Ngwe Saung Beach is one of just three beach destinations in Myanmar, with this being a weekend and holiday getaway for Burmese families from the capital Yangon. Despite that it's a five-hour drive over rough roads each way, scores of families arrive here each weekend in private cars to enjoy one of the few available escapes from big city pressures. More locals arrive by overnight bus.
The beach here is long – some eight kilometres of sand – and the beach hotels established during the repressive years of military rule were able to occupy huge tracts of beachfront land. Many now enjoy the luxury of a few hundred metres of beach. Traditionally, the beach hotels built widely spaced bungalows among the coconut palms, with car-parking space beside each. Today, despite the arrival of several modern-style resorts, this local, family-friendly formulae is still dominant, and locals remain the major customers here.
Foreign visitors have begun to discover Ngwe Saung, though, with increasing numbers arriving each high season. Those booked into the better-class resorts have their transport from Yangon arranged, though quite a few are also seen taking the bus with young Burmese.
While Ngwe Saung is principally a Burmese-style beach getaway, it is distinctly quiet when compared to its sister resort, Chaung Tha Beach, just 12 kilometres up the coast as the crow flies. This latter beach is Myanmar's fun and active beach, the noisy place where young people from the city come to be raucous, active and flirtatious. Families seeking a more peaceful patch of sand go to Ngwe Saung.
Not surprisingly, the long, relatively quiet beach at Ngwe Saung caters more to Western desires than does Chaung Tha, and a number of international-standard beachfront resorts have opened here in recent years. Ngwe Saung cannot compete with the country's most famous, international beach, Ngapali, for tropical each beauty, but the low-key, Burmese aura over this beach also suits many foreign visitors of a different ilk.
The location of Ngwe Saung village and its many small seafood restaurants is a disadvantage those without their own car – that's most of the foreigners coming here. All restaurants, shops and markets are concentrated in this little village, some five kilometres from resorts at the south end. There is virtually no food or commerce of any sort scattered along the beach, or the road behind, so transport to and from the village becomes both a necessity and a problem for many.
For more details and photos of the beach, village and resorts along Ngwe Saung, see these travel guide pages: Ngwe Saung Beach – an overview and also hotels and resort on Ngwe Saung Beach.
by John Everingham