11th May 2005 (Wednesday)
With the support of Hwee Boon, I have decided to give my best shot and extending my stay in Sittwe. This was not easy and very stressful – I have used up most of my cash! Over there, credit card was useless. Fortunately, there was this Singaporean businessman staying at the same hotel as us. He was so surprised to meet us there as not many foreigners will go that part of Myanmar. So coincidence? Was it a sign for me that I have made a right decision to stay? He was kind to lend me money after hearing our woes. Yes, I was “thick-skin” to accept. I promised to return the money once I am back in Singapore. I took US$500.00 from him.
With all the blessings, I approached Mr. Aung Nai Win to rent his big fishing boat – US$100 per day. This boat would be much slower than the speed boat and we need at least 3 days out in the river. Also, he would provide us with the official Letter of Approval to allow us to do fishing at Ghaut stream of Kaladan river. The rivers there were guarded by the military. Without this letter, we would be in danger if the military guards found us. Our boat would be considered as commercial fishing boat.
An important letter!
Our plan was to use a 100m (L) x 7m (W) net to comb the 15 meter wide Ghaut stream. We needed at least four persons to pull the net.
A draft of how we would be netting the arowana.
With no time to lose, we rushed to main market area ( by the taxi above) where the fishing equipment suppliers were located. We found one net maker and confirmed that we can get the net before we set off on the next day on the 12th May 2005. They would rush through the night for us.
After which, we went to the near by market to purchase other fishing equipment. To my horror...They did not have any modern fishing gear. Only "hand line" available.
I needed to buy the above roller and manually rolled the fishing line over it. Tedious! We couldn't find any small frog...arowana and any other fishes would love frog..one of the best bait. We made an order to a stall holder there and would collect the next day morning before we set off.
Around the market....
We went back to rest at 1.45pm with a peace of mind.
Sometime after 4.00 pm, Maung Maung Khein visited us to deliver negative news. The net maker went back on his word…he couldn’t provide us the net by next day…he needed more time. I was fuming! We start to go around asking for any 2nd hand net but our efforts were in vain. We were going to set off tomorrow…How??
We had a discussion and decided to go ahead for the hunting using fishing line…no choice. Maug Maug Khine would meet us one day later to pass us the net…by the speed boat…since he has been assigned to be the boatman for another group for the next two day. He can meet us out at the river.
12th May 2005 (Thursday)
Early in the moring, we went to the market to collect our pre-ordered frog. Guess what? There were no frog as promised by the seller. It was getting on my nerve! The net maker couldn't keep his word and now this frog seller. Things were really unpredicable there.
Since there was no frog...I decided to buy beetle to be used as the bait. Arowana should be tempted by this? These bettles were grown from cow dung. Supposedly...high in protein. Ha!
We set off from the Jetty aroudn 10.00 am. We were told that by around 1.00 pm we would reach Ghaut river. However, we only reach at 6.30 pm. Half of the day was wasted on the boat...and some test-fishing along the river.
The dining area...behind was the cooking stove...on the boat.
The toilet on the boat.
Our first lunch on the boat. Cooked by the boat crews. Very salty!
Once reached Ghaut river, the man in charge of the boat went to seek approval from the police and the head of the village there to fish there.
We did ask the villages there if they could provide any small frogs...negative. We managed to get some chicken meat from the village to use as laternative bait.
We spend the whole night fishing...we caught some small fishes..but no sign of arowana. I was demoralised.
Before we sleep..we bathed on the boat using the river water..to wash away all our smelly sweat.
This was what I wore to sleep. I bought the "logy" ..the traditional wear for the Myanmese guy there...back at the market. It helped to protect the legs from the mosquitoes.
13th May 2005 (Friday)
I woke up at around 5.00 am and start fishing. We bought eggs and baffalo milk from a guy who live near by to where our boat anchored. He was very entrepreneurial...seizing every opportunity to sell us all sort of things.
We couldn't fish any arowana in Ghaut stream..gave up. At around 9.30am, we decided to travel up to Kyauktaw township to "try".
We bought some Lychee at Kyauktaw township after having lunch there.
This was our boat. Those red ice box was meant for water storage...where we would keep the arowana if we happened to fish any. We did plan to fish some home. We thought we would meet Maung Maung Khine there...but he was nowhere to be found...there goes our net! (After we met him back in Sittwe, he told us that the net was still not done).
After lunch we went arount that area to fish for arowana... Sadly, all efforts were in vain.
The river was getting rough. We decided to call it a stop. There was a report that a Typhoon was approaching in our direction. We quickly head back to Sittwe. However, somewhere in the middle between Ponnagyun township and Sittwe, we have to anchor our boat to the shore. There was another passenger boat which did the same. The reaon was that it would be too dangerous to contiune moving ahead. I could see lights from the Sittwe city. So near yet so far!
Above was the man in charge. He was the most expereinced guy in the team of crews. We were hiding in the shelter as it was raining heavily out there. It was very uncomfortable and the boart was rocking heavily. I forced myself to sleep. I was good at it.
14th May 2005 (Saturday)
When I woke up in the morning. I could see the other boat was mounted on the shore...but hey...ours was not? Ling told me that while I was fast asleep in the night, the crews had actually help to push the boat away from the shore. We were fortunate to have them.
As we headed back to Sittwe, I could see many small boat over turned and houses without roof top...blown away by the strong wind. As a matter of fact, we were fortunate to be alive.
This was Mr. Aung Nai Win, the owner of Noble hotel...always carried a stern face.
Finally, I resigned to the outcome of my wild arowana hunting adverture. It didnt turn out as I hope to be. The next immediate thing on my mind was...I wanted to get out of there!
We got the tickets to fly back to Yangon on the 15th..Sunday. Ling would extend his stay in Yangon for one week to visit his parent.
This was Sittwe airport. No camera allow in the airport.
This was the "transit lounge".
We took a propeller plane back to Yangon. The fight was full and most passengers were with big luggage. This was my first experience with a propeller plane. I was really afraid.
I heaved a sigh of relief after the plane touched down in Yangon airport. I immediately booked the next closest flight back to Singapore. I couldn't wait...plus I was broke!
I was grateful to God for his protection. Many things could have happened while I was there…moving arcoss Mt. Taungni was treacherous. Moving along the rivers and streams can be dangerous. The typhoon could have hit us at any time. After we came back to Singapore, Ling was hospitalized for Malaria. A certain part of Thandwe river was infested with Malaria. He nearly lost his life because of my insistence to go arowana hunting. I am greatful to have him as my worker…who took care of me when we were there. We did argue during the trip…this has helped us to bond better. We respected each other.
Yes, I was very disappointed with the result of my expedition. Nevertheless, it has taught me many invaluable lessons. Expedition is not as easy as it sound.
There were lots of things I saw that was not described in the blog (Partly, I have erased many photos from my camera as it did not have enought memory capacity). For instance, I saw an old lady carried a huge bamboo trunk on her shoulder. I believe no lady in our modern time can match her. Along the Pari stream, I saw an old couple rolling a boat together…going to the nearby town. It was heartening. The life there was not easy but I could see that they were happy. They live a minimal simple life but are contented. The villages were helpful towards each other and outsiders. We might be quick to think that they are deprived of many luxuries in life...based on our modern standard. But, it could be that these luxuries may rob them from the true happiness.
Expedition is not all about result but experience.
After sometime, it was reported that the Myanmar wild arowana in is in Tenasserim river, Shan State (East) of Myanmar. We went to the Sittwe, West of Myanmar based on unconfirmed information. (Roberts, T.R., 2012. Scleropages inscriptus, a new fish species from the Tananthayi or Tenasserim River basin, Malay Peninsula of Myanmar (Osteoglossidae: Osteoglossiformes). aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology 18(2):113-118. ).
The population of wild shankskin arowana in the wild should be very low...much lower than any other arowana variety. If not, it would have been easily found in any aquarium shop...if not, many arowana farms would have breed it long ago..10-20 years back. Snakeskin arowana is still very rare and much guarded by farms/breeders who has the brooders.
In 2009, I managed to purchase a batch of pure Snakeskin arowana – Nami. We became the first in Singapore to successfully breed the Snakesskin arowana in 2010.
5.43pm 14th Apr 2013