Burma Boating is set to launch monthly cruises around the Mergui Archipelago in southern Myanmar, combining two of the most sought-after activities in these pristine waters – yachting and scuba diving.
The SY Dallinghoo, a 30 meter classic gaff-rigged schooner crafted by renowned US yacht designer Dudley Dix, will cast off from the port of Kawthaung in southern Myanmar once a month from November 2019 through April 2020 and traverse the Mergui Archipelago on an 8 day, 7 night sailing trip which can accommodate up to eight qualified divers.
Michael Cole, the head of Burma Boating, says that with this new Sail & Dive adventure, they wanted to offer something extraordinary.
“There are few, if any, undiscovered nirvanas like the Mergui Archipelago left on this planet. These cruises will provide comfort, exquisite dining, and stops at no less than five fantastic dive sites, all of which feature a kaleidoscope of coral and magnificent marine life.”
The Mergui Archipelago is located in the Andaman Sea off the coast of southern Myanmar, and is home to the ethnic Moken community of fisherman, also known as “sea gypsies.”
For decades, the 800 islands, lagoons, atolls and coral reefs of the archipelago were off-limits to visitors. The islands are now accessible to limited sustainable tourism, though just five hotels have opened to date.
One of the early investors was Myanmar tourism trailblazers Memories Group, which operates a plethora of resorts and experiences around the country, including the iconic Balloons Over Bagan. Memories acquired Burma Boating in 2018, and has since built a sister resort, Awei Pila, on one of the islands in the archipelago. Awei Pila began accepting guests last December, and earlier this year opened the first scuba diving center in the region, along with PADI certification classes for beginners.
In addition to the Sail & Dive cruises, Burma Boating offers weekly sailing and yachting trips around the archipelago – either 3N4D or 5N6D – starting October 19, 2019, through to mid-May, 2020, when monsoon season begins.
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Burmese kids dodging cows and cow dung to play rugby
It’s a case of dung and dragons.
Sidestepping cowpats and garbage, Myanmar’s only home-grown junior rugby side train on the outskirts of Yangon, preparing to take on children from the city’s well-heeled international schools.
When the Little Dragons aren’t running barefoot on the litter-strewn dirt, the makeshift field on the outskirts of Yangon is sometimes used for cockfighting or as a fairground. But every Sunday, boys and girls aged five to 18 from Yangon’s North Dagon township can be seen playing touch rugby, an incongruous sight in a country where the sport is barely known.
In the monsoon the training ground is shin-deep in mud, but during the hot season the surface is baked into an unyielding, crusty mosaic.
Yet many of the Little Dragons play in bare feet.
Youth worker-turned-coach, 24 year old Aung Kyaw Lin, helped set up the team four years ago to run alongside English and maths lessons, and workshops on fire safety and health.
“Children here used to spend their free time in gaming shops. When they started playing rugby, they stopped arguing and worked together.”
Although the organisers ran out of funding to keep their education centre going, the rugby continued.
Few women play sport in conservative Myanmar yet half of the 40 or so Little Dragons are girls. Nann Shar Larr He’s older sister used to scold her for wanting to play with the boys, but now most of her family come to watch the training sessions.
“There’s no difference between girls and boys when we play rugby.”
As the only homegrown junior team in the country, the Little Dragons look to Yangon’s international schools for matches. In May, they took part in Myanmar’s first junior tournament – partly played on a full-sized, artificial grass pitch at one of the schools.
Out of 10 teams in each age group, Little Dragons sides finished second and third in the Under-14s, and second in the Under-11s.
“These kids ran rings round them,” says coach Bradley Edwards.
One baffled team even tried removing their trainers to see if that was the key to the Little Dragons’ agility – an experiment that lasted only a couple of minutes on the hot, rough surface.
“We felt like crying when they scored, but we just tried even harder,” says 12 year old Dragon Kyaw Kyaw Lin.
The schools are helping out the team, donating second-hand trainers and sharing transport. But the Dragons are looking for sustained funding to support them and resurrect the now-closed education centre.
An interested international sponsor backed away last year, concerned about Myanmar’s “political climate” – a reference to the global outcry triggered by the mass expulsion of Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
Edwards sees this as counter-productive, arguing that sport can be a unifying force.
“There are so many things separating communities now in Myanmar and in rugby one of the key values is respect.”
The next step is to introduce the players to rugby sevens but fellow coach Josh Peck says they are eager for more.
“These kids are fired-up and ready. They want to play full contact.”
SOURCE: Agence France-Presse
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Myanmar adopts NASA’s malaria-predicting tech
“Several drug-resistant strains of Malaria are taking hold across south east Asia and it is feared these could migrate to Africa where more than 90% of cases globally occur.”
NASA is developing a new technique to forecast malaria outbreaks in Myanmar from space, as the emergence of new drug-resistant strains in Southeast Asia threatens efforts to wipe out the deadly disease globally.
The goal of worldwide malaria eradication within a generation, by 2050, is “bold but attainable”, a report released this week in The Lancet argued.
Malaria cases and deaths plummeted by more than 90% in Myanmar between 2010 and 2017, World Health Organisation (WHO) figures show, a success largely credited to better rural health services and wider use of treated bednets.
But the country still has a higher prevalence than its neighbours in the Mekong region.
Several drug-resistant strains are taking hold across Southeast Asia and it is feared these could migrate to Africa where more than 90 percent of cases globally occur.
To counter this threat, NASA is deploying “cutting edge” spatial technology to tackle malaria outbreaks before they happen, scientist Tatiana Loboda told AFP.
She is applying her expertise in geo-spatial and risk modelling – coupled with a background in predicting wildfire outbreaks in the US – to identify potential hotspots so medicines and health workers can be mobilised in advance.
“A lot of people use a little spatial modelling… but not to the same depth and capabilities as we’re doing here,” said Loboda, a professor at Maryland University.
The satellites provide meteorological data, including land surface temperatures, atmospheric water content and information about land cover, including forest, shrubland, settlements or water.
These are then combined with socio-economic data gathered by teams of researchers carrying out in-depth surveys with sample populations in the field. The project is only in its third year but Loboda’s team has already seen a high correlation between the rate of deforestation and the disease.
One unproven theory is that these areas – often dotted with logging sites, mines and plantations – are host to a disproportionate number of migrant or seasonal workers, bringing with them new strains of the parasite.
The Maryland University team is working closely with local government and military scientists, collecting data from civilians and troops respectively.
But that brings challenges in a country where the armed forces keep their operations shrouded in mystery.
“We’re not allowed to ask where they go,” Loboda told AFP in Yangon, describing it as “like working blindfolded”.
The project is not immune to geopolitics either.
The state of US-Myanmar relations can complicate meetings with the military in the capital Naypyidaw.
“Sometimes I can go, sometimes I can’t,” Loboda said.
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Thailand plans to become electricity-hub for region
“Thailand’s push for regional energy trading could be a step to increasing security of supply and system resiliency, particularly as falling costs and higher government targets increase the volume of variable renewable energy generation in the ASEAN region.” – Caroline Chua, Bloomberg Finance analyst covering Southeast Asian power markets.
Thailand aims to be the power-trading hub as it jump-starts plans to create a south east Asian electricity “super-grid”.
According to Bloomberg, Thailand is set to triple the amount of electricity from Laos that it then resells to Malaysia, while encouraging infrastructure upgrades stretching from Cambodia to Myanmar necessary for cross-border power trading. Laos has been building new hydro-electric dams in the past decade and branding itself as the ‘battery of south east asia’.
The director general of Thailand’s energy policy and planning office, Wattanapong Kurovat, says the moves are part of Energy Minister’s efforts to simplify Thailand’s power system, making it cheaper and more efficient.
The plans would involve Thailand buying more electricity for the national grid from neighbouring Laos, which is generating more than it needs from dams along the Mekong River and its tributaries. Thailand would then surplus power in its own grid to sell on to Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia.
Thailand already has existing grid interconnection with Laos and Malaysia. Since 2018, Malaysia has been buying 100 megawatts from Laos, passing through Thailand, and is looking to increase the volume to 300 megawatts. Border towns in Cambodia and Myanmar have also been buying small amounts of electricity from Thailand. Read the rest of the story at Bloomberg.
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