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Asean Affairs 28 December 2012
Chaung Tha: A new beach destination in Myanmar
Reinhard Hohler, Chiang Mai
Having seen most of the superlatives Myanmar tourism has to offer, such as the Golden Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, the over 2000 well-preserved temples and pagodas of Bagan, the World’s Biggest Book in Mandalay, the longest teakwood bridge across Taungthaman Lake in Amarapura, or the largest ringing bell in Mingun along the mighty Ayeyarwady River, more and more tourists tend to long for an un-spoilt beach to relax and be far away from it all.
Chaung Tha in the Ayeyarwady Delta Region is such a place adventurous tourists are looking for and offers a convenient stretch of white sand and blue sea at the Bay of Bengal. Fringed with a myriad of palm trees, Chaung Tha Beach is about 40 km to the west of the town of Pathein and can be reached overland from Yangon by bus. The drive takes about 6 to 7 hours and a daily bus leaves Yangon at 21.00 in the evening. Highly recommended is to take a bus from the Asia Dragon Travels Company, which is located at No. (13), First Floor, 89th-Street in downtown Yangon.
Arriving at Chaung Tha early in the morning, long before sunrise, tourists get dropped directly in front of one of the many bungalow-type hotels along the beach. Basic accommodation features local flavor but equipped with modern facilities, even Internet.
One of the most popular places to stay is the low-budget Shwe Hin Tha Hotel, which offers spacious rooms with cold showers and a complimentary breakfast. The staff is outmost friendly. From its beachside Sunset Restaurant a stunning sunset is a daily event not to be missed. Along the beach people walk in droves, especially during the sunny mornings, and enjoy the beautiful breeze and rolling waves in the afternoons.
Boat rental for snorkeling and fishing is available and motorbikes are ready to tour the nearby fishing village or visit Ngwe Saung, which is further south and has one of the longest beaches in Myanmar. The 15 km long Ngwe Saung Beach can be reached by crossing 3 rivers with the help of small ferry boats. The small water channels are all emptying into the Bay of Bengal and are surrounded by virgin mangrove forests. Interesting to note is that foreigners normally prefer to go to Ngwe Saung, while the locals prefer to stay in Chaung Tha.
To stay away from the crowd, some tourists decide to stay at the lonely Hill Garden Hotel at the north end of Chaung Tha Beach, where simple bamboo bungalows in a pure tropical surrounding are available. The property is run by a Belgium expatriate. The more upscale Hotel Max is located at the southern end of Chaung Tha Beach and offers different sea view villas, a fresh water swimming pool and 9-hole mini golf course. Local restaurants abound and offer authentic Myanmar sea food and beer. Entertainment places are cropping up and some karaoke bars are already not difficult to find. What else you need in such a paradise?
For the spiritual-minded tourists, there is the Kyauk Pa Hto Pagoda right at the middle of the altogether 3 km long Chaung Tha Beach that sits on a kind of golden rock. Besides the historical Buddha, the magical monk Upagupta is worshipped here, who has his palace in the middle of the ocean and is responsible for the annual monsoon rain to come.
The people in Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung are a mix of Burmese, Kayin and Rakhain. The most important activity is fishing and collecting shells for producing souvenirs. Most of the people are engaged in one way or the other in the tourism industry, which seems now developing very fast after the amazing opening of the country within the last months. But local government people, not wanted to be named, are hoping that Chaung Tha and surroundings one day will not become like Pattaya in neighboring Thailand. Instead, there will be more emphasis on eco-tourism and family holidays. Anyhow, the destination will slowly grow and surely be visited by more tourists to come in the future.
As the return bus from Chaung Tha to Yangon leaves daily at 9.00 in the morning, by-passing the town of Pathein, tourists will arrive in Yangon in the late afternoon, but early enough to take a flight out of Yangon and Myanmar in the evening. Last not least, the exciting drive through the countryside shows the natural wealth of the country with its emerald-green rice fields, fish-rich waterways and countless golden pagodas.
For further information, please contact GMS Media Travel Consultant Reinhard Hohler based in Chiang Mai/Thailand by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org