Ngwe Saung, The Beach
Ngwe Saung, The Beach
Myanmar, the Land of Pagodas, attracts visitors from around the world, who come to behold the magnificent ancient temples.
However, the country’s 2832 kilometers of coastline on the Bay of Bengal to the west and the Andaman Sea to the south, are a well-kept secret, so it is rarely taken into account for a beach holiday.
Ngwe Saung beach in the Ayeyarwaddy Division is easily reached by land or waterway from Yangon, and the newly built bridges make the region more accessible than ever. By land, Pathein, the capital of the Ayeyarwaddy Division, is a leisurely four hour drive from Yangon. Once you reach Pathein, cross the Nga Wun River by local ferry and continue driving for one hour to Ngwe Saung beach. By waterway, the steamer runs between Yangon and Pathein. The sixteen hour journey is the perfect opportunity to kick back, relax and admire the scenery.
The delta’s accumulation of silt creates rich, fertile soil, and lush paddy fields carpet most of the region. The maze of streams and creeks provides an excellent habitat for ducks, egrets, geese and herons.
Traveling overland, much sightseeing can be done on the way to Ngwe Saung. Two hours from Yangon, the small town of Pan Tanaw is home to the cottage industry of making reed mats. It is well worth a stop. When you reach Pathein, it is a must to visit a workshop where umbrellas are made of bamboo and cotton, then lacquered to make them waterproof. Although they are functional, they are also stunning for interior and exterior decorating.
At the edge of the Rakhine mountain range, on the Bay of Bengal, the pristine Ngwe Saung beach and its sleepy fishing village remained a hidden paradise for centuries. The villagers could never have imagined luxury bungalows next to their rustic huts, nor dreamed of running a tourist restaurant or a souvenir shop. Likewise, tourists never suspected the existence of this unknown treasure. Although in recent years it has been transformed into a tourist destination, the feel and charm have not changed. Boutique resorts with all the modern amenities coexist in complete harmony with the natural environment.
It is not easy to describe the beauty and serenity of Ngwe Saung beach. It is lavishly blessed with sunshine, gentle breeze, swaying coconut palms and silvery sand banks against a mountain backdrop. Crystal blue sea and sky compete in their beauty, then seem to become one. White crested waves ebb and flow, as if greeting visitors and inviting them to dive right in. Swallows circle in search of prey, while sparrows chirp and twitter. Red crabs scurry, and hermit crabs burrow in the sand, leaving evidence in their tracks.
When the sun sets, the fishermen set off in canoes, returning just after dawn with the night’s catch of red snapper, garfish, sea perch, striped perch, pomfret and sea bass. What vibrant colors and varied patterns: yellow, orange, red, blue, silver, spotted & striped! On a good day a fishermen catches ten to twenty kilograms. Like clockwork, a procession of fishermen’s wives appear with baskets balanced on their heads to carry the fish to the village.
Another interesting fishing method is employed in the morning, around seven o’clock. The fishermen keep a close watch on the surface of the sea, until they spot a school of fish passing near the shore, then row into the water and drop a huge net. They work in teams of twelve to fifteen, some giving instruction, some pulling the net, and some beating a drum to lure the fish into the net. The work is exhausting but rewarding. Heaps of shiny silver “brown meager” fish are sold on the spot, to be transformed into fish paste and fish sauce.
From late morning to mid-afternoon the beach lies totally silent. The fishermen are asleep. The children are in school. The women take a well-deserved rest from housework. There is not a soul in sight, and you have the beach all to yourself. This is the best time for a swim in the balmy sea and a frolic in the surf, just before a delectable fresh seafood lunch and a cold beer at one of the friendly, unpretentious local restaurants.
There are, however, potential negative impacts to the development if it is not managed in a sustainable way. If villagers become reliant on tourism, they could abandon their traditional ways of fishing. Moreover, exposing them to a different way of life could lead to erosion of their culture, particularly from younger members of the community. If they begin to replicate the cultures of the tourists, they will move away from the customs and traditions of their own culture. Destruction of natural habitat for Ngwe Saung’s beloved creatures is another concern, to say nothing about the blight of plastic water bottles and other forms of pollution. Visitors and hoteliers alike have a huge responsibility. When you visit Ngwe Saung beach resort, please do so in a sensitive and mindful way.
Dusk falls on Ngwe Saung with the gentleness of a calm whisper, casting a golden glow on the sand, sea, even the coconut palms. Fishing boats rock silently near the shore, while faraway islands are silhouetted against the persimmon sky. Shells and rocks form geometric patterns on the beach. An unparalleled beauty gradually unfolds as dusk turns into indigo-tinted nightfall, and the sky reveals itself in a million twinkling stars, shimmering and dreamlike, mesmerizing and surreal.
The all-embracing serenity reminds me how everyday cares fade away in the presence of nature’s gifts.