Hsithe cooperative fishing experience, in association with the Harrison Institute
The journey from Mandalay to Hsithe will take approximately 2.5 hours by car so an early start is unavoidable. There will be no time for stopping off, but from the comfort of your vehicle, it will be possible to observe plenty of local life and we will even catch a quick glimpse of the famous Marble Mountain. NOTE: A book or some good music is recommend for anyone that has a tendency to get restless. On arrival into Singu (the closest accessible village by road), you will hop into the waiting boat and enjoy a 30-minute journey to the village of Hsithe. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled as there may be a chance to spot some dolphins along the way – the first time we inspected, Tour Mandalay spotted a pod of three.
After mooring up on Hsithe’s sandy banks, we will head straight for some shade in the village’s newly constructed Destination Centre, which provides a useful overview of what the Harrison Institute and its partners are trying to achieve, the history of the village along with its people, and examples of the rare wildlife you may be lucky enough to spot including ruddy shelducks, Chinese spot-billed ducks, Asian open bills, black kites and cormorants. The centre is also stocked with a small range of quality souvenir items, all of which having been designed and produced by the villagers themselves.
After enjoying some light refreshments and snacks, we will then meet with a cooperative fisherman to learn how to prepare and cast the fishing net. After watching a live demonstration, those keen to do so will get the chance to attempt two or three trial throws in the Visitor Centre’s garden. We will then take the boat across the river to test out our newly acquired skills in shallow water. Seeing as the technique takes a long time to master, it is likely the experience will provide many laughs and great photo opportunities for all involved. NOTE: the edge of the net is lined with small pieces of lead making it a lot heavier than it appears. Although you will use a smaller net to begin with, please make sure you feel comfortable with the weight before casting anything larger.
Return to the Visiting Centre to cool (or dry!!) off and enjoy a home cooked picnic lunch prepared by the villagers. After polishing off your final serving, we will then explore Hsithe village with the help of a resident. This will provide us with a unique opportunity to: observe the rich cultural practice of the local communities; learn about agriculture (peanut and rice farming); enjoy a first-hand insight into home-based industry (the production of cigars, jam, fishing nets, peanut oil and tailored garments); learn about typical village architecture (houses, barns and monasteries); experience monastic life and naturally converse with a charming elderly monk (assuming he is available to meet of course).
We will then return to the boat via the Visitor Centre, which will be the last chance to purchase any local handicrafts. Items include carved dolphins, dolphin summoning sticks (fisherman tap these on the side of their boats to communicate), recycled bag, mini fishing nets and local produce such as mango jam, honey, cheroots and spices. NOTE: Any money spent on souvenirs goes directly to the village making this a great opportunity to stock-up on quality souvenirs whilst giving back. Depending on the time of day, you may also wish to borrow a pair of binoculars to spot any dolphins, or other types of wildlife that may happen to pass by. Assuming they have copies available, you may wish to pick-up a copy of the Visitor Centre’s bird identification sheet.
The boat will then return upstream to Singu, where your car will be waiting to transfer you back to Mandalay. This will also be the last chance you get to spot any dolphins, so fingers crossed there will be a few around to send you off.
NOTE: There is no guarantee you will see dolphins on this tour, but your involvement will help with conservation efforts and provide much needed monetary support to the fisherman that cooperatively fish and look out for them.