As a country barely touched by tourism until recently, Myanmar is an ideal place for “discovery” and this includes the uncovering of virtually untouched beaches. In this article we highlight the three most popular – but don’t worry, there’s plenty of space for everyone. Yet to be known on an international level, these beaches have managed to retain their ‘virginity’ unlike those of neighbouring countries. So, if you wished you’d been in Thailand twenty years ago, now is the time to explore the Bay of Bengal and lap up the peace and tranquillity, for now…
Chaung Tha is one of the beaches closest to the former capital, Yangon. Just 6 hours away by bus, it is popular with young local couples on their honeymoons. The big resort hotels are situated on the main beach and across the road you can find the guest houses and restaurants. The beach itself is wide and spacious. The locals don’t usually swim, but enjoy beach walks and splashing around in the waves. To the north of Chaung Tha there are several other beaches, with a much more intimate feel, that can be reached by bike or moped. Here you can find peace and relax in the shade of the palm trees.
In the evenings, head to the south of the town where there’s a good variety of restaurants serving great value seafood and a night market. When you’ve had enough of the beach, go for a wander around the village; along the narrow paths behind the main road you’ll find beautiful traditional teak and bamboo houses and locals going about their daily life. A little bit further on, and up a very steep hill, you can visit a recently erected Buddha monument.
Ngwe Saung, despite being just a little way south of Chaung Tha, has a substantially different atmosphere. To begin with, most of the visitors are foreigners and the majority stay in the luxury beach-front resorts; there aren’t as many budget options in Ngwe Saung. The beach is beautiful, long and has a chilled-out atmosphere, making Ngwe Saung the perfect place to relax and recharge your batteries. The beach-side restaurants serve gourmet seafood dishes and overlook the ocean which glitters from the lights of the fishing boats in the evenings.
Ngapali is probably the most well-known beach destination in Myanmar. Despite being a long, long way from any of the main cities it has developed a great reputation from its stunning white sandy beaches, luxury resorts and fantastic seafood. This is helped by the fact that it has an airport (Thandwe) with daily flights from Yangon and other destinations around the country, making travel herequick and comfortable (but not necessarily cheap). Similar to Nwge Suang in that it is hard to find budget accommodation, it differentiates itself by have a vibrant local community, with restaurants, cafés and craft shops. Most visitors hire a bicycle and spend at least one day exploring the countryside and villages that follow the coastline. In the evenings, you can watch the fishermen heading out to sea and the fisherwomen collecting up the fish that have been laid out on nets, after drying in the sun all day.
Whichever of Myanmar’s main beach destinations you choose to visit, you can be sure that there will be beautiful sand, a relaxing atmosphere and great seafood. Chaung Tha is much more appropriate for budget travellers, Ngwe Saung is for those who want to disconnect and Ngapali is fantastic choice if you’re willing to fly.
Carin Cowell – 3rd December 2013
Carin Cowell is an independent online marketing and tourism consultant. Find out more here.