother, a midnight hag—type of the terrible old age of the Salone woman. I do not suppose that there is anywhere in the world any one more ugly than an old woman of the Salone at Myanmar islands.
Some of the men plunged with harpoons to show me how they did it, and the exhibition was greeted with laughter from the assembled boats. The harpooner before plunging strains forward, every muscle taut, the whole weight of his body resting on the ball of his foot—a missile incarnate.Then he flings his harpoon with a whirr through the sunlight, and leaps after it into the water. Spear and man are lost to sight.
A moment later up he comes with dripping hair, clutches the cut in the shapely gunwale, and climbs with a swift action into the boat. When engaged in the serious business of fishing, the Salone spear a large fish, like a skate, which lies upon its back in the water and paddles with its wide fins. When the agitation reaches the surface and is caught in the straining vision of the fisher, his boat flies forward, and the harpoon-man, poised on its prow, plunges swiftly on seeing the white stomach of the fish, and drives home his weapon with the weight of his body. This done, he loosens the spear-head from the shaft and climbs hack into his boat, now speeding over the water in the wake of the maddened fish.
Gradually its strength fails it, its speed slackens, it can go no farther. Then it is hauled on board, cut into strips, and dried in the sun.” But Lord ! there was a time,” as the old sea-captains say, ” when good pearls could be had for a pouch of tobacco.” That was when the Salone had his island seas to himself, and knew nothing of the value of pearls. But the coming of the pearler has brought enlightenment, and with it scarcity, and the Salone when he does find a pearl, sells it to advantage.
The Beche-de-mer is caught by him in baskets of rattan, trailed slowly over the muddy shallows. It is dried in the sun and looks unappetizing enough ; but when soaked in water it becomes like a clean white jelly, and makes a soup that is esteemed good and delicate by the Chinese gourmet.
Myanmar Pearls sold at Bogyoke Market
Salone also are pearl diver,
which is difficult without the right equipment which they don’t have. When you think of the Salone’s place on the ladder of human life, of his limitations, his approaching extinction, you pity him ; but he has his compensations. His toil is to his liking. He is ever plunging in the warm transparent water, or chasing the wild hog with his dogs. Save that he must live, he is burdened with few cares ; and all said he lives a free, wild, and unfettered existence.
That must be dearer to him than the sordid drudgery of his brother, learning here and there the slow lesson of the primitive tiller of the soil. As to schools and so forth, who on earth would willingly exchange the sunlit water, the white sands, and the wandering life, for the finest school in the world ‘ and religion ‘ his immortal soul ‘ It is true the poor Salem is limited in his religious notions. He is much concerned with the devil, whom he finds active in many uncomfortable forms ; he has glimmerings of a good spirit, whose power is unhappily, he finds, usurped by the devil. But the world that might teach him is itself oppressed with such burdens. Asked where the spirits of evil reside, my cheerful friend to-day, stretching forth his hands, replied : ” Everywhere ; in the sea, in the air, in the forests, in the mountains ; sometimes behind one island,” pointing vaguely to Eliza, ” sometimes behind another,” pointing to Jane. He spoke with conspicuous gaiety at the moment, but a mental weariness crept over his eyes as he answered my unfamiliar questions. He grew bored, and his fellow at the prow of their boat began to unfasten the cane that bound it to the launch. I hastily changed the subject, and with revived interest they came on board the launch, and looked into the engine-room and the cabin, making long-drawn sounds expressive of a certain limited wonderment. The engine-room, they said, was hot, the sleeping-places very fine, and an inner room, only partially visible through a half-open door, filled them with a sense of mystery. The ship, they said, moved with a screw ; but they couldn’t say what made it revolve. One man was full of cheeriness and curiosity now that he was released from the toils of theology, but the other was dull. Even in these early stages there arc marked differences between man and man. When I suggested that now they were bound to the launch, I would take them away with me, they showed a fine alarm, and the dull fellow again began rapidly to unfasten the cane that bound us together. They were as quickly reassured, and laughed at their own timidity. They could hazard no opinion at all of what the white man’s country might be like.
Being gently led back to the way of cross-examination, they said that when any one died it was due to an evil spirit. They stayed with the dying man to the last, and then laid him out on a platform of canes on piles, after which they went away and never came back. All the people, they said, wept when any one died. Of time they had no conception beyond that involved in the succession of darkness and light, and the changing of the dry and wet seasons in the Mergui – Myeik Archipelago.
They could tell nothing of any one’s age. They live only in the present, looking neither forward nor back. Once a year they change their habitat, from the western or outer side of the islands, to the inner or eastern side. This is at the time the north-west
By these means, and before the night made seeing impossible, I caught a glimpse of what the sea-cunny had discovered ; a lake of copper green water set in an inferno of cliffs and precipices. A stone flung by him as he hung on to a knife-edge of rock blobbed with a dull sound in the still water. We came down after this and reached our boat, the sea-cunny bleeding at his feet. We rowed, the sea-cunny loyal and contemptuous of protest from the less keen Chittagonian, all in the dark, half-way round the island, on the chance of finding the exit of the waters. The island towered above us into the starry sky, and each time the blade of an oar ploughed the inky sea it flung off a cloud of phosphorus, that floated away like a jelly-fish on fire. We were all by now fallen under the dominion of the damon of the place. The sca’cunny had no longer any word to say. We rowed in silence. The truculence of nature obsessed us. And even now, as I sit and look out on the stars and the heaving sea, I cannot shake off the pervading horror of this place. We seem, and I am sure my companions think, that we have lighted upon the secret home of the Spirit of Evil.monsoon begins to blow, lashing the unprotected sea into fury. In the turmoil of the long-drawn battle between wind and wave, which lasts from May to October, there is no place for the frail craft of the Salone, and he lives with his boats drawn up ashore, in the sheltered inlets on the eastern face of the archipelago. Testimony to this double life is written on the face of the islands ; and there is no contrast in nature more striking that that between the gothic calm, the tropic splendor, of the island woods which look towards the rising sun, and the torn storm-wrought landscape that faces the western sea and the fury of the winds. Thus, on a calm winter day when the sea is billowy as oil, one is confronted on turning the point of an island with a strange picture of an embodied gale. There is no ripple on the sea, the woods are still and silent, yet they seem shaken in the grasp of a pitiless and furious storm. It is as though a god had stilled for ever the blast in the climax of its wrath.
Kawthaung or Victoria Point,
the southern most town in Myanmar or Burma. As we went on grey egrets skimmed the water like phantoms before us, streamers of color, reflected from the cliffs, painted its lustrous surface, and silver showers of fish, driven up to the light for their lives, flashed in the sun.
The Salone tried with his spear, under the shadow of the walls where larger game lay concealed, and the sea-cunny toiled up steep places after delicate orchids, plunging back into the sea, and spluttering and laughing like a child. We lay for hours outside the Myanmar islands of the Andaman Sea until at noon there became visible to us in the launch a faint pinprick of light in the cave, and we knew the way was open to us at last. It was dead low water, and the bay, as we rowed across it to the cave’s mouth was lean from the depletion of the tide. The cave from the same cause had quadrupled in size, and its roof under which I had stooped to enter, now rose far out of reach above my head. Water still dripped from it as we advanced, and green and scarlet weeds and berries flung a color over the interior. The sinister murmur of the lapping sea was stilled, but every sound we uttered gathered a monstrous intonation from the vaulting of the cave. A cool wind blew through the narrow tortuous aperture, as lying flat upon our backs in the boat at our trip, we propelled it forward with our hands against the roof.
Beyond its darkness there lay a sheet of pale green water and a world of sunlight. Steering slowly through the passage we emerged at last upon the lake. Its walls rose up, sheer and steep in a million pinnacles of rock, to a height of a thousand feet. But for the low-browed passage by which we had come, there was apparent neither inlet nor exit. The waters lay calm, unruffled, and still. The blue sky gleamed overhead. It was hard to believe that here we were in the midst of the ocean and Myanmar islands.
The Salone who accompanied me in south Myanmar led us to a cave that lies at the south east corner of the lake. The approach to it was heavy with slime and the strange debris of the departed tide. From the deep gloom of the inner hall the swallows flew out in swarms, and high up from invisible recesses came the million-fold ” chuck-chuck” of the nesting birds. A strange creature, with prawn-like lip, beady eyes, and twitching antenna:, the whole pose of his body his back across the slime. The place was fitly peopled with creatures such as he. As I climbed back into the boat, a young python in the water stole away swiftly in the effort to escape unseen. The lascar at the boat’s prow struck him with an oar, and pinned him down to the muddy bottom. He broke away with a wound in his back and made a dash for the rock, but meeting a wall which he essayed with impotent fury, he came by his death.
The lascar moralized on fate. It is the Muslim’s favorite text. ” See,” he said, as the vivid coils lay broken in the bottom of the boat, ” his hour had come, and we came here this day that his destiny might be accomplished.” The Salone, with expressive action, stated that great pythons lived in the cave and on the island. The Malay who come here every year for the swallows’ nests and hold a feast on the rocks at the cave’s mouth, never kill the python, he said, considering him in some way associated with the spirit of this inferno.
Salone pearl diving
Salone do pearl diving
and spear the devil fish plus slay a giant lizard that frequents the island.
The tide was now running in, and the waters of the lake were beginning to rise. Having no taste for an enforced detention within its walls, we made for the passage, and shortly after emerged on the open sea where the launch lay waiting for us, and the crew stood wondering where we had been. The lascar and the sea-cunny each had his tale to tell ; for no one on board the launch had ever in their long experience
of traveling these seas, heard of the hidden lake. Leaving the shadowy battlements of the Myanmar islands behind us, we steam up Celerity Passage, wooded dome the isle of honey, on our left, and a low country of brown sandy flats and pale swamps on our right.
Towards evening we attain once more the full sunsets in a blaze of salmon-pink between Money and Trotter, touching with his light the crest of Rosy, far away in the purple distance. The anchor drops, and there follows the peace of the long evening. The launch ceases from her hard throbbing, the fires are put out, and the embers pale. The tired crew, one by one, drop asleep. Almost the last sound that breaks the stillness of the night comes from the sea-cunny’s voice, as he retails his adventures, and goes over in bold picturesque terms the incidents of the morning.
on pristine islands and beaches. A single lantern burns at the stern. A world of dark sea, and starry sky, and the shadowy immense forms of islands brooding on the horizon lies about me. I am glad that there is no one here to break in upon my solitude. For in the dusk and the silence strange thoughts move through one’s mind ; thoughts luminous one instant, faint and dark the next ; revelations of the firmament, and sudden lights into the dark places of the human spirit ; hints of a world plan, faint uncertain tremors of a Creator’s will, fading convictions of the destiny of life in south Myanmar.