Making a Living on the Chindwin River

#6 in a series of posts from Burma (Myanmar).  The first Chindwin River post was here. 

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Even the northern Chindwin is just a few days’ boat trip down to Monywa — a good-sized commercial center — so there was quite a bit of commerce up and down the river.  Here’s how people fed themselves and made their livings.


A foggy morning at a huge riverside bamboo camp — set up on a sandbar in the non-rainy season.  


Bamboo loaded for a trip downriver. The rafts themselves are made of bamboo. Because they only go downstream, a few guide poles or a tiny handheld motor is all that’s needed to guide the raft in the channel.




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It took a while to convince this lady to take a break from harvesting sunflowers so she could pose for a few pictures.  They’re grown for the seeds; the flowers themselves seem to be discarded immediately.  

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This guy (and his sister, I think) were prospecting for gold. They shovel sandy gravel from the Chindwin’s sandbars into a simple sluice box that (hopefully) separates out any tiny grains of gold.  I wanted a picture of the gold they were finding, but it was so small I wasn’t even sure I could see it.  They said they’d sold about $35 worth the prior day.





Those are small pieces of teakwood, apparently pre-inspected (“OK”) for use in carvings. Export of teak has been recently and significantly restricted in an effort to preserve the species in Burma’s forests. Generally, it’s OK to export furniture and carvings made from teak, but exporting big, raw timber is prohibited.





That crazy looking thing isn’t there to scare away evil spirits — it’s a scarecrow! The fellow set it up to keep birds from swooping in while he was husking rice.






Of course, they lived on the river and there was also a lot of fishing, though (unlike at Inle Lake) I never got the feeling very many people fished as a full-time occupation.