Country Profile – Myanmar - Sun and Sand

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A two thousand kilometres of coastline, much of it long stretches of white sand put Myanmar in the running to be Asia's next popular beach destination. Many of Myanmar’s beaches are unspoiled and undiscovered, reminiscent of Thailand’s beaches 20 years ago.

The best ones are along the shores of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea -- these beaches face west, virtually guaranteeing great sunsets.


Ngapali Beach

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This is a dream beach with seven kilometres of white sand fringed with palm trees. The turquoise sea is crystal clear. As it's somewhat remote, this is a place to come for a few days and sink into beach mode. Accommodation options range from small beach huts to villas and there are plenty of restaurants serving fresh seafood.

The story goes that the beach was named after the Italian city of Naples by a homesick Italian. This would not be a beach for the backpackers to go to. The tourist industry is well organised here. Everything from sea sports, snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking to cycling and golf is available here.


Ngwe Saung (Silver Beach)

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The sea is as clear as it is in Ngapali, but the area isn’t as developed, making it a seriously laid back spot and a great place to do nothing. When you’ve had enough of lying on the beach, there’s scuba diving and snorkelling and an island at the end of the beach that you can walk out to at low tide.

You can hire a motorbike if you want to explore the 15-kilometer beach and ride on the hard sand sections and take the road that runs alongside the beach for the rest. The seafood here is fantastic -- lobster, shrimp, crab, fish -- and if you’re on the beach early in the morning you’ll probably see fishermen coming in with their catch.


Chuang Tha Beach

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Close to Yangon, this beach is popular with middle-class families from the city. This is the beach that the people of Myanmar come to play. The beachfront is a jumble of hotels and is crowded especially during the weekends and holidays.

During high tide season, one can take a boat and explore the nearby islands.


Kanthaya Beach

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This is the Myanmar beach to hit if you really want to get away from development. Kanthaya Beach is unspoiled and undeveloped. There are no beachside sports and shops, and that’s the attraction. You won’t be able to book a hotel in advance, but you’re sure to find a room when you arrive.

The beach is shallow and 4.5-kilometres long. Unlike the white sandy beach of Ngapali, 100 kilometres north, the sand here is golden and a little gritty.


The Myeik (Mergui) Archipelago

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The gorgeous and remote Myeik (or Mergui) Archipelago lies in the Andaman Sea off the coast of southern Myanmar. To visit these extraordinary islands who will need to join a guided tour and they remain largely undiscovered by tourists – which is a big part of their appeal.

Made up of more than 800 islands which vary in size from smaller ones with just a few palm trees to larger islands of several hundred square kilometres, the archipelago offers great opportunities for exploration and diving amongst spectacular marine life  and untouched coral reefs, with yachts and cruise boats designed for that purpose.

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It is not just the scenery (under water or over water) that makes the Myeik Archipelago such a fascinating place to visit: the Moken people, also known as the Salone or sea gypsies, are one of the most distinct of Myanmar’s many ethnic groups, living a nomadic, sea-based life here. Having adapted themselves to the water over many hundreds of years, they are the masters of free diving, being able to focus their vision under water and hold their breath far longer than most humans can.

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The islands of the Myeik Archipelago offer a wide variety of sights and adventurous activities, from hiking through tropical valleys to kayaking through mangroves and up rivers; the opportunities for exploration are almost limitless. And if you are after a more laid back time, you can simply jump in the water from your boat or wander along any of the hundreds of deserted white sand beaches.

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A hugely diverse range of wildlife can be found on the islands, including monitor lizards, pythons, civets, chevrotains, gibbons and crab-eating macaques. Up in the air, the colourful diversity is perhaps even greater: you can see hornbills, white-bellied sea eagles, while kites, kingfishers, eastern reef herons, emerald doves, to name but a few of the species that circle the islands.

As with much of the rest of Myanmar, November to April is the high season for visiting the Myeik Archipelago. December to February offers the most beautiful and comfortable weather conditions – with warm, sunny weather, steady winds, and calm seas. There is less wind, and higher temperatures in March and April, which also makes for clearer waters and the best time for diving and snorkelling.