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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

Magic Myanmar Made My Day

A village in the Mergui Arcehpelago.

It has long been a vastly underestimated destination, and it still is. More and more tourists are coming, but the numbers are still on the low side. To make the step from well-established and super safe Thailand seems a step too big for most. Luckily. That preserves the gem that this country is, for a little longer.

Gold overdose? The highest gold-plated pagoda in the world reaches 100 meters into the sky of Yangon.

Quite a few tourists still visit Yangon, Mandalay and Bangon, and for good reasons. But why not dare go elsewhere to discover world-class beaches, hospitality virtually unheard of and mouth-watering seafood? Just asking.

A stop for a couple of days in Yangon to see the world’s highest gold-plated pagoda, soak in the hustle and bustle of the country’s biggest city and sample its interesting and sometimes excellent restaurants, comes recommended.

Maungmakan Beach.

I hate overcrowded beaches.

But head south by plane (1hr) or bus (12hrs) to the true beach bonanza nearby Dawei. If the dozen of virtually unused beaches doesn’t make you relax, nothing short of heavy medication will. Maungmakan is the busiest of them, with excellent beach restaurants and small shops lined up in the shadow of the palm trees. The place to go when loneliness sets in from too much spent on more remote Grandfather Beach (Po Po Kyauk), Shan Maw, San Sa Aw Paradise Beach or San Maria.

More on the beaches around Dawei on MyohMyanmar, a blog.

The best way to independently travel between the beaches is by scooter. You will easily fit two on it. They can be rented cheaply from around Dawei, helmets are mandatory. And you won’t need to go to petrol stations to fill them up. Glass bottles of petrol are sold from almost every little shop alongside the road. Just don’t drink the stuff, it can easily pass ass rum or whiskey in those fancy bottles.

A scooter can easily fit two people. And in some cases in Myanmar, even entire families of 4, 5 or 6.

Myeik is further south, and the gateway to the incredible Mergui Archipelago which was off-limits to foreigners until fairly recently. And don’t get me wrong, the beaches here certainly compete with those around Dawei, but they are far less accessible as you need a boat to access most of them. A group visit with 20 others will set you back 100USD for a full day, including food and soft-drinks, water and beer. To get there on your own is much more expensive, unless your haggling is world-class, or you have are in the posession of a yatch.

I hardly ever travel on group tours, so I have never before seen the modern selfie. By drone. Here demonstrated by Chinese tourists.

I don’t, so I had to turn to a travel and tour company. A rarity for me, but I can fully recommend Blissful Myanmar whose Director Dr. That Zin Linn did everything in his powers (which was a lot) to ensure a most pleasant and very hassle free tour of the archipelago (as well as help rebook tickets to the Myeik-Yangon flight which was rescheduled without notice)..

Two Sand Line Island is definitely absolutely totally must-visit. It will cost you three hours worth of magnificent sights on a speed boat to get there, a small sacrifice to visit an island with a beach on each side of it. That does perhaps not sound very unique. Except that the island is bow tie shaped, which means that the two beaches are a 30 second walk from each other. With no people, and no buildings except for a small wooden shack. And let me not forget the excellent snorkelling. Just visit.

You can thank me later.

The magic of Myanmar might be best experienced away from the most touristy towns, but the hospitality is the same around the contry. You will never regret going here. But chances are you will regret not giving the country a chance. For so many reasons, all of which made me smile. A lot. Let me just mention the food, the people, the hospitality, the sights, the beaches.

It has everything. Even bubbles.

Who would have thought? The wine shop in Myeik had real champagne. At one third of the price in Norway (which admittedly says more about Norway than Myanmar).

One of the two beaches of Two Sand Line Island.

Not a worry in the world. Except, how the hell do I get back to the mainland 2.5 hours by boat away?

Me taking a photo of a fisherman taking a photo of me. Smartphones are everywhere in Myanmar too.

A fisherman providing his boat’s fresh water supply from a waterfall.

Village fishing fleet.

Village resident #1.

Village resident #2. With natural sun protection cream on her face.

Village resident #3, 4, 5 and 6.

The ice man chops up big blocks of ice. By axe.

Monk students in Myeik.

Farmers nearby an abandoned train station outside Dawei.

One of the villages on the archipelago.

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