Myanmar’s coast stretches nearly 2000 kilometers from top to bottom, yet the country does not yet have the reputation as a beach destination. An increasing number of travelers are heading to Ngapali Beach in the northwest but the trip there entails a domestic flight and the hotels are quite pricey. If you are short on time and have a limited budget, a Myanmar beach break may seem out of reach. But we are going to let you in on a little secret – Ngwe Saung. Located five hours drive west of Yangon, this charming coastal town has 15 kilometers of beach and a large selection of budget and midrange hotels. So if you are seeking sun and sand at the end of your Myanmar holiday then read on to learn more about Ngwe Saung.
From city to shore
The journey to Ngwe Saung is a pleasant half day drive. Due to the urban traffic issues of Yangon, an early morning start is recommended- and most buses chose to leave around 05.00! On the outskirts of the city you cross the Yangon River and can catch one last glimpse of Shwedagon Pagoda glimmering in the distance. Then the terrain starts to change as you reach the edges of the sprawling Irrawaddy Delta. Vibrant green rice paddies, swaying palm trees and wooden houses replace the concrete-filled streets of Yangon.
After traveling around two hours, you will reach the town of Pathein. Take a short break here, stopping to try halawa, a regional specialty. The dense semolina cake is a favorite souvenir for local travelers to bring back to their families. Continue to a workshop to see the production of another Pathein specialty: umbrellas. Made entirely of natural materials, the handmade umbrellas not only beautiful as decorative items but they would also be useful for the beach for sun protection! Back on the road, continue to the coast. The last stretch of the trip takes you over rolling hills before finally dipping down to the seaside.
Local rhythms of life
Unlike Thailand’s beaches, Ngwe Saung’s coast is still home to local fishing villages and seaside communities who have lived there for generations. Instead of beach bars and luxury villas, the town’s streets are lined with small traditional restaurants and a handful of shops selling dry goods and a few souvenirs. The majority of visitors to Ngwe Saung are, in fact, Myanmar residents so the businesses are all aimed at the local market. This is both a blessing and a curse- you will find no air-conditioned bars that stay open late or western-style cafes with extensive menus but you will, on the other hand, get to enjoy authentic local food at a good price!
Fun in the sun
A Myanmar beach break is all about having fun. And Ngwe Saung has plenty to offer for those who enjoy summer-time activities. Whether by the pool or on the sand, Ngwe Saung is the perfect place for catching a few rays. From late October until end of April, the beach is blessed with sunny days that are usually accompanied by a pleasant sea breeze. Thanks to the latitude, the sun is not as intense as at many Thai beaches yet is plenty enough to leave you with a nice healthy tan after a day on the sand. If simply sunbathing is too boring, grab a bike and go for a ride through the neighboring villages or head inland for a bit of bird watching in the surrounding hills.
Out to sea
Tired of being on land? The Bay of Bengal beckons! Of course, going for a swim in the tropical waters is a big treat- what better way to cap off a Myanmar vacation than floating over salt water waves. But there are also more adventurous options. At the far end of the beach lies the Ngwe Saung Yacht Club which offers Stand Up Paddle, surfing, kitesurfing and more. Or opt for a boat trip, hiring a wooden motor boat to cruise to quiet, uninhabited islands and prime snorkeling spots. Fishing excursions can also be arranged on request with the ‘prizes’ being grilled up on the barbeque that evening if you wish!
Speaking of fishing, Ngwe Saung has some of Myanmar’s best seafood. Every day the local fishermen venture onto the seas in hopes of catching fresh fish, prawns, squid and other delights. In the early morning the villages are home to small markets where the seafood is sorted and sold- to distributers from around Myanmar and to local families, hotels and restaurants. At its most simple, barbequed Ngwe Saung seafood is found everywhere but more elaborate Rakhine-inspired dishes, such as fish soup and spicy seafood curries can be found.
Rain or shine?
Ngwe Saung is affected by seasonal typhoons which call for rain and rough seas, so it is suggested to check the weather before coming. The best months are November until March when there is little precipitation and wind. However this is also the most crowded but if you avoid the weekends and any major Myanmar holidays you are likely to find Ngwe Saung blissfully quiet! In April the beach attracts lots of locals who come to celebrate the Buddhist new year on the sand. It is a lively time to travel but the roads can be very, very busy. Then from May onwards the rains begin to set in and many restaurants close. It can still be very sunny but the weather is unpredictable so you may need to prepare some ‘rainy day’ activities during this period.
Returning to Yangon at the end of your Ngwe Saung beach break, you will once again experience the dramatic contrasts that make Myanmar so unique. Perhaps no country in the world offers the sheer diversity of sites in such a relatively small area- from quiet beaches to emerald-green rice paddies, rolling mountains to bustling riverside cities. But no matter where you go in Myanmar, the hospitality and kindness of the local people is one of the most magical parts of visiting. And hopefully your Myanmar Diaries are filled with pages of fond memories of the people you met at the beach and the natural beauty of Ngwe Saung.
- Taking sunset walks down the silvery sands of Ngwe Saung
- Cooling off with a swim in the Bay of Bengal
- Relaxing on the soft sands of Ngwe Saung
- Enjoying the solitude of the coast
- Dining on freshly caught seafood at a local restaurant
- Watching skilled craftsmen make umbrellas in Pathein
BEST TIME TO VISIT
- From November to March
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Destination: Ngwe Saung
Ngwe Saung is a 9 miles long beach site in the Bay of Bengal and located 5 hours drive away from Yangon.
Travelers will have the chance to experience the peculiar culture of the region. A very lively, rich in culture area.
Riding a bike through the villages’ markets and observe the fishermen, or jumping on an elephant back for a jungle safari.
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