Myanmar may be one of the poorest and least developed countries in Southeast Asia, but it has quickly become a sought after tourism destination -- especially since everyone is curious to find out firsthand what the formerly closed-off nation looks like. With the government pledging $500 million to develop tourism in the next few years, Myanmar could very well become the next traveling hot spot.
Don’t let Myanmar’s poverty fool you. It is actually rich in natural resources and quite beautiful. It boasts of 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of coastline, and much of it consists of long stretches of white sand, reported CNN.
Because the country was largely off-limits to foreigners until recently, most of its beaches remain unspoiled and undiscovered. The ones along the shores of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, facing west with beautiful sunsets, are among the best. Here are four of the most stunning beaches in Myanmar.
The story goes, a wayward Italian was reminiscing about his home, Naples, years ago, and bestowed the name on this stretch of pristine white sands on the Bay of Bengal. Since then, Ngapali has become a popular hot spot for wealthy Europeans and locals alike, according to Lonely Planet.
Ngapali was once a fishing village, and now the fishermen’s catches are served in restaurants and hotels catering to tourists. Thus far, the beach only has a number of bungalow-style resorts, but big resorts are underway, as part of Myanmar’s initiative to develop its tourism sector.
In addition to lounging on the beach, there are also the usual seaside activities to choose from, including snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, as well as cycling and golfing.
The peak season is from November to March, while from mid-May to mid-September, the rainy season, most accommodations may be closed. Currently, flying in from Yangon, which takes about 45 minutes, is the only option, as the road through the Rakhine Yoma Mountain has been shut off due to the trouble in the state.
• Ngwe Saung (Silver Beach)
Ngwe Saung, which means Silver Beach, consists of 15 kilometers of white sand and blue sea, bordered by tall, green palms swaying in the breeze, a serious relaxation spot, according to Journeys Myanmar, a Myanmar travel website. What Ngwe Saung does not have in terms of accommodations compared to the more developed Ngapali, it makes up in peace and quiet.
Ngwe Saung also offers fantastic seafood, and will host the beach volleyball and sailing events for the upcoming 2013 Southeast Asian Games in December.
Flights from Yangon take about 35 minutes, but the beach can also be reached by a six-hour car ride, or a 16-hour boat ride, according to CNN.
• Chaung Tha
Unlike Ngwe Saung and Ngapali, Chaung Tha is popular with Myanmar’s middle class. You can paddle, float and ride up and down the beach on ponies. Buy tacky souvenirs, play beach football games, and have family picnics, according to Lonely Planet.
Very similar to these types of beaches in other parts of the Southeast Asia, Chaung Tha may not be the most stunning coastline, but it provides an affordable and convenient option for those travelling on a budget and need a quick hit of sand and sun.
• Kanthaya Beach
Its name translates to Pleasant Beach, and it’s one of Myanmar’s quietest getaways, according to Golden Pagoda Travel, a Myanmar tourist agency. The beach is naturally beautiful, with very little in the ways of development and accommodations.
The attraction is precisely in the lack of the usual beachside sports and shops, according to CNN. You are not even able to book a hotel in advance, but it should not be difficult to find a room in this little known locale -- in the nearby village, as the beach’s only hotel has closed.
You can walk along the 4.5 kilometer beach with its golden sand, climb small hills and watch for birds, or even ask local fishermen, who are simple and honest, to one of the small islands off of the shore. A true hideaway from modern civilization.