|Afloat in Myanmar|
A couple’s adventurous voyages in Southeastern Asia reveal a water wonderland.
By C. Lincoln Jewett — November 2002
Venturing behind the slightly opened “iron curtain” around Myanmar, a country the size of Texas and once called Burma, led to unexpected and delightful yachting interludes for my wife Truda and me. One took place at picturesque Inlay Lake amid curious “floating” farms and stilt villages. Another was a cruise on an elderly, 100-foot cargo/passenger vessel on the 1,300-mile Irrawaddy River.
Friends have asked, “What triggered you and your wife to go boating in Burma of all places?” Well, we grew up in an era when Rudyard Kipling and his poem “On the Road to Mandalay” were well-known. Plus there’s the lore of The Burma Road in World War II, and boating on “great rivers and lakes” in our own boat as well as commercial vessels has provided us a fun way to get to know a country. We’ve “done” sections of Egypt’s Nile, the Yangtze and Li in China, the Mekong in Vietnam, the Mississippi, the Tennessee, the Ohio, the Hudson, the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Erie Canal. Inlay Lake and the Irrawaddy added to our collection of fascinating waterway adventures.
Inlay Lake, in central Myanmar, is about 15 miles long, up to seven miles wide, and some 3,000 feet above sea level. On it, surrounded by 5,000-foot mountains, we marveled at hundreds of arrays of floating “hydroponic” farms among scattered bamboo-and-thatch stilt villages, somewhat like a pastoral version of Venice, Italy. Interspersed among this venue of native agri-commerce are imposing, pagoda-style temples with sizes and vintages analogous to European cathedrals.
In a dawn haze, we gingerly board a sliver-thin—just four feet wide—30-foot wooden longboat along with our Myanmarese lady guide and a young, handsome, smiling driver. He cranks up his Asian-style outboard motor: a swivel-mounted tractor engine on top of the transom with a seven-foot-long propshaft extending aft from the engine, allowing the propeller to operate on the surface and making an imposing rooster tail.
This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.