In Southern Myanmar is a small town, named Dawei (formerly Tavoy). We have heard that it has some amazing beaches nearby and wanted to see them. Luckily, there was a week-long break in classes (as the students worked hard preparing for their opening ceremony) and even more luckily, it coincided with my birthday!
Dawei is somewhat remote, in that the highways are merely roads, and those roads could use some upgrades (which they are currently receiving, making them slower in many places than they would ordinarily be). From Mawlamyein to Dawei by bus (actually a van) took about 7 hours. From Hpa An (pronounced Pa An, it’s where we’ve been living for the past 2 months) to Mawlamyein is 1.5-2 hours by bus, but on the way to Dawei, we chose to take a river boat (for about 4 hours) down the Than Lwin river to Mawlamyein. Although it was much slower, we had some great views of the sights along the river.
Once in Mawlamyein we stayed in a guest house called Pann Su Wai, which had the friendliest and most helpful staff imaginable. The next morning we took the van for the day long trip halfway down Myanmar’s narrow finger which is bracketed between the Andaman Sea and Thailand.
Dawei is a rather sleepy town without many real tourist attractions. So when we arrived we had no real plans other than a strong interest in seeing beaches and enjoying a nice hotel room (and an even nicer bathroom with a western toilet, a shower, and hot water!!!) We spent our first day sleeping late in the morning, enjoying a great hotel breakfast and walking around town a little. By the end of the day I had managed to plan out our following days’ beach adventures, and Michelle was fully on board.
Dawei, itself, is not actually located on the ocean. It is on the Tevoy River, which separates it from an 80 km long peninsula which is lined with beautiful beaches. The closest of these beaches is Maungmagan Beach, about 15 km from Dawei. While deciding which beaches to visit I kept reading that it might be crowded and covered in trash. It took no time to choose to skip this place! Luckily I found someone’s blog that had a lot of information about all of the beaches along the peninsula (My Oh Myanmar!). Really, if you’re thinking of going to Dawei to see the beaches, stop reading this and visit his blog. Wait! Finish reading this first, and then go visit his blog! It’s great!
We got up earlier the next morning and headed over to Focus Motorbike Rental. The staff was really friendly, gave us a map (likely originating from the My Oh Myanmar blog) and directions and we were on our way.
We went to Pa Nyit beach (the top-middle of the map). We drove about 25 km (40 minutes) from Dawei to Launglon, where we turned off the main road and started driving west. Before long the pavement ended and we were driving on a dusty dirt road which gave way to a concrete track that twisted up one side of a large hill and part-way down the other. I say part, because most of the road down was steep, unpaved and rocky. It wasn’t the easiest motorbiking we’ve done (though not the most difficult either!)
We were well rewarded for our efforts. When we arrived at the end of the road and parked our motorbikes, there was a beautiful white sand beach stretching into the distance in front of us.
At one end of the long empty beach was a cluster of a few fishing boats, while on the rocks at the other end was a small pagoda. In between was white sand and blue water. Really white sand! Really blue water! We stayed for most of the afternoon and the entire time we saw 4 other people, and only two of those were Westerners. It was an amazing experience to sit on a tropical beach surrounded only by silence accented with crashing waves.
I had chosen Pa Nyit beach because it looked beautiful and secluded, but not too far away. The following day we would get a little more ambitious… Our plan was to drive 70 km down the peninsula to Po Po Kyauk beach (pronounced Po Po Chauk) also known as Grandfather beach. In other words, we planned to sit on motorbikes for a total of 5 hours that day (2.5 hours each way). On the way down, in the morning, we stopped at around 11:30 for an early lunch at a Thai restaurant in a very small village, Kyauk Wap Pyin. After that we proceeded to a nearby sight, Pagoda View. It is a small pagoda on the top of the hills that run down the middle of the peninsula and has an amazing view of Po Po Kyauk beach (and more). We planned to walk up, but when we arrived at the base of the road/trail a group of Myanmar people all agreed we could go up on motorbikes, “just go slow” they yelled as we headed up. Our attempt by motorbike lasted for about 4 hairpin turns up the very steep and rough dirt road. We parked at the point where construction machinery blocked the road, which was very much still being built. From there we walked up (only about 15 minutes) accompanied by two young local boys. They spoke almost no English. We speak almost no Burmese. We chatted the entire way. I tried teaching them numbers and they made it successfully to 10… mostly. We were not disappointed by the views when we reached the top.
It was a great side trip and I would recommend it to anyone heading in that direction from Dawei!
Back at the bottom of the hill we continued on down the peninsula, reached the village of Aut Kyauk Wap, turned west and rolled into Nyau Pyin village. It is a tiny fishing village at the end of a dirt road, right on the ocean. Many of the roads through it are sand (not the most fun to navigate on a 2-wheeled vehicle while dodging kids!) and the people do not have much. None the less we received many smiles and people yelled, “Hello!” as we rode slowly past them. We left the village on a tiny dirt/rock track through the trees and over a hill to finally arrive at Grandfather beach. It stretches for a few kilometers, and except for a collection of little shops where the road reaches the beach, it was empty. Another amazing deserted beach!
We left later than we should’ve, driving the final few kilometers to Dawei in the growing dark while dodging insects. We were tired. We were dirty (motorbiking dirt roads is inevitably dirty!) And we had an unbelievable experience. In this day and age it is harder and harder to find a place as beautiful and as untouched as the beaches we had visited. Best birthday ever? I’ll let you know next year…