Ode to Water Buffalo and Thingyan Water Festival

April 19, 2014

My posts will be coming to an end, at least for the next few weeks. Tomorrow I return to Sittwe and the frustratingly slow and intermittent internet access I only have through my cell phone. It doesn’t permit me to access my WordPress blog or most of the internet where greater bandwidth is needed. I’ll be in Sittwe at least for the next few weeks trying to get our humanitarian operations up and running once again after the riots that destroyed the offices, warehouses and guest houses of most of the humanitarian and UN agencies working there. I may travel to Yangon for some work sometime later in May. I’ll have somewhat bearable internet for at least a few days. I’ll try to do some catch-up, hopefully, in gaps between my work.

Until then, here are the last of my pictures from Ngapali. I took another short field trip yesterday to the fishing village along the southern part of the beach that stretches north to the hotels and resorts (and the cleaner sands). It was an absolutely brilliant trip, as I met many friendly villagers, observed fish drying on large blue plastic sheets spread along the ground, played with children on a floating bridge, and watched a team of water buffalo and villagers move a large boat into a protective structure made of thatch.

Watching these powerful beasts was awe-inspiring. The men would shift wood planks under the boat then command the buffalo to pull. They didn’t so much react to the slight whips on their flanks as they did to loud verbal commands the men shouted. This fascinated me. They’d pull the boat for five or ten feet, stop, the men would shift the planks and they would be commanded to pull again. I uploaded a series of these shots to give you a better idea of the process. If I had better internet I would have shot video, but internet even here in Ngapali isn’t adequate for video uploads, unfortunately.

After I observed the powerful water buffalo and men for about 30 minutes I walked across the beach to the pagoda attached to the mainland by a floating bridge. I’ve also uploaded a series of those photos. I have to say I have been absolutely startled at the friendliness of the Rakhine people here in Ngapali. What a switch from Sittwe and the surrounding townships in the northern part of the state. I’ve been greeted by so many smiles and ‘Mingalabar’s’ (hello’s) I feel my spirit actually lightening. This has been a good lesson for me. Living in Sittwe I started to believe that most people from Rakhine were hateful, racist xenophobes. I should know by now to not judge all people by the actions of some. The Rakhine here in Ngapali have been truly welcoming, warm, generous, polite, helpful, friendly… I could go on with the compliments. It’s been a good week! Thank you, Rakhine people of Ngapali for giving me a different perspective of this western Myanmar land.

I’m filled with gratitude for the opportunity to dispose of some of my own stereotypes I now recognize I developed through my life and work in Sittwe and northern Rakhine.

But… tomorrow I return to Sittwe – a very different place.

The last few pictures are from the water throwing madness and frivolity that is the Myanmar New Year. All shots were taken from an enclosed car moving through the crowds, so the pictures are blurry, but I think they capture the nature of the event. It’s truly enjoyable seeing so many people having so much fun. I’ve experienced the water festival in Thailand and Laos in years past. Despite the heat of these pre-monsoon days, I didn’t feel the urge to remain wet (and muddy) for days from water that can cause ear, nose, throat and stomach infections.

Been there; done that.

I’ll be away from here for a couple or few weeks after this post. But I invite you to hang out and explore my site. If you haven’t explored all my posts from Myanmar, visit my Blog Archive (accessed from the main menu of my home page) and read through my posts from January to April. I’ll be back in May, hopefully. Until then, I welcome your emails and look forward to staying in touch as best I can through that medium.

Sending peace and blessings to all of you!

A family unloading the catch for the day.



The catch


I’ve always marveled at seeing men climb coconut trees. Have you ever tried?  I have, and the only way I’ve been able to do it is when the tree is notched for the feet. Even then, it’s a challenge.


Here is a series of pictures of the water buffalo pulling the boat, foot-by-laborious-foot, into the thatched shed.






A walk to the stupa at sunset.






Water throwing madness during Thingyan in Ngapali





One more picture of Ngapali beach at sunset.


I’m throwing in this last picture for my friend, Jack!  While I was on my motorcycle trip around the United States in 2013 (see my Trip Around the U.S. blog here) he reliably identified various flora and fauna for me. Jack, can you tell me what kind of small crab creates these amazing patterns on the beach?

I call this picture ‘Angel Wings by Crab’




All content copyrighted © Stephen Tavella

2 thoughts on “Ode to Water Buffalo and Thingyan Water Festival

  1. Hang in there Steve it sounds like without you and some of your group the people in need would have nobody.
    May God bless, keep safe, and show you the light without the rain.
    your brother Jimmy

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