Burma← Back to all destinations
Burma, or Myanmar, is an exotic destination on many of our guests' "must-do" list.
Sadly much of the country is off-limits to tourists and what can be seen is strictly controlled by the military junta. Those who have visited enthuse over the friendliness of the people and the warm welcome they received. There is undoubtedly a degree of caution in how open the locals can be with tourists but one way around this is to visit by yacht which opens up a huge area that is hardly visited.
This is the Myeik or Mergui Archipelago, located in the southernmost part of the country and comprises over 800 beautiful islands. Due to its virtual isolation, the islands and surrounding seas are alive with an amazing diversity of flora & fauna creating very beautiful underwater scenes and an abundance of marine life.
This trip is a feast for both scuba and free divers but equally for guests more comfortable with remaining on the surface. The only human inhabitants in the area are the Salon sea gypsies, They live on boats in the dry season and remain on land during the rains. They still practice the same fishing and boat building techniques used for generation. Their culture can be seen in a traditional festival that takes place in February.
The voyage starts in Phuket, Thailand and a day or two here is a chance to experience the sensual delights of this sophisticated little island. Phuket Old Town has wonderful Portuguese colonial buildings and the Chiang Mai's famous Simon cabaret is an experience not to be missed. Sailing from the harbour we cruise via the Phang Nga islands, stars of the James Bond movie, "The Man with the Golden Gun". Worth seeing but not stopping - far too many tourist boats - the yacht sails north for the Similan Islands where there is an opportunity to dive and snorkel before dinner and overnight at anchor.
Over breakfast the yacht sails for the Surin Islands. This is the home of some of the most famous dive sites in the world of which the most familiar is Richelieu Rock. The Surin Islands have some stunning reefs, making this an amazing snorkeling destination. Along with the beautiful coral, the Islands are the home of a broad variety of animals including the Mangrove Monitor Lizards and the Nicobar Pigeon. Richelieu Rock contains an astounding selection of marine life including manta rays, sharks and whale sharks. One of the most spectacular and unscathed places in Thailand, this is the perfect destination. Overnight at Surin in a peaceful bay.
The island is littered with Lycian ruins, including a covered walkway built for a princess who was thought too beautiful to be seen. A ruined palace complete with Roman mosaics and several byzantine churches make this fascinating place to explore. Lunch is enjoyed over a three hour steam to Kalkan to swim in crystal clear waters off beaches where loggerhead turtles nest. To contrast hedonism with culture, the ruins of Tios are a short drive away. Dating back to 2000 BC Tios is home to Pegasus, the winged horse of the warrior Bellerophon, slayer of the Chimera and whose rock tomb is well worth a visit. A short sail takes the yacht back into Greek waters to the tiny island of Kastellorizon for the night.
We sail to Ranong, the westernmost border town and quaintly very Thai in character. It is a short sail across the estuary to Kawthaung to clear customs into Myanmar. Formerly known as Victoria Point, Kawthaung is still a flourishing fishing town. We head for the island of Gt Swinton or Kyun Pilar ("The Island Different from Other Islands"), a haven for wildlife with civet cats, wild pigs, mouse deer and monkeys in proliferation. A fabulous spot to kayak or hike. We anchor off for the night and go ashore after dark to wander the romantic, empty beaches.
After breakfast, a gentle sail to the south takes us to Palau Nala, a small island off the southern tip of Lampi. On its north shore lies the sea-gypsy floating village of Marghon Galet. Approximately 300 Moken sea-gypsies live on their boats together with Burmese fishermen who have built stilt houses on the shoreline. The resident monk at the Buddhist temple is a very welcoming and interesting character. A local boat builder has recently set up shop behind the bridge in the village, constructing traditional Moken boats that are being hand sawn from trees on site. Over lunch we sail north to Pan Daung (or Dommel) Island and anchor overnight in the beautiful deep Anakena bay.
Anakena beach is approximately 1 mile long, with a tidal river at the southern end ideal for kayaking and dinghy exploration trips. There is a thriving bird population and lots of wildlife, including pythons and huge monitor lizards. Dommel also supports larger game including buffalo and wild boar. There is a rumour among the local fishermen that the almost-extinct Asian rhinoceros may still survive in the thick forest. We sail to the northern island group east of Dommel which has spectacular limestone karsts similar to Phang Nga Bay in Thailand. There is a beautiful lagoon hidden inside the island with access via caves through which you can swim. We sail north to Elphinstone Island for the night.
Myeik or Mergui Port’s strategic position ensured its rapid growth into a major 15thC trade entrepot. Sailing ships of the time, faced with fickle winds, uncharted reefs and Malacca pirates to the south, preferred to offload their trade goods in Mergui for trans-shipment by elephant across the Malaysian Peninsula to the ancient kingdoms of Ayutthaya, Cambodia and southern China. The arrival of the steamer lessened the importance of Mergui and it gracefully declined into the languid market town it is today. In the back streets there is an interesting mix of Chinese tea shops, Indian and Arabic market bazaars and Burmese temples. Our last night is spent in this sleepy port.
Departure for Rangoon by aircraft in the morning.
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