I doubted my decision to go down the southern coast of Myanmar more than few times during my travels:
- when a train station officer didn’t want to sell me a ticket to Dawei, only to Moulmein, because it is forbidden for foreigners to travel behind that town (although this restriction was lifted few years back, obviously not everyone is aware of that)
- when the train got off the tracks from Ye to Dawei and the railway workers were ‘professionally’ fixing it with a log and some iron plates
- When I had arrived to Dawei and the guesthouse I wanted to stay was full, which has never happened to me on my travels in Myanmar
But… I am glad I didn’t let myself be discouraged, as the time in Southern Myanmar turned out to be the most amazing of my whole time in Myanmar!
Dawei itself feels more like a village than a city, everytime I walked outside I heard Hey friend, where are you going? and Mingalapar! and Hello! (and of course Taxi?) and I felt I am among a big family.
I rented a motorbike to go around and explore some of beaches Stephen draw on his map. After riding around Flores in Indonesia, I trusted my driving skills enough for another adventure. But, I didn’t know, that it will be a tough ride sometimes, taking dirt rocky roads to get to some of the beaches (Pa Nyit, for example). I even took roads that weren’t on Google maps! But, they were in Stephen’s map, so I though – if he did it, I can do it. Most of the time this strategy proved to be successful.
Day one: Maugmakan – San Maria – Kan Pa Ni – Pa Nyit
It’s super easy to get to Maugmakan, there is rather a good road, bumpy only a little bit, to what one might call The most prominent beach resort in Myanmar. Having said that, you should realise that you’re still in Myanmar so you are lucky you can find some guesthouses, restaurants and souvenir stalls around this beach. It is still far away from what people in Europe would call a beach resort, but it’s the best you can get, in a convenient way. The beach and the sea is quite clean and they will serve the purpose of jumping into the water and have fun. Around 12, the low tide starts and it takes very long to get into the sea, so come early.
There is a south-leading road from Maungmakan with turns into San Maria and Kan Pa Ni, which are marked on the Google maps, but don’t be fooled by the quality of the roads. Having made it to the Google maps doesn’t guarantee roads are in good conditions. Kan Pa Ni is an incredibly poor looking settlement, where people live in houses on stilts, vulnerable to high tides and incoming waves. The beach is full of rubbish and is used as a toilet. What got me the most was that despite of such poverty, kids were still happy to see me, stopped in their playing and waved at me. Their Mingelapar echoed long after I had left. It made me sad and I wonder if there is anything that can be done to improve lives of these people… Especially when just around the corner, in San Maria, people seem to strive from the fishing industry and thus have some means to come out of poverty.
Stephen marked the road from Kan Pa Ni to Pa Nyit by a dashed line and Google maps wasn’t showing any road at all, so I knew this is when it would get interesting. I had originally though, I would just go back to Dawei by the road I had come, but then the locals showed me the way to Pa Nyit and I decided to give it a go. A dusty winding road, surrounded by a beautiful scenery and gorgeous views. Well worth taking, I must say. And the beach was a proper reward – my favourite from them all. I found nobody on the beach, just few motorbike riders in the distance and in the soft sunlight just before the sunset I felt I couldn’t be more free.
It was getting late so I had to hurry up since I didn’t want to be on such road in the dark, although I had a little hope that the road will get better, since there was no dashed line between Pa Nyit and Launglon on Stephen’s map. My hope evaporated after 20 minutes on the road and still no improvement, still a rocky road with potholes – so I progressed slowly, regularly checking my GPS if I am at least going the right direction towards Launglon. Nothing much changed when I finally reached the road marked on Google maps, it was still rocky, but at least it was a steady panel road that would bring me to Launglon and from there I took a proper road back to Dawei.
Day two: Po Po Kyauk – Myanmar Paradise Beach – Kyauk Wap Pyin
This day would’ve looked completely different, hadn’t the rental company in Dawei, Focus managed to get me a motorbike, despite saying they had a reservations on all of them (I highly recommend them, btw. great service, bikes in good condition and very helpful people). So I thanked my luck and them and set off for the far South – to the Po Po Kyauk (or Grandfather) beach.
I met Hamel on the way and he was headed to the Grandfather beach as well, wanting to spend a night in his hammock there, so we became travel buddies for the day. Maps.me and locals directed us to the beach, which according to our information should’ve been secluded and pristine. But when we arrived via a panel road with a scary downhill gradient, we found tens of people, dirty water and saw a beach somewhere in the back, but we were so far away that we couldn’t even tell if this is the pristine we were looking for.
Nevertheless, we decided to explore, crossed the streams, left that busy crazy place behind and after walking few minutes a huge white-sand beach just appeared in front of our eyes. Yes, it was the most beautiful, secluded beach I’ve been to and it stretched for kilometres!
Because it was so empty, Hamel decided to not to camp on that beach – there was no food, supplies, water or people. While I had thought it would’ve been a cool experience to wake up on a beach like a Robinson Crusoe, I also understood that without a proper preparation he would probably not enjoy that very much. So we headed further South to the Myanmar Paradise beach where some bungalows have been newly built at one of the secluded beaches and we wanted to check it out.
The road leading to the Paradise beach was again off-road, on which we were meeting locals with their notorious big smiles, waving Mingelapar on us. The road turned into a forest path for the last kilometre and we decided to leave our motorbikes in the forest and walk the distance. As much as I enjoyed the downhill walk, I wasn’t much looking forward to go back.
The vibe at the Myanmar Paradise beach was just too relaxed to be true. The bizarre thing was, that even in such a remote place we had found a group of 20 or so Americans celebrating someone’s birthday. At a place so far away from any civilisation were the most Westerners I’ve met during my travels in Myanmar.
The place is run by a foreigner, there are few bungalows ready for guests and few other are just being built. If I hadn’t needed to go back to Dawei to take a bus to Thailand the next day, I would’ve stayed there for the night. Hamel executed this action and got a secure place for his hammock. I was silently jealous, especially hearing that the sea is full of fluorescent plankton, making the sea a little miracle at night. Last time I saw the ‘stars’ in the sea was in New Zealand, so I felt a slight pinch of nostalgia.
Bad planning and some commitments led me back to Dawei alone, driving, again, in the dark. Because I didn’t have chance to eat all day, on my way back I stopped at a place YWAY in Kyauk Wap Pyin, just 10 minutes from the Myanmar Paradise Beach, which Stephen recommended and I can confidently second this recommendation. Arriving to back to Focus just before they were closing, I ended up using the day up to its fullest.
I had been going for dinner to a local place on Niban road in Dawei, where I met kids who wanted to speak English to me and I promised to meet them the evening before I leave for Thailand. So with little regrets after all I spent a pleasant evening with them, my last in Myanmar for now, eating the most delicious vegetable salad I’ve had do far in this country.