Undiscovered Beaches in Dawei Peninsula
Untouched beaches and outstanding friendly locals in Dawei – Southern Myanmar
Guestpost by Andre Schneegass.
I first travelled to Myanmar in February 2013 and wherever I asked about the Deep South (Dawei – Myeik – Kawthaung), I was given the same answer, it has was closed for overland travel for foreign tourists. Later I found out that even Myanmar nationals needed a travel authorization to reach the South less than 10 years ago. The only way you could go there was flying during this time. Also you were not allowed to leave the city boundaries.
Somehow in May 2013 private bus companies allowed foreigners to buy tickets and travel onwards. When I ask the MTT (The official Myanmar Travel & Tours) at this time they answered “we never cleared the road”. So I came back October 2013 and travelled south by land.
On 28 August 2013, four land borders with Thailand did open for foreigners. Among others, Htee Khee / Phu Nam Ron, which is 146 km east of Dawei.
A Dutch friend and I started hitch-hiking in early October from Yangon via Kyaikto (near Golden Rock) to Mawlamyine. After Mawlamyine we took a bus to Ye and another bus to Dawei. The bus from Ye broke down half way and we were lucky to get a ride to Maung Ma Gan Beach (16 Kilometer west of Dawei).
At the beginning of the dry season, when there is no haze, you get the most colourful sunsets. That day the sunset was a real touchdown into the ocean with incredible orange colours.
Maung Ma Gan Beach
Maung Ma Gan Beach is a very long beach stretch with white sand on high tide. During low tide there is a lot of sediment from the rivers, which turns it silver grey. The beach is shallow, which is great for kids, and only busy with locals on Sundays and holidays. The locals are also the biggest problem of the beach as they litter everywhere. Over the past two years there has been several voluntary clean ups and it seems to change at least a bit. The big pine trees brought in by the English during colonial times (I assume) are giving good shades. The bamboo restaurants are great places hang out. The seafood options ranging from crab masala, BBQ Fish to special local seafood are very tasty. Try them all!
A day later we rented motorbikes and followed the recommendations from an expat who lives there, which was to visit a beach called San HLan. The roads to Loung Lone were more or less okay. Then to our surprise we had to show passports at the local immigration office. We had to wait for one hour before we got an okay to go. The roads at this point were not easy to ride and very steep and rocky. From the hilltop you had a great view into an untouched bay.
People were looking at us like we were Aliens. After a dip in the ocean we went for a bite. We tried to order fish, but the people did not understand us. We look into the curry pots and found only chicken and pork. This made us puzzled. We are here in a fishing village, but they serve no fish. Of course for fishermen who come home after eating fish for two weeks or more, they want meat or something different. Finally we drew a fish on a piece of paper and someone took us outside to the big drums full of ice, fish and squid. The neighbour table gave us some of their prawns and we ordered some fried fish. Until today (2016) this is one of my favourite places to eat, but don’t expect any service. After our late lunch we went for another wander and were invited to have a coconut with some villagers. We came back late, but this was just the beginning to get to know the Dawei Peninsula.
During those first few days, we went to explore Nabule Beach to the north of Maung Ma Gan. A dusty 1.5 hours ride rewards you with a beach stretch beyond expectations. Not a single soul on this beach. We could not imagine that one day this might be the biggest deep sea port in South East Asia. Japan, Thailand, Singapore and South Korea apparently are all interested, but no concrete plans are set yet.
South of Maung Ma Gan (about 45 min) you will find Myaw Yit Pagoda, where you can have a great squid salad on the restaurant right in front of the pagoda. The eateries are built on stilts overlooking the ocean, a peaceful and relaxing place after a great drive through tiny villages.
Heading further North along the Dawei Peninsula (April 2014)
In March 2014 I returned and was eager for more beaches. I decided to head north of the beautiful Nabule Beach, which looked on google maps like a countryside road, but turned out to be a donkey path. There were no donkeys, but a stranded WWII Japanese pickup truck full of pigs. The track went through some amazing small villages and right along the coastline, with a beautiful inlet. I planned to camp illegally at the beach, but I forgot to buy supplies along the way. I came to Zadi just before it was dark and had to continue to Kanbauk, where there was a local guesthouse. The unlicensed guesthouse, named Sincere, was bed bugs heaven at that time.
The same night a stranger invited me to his house to have a chat. The father of the friendly lady draws me a map of the surrounding villages and the way to the coast. On the way out I stopped at a factory that had something that looked like drill pipes. I worked in oil and gas logistics before and was asking myself drill pipes here in such a remote place… After my return I did search for Kanbauk on internet and quite a bit came up. Apparently a conglomerate of Myanmar, Thailand and French Oil Company Total built a pipeline to Thailand to sell the gas offshore. Unfortunately locals had to move out of villages and were forced to work on this pipeline. If you want to know more about this, there is a documentary called “Total Denial”.
Back to exploring beaches. I followed the map the old man gave me and arrived to another nice beach stretch. It was Sunday and quite a few people where catering in a few shacks and having some snacks like papaya and tea leaf salad. I had a nibble and some locals came up making photos and videos of me. One particular well-dressed man asked me in good English, “When do you go back to Dawei?” I was stunned I never met this guy before, but I knew back in the days the officials knew where every single foreigner stayed. And as I was the only one staying in an unlicensed guesthouse, I could imagine they had no trouble to find me. I assured him that I will be back in Dawei in the late afternoon. I drove off along the beach and had a look if he would follow me, but he was nowhere to be seen. When I returned to my hotel in Dawei in the evening the poor receptionist Mr Lin said, man you made me a lot of trouble. They have been calling since early morning for you. I saw he had been stressed and I did not ask any further who they are. The next day everything seemed to be forgotten.
Heading further South along the Dawei Peninsula
I came back straight away after I had my new tourist visa and found a few travellers exploring what today is known as Tizit Beach. Driving along with scooters during water festival is actually refreshing and fun, but also very slow as everywhere you will be stopped and kids will through buckets of water over your head. We passed Loung Lone again and the turn to San Hlan Beach. About 30 Minutes later we were on top of the hill overlooking the beach. The village in the forest was very beautiful, authentic and clean. After crossing a lagoon, you end up at a fishing village which is less beautiful and very dirty. From the fishing village you will need to walk only 1o minutes and you reach a heaven beach. Clear and turquoise water, a lot of shade from the trees and where no soul have been seen.
The kids from the village followed us and we played in the water with them for an hour. Back at the beach we bought some squid, which was still alive and constantly changing it patterns. We had no idea where to cook it, but we found a house where they had a stove and the lady made a delicious green sauce of chilies, lime, sugar, salt, fish sauce and peanuts. This was exactly what we were after a long day on the bike mouthwatering dip for the grilled squid.
A few days later my travel companions left town and I decided to drive to Shin Maw Pagoda at the bottom of the Peninsula also known as Dawei Point. After a hard 3,5 hours scooter ride, I reached Myin Kaw Aw Beach, another very beautiful beach about 4 kilometers long and only a few local houses on one end. There is a bit of coral on the far left, but you will have to swim over there for at least 20 Minutes.
Another 30 minutes further I finally arrived to the pagoda, which is overlooking the sea. I walked around by the rocks near the water and enjoyed the waves of the ocean while sitting under a tree. The only downside of this place was the rubbish management. Everything went down to the ocean and this destroys the beauty of this place. While I was at the pagoda the visiting monks came up to me for a photo, which is one of my favourite shots from this journey.
Later on, a local from the area came up to me and explained how to get to (in his opinion) another beautiful beach. I followed his recommendation and drove to the fishing village Nyaung Pyin. From there it was another 20 minutes along a small path to grandfather beach (Po Po Kyauk). Grandfather is a wide open beach with lush greenery. It is so long you will need to ride a motorbike all the way to the end. Another friendly local and his kids followed me all the way to the end, where a magnificent lagoon is located. I took some time to relax, but the sun in late April was a bit strong. I felt better after a swim.
I followed the local into the village to have a bite to eat as I planned to camp on the beach (once again this was illegal). The friendly local invited me in his house and I really tried not to stay, because you can make local people a lot of trouble with the authorities. He went to the major and made sure it was okay. While chatting with my new friend I spotted a light on top of the mountain. Of course it was a pagoda and my friend told me you can walk up there in the morning.
After a restless night of sleep I got served a good breakfast and started hiking up the mountain. It is an hour walk up steep hills, but the view from the top overlooking the village and Grandfather Beach was magnificent.
While I was walking around and through the bushes I saw another beautiful bay, perfectly shaped and with white sand.
I asked the locals how to get there and they said “you can’t, you will have to take a boat or walk”. So I decided to walk into this bay. I can’t describe how I felt walking through the jungle and hearing the ocean roaring. I could only see coconut trees and then finally I ended up at the beach. The sand was so fine that it made noises while walking along. The tree line was much closer to the water compare to other beaches I have seen around. It was just simple perfect place in the middle of nowhere.
Two and a half years later (Oct 2016), I help Myanmar Paradise Beach Bungalows with marketing and online reservations. Currently it is the one and only place that has establish so far at the Southern part of the peninsula. For more information feel free to visit the website or contact me through the form below.