GUEST ARTICLE: Ngapali Beach was our last stop on our Burma trip in March. It lies along the West Coast of Burma in the Rakhine State located just outside the town of Thandwe. It is one of Burma’s most well known beaches and is a popular tourist attraction.
It was mid morning when we touched down at the tiny Thandwe Airport. After collecting our luggage and going through immigration (not sure why there’s an immigration point) we and another couple were met by our hotel’s pickup. With bags in tow we walked a few meters down a dirt road to one of the coolest vehicle pickups we’ve been in. It was a big old chocolate brown vintage jalopy with two long vertical benches in the back.
A few minutes later we were happily cruising down a quiet lone dirt road. It was pretty bumpy but fun! The temperature was really warm and had that familiar smell of village burn-off permeating the air. We passed rustic looking villages nestled within the forest and numerous people on bikes. We only drove for about 5 minutes before we pulled in our nesting pad for the next 3 nights at the Amazing Ngapali Resort.
We were given a warm reception and were given two lovely seashell necklaces with our names engraved on the shells along with a couple fresh coconut drinks. Lucky for us a big tour group of 85 were just leaving so we pretty much had the whole resort to ourselves for the remainder of our stay, no complaints here!
The rooms were absolutely beautiful and fitted out nicely with all the creature comforts. We had a fantastic view of the grounds and ocean with a nice big deck to put our feet up and chill out. The whole place oozed relaxation, something we were looking for after being in full bore exploration mode since we arrived in Burma.
For lunch they set up a private table for us overlooking the ocean. The food was delicious! We had a local tomato sour soup, curried fish, salad and freshly baked breads. The day was spectacular with not a cloud in the sky and the sun beaming down on the azure warm waters of the Indian Ocean.
It was wonderful just to sit there amongst the tranquil atmosphere watching the trickle of locals venturing up and down the 3km pristine white beach. Soon the heat got to us so we got on our swimmers and took our first dip in the ocean. The water was a bit choppy and not the warmest we’ve felt but it still did the trick. It was also a really nice place to be while watching the sunset. That was always a special event watching the sky phase through an array of brilliant warm colors while the sun melted into the horizon.
For dinner we sat at a candlelit table poolside. The temperature was perfect and the stars above shone brilliantly against the dark velvet sky. Off in the distance we could see a smattering of little lights spread out all along the water. We found out they belonged to a throng of fishing boats that come out every night.
During another feast of palate pleasers two local singers played in the background. They were really good! We especially liked their traditional songs and could have easily sat there all night listening to them. Ko Thar strummed an excellent guitar and Ma Wah had a voice that reminded us of the lead singer for the Cranberries. They were both really nice people and for the remainder of our stay they set up camp beside our table, we loved it!
While we were there we were assigned a couple specific servers for meals (Ninnzi and Piu Piu). We got to know them over our short time there and found both of them to be really lovely and each had incredible life stories to share. We also found out that the Burmese don’t have last names or family names, something we found very interesting.
We also though it was nice to be able to talk freely about their political views and what their hopes were for Burma. Both leaned strongly in favor of the country’s well-known political advocate Aung San Su Kyii. I was so happy for them when I heard that not long after she had secured a seat in the Burmese Parliament.
One afternoon my husband Rob rented a bike (for just US$1 per hour) and went for a little explore, I opted out because of the heat. While he was on his journey he was flagged down by some villagers and invited to come and visit. He said they were very poor but so very nice and accommodating with what they had. They even gave him a small bag of dried squid as a present! They on the other hand wouldn’t accept anything from him; they and especially the kids just liked his company. A visit from a foreigner in the village was probably not so common.
For the rest of our stay we pretty much did a repeat of our previous activities – sun, sand, relaxation, eating! Rob ended up going on another bike ride and met up with the same villagers. This time they gratefully accepted the hat off his head and a donation to help out. In return they gave him a beautifully made seashell hair comb along with some great memories.
On the morning we left our new friends Ninnzi and Piu Piu were there to say goodbye. We are so fortunate to have met such wonderful people during our travels. We had a really great time at our resort and it’s definitely up there on our ‘Return To’ list. There were also a few tourist sights we missed that I’d still like to check out like the fishing village and the local town of Thandwe. We give this spot a big relaxing two thumbs up! As the popularity of Burma increases, Ngapali is likely to benefit from the increased tourism.
This travel diary has been written by Machalle Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!