We spend our last few days in Myanmar on the magnificent Ngapali beach. We are right up one end, staying in the Bayview Hotel, supposedly a boutique hotel, but like the majority the hotels on this beach it caters for mass tourism, with nice rooms all cheek by jowl, on a small plot. Worst of all, it suffers from sunbed–towels-at-dawn syndrome, trade-mark of the German tourist, the majority of the guests here.
Sadly, I am not sure how long it will remain unspoiled; there are plans to expand the runway to allow direct flights from Singapore and elsewhere, and for more hotels. Villagers will be uprooted (as has already been the case) to make way for the expansion. Soon I fear it will become a strip, just like those in Thailand or Vietnam, full of hawkers, sunbeds and people. For now, it seems pretty idyllic, but it’s too beautiful to survive.
There are escapes on hand – a couple of times we go out in a boat, chug around Pearl Island, and snorkel. Not much too see, but clear water and no people; followed by BBQ lunch on a sand-spit, complete with a Western Banded Snake Eagle, semi domesticated. Simple but delicious food washed down by cold beer and fresh lime juice. The hotel has some reasonable bikes, and you can trundle up and down the main strip, through the villages and hunt for last-minute Chrstmas presents.
Most nights we eat at the Silver Full restaurant, water lapping at our feet at high tide. Grilled white snapper; salads of all kids: tea-leaf, two kinds of papaya, cashew nut; grilled and curried prawns; noodles – all scrummy, and washed down with Red Mountain Sauvignon Blanc,
So our Burmese days come to a close, our companions trickle off in twos as the world of work beckons and soon only the retired and the scribblers remain. Four days later, we find ourselves kicking our heels in Yangon for a few hours, waiting for our plane back to Singapore. We are taken to the lake for lunch, where we find a delightful bridal party frolicking on the lawn, taking photos. En route, we pass by Aung San Suu Kyi’s house – something we feel we have to do before we go to pay tribute to this awe-inspiring woman.
It’s been a fantastic two and a half weeks, not quite as off the beaten track as I had hoped – trekking aside – but a rich cultural journey, with landscapes and historical attractions enriching the experience. We will go back, as it’s a short hop from here, and explore some of the bits we didn’t have time for. But for now we turn our attention westwards as we prepare to return to England and Switzerland for the Christmas holidays.