Beaches of Myanmar
Myanmar isn't as well known for its beaches as Thailand, and it hasn't developed seaside resorts in the same way. But some of Myanmar's beaches are absolutely stunning, and as a bonus, have far fewer tourists per kilometre of sand.
Top Beaches in Myanmar
1. Ngapali Beach
Ngapali Beach is the best-known of Myanmar's seaside attractions. Ngapali is a laid back small town, still more fishing village than tourist resort even though some luxury resorts have moved in. An early morning start to bring in a fresh catch of fish remains more important than staying out late. This is a place to chill out, not to party the night away.
Beautiful sandy beaches are not the only game in town. There's a little hilltop stupa that gives panoramic views of the sea, and fishermen dry the smallest fish on bamboo mats on the beach. There's some good snorkelling, too.
One of the lesser-known attractions of Ngapali is the cuisine. Most of its restaurants serve at least a handful of Rakhine specialities. This Indian-influenced cuisine mixes sour flavours and heat with an assertiveness that's not found in the milder Burmese kitchen. When you mix Rakhine spiciness with the freshest of seafood, it's sheer heaven.
2. Ngwe Saung Beach
Ngwe Saung has all the right ingredients for a laid-back holiday: fine sand, clear water, palm trees along the beach, and a relaxed feel. It's the right place to relax after a long trek or a pagoda-filled cultural tour. There are 20 kilometres of beach to walk, and they're rarely crowded.
Even the activities here are pretty sedate; walking out to a small island at low tide, walking back at the next low tide, going snorkelling off the beach, and bird watching.
3. Chaung Tha
If you want a luxury resort in tasteful Zen style, you might consider Ngwe Saung instead. Chaung Tha is where ordinary Burmese families come to hang out. Think bucket and spade, inflatable rubber rings, sand between your toes, pony rides, ice cream melting in the sun, good silly fun for the whole family. It also stays open for the rainy season, like most of the other resorts.
There's a pagoda with a view on a rock overlooking the beach, with another up on a hill. There are mangrove swamps and islands to visit, a little market that opens ridiculously early and closes by the time most tourists get out of bed, and snorkelling from the beach (though taking the boat will get you to better snorkelling spots).
4. Myeik (Mergui) Archipelago
This is the wilderness option for beach lovers in Myanmar. Many of the thousand-odd islands are uninhabited, but a few can be reached by speedboat and just two currently have tourist accommodation.
The diving is fantastic, with giant manta rays, swim-through caves, and beautiful coral; the huge expanse of the archipelago and lack of facilities make a live-aboard diving tour the best way to visit. Sailing cruises are another way to experience the islands, and often visit Moken 'sea gypsy' villages.