Mergui Archipelago - Tanintharyi Division

The " Salone "of Myanmar. who called themselves. " Moken ". are forgotten people who fight for their survival. They adopt their way of life as marine nomads. They are expert in swimming. diving and submerging in the sea ---- and hence the names " Sea - gypsy " or "Men of the Sea" .

Habitant

The salone can be found in the Southern part of Myeik Archipelago which has more than 800 small islands. It has been believed that the salone people had lived. in the ancient times. on the Malay Peninsula until the Malay incursion when they left their native places and lived scattered throughout the Myeik Archipelago. Now - a - days. the salone can only be found on the coastal islands around Kawthoung. formerly Victoria Point --- the southernmost town of Myanmar.

Social Life

The salones do not live on agriculture or farming. instead they roam in the sea near the coasts and pursuit on sea and marine products that they could obtain in their strange and various traditional ways. Their boat. made of light wood. are convenient and appropriate to go in the sea. Their customary way of living in the sea is extraordinary in that they take all the household things---- utensils. food rations and including dogs. cats and chickens ---- with them on the boat.
During the hot and cool seasons. they survive their living by fishing. gathering and selling of natural marine products. However. during the rainy season. when the weather is strong and rough. they managed to stay slovenly on the nearest islands they could find. They built long legged huts made of bamboo. canes or anything that they could find useful for building huts. As their name. sea-gypsy. implies they are skilful in returning back to their islands. shortly. when they behold an unfavorable weather.
The cleverness and expertness of the salone in diving and submerging in the sea is incomparable. They could dive down to 8 -10 fathoms and stay for long time. They used to dive and submerge several times in a day. It is presumed that the salone are the only people who can stay underwater for many minutes without using oxygen tank.
They collect and trade marine products such as sea shells. oysters . mollusks. ambergris . seaweeds. pearls etc.. as well as the edible nest of swifts (Collocalia spp.) honey and medicinal plants that grow on the island. The salone nomads do not easily mix with other people. They do not participate in economic. social or even cultural development of the country they live in. Their society has different cultural values from those offered by modern society. They are locked in the value system that they believe to be their own.

Customs & Traditions

The salone nomads still hold on their own beliefs. They worship two spirit gods - the good and the evil. Shamanism is the central element during the spirit festival. The devotional offerings. at the festival. include pop corns. alcoholic drinks. honey. betel and flesh and blood of ducks. chickens. dolphins and turtles. They used to sing at the festivals. The talent of the salone are very remarkable that they could sing songs at hand to the scenes. happenings and fact they see. One of their musical instruments is a drum made from monitor lizard (Varamas Spp.) skin.

The rites and rituals at the festival were done by the shaman. who involved not only at the festival but also during illness or at death. The salone do not bury the corpse. instead they left on a scaffold stand and all the people of the village move to another island.
Click here to see the Map or Mergui Archipelago

The Sea-Gypsy Festival

Where will the festival be held?

The salone or Sea-gypsy festival will be held at Ma-Kyon-Galet village on Lampi Island. one of the islands of Myeik Archipelago of Southern Myanmar.

When is the Sea-gypsy Festival?

The salone (or) Sea-gypsy Festival will be held during the second week of February each year.

What to see at the festival?

The visitors to the salone (or) Sea-gypsy Festival can see the salone traditional ritual dances as well as the traditional dances of the local tribes of Dawei and Kawthaung. It has been arranged that the visitors can also participate in some salone spiritual dances. Bonfire will be held at the festival site during the nightime. In addition to the dances and show booths. Submerging competition and traditional regatta will also be held. Above all. the visitors to the festival can see and feel the scenic beauty of the sea and islands of the Myeik Archipelago.

How to get there?

Visitors can fly to Kawthaung ( and then to the festival site by boat ) from Yangon by three airlines - Myanmar Airways. Air Mandalay and Yangon Airway. It would take about one and half hours flying time from Yangon to Kawthaung. Visitors can also go to the festival via Phuket or Ranong. One option is that the visitors can go to the festival and return via Yangon by air.

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