Monday, January 19, 2009

15 January 2009

Enough of the hard sell on Koh Phayam. Eventually we decided to have a look a bit further north, and sailed up to Ranong, the last Thai town on the Thai-Burma border at the coast. We’d hoped to be able to get visas and permits to sail the Mergui Archipelago in Burma – Myanmar - but discovered that it would take weeks to organise. If you are granted a visa, and a sailing permit for the Archipelago, the Burmese then insist you take a guide on board with you the whole time you’re there, so that you don’t go to any places you’re not supposed to, and charge a lot of money. It would be worth the price, to have 10,000 sq miles of water and islands and virtually no one else around apart from the Moken, or Sea Gypsies. Our watermaker had died by this time, so we thought we’d wait till we were better prepared to go there. Sadly we also heard that in the last few months all the best dive spots have been dynamited for fishing.

Until now the Generals had banned development of that area. There was no logging, and no dynamiting of reefs for fishing. Seems that’s changed. Dive charter operations seemed to be thriving in Ranong but they must be almost out of business now because all of them offered diving in the Archipelago. The ten best dive destinations have been destroyed, which is unbelievable. The dive industry would provide a good income for both the Burmese and the Thais, and now it’s destroyed for a few weeks of fish harvests.

Fishing is so heavy in these parts. Everywhere we go we see pair trawlers, squid boats and smaller net boats, day and night. We’ve dragged our lures for over four thousand miles and have only caught five fish. Compared to our sail up the east and north coasts of Australia in 2007, where we caught fish most days, it seems like there must be few fish left in SE Asian waters.

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