Chaung Tha Beach, Myanmar
From the mountains, to the cities, along the rivers, through the crop fields, over the past month I’ve seen much of Myanmar’s landscape. But there’s one area, until now, I haven’t seen: and that’s the beach.
It’s no great surprise that Myanmar would have beaches. Its neighbouring countries – like Thailand and Cambodia – have sandy coastlines that tourists have flocked to for years. But it’s not what you think of typically when you think of Myanmar.
The closest beach to Yangon (and, incidentally, the easiest to get to) is called Chaung Tha. But just because it’s the easiest to get to, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a comfortable journey.
Like most travel in Myanmar, things are not designed for foreign tourists. The only bus from Yangon on leaves at six o’clock in the morning and unfortunately I missed that.
That meant a different bus to a town called Pathein and then an extremely uncomfortable trip in a post-war Japanese bus clearly made for post-war Japanese legs. The dozens of bags of rice filling the aisle didn’t help.
But with the discomfort comes some advantages. It means the tourist crowds are thinner – so thin in fact that it’s almost hard to spot white skin on the beach.
All along the sand, in the shallows of the surf, in the shadows of the turf, are Myanmar faces.
“You want to join us,” the young man asks.
He’s with some other friends and they’re offering a chance to join a game. It looks like fun although I don’t have the correct attire, which seems to be a pair of wet jeans, no shirt, and a lithe well-toned body.
Like every day this time of year in Myanmar, there’s hardly a cloud in the sky. The sun beats down and the cooling water provides respite.
Vendors along the beach provide even further refreshment. There are drinks and food and, if you’re feeling a more active, balls or inner tubes or kites to play with.
The resorts along the sand confuse me slightly. There don’t seem to be enough foreigners here to support them all (and this is the high season) so I have to assume they’re used by locals.
Despite all the near-poverty I’ve seen in the rural areas, there must be some wealthy people in Myanmar who can bring the family down to Chaung Tha for the weekend or a week.
I try not to think about it too much, because it would probably lead down a thought path involving rich and corrupt military officers… and that’s not what a couple of days at the beach should be about!
This may not be the perfect golden sands of some beaches in South East Asia. But it does mirror most of them in the flat surfless waters.
It’s noticeably quieter than many of the ones I’ve been to and that’s refreshing. Things certainly seem more relaxed here than other parts of the country.
Life is easy, life is slow.
As with many other places I’ve seen in the past few weeks, I wonder for how long will it remain so quiet. The backpacking drifters will find this soon enough.
17 thoughts on “What? Beaches in Myanmar?”
There are 4 more other well known beaches in Myanmar.
NgaPali, KanTharYar, NgweSaung, SatSae…
My most favorite is NgaPali in Rakhine State, Oldest resort of all the beaches in Myanmar. You can go by plane or by land (which is tiring). But the beach make you forget all the hardship when you reach there. Big waves good for surfing (But no one surf there) and nice seafood. You might even be able to see fishermen life there. Chaung Thar also have nice seafood for me. But along the coastal area is occupied by hotels. Hard to see fisherman life.
Btw, I am neither from military government relative nor from the family of officers. My family is just merchant and currently I am living in Singapore.
I met a few people who were trying to get to Ngapali. It sounds pretty beautiful but it was a bit too time-consuming for me to get there with the four weeks I had. Maybe next time. Chaung Tha was great but you’re right about there being a lot of hotels on the beachside.
Nice to know about beaches in Myanmar, I guess most of the people, like me, are unaware about it. But I would like to know, are these beaches clean? Looking at the photographs that a proper beach culture is yet to evolve there.
They are pretty clean beaches but I think that’s just because there aren’t large numbers of people there. I wouldn’t say there seemed to be any proper management system so as soon as the crowds arrive, I’m not sure how it will cope.
Cool experience…yeah, beaches aren’t exactly what I think of either. Especially after all of the sights in your other posts…
It was a bit of a shock to suddenly find myself at the beach. But a very pleasant shock, I can assure you!! 🙂
I never would have thought Myanmar had beaches after following along on your other posts. From the looks of these pictures, it seems missing the 6am bus was a blessing in disguise.
Maybe I shouldn’t have published anything about the beaches. If I go back to Myanmar, I don’t want to find out they’ve turned into the new Thailand. It was really nice to have a quiet place by the sea to relax for a few days after everything else in the country!
I think that the resorts are from years ago. When we went to Myanmar in 2003, we were on a plane filled with foreign tourists connecting via Thailand. We couldn’t believe all the people going to Myanmar, But when we got off the plane, we never saw them again. They got into insulated tourist buses and were whisked away to luxury resort. I realized then just what Aung San Suu Kyi was talking about then when she told people not to go on vacation to Burma. People were going to resorts and not helping the locals at all. They went on package tours (that supported the government) and never left the resort. We travelled independently in 2003 and barely saw another foreign face. I remember how difficult it was to get around. We didn’t want to take any government transport so that meant the local buses were very long uncomfortable journeys, but it was always worth it once we got to the destination. Everyone was welcoming and friendly and so warm and inviting. It was a travel experience that uplifted us and broke our hearts at the same time. Myanmar is a wonderful country and it’s nice to see that there are still places that haven’t been over run yet.
I can only imagine what it would have been like back in 2003. I would love to have seen it then. There are lots of parts that are probably still quite similar to those days, though. Those tour buses are still pretty prevalent and I think it’s how most of the foreign tourists are seeing the country. Which is nice for independent travellers because things aren’t too crowded most of the time.
I visited Chaung Tha beach in 2006, and it definitely doesn’t look as busy as it does now! The pace was really slow there, with a local or two scattered around, selling black swimming tubes and some coconuts (just like in your photos, but in lesser quantities!). I’m glad to see business picking up there though I hope the money will go to the locals. Ngapali Beach will definitely be more scenic but it’s also more expensive there. I never made it there either, due to financial and time constraints.
Although there were quite a few people there, I wouldn’t say it was busy. I can only imagine what it was like in 2006! I would love to get to Ngapali if I ever make it back to Myanmar.
The beach sounds great. What about getting back to Yangon?
do not say about myanmar if u do not know anything.Do u know how much our myanmar people are pity?
Thanks for this interesting post, it’s great to see some of Myanmar off the beaten track. Can I ask you how long did the trip take
to/from Yangon? Also is it possible to find affordable accommodation i.e. <= 20 usd per night at or near the beach ?
The same Vietnam, has many many beautiful beach in Myanmar. Thank you so much.
Thanks for your post ! The tourism of Myanmar is still underrated in SEA . In addition to pagodas in Bagan and Inle Lake, this country has so many stunning beaches and islands in the South near the border with Thailand.