Posts Tagged ‘Myanmar / Burma’

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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Colorful costume in Myanmar / Burma

There is a saying that Myanmar celebrates a festival every month. Fortunately
our guests there are even more, spread across the whole country throughout the year. This affords visitors a wonderful opportunity to gain firsthand insight into the living culture of Myanmar.

 

The exact dates of the festivals are calculated according to the Myanmar lunar calendar, so only approximate months are given as they can change from year to year. Please check with us for details.

 

Pagoda festivals are like country fairs, while nat (spirit) ceremonies are accompanied by plenty of music, dancing and eating.

January-February

  • Ananda Temple Festival, Bagan, one of the biggest festivals in the country, begins seven days before the full moon day of the lunar month of Pyatho.
  • Naga New Year Festival requires bookings weeks ahead as it is held in very remote villages, usually afew days before January 15.

February-March

  • Shwesettaw Pagoda Festival, on the banks of Mann Chaung Creek in Magwe Division, starts on the fifth waxing moon day of Tabodwe and ends after Myanmar New Year in April.
  • Kyaik Khauk Pagoda Festival occurs in Thanlyin, a 30-minute drive from Yangon, beginning seven days before the full moon day of Tabodwe.

March-April

  • Kekku Pagoda Festival in Shan State starts three or four days before the full moon day of Tabaung. Pa-O people gather to pay homage to the shrines they hold most holy.
  • Mawtinsoun Pagoda Festival, on the southwestern coast of Myanmar, can be reached by boat from Pathein. It begins seven days before the full moon day of Tabaung.

Colorful Festivals in Myanmar / Burma

Colorful Festivals in Myanmar / Burma

Colorful Festivals in Myanmar / Burma

 

 

 

 

 

April-May

  • Shwemawdaw Pagoda Festival in Bago starts on the eighth waxing moon day of Tagu.
  • The four-day Thingyan Water Festival precedes Myanmar New Year, which usually falls on April 17. Allover the country, roadside platforms are built from which young people hose down revelers in passing cars. People carry water guns or buckets to douse anyone seen on the street.

June-July

  • Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay hosts a cane-ball (chinlon) festival that starts on the first waxing day of Nayon and last for a full month,  attracting players from around the country.
  • Robe offering ceremonies, no vitiation ceremonies and other religious rituals take place from April until the beginning of Lent on the full moon day of Waso in June or July.

July-August

  • Taungbyone Nat Festival near Mandalay begins on the eighth waxing moon day of Wagaung and lasts a week. This is the biggest spirit festival in Myanmar,with mediums and devotees coming from all over the country to take part.
  • Yadana Gu Nat Festival carries on when the Taungbyone Festival ends. It takes place on the banks of Taungthaman Lake in Amarapura, near Mandalay.

Colorful Festivals in Myanmar / Burma

September-October

  • Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival at Inle Lake,Shan State, kicks off on the first waxing moon day of Thadingyut. The task of carrying sacred Buddha images on a barge from village to village around the lake lasts 18 days.
  • Shwezigon Pagoda Festival, Bagan, begins on the first waxing moon day of Thadingyut. Of special interest is the full moon day ritual of offering filled alms bowls to hundreds of monks and novices.
  • Kyauktawgyi Pagoda in Mandalay hosts a four-day festival ending on the day after the full moon day of Thadingyut.
  • Three-day festivals of light marking the end of Buddhist Lent are held throughout the country, starting from the day ahead to the day after the full moon day of Thadingyut.
  • The Dancing Elephant Festival in Kyaukse, near Mandalay, draws teams of dancers wearing cloth elephant costumes. The two-day festival begins a day before the full moon day of Thadingyut.

October -November

  • Dipavali Light Festival is celebrated at Hindu temples all over the country.
  • The Fire Balloon Competition in Taunggyi, Shan State,starts on the 10th waxing moon day of Tazaungmone and lasts six days. Balloons are judged for size, style,design and their ability to stay aloft for long periods. On the night of the full moon, Taunggyi residents hold a parade in which they carry lanterns.

 

Colorful Festivals in Myanmar / Burma

November-December

  • Robe weaving contests are held all over the country and are a major event at Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. On the night before the full moon day of Tazaungmone, teams of weavers compete to finish huge robes during the night, to be offered to Buddha images at dawn the next day.
  • Popa Nat Festival near Bagan goes on for six days starting on the full moon day of Nadaw.
  • December 31 is celebrated at Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda (Golden Rock) with devotees lighting thousands of candles at the shrine in the evening.

 

 

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