Departures

Treasure Islands

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Bay of Bangal, Ngwe Saung Beach | Photo - Phoenyan

This time of year is a great time to hit Ngwe Saung beach in Myanmar.  

With a reputation as one of Myanmar’s most tranquil spots, Ngwe Saung’s secluded surf and picturesque palms are catching the eye of Myanmar’s tourism boom, and this may be your last chance to discover this beach treasure while it remains relatively hidden. 
 

Located 260 kilometers from Yangon along a path fraught with narrow roads and winding curves, a journey to Ngwe Saung has always been less peaceful than the coastal village at the end.  But, despite the somewhat difficult access new developments and luxury resorts are already under construction ready for the tourists attracted by the peaceful beach.

The regular shuttle bus service has begun, which cuts the old bus travel time in half. The shuttle leaves Yangon at 6:30am arriving in Ngwe Saung in the early afternoon. So far, “The Village,” as the locals call it, keeps its lively-yet-low-key atmosphere. Inexpensive local joints serve up fresh crab, squid, lobster and octopus, and visitors can buy local handicrafts and book private boats for fishing trips and island hopping.  

As more tourists come the activities offered at the beach grows.

In the last year, Ngwe Saung has launched annual surfing and paddling competitions, forest bird-watching tours around the reservoir and there is now a full dive shop where you can hire gear and take scuba diving classes and become certified.  

 For now, at least, there is still good accommodation that is relatively inexpensive, like the Emerald Sea, a small, secluded bungalow resort that specialises in personalised service. Located one mile from the main drag, it is a perfect launching ground for snorkeling, shopping and fishing trips, where you can return to sip a cold beer and watch the sunset.  

Emerald Sea manager Kyaw Tun, a member of the Hotel Association, isn’t worried about the familiar little resort being crowded out by the new hotels. In fact, he hopes the new sites and infrastructure will improve access to Ngwe Saung’s scenic freshwater reservoir—as long as the town is careful to protect it. “We are working for sustainable development,” he said.  

Lover’s Island, on the far northern end of the beach, will always be a classic Ngwe Saung draw. Explore its rocky outcrops  - one with a mermaid sitting aloft, the rest with scuttling crabs - and then take the gentle climb to the summit for the sweeping view.
 

The surrounding waters contain enough underwater life to lose an hour or two snorkeling, but don’t be surprised if there are times when little floats by.  

The sunset never fails to draw droves of lovesick couples—as well as enterprising vendors laden with coconut juice and Myanmar beer. Further down the beach, you might spot ponies decked out in colorful tassels milling about.  

Although the town has a few nighttime activities, like the live acoustic band at the Flower Restaurant on Myonma Road and a nightly fire show at Ume Café’s Japanese restaurant, it still isn’t known as a place where people party into the night.  

It is still a location to relax and escape the chaos and clamour of the city.  

Yet, as in the rest of the country, the internet is getting stronger, the busses are running faster, and every few months some new attraction breaks ground. So, now is the time to get down to Ngwe Saung and enjoy a little oasis on the coast.

*Original story by Jessica Muddit, edited and expanded by Jared Downing    

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Jared Downing (@keystrokeerrors) is an American journalist from Colorado and Alabama. He likes podcasts, radio theatre and hitchhiking and collects cans of sardines from around the world. He blogs at http://sardines.fish.""

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