Monday, July 4, 2016

Burmese Days 21: NaPyar, the Odoriferous Fish Village

While driving from Rangoon eastwards towards the Golden Rock, our driver took us along a short stretch of the Yangon-Mandalay Highway, then turned right on the Maylamyaing Highway (NH8).

Historical note: the Yangon-Mandalay highway was originally surveyed and laid out by an American engineering company, Louis Berger & Associates, in 1961, under the sponsorship of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Moorhus and Grathwol, 1992). Initially, conditions seemed to be in place for construction bids to be let, but planning and economic assistance for the project ended in 1963, a victim of deteriorating domestic politics in Burma and worsening relations between the United States and Burmese government. The expressway was finally built by the Burmese between 2005 and 2010, with some funds generated by exporting natural gas to Thailand.
At Waw Village, we stopped for a rail crossing. The train trundles along at a leisure pace because of the rough condition of the track bed. We could see the cars swaying back and forth, I suppose likely to generate cases of mal de mer (or mal de chemin de fer?).
A short distance east of Waw, our driver stopped at NaPyar Village. This is low terrain, crisscrossed by canals and rivers. It reminded me of southern Louisiana. On the barge just off the bank, piles of fish were drying in the sun.
The aromatic dry fish are neatly piled on tables at roadside stands. In the photograph above, the leaves are used to wrap betel nut (chewed by ladies and gents alike).
The lady even uses a pole with hook to neatly organize the fish curls on hooks.
I was impressed by the amount of business these stands attracted. Maybe the Vicksburg farmers' market needs a dried fish stand.
This sturdy gent was mashing up fish remnants in a giant pestle. Afterwards, the mush was poured into a clay pot, sealed, and left to ferment for an unknown amount of time. The resulting fish sauce (juice) was sold in gallon-size glass jugs at the roadside stands. Think of this the next time you buy oriental fish sauce at the supermarket.

Photographs taken with a Fuji X-E1 digital camera.

References
Moorhus, D.M. and Grathwol, R.P. 1992. Bricks, Sand, and Marble: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction in the Mediterranean and Middle East, 1947-1991. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 660 p. (available online, http://www.history.army.mil/html/books/bricks_sand_and_marble/CMH_45-2-1.pdf)

Blogger note:
I am trying to overcome the problem with photographs not uploading into the blog. Based on suggestions from other bloggers around the world, I removed all the EXIF data from the photographs. For now, the photographs are all appearing, but there is still some issue with the Google servers because for five years, all jpeg files uploaded successfully.

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