I Finally Found Heaven on a Beach in Ngapali, Myanmar
I have been known to be the Goldilocks of the Beaches – never able to find the one that fits me perfectly.
In Myanmar, of all places, I found the perfect beach for me. I almost don’t want to talk about it. I would prefer it to remain just as it is, with few tourists, pristine beaches, clean water, and cheap seafood.
But, that is definitely NOT the future in Myanmar, so I might as well clue you in.
First off, Ngapali is difficult to get to. It is about an 18-20 hour bus ride from Yangon, over a mountain range. And, there are no VIP buses making the route. Numerous domestic airlines fly though, at a cost of about $100-$150 one way. This makes the beach a little more challenging for traditional shoestring backpackers.
Even more so, rooms generally start around $60 a night. When you can get a bed on a beach in Thailand for a few dollars a night, again, the shoestring backpackers shy away.
Our friend told us it was worth the cost of the flight, and the room, and I am glad we bucked up.
Empty Beaches in Ngapali
We found Memento Resort in the Lonely Planet guide book and found a room for only $35 a night – a basic, clean room, with a simple shower, hot water, and a fan. No air con and no TV, which was fine by us. The fan was sufficient at night. We had no power during the day, something else that was typical of nearby resorts.
Best part – sea view for $35. I expected a room in the back with a sliver of water visible between a few bungalows, which is often the definition of sea view in Vietnam. Instead, we were seafront – a small walkway crossed in front of our room, then down to the gorgeous white sands and into the water.
The sand was simply stunning, all I wanted to do was run it over my feet. The water was the perfect temperature, with few waves so that I could just laze around. The sand stretched out into the water with no Croatian stones and no coral (there are some large rocks along the beach, hindering the swimming at some hotels, but we had no problems).
Ngapali beach, and the hotel, were virtually empty, as were the other fancier resorts nearby. Sometimes we were the only ones in the water, the all too elusive beach chair was in plentiful supply, as were fantastic happy hour specials making cocktails about a $1, and fresh seafood, including some of the best squid and shrimp tempura ever. Beach massages were readily available for about $8 an hour.
We found one beach bar, Sunset View Beach Bar, and got to know the family that ran it. They were so friendly and so welcoming that when they saw us coming from a mile away, the sister would race out to greet us and say hello. Of course we felt welcomed, and continued to return. By our fifth night, we felt like family too.
There were virtually no mosquitos on the beach. Although I put on some cream on my ankles and legs for happy hour, and the hotel placed a mosquito coil outside our door each night, we really had no bug bites at all. In fact, after 4 weeks in Myanmar, my legs had finally healed from months of mossie attacks.
Tout Free in Ngapali
Most important, there were no annoying touts. Women walked by selling fruit, which they would cut fresh in front of you. The fruit selling women would smile at you, or say hello, and then walk away. The women selling jewelry were relegated to two areas of the beach so that you could walk to them.
It was nothing like Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where we got into a fight with a tout kid who threatened to blow us up and bomb our country because we would not buy something from him. Also in Cambodia, the women offering pedicures or hair waxing told me that my feet looked awful and rubbed my legs to tell me how hairy I was, both of which they attempted to use as successful selling techniques. Not so in Ngapali.
The lack of touts made the experience that much more enjoyable – I could actually sit and read, or fall asleep, without being harassed. I forgot how enjoyable it was to relax on a silent beach. There was no music playing either (like in Guatemala), perhaps because of the lack of electricity. All I heard were the sounds of the waves as a constant backdrop to our trip.
“Complaining” in Ngapali
My “complaints,” if you can even call them that, came to this: 1) the beach chairs could have used some cushions as my butt became numb, but they were available at some of the nicer hotels; 2) our hotel did not have ice, which made it difficult to drink our whisky; and 3) for some reason my whisky sours were pink. Seriously, those were my complaints.
I was very happy we tacked on the 5 nights at the end of our Myanmar tour. It made it that much easier to think of living in Yangon, knowing Ngapali was only a short plane ride away.
But, please don’t spread the word too far . . .
To read more about my month in Myanmar, download my ebook Exploring Myanmar: Traveling the Dusty Roads of the New Burma