Going to the coast of Myanmar was one of the coolest things we did there. If you have read the first part of our beach adventure you should definitely go check it out.
After spending a couple days hanging around the little resort town of Ngwe Saung we ventured up the coast via motorbike taxi for a little change of scenery a some more adventure.
The town of Chaung Thar is a bit bigger than Ngwe Saung, and less resort-y, so it felt a little more authentic.
We got into town early in the afternoon, checked into our bungalow and went cruising around town and the beach to check everything out.
On the beach there were a some little palm frond umbrellas set up with lawn chairs so Lauren and I plopped ourselves into a couple of chairs and bought ourselves a fresh coconut each while Rob went for a swim. We got to talking with the couple who owned the coconut stand (and who’d set up the umbrellas and chairs) and they told us we could rent motorbikes ourselves and ride up the coast a little ways to a really beautiful beach. The beach didn’t have an official name but they described it as a white sand beach that stretched out for miles and hardly anyone went there. We’d have to cross a large river and the town of Shwethaung would be on the other side, the beach would be just north of there.
I’m not gonna lie, I got totally wide-eyed and excited at the idea of an adventure to a beautiful secret beach. Like the opening scene of a movie, where the main characters get a tip from a local and end up on a wild adventure in paradise.
Read the first part of our beach adventure
We got two motorbikes, not the usual puttering automatic scooters we were used to cruising around on, but actual dirt bikes. Which was good because the roads were in rough shape, and most of them weren’t actually roads, but more like dirt and mud trails.
We rode up the beach for what felt like a couple miles without ever seeing another person. And then we turned off the sand for a bit and up into the hills and the jungle. We really didn’t know where we were going, just following the path in front of us. At one point the path split and one side continued on and the other went back down to the beach. I thought, maybe this could be it, our secret beach! But as we got closer it became clear there wasn’t much beach there, the land sort of just dropped off into the water. So we continued on.
As we rode along we realized we were starting to run low on gas, we hadn’t passed any towns or villages and we weren’t sure how much farther we had to go either. This was a little worrisome but I wasn’t too concerned, we’d have to come upon the town the couple had mentioned at some point.
The path woven in and out of the jungle and back onto the beach, and along a small cliff when we came upon a building. It was sort of warehouse-y or barn like. We saw some guys around the back under a covered porch and figured we could go ask them where we could buy gas. As we approached we noticed that the guys were playing pool on what looked to be a brand new pool table. This did strike me as odd, we’d only been in Myanmar less than a week, but brand new things didn’t seem especially common in the country. But I didn’t think to much on it, or on the fact that it was mid-day during the week and a bunch of late teens and twenties aged guys were not at work.
We said hello – “mingalaba”, and asked where we could buy gas for the motorbikes. A couple of the guys seemed to know a little English and told us they could give us gas. We tried to decline, not wanting to take any of their extra gas, and again asked if there was a town or gas station near by. They insisted that they would give us gas, and two of them went back behind the building and rolled out a metal barrel. “Oh!” I thought “Okay, that works”. They grabbed a hose and began siphoning the gas from the barrel into the first bike for us. They filled up both our bikes and when we tried to give them some money they wouldn’t take it. Insisting that the gas was free and they didn’t want any money, they cheerfully sent us on our way.
And with full tanks of gas and a feeling of “well that was really nice, a little weird, but really nice” we set off again in search of our beach.
What to know about traveling Myanmar
It wasn’t long until we got to the big river and we knew we had to be close. We found where we could catch the barge across easily enough, and waited with a few locals to board with our bikes. While we were waiting for the barge and again once on the other side in town we did get quite a few stares and somewhat confused and curious looks from locals. It was becoming clear that not many tourists come out this way. But everyone was nice and friendly even if they were a bit wary of our presence.
The path out of town was a ways back from the beach but we could see the long sandy beach stretching out for quite a ways. So we picked a spot got off our bikes and walked them through the trees to the sand. The beach seemed to stretch out forever and we were the only ones there. Stripping down to our swimsuits we ran laughing down the gentle slope right into the waves.
This was it, we’d made it, we’d found our own paradise.
The water was as warm as the air and we played around in the surf all afternoon. We didn’t even notice the rain clouds rolling in.
As the sky began to darken and threaten a rainstorm we said goodbye to our beautiful secret beach and pushed our motorbikes back out to the trail. And just as we came into the town on the river as it began to pour. School had just let out in town and as we waited for the barge we were surrounded by what felt like 100 kids. They stared up at us wide-eyed and curious, and it dawned on me that we were probably the first white people they’d ever seen.
When the barge pulled up we loaded the bikes on first and all the kids piled on after us. It was sort of madness, there were kids in the water pushing the boat away from shore, kids jumping off the boat into the water or climbing out onto the boat. Everyone was already soaking wet from the rain so none of the splashing seemed to matter, it was all just fun. A couple of the girls came over to Lauren and I and tried to cover us with their umbrellas. They seemed fascinated by us but also too shy to say anything when we said hello and thank you. The little girl sitting next to me just stare up at me and smiled.
Find more adventures in Myanmar
Once we were across the river the rain got worse and a family let us hide out in their little hut to wait out the storm. I should clarify, it wasn’t really a hut, at was more like a small covered area, where they had a few little stools and they sold tea and snacks. But it was all very informal, kind of like the covered porch of a house, but there wasn’t a house. I wish I had a picture of it because it was cute and homey, but I didn’t want to take my camera out in the pouring rain.
When the rain finally let up we figured it was now or never, and we hoped back in the bikes and headed back in the drizzle.
The trails we now super muddy and slippery which made the ride back a bit of a challenge at times. At one point my bike started to slide in the deep mud so I put my foot down to catch myself, and when I got myself going again my flip flop got stuck in the mud and I rode off barefoot. I stopped after a few seconds to consider if I really wanted to go back for it, riding in the mud was really difficult and even walking the bike was a struggle, when a little kid came running out of his house, grabbed my sandal and ran it over to me. That small kindness really made a difference and helped me through, because I was struggling at that point.
We made it back to our little bungalow soaking wet and muddy, but it was all worth it. The beach and the people and everything that happened that day was such a beautiful experience.
Even though Myanmar has been in the news a bit lately for not the best reasons, I always like to remember that day as a reminder that most of the people there a wonderful, hospitable people just trying to live their lives.
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