|Afloat in Myanmar|
Part 2: He raises his spear in triumph, with a writhing ten-inch catfish impaled thereon.
By C. Lincoln Jewett — November 2002
Soon, out of the lifting haze, appears a lone fisherman standing on one foot on the stern of his 15-foot teak dugout sampan. His other leg is wrapped around a vertical oar, with which he gracefully sculls his skiff. Standing on two feet in such an unstable vessel is an art in itself, but balancing on one foot while manipulating an oar with the other—in wind-up-doll motion—wow! This agile fisherman, with the ubiquitous conical straw hat (and a Madonna T-shirt!), treats us to a dynamic show. His fishnet encircles a conical frame about eight feet tall with a base diameter of about four feet. Into the placid lake he drops the cone, base down, after which he plunges a three-prong spear through the top, hoping to snare a fish unlucky enough to be trapped in his conical spiderweb. I say to Truda, “Betcha a buck he doesn’t hit on his first shot,” to which she replies, “Betcha he does.” She wins, for lo and behold he raises his spear in triumph, with a writhing ten-inch catfish impaled thereon.
Impressed, we motor off at some 15 miles per hour into the morning “rush-hour traffic” among dozens of similar-velocity, crisscrossing vessels. Soon we come upon a water wonderland: A dramatic spectacle of myriad floating farm gardens, with labyrinths of canals between them. Scattered among this horticulture are rustic, stilt-supported dwellings, as well as shops selling Burmese cigars, native curios, woven shawls, homegrown groceries, betel-chewing mixtures, engine oil, orchids, and combinations thereof.
Each floating farm, ranging in size from a few hundred square feet to an acre or so, is laboriously crafted from plentiful hollow-stemmed reeds that have been lashed and woven into a trough and anchored by poles. The troughs are filled with fertile mud scooped from the lake bottom, “land” from which the farmers harvest lush cauliflower, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, peas, beans, eggplant, and flowers, all from a self-irrigating environment.
Moving one of these gardens to another location involves sweaty grunt work of shoving tons of floating “earth” with bamboo poles. We wave admiringly at such a physical struggle by two swarthy men making grueling, inch-by-inch progress with perhaps a third of an acre of growing vegetables.
This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.