Travel Destination

NEW DAWN FOR SMALL-SCALE SUSTAINABLE TOURISM IN SOUTHERN MYANMAR

published by Mekong Tourism online magazinge and contributed by Keith Lyons

13th of March 2020

A tiny village in the backwaters of southern Myanmar is cleaning up its act and laying out the welcome mat, as Keith Lyons finds during a visit to a remote settlement sharing an estuary with Thailand.

Mergui Archipelago / Myanmar

Long-tail boats are used for transport, cargo and fishing in the estuary which divides Myanmar and Thailand at the southern-most tip of Myanmar.

As tourist destinations go, it would be hard to find any place smaller than ramshackle Wae Ngae. The tiny Burmese hamlet of a dozen rickety wooden stilt-houses looks out across a wide estuary to its more prosperous neighbour Thailand. The sleepy village, where small fish dry on racks in the fierce midday sun, is an unlikely test-case for a responsible tourism project which ambitiously aims to better lives, while conserving neglected habitats, as well as providing intrepid visitors with an authentic non-touristy experience, an antidote to commercial tourism and the catchphrase of 2019 – over-tourism.

Just launched is a new Community-Based Tourism (CBT) initiative along with efforts to improve waste management. “This is part of our efforts to promote responsible tourism models and practices in the Kawthaung area, involving small communities, civic groups, local government and the private sector,” says Istituto Oikos Country Director and STAR Project Manager Daniele Alleva. Italian NGO OIKOS (www.istituto-oikos.org/en), which employs European and Myanmar biodiversity and sustainable development experts, launched its STAR Program in 2018 in the southern Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region, having initially focused earlier efforts on Lampi Marine National Park in the Mergui Archipelago before extending its outreach to the mainland’s Kawthaung district. Funded by the Italian government and private donors, the three-year project aims to promote well-being and social inclusion, as well as working alongside communities to protect soil, water, forests and wildlife.

While the Myanmar partly-democratic government has recognized the important role of tourism in the nation’s post-dictatorship economic development, the southern (and largely neglected) region has been identified as an area with untapped potential. Past exploitative forestry, mining and fishing practices have damaged the environment, with vast plantations producing palm oil and rubber and a smuggler economy meaning little of the region’s wealth from natural resources trickles down to ordinary Burmese.

There is no road access to Wae Ngae, a ‘new’ village established by Burmese from further north in search of new opportunities in fishing, farming or manual labor. There is no boat or ferry service to the villages dotted beside the estuary or up tributary rivers, says Shwe Fun from the partner organization Parchan River Conservation and Development Association (PRCDA). There are many challenges, including lack of facilities and infrastructure. Neither his organization, nor the government’s fisheries department (part of the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development), are adequately resourced or empowered. The only way for him (and the fisheries officer inspecting the oyster and mussel farms) to reach the settlements is to hitch a ride from the port of Kawthaung on a long-tail boat for the two-hour journey upriver.

longtail to the remote villages Myanmar

There aren’t enough resources and the estuary area bordering Thailand is lacking infrastructure, says Shwe Fun partner organization Parchan River Conservation and Development Association (PRCDA), who is working to improve livelihoods and protect the environment.

Passing the large flotilla of fishing boats docked at Kawthaung, most which catch squid and fish for the Thailand ‘grey’ market (there are no processing facilities in Kawthaung), any visit must be timed with the tides. Across the estuary of the Panchang river, which is sometimes turbulent in windy conditions, Thailand is tantalisingly close. On the Thai side, the river is known as Kraburi, and beyond Thailand’s largest preserved mangrove forests are the bright lights of Ranong, with its 7-Elevens, and menial jobs for those lucky enough to be able to work legally (or illegally).

The inequalities are highlighted at Wae Ngae village, where residents struggle to survive, fishing at night the river estuary, trapping crabs and farming oysters and mussels on the tidal mudflats and mangrove forest riverbanks.

Despite the subsistence existence of the inhabitants of Wae Ngae (and its larger twin settlement of Wae Gyi), a banquet of freshly-prepared dishes is served for visitors upstairs in a newly-constructed stilt-house. A locally-harvested medicinal root, similar to cassava, is served in a tonic drink with honey, preserved in whisky.

As brahminy kites and sea eagles soar and circle on thermals, Alleva says for adventurous visitors there are opportunities for bird-watching, spotting dolphins, visiting fish and shellfish farms, and kayaking in the mangroves. “This project is ultimately run by the community, to ensure sustainability,” he says.

As well as the CBT initiative OIKOS has undertaken waste awareness campaigns in many villages. “Wae Ngae is one of five villagers where we are promoting social inclusion by income-generating activities including a waste management project to enable participants to earn money instead of discarding trash,” says ecologist Cristina Tha, an assistant project manager with OIKOS, showing the area behind the settlement set aside to consolidate the rubbish.

Waste Managment program - Mergui Archipelago

Trash is separated for re-use, sale, recycling and disposal at a small estuary village in southern Myanmar, as part of a waste management program and community-based-tourism project by Italian NGO OIKOS

Later the open-air downstairs area is used for a meeting about the village’s waste recycling program which sees rubbish sorted for re-use, recycling, or disposal. Plastic which cannot be re-used is burned at high temperatures, while glass and cans along with scrap metal are ferried to Kawthaung or across the river to Thailand, where it can be sold. “It has been a challenge to get community buy-in, but at Wae Ngae they have an incentive to sort the trash, as the village makes money by selling it, mainly to Thailand, if the price is better than available in Kawthaung,” says assistant project manager Giulia Cecchinato, who has a background in forest and participatory forest management.

From Wae Ngae it is a pleasant 15-minute walk through leafy areca palms which yield betel nut, and rubber plantations where the bark is cut to bleed white latex into coconut shell cups, to Wae Gyi, where an open rubbish dump sits between the shoreline and the primary school and hilltop Buddhist monastery. Visitors to the area will be able to venture up a tributary of the Panchang River where ancient mangrove forest line the tidal stream, and clamber up a hillside for a panoramic view of the tropical jungle, before heading back to the bright lights of Kawthaung or Ranong, or the Andaman Club Casino on a nearby island.

Visitor numbers to Kawthaung have increased in recently years, as the border port is the gateway to Mergui archipelago’s new resorts, though many of the visitors are day trippers from Thailand, or foreigners on a quick visa run. There’s hope that backwaters on the estuary and among the mangroves such as Wae Ngae and Wae Gyi might benefit from the growth in tourism. Last week, the village of Wae Ngae received its first guests.

Interesting in visiting this amazing area?

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Myanmar eases travel rules

January 21, 2014 by TTRweekly

YANGON, 21 January 2014:    Myanmar’s immigration minister Khin Yi says the Muse-Shwe Li border gate will soon be upgraded to provide a new tourist entry point to the country.inside-no-511

The immigration minister told local media that the border gates between Myanmar and Thailand – including Tachileik-Mae Sai, Myawady-Mae Sot, Kawthoung-Ranong and Htee Khee-Sunaron – have also been upgraded as official international entry points for international visitors allowing them to travel freely to other destinations in the country and exit through a different checkpoint if required.

Visitors with valid passports and pre-issued visas from a Myanmar Embassy have been allowed to travel freely to most destinations in the country since last August.

According to the plan, foreign visitors holding a valid visa will be allowed to enter and exit Myanmar through the Muse gate, or exist through other points such as Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw international airports.

Myanmar is opening up more and moreToday, visitors crossing the border at Muse must enter and exit at the same point.

“The ministry will carry out tasks for mutual visa exemptions, upgrade an online visa system and allow permanent residence for foreigners wishing to work or retire in the country.”

He added: “We will cooperate through our links with regional organisations like GMS, ASEAN, BIMSTEC, and ACEMECS to introduce improvements such as, installing advanced technologies at international airports, border gateways, and government departments to establish a real-time data system and systematic immigration border management systems during the next fiscal year.”

Last year, Myanmar fully opened four checkpoints on the Myanmar-Thai border, namely Tachileik- Mae Sai, Myawaddy-Mae Sot, Tiki-Sunarong and Kawthoung-Ranong.

Myanmar southern border town

Travellers can continue their journey to other destinations and it gives them the choice to exit through another checkpoint than the one they used to enter the country.

Myanmar has 16 border checkpoints with neighbouring countries, but most of them offer limited access.Welcome sign at the bordertown Kawthaung / Myanmar

Myanmar authorities also grants pre-arranged visa-on-arrival for visitors for visitors from 48 countries. It requires pre-approval from authorities. Once the traveller has confirmation that the visa-on-arrival has been approved they can travel to Yangon to have the visa stamped into their passport on arrival.

However, airlines are very reluctant to transport visitors who claim to have a visa on arrival approved. They argue that supporting evidence that a visa has been approved and will be issued on arrival is not clear cut.

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Sipadan & Mabul Special January & February 2013

Buy 5 days 4 nights, pay only 3½ nights & 50% off on your diving rental.

or

 Buy 3 nights, pay only 2.8 nights & Sipadan permit for only 140RM & 50% off on your diving rental.

See what  Alexandra Cousteau, the granddaughter of the world famous French underwater explorer and filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau has to say about Sipadan this month and take this opportunity and discover one of the best dive sites around Mabul & Sipadan Island.

Limited rooms available, on a first come first serve basis.

Terms & Conditions:-

◦Travel period: 01st. of January 2013 to 28th of February 2013

◦Upon availability of spaces

◦First come, first serve

 

Hurry up and make your reservation before rooms run out!

 

Visit the top one dievsite worldwide

 

For further information, please contact us at info@SouthEastAsiaDreams.com

 

 

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by Jenne Lajiun. Posted on December 5, 2012, Wednesday

Alexandra and Simon during the interview.

KOTA KINABALU: Sipadan is still the same as it was in 1988, when world famous French underwater explorer and filmmaker Jacques-Yves Cousteau made his remark, “I have seen other places like Sipadan 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art.”

Making this claim recently was none other than the late explorer’s own granddaughter, Alexandra Cousteau, who is now attached with the National Geographic as an explorer.

“We watched his film with the crew and it was really interesting. We were comparing how it was in 1988 to how it was now. The abundance looked to be the same and we dove on the same spots. He has written so much about it in his books – in so many other parts of the world, things have changed,” said Alexandra, who was in Sabah to explore and make a short documentary for the National Geography on the beauty of islands in Malaysia with the Scuba Zoo.

“This was in 1988 which was 25 years ago. It is still the same (now) as it was then, the abundance is still as it was then. And we have lost so many since then. It is indeed the most beautiful places I have been. It is 10 out of 10. It is really a revelation. In Sipadan I have never seen so many healthy corals, so many turtles, so many fishes,” she said.

Alexandra mentioned that she first learned how to dive under the guidance of her late grandfather in a diving spot at the southern of France when she was seven years old.

“So much is gone. The Caribbean is almost gone. You have a real treasure. I hope to come back one day with my daughter so that she can dive here like my grandfather did,” she said.

“So many things in Sipadan are extinct like in other parts of the world – it is a real treasure,” she said.

She then mentioned of the conservation effort that were being undertaken in Sipadan — the turtle sanctuary and the shark sanctuary.

“One hundred million sharks are fished and finned every year so it makes sense to have the sanctuary. It may be (one day) the last place in the world that has sharks. A live shark is not only important to the environment but also to the communities around.”

Meanwhile, Scuba Zoo founder and chief executive officer Simon Christopher explained the importance of maintaining the ecological balance in the sea and mentioned why sharks had to be conserved.

“Without sharks, the weak and old will not be predated. There would be massive overgrazing and soon, there will be a desert,” he said.

And having predators in the sea is also a crowd puller and makes perfect sense in the context of touristic attraction.

“If you have no more predators, no one will come,” he said, simply.

He emphasised that a framework needs to be put in place to protect sharks species in Sabah and that various issues related to awareness and controlled fisheries need to be addressed.

Read more: http://www.theborneopost.com/2012/12/05/sipadan-has-not-changed-french-explorer/#ixzz2EhcZr8at

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Big Phang Nga Adventure onboard of the unique chinese vessel

Take a break take your family / friends and enjoy the 4 days / 3 nights cruise around the famous Phang Nga Bay on board of the unique chinese junk style vessel “Suwan Macha”

 

Escape with your family for an exciting 4 days cruise

Special Winter Package incl.Join the Suwan Macha on one of her unique trips

The best time to visit Thailand’s southern coast is between November and February.  This January South East Asia Dreams is proud to celebrate the New Year and invite our guests on board of the lovely Suwan Macha.

Accomandation for 1 pax in Twin share Cabin : 32.250THB only 24.188 THB
Accomandation for 1 pax in Twin share Cabin : 42.400THB only 31.800THB

Cruise Schedule departure from Port in Phuket:

Departure : 02.00 pm (14.00) Departure : 07.15 am (07.15)
05th of January 2013 08th of January 2013
19th of January 2013 22nd of January 2013
26th of January 2013 29th of January 2013

 

More trips available, just contact us for more detail. Departure is always on Saturdays or Tuesdays and the maximum of passengers are 10 persons in 5 comfortable cabins.

Note: For safety reasons and according to weather conditions, the program may be amended without prior notice.

 

Feel the history on board of Suwan Macha while cruising along the Phang Nga Bay, Phi Phi Island and Krabe

Package Includes:

* Join-in roundtrip transfer between Hotel – pier – Hotel in air conditioned van
* English speaking service and services of qualified crew during the cruise
* 4 days cruise with stops and visits as metioned in program without guide
* 3 overnights on join-in basis in twin or duble sharing cabin.
* 2 lunches on board and 1 lunch on Phi Phi Island
* 3 dinner on board
* Coffee, tea & drinking water on board and during meals
* Admission fee and Entrance fees, Insurance (Thai standard)

Remarks:
Booking is subject to availability. Special offers cannot be combined. Additional land arrangement is excluded.

Interesting? Click here for more detailed information

We are looking forward to welcome you on board

 

 

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