There is a reason why I have divided my trip to Myanmar into two posts and it’s called Ngapali. Definitely one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to, no kidding. And trust me, I have been to a lot of them, indeed. The beach owes its uniqueness to several factors – unspoilt by mass tourism, white sand with pristine waters, spectacular sunsets, friendly locals selling fresh produce, to name a few. One of the reasons why mass tourism hasn’t plagued this wonderful spot yet is the fact that the beach itself is dotted with high-end resorts, which are (un)fortunately half or totally empty most of the time. The majority of travellers can’t or don’t want to (including me) pay so much for a night there but currently only few low or mid budget options are available.
This may be bad if you don’t book in advance and great when you are finally there, as not only the beach but also streets, restaurants, bars, sightseeing spots and the like are practically all left to yourself. Not bad, huh? Having said that, greedy people are everywhere and it’s only by a miracle that this place hasn’t been invaded by Westerners or wealthy Asians yet. Sadly though, when I was there in November 2018, rumours of plans for selling parts of this land were not unheard of. Let’s hope Myanmar doesn’t follow their counterparts in Cambodia or Vietnam and sticks to its guns, preserving this slice of paradise on earth. If you want to see this place untouched, I would urge you not to hesitate a minute and go now!
Like I said, the beauty and serenity of Ngapali is nothing short of breath-taking. It’s a 3 kilometres long, sun-touched stretch of warm breeze, high palm trees, and soul calming energy. You just choose your spot and that’s it. Sorted for the whole stay. At least that’s what I did. I would be looking forward to visiting my spot since my waking up. It was that awesome. A stroll or bicycle ride away are hidden other beach spots excellent for photography, chilling and observing life too.
I know I said above that the beach was dotted with high-end resorts, however, at the time of my travel there was already the amazing Golden Queen guesthouse, practically the only solid budget accommodation in the area. It is just a few steps from the beach. It’s not luxurious but it’s clean and the staff, being exceptionally friendly, went above and beyond to make the stay memorable. What’s more they offer bicycle rental for free. Yay! Exploring has never been easier! Roaming this part of land on a bike is one of the most pleasant things one can do. It’s refreshing and takes you to even more wonderful spots.
While I would have never thought that cycling in scorching heat was something I would be fond of, Ngapali and Golden Queen showed me otherwise. Not only would I enjoy riding the – true kind of primitive – bicycle tremendously, but I would be getting really high with each and every kilometre under my belt. Yes, it was that pleasant and satisfying.
Out of this world schools
As a teacher, I got even higher and absolutely thrilled to run into a school tucked in a forest along the long strip of Ngapali beach. At first I just stopped by the simple, rudimentary school building because I wanted to check the shore, if it was any good for swimming. It was only children’s voices, laughter and chorus drilling that attracted my attention after a couple of minutes. I approached the school with caution but as soon as a few kids spotted me outside a whole new world opened to me. Some kids couldn’t resist the temptation and ran out to check me out, some replied to my greetings in local language and most importantly treated me with cutely curious looks and wonderfully genuine smiles.
I have never been the type of teacher who would soften at seeing cute kids, quite the opposite, I have always been very strict, but here, I was completely unarmed and felt like I wanted to grab a chalk and have some fun with those little fellas. I was in heaven and for a moment I thought my love for kids was back! Regardless of this encounter being a very brief one and my positive emotional response to kids utterly short-lived, I have cherished this magic moment to this day.
This is a must stop! You will see the simplicity of life at its best. Hard work amidst the smell of fish. I returned multiple times as my photography spirit always called for more. If I am to be brutally honest, I must say I don’t think I would be able to live that way, but I admire all those people who surrender to such hard work and difficulties such life for sure brings each and every day. I guess after some time you get used to the pungent fish smell, which would make any visit difficult to bear, but still… Hats off.
As a courtesy of the hotel staff all clients who stayed longer than five nights were invited to an early morning sunrise pagoda tour in Thandwe. The views were breathtaking and seeing the land covered in mist, slowly waking up was a sight hard to forget.
When in Rome do as the Romans do! You will see thanaka everywhere in Myanmar but here I mean literally everywhere. Almost all women and some men wear it to protect their skin from the sun. Not only does it provide UV protection, acts like a natural cream, soothes your skin and cleans acne, but it’s also an incredible ice breaker! You can’t imagine how many his and hellos I got while cycling through the streets wearing it. Kids were greeting me calling ’thanaka, thanaka!’ eagerly, approaching me and waving. Women were smiling at me and young guys were just politely curious. It opened doors to many places and wonderful memories.
Ladies, if you want to bring thanaka home, which you should (I did too), buy natural one. That means a small piece of thanaka wood. Powders or creams are already contaminated with other chemical compounds and certainly won’t do the same job. The best thanaka can be found in Mandalay, they say. True, you will need some space in your luggage since a grinding stone is necessary too, but it’s worth it.
I’m not a huge fan of sea food nor fish. It’s for many reasons but here in Ngapali I couldn’t resist. My go-to spot was Ngapali Kitchen. I can’t express how insanely delicious the food here was! Coconut curry was a real bomb and tuna was the smoothest and tastiest fish I’ve ever tasted in my life. Papaya salad screamed ‘fresher than ever’ and the crab soup makes my taste buds dance tango!
So that’s it about Ngapali. I could tell more, but certain memories and feelings are not transferable. Sorry folks, I know I haven’t really mentioned how to get there. But I won’t. It’s easy to find. Do your homework because this place deserves it. Once you arrive, the only thing you will have to do is submit to the immense beauty of this place and let its spirits steal your soul.