In this third episode of the “Diary of Myanmar”, I’ll explain everything about the unbelievable and unspoiled beaches around Dawei: Maungmagan, Grandfather’s, Sin Htauk and Paradise beach. I probably had the best days of the 50 days journey there!
If you are looking for just the practical information, below we give you a few internal links so that you can go straight to the point! In case you want to read the whole adventure, just keep reading below the index 😉
Let’s start the journey around Dawei!
Arrival in Dawei. Messier than what I expected – Day 4
As said in the previous episode (Journey in Myeik), the trip from Myeik to Dawei didn’t start as desired with a smelly armpit in my face.
Apart from that little detail, the road was way better than the one connecting Kawthaung with Myeik, but the curves were still there. Before the first stop a girl started to vomit. Actually I was surprised that it didn’t happen sooner.
But hey! the trip had interesting moments! During the stop and while I was paying, I realized something was licking my leg, it was a baby bear! I don’t know what it was doing there but it was pretty cute trying to climb the table.
The rest of the journey was ok and we arrived in Dawei at around 1pm. The first impression from the minivan was: Wow! I have changed country! Everything was better organized, there was some pavement, lines on the road, the name of some streets in English and everything much cleaner. The contrast with Myeik was obvious. It didn’t look so touristic, but I felt that they are getting ready for it.
Looking for affordable accommodation in Dawei. The first challenge
They dropped me at one guest house which I had already looked for. The name was Wonder Luck guest house, I went there and they told me: sorry we don’t have a license to host foreigners. I went to another place nearby, the name was Sein Shwe Moe guesthouse, the room was 8.000 kyats a night (6.15€) and they could host foreigners but it was fully booked :/
The guy was super nice and he advised me of another cheap place where I could ask and a place (the name is Focus) where I could rent a motorbike, 8.000 kyats for a scooter, the entire day. A manual one was 6.000 kyats. They asked for a photocopy of my passport but no cash deposit, it wasn’t necessary to leave my passport and I’d pay when I left it. I guess they haven’t had problems with tourists yet and that’s why they aren’t strict at all.
The woman, again super nice, advised me that if I didn’t find accommodation in the city I could go to Coconut guest house (by the beach) or try to sleep at a monastery for free (but it was three hours away by motorbike).
So I took the motorbike and went to another guest house, Dream Emperor. They had just one room available for 10.000 kyats (7.7€). But it was still 3 pm and I was feeling comfortable, so I decided to try the Coconut guest house near the beach, 35 minutes away from where I was. MISTAKE!
I was on my way, the road kind of ok and the scenery beautifuuuuul! Palms, rice fields, some hills, little villages by the road and so on.
I got to Maungmagan, the village where Coconut guest house was. The guest house was a bit hidden so it took some time to find it. The village looked cute: beach, small local places and everything so untouched by mass international tourism, just locals.
Finally, I got to Coconut guest house! I parked the motorbike and went to the reception and… guess what? Fully booked 🙁 It was already 4 pm. They told me that I could sleep in the reception for free that night and the next day I could take a bungalow since some people were checking out. But the bungalow was 25.000 kyats (17€) so the idea didn’t seduce me.
Making the wrong decision?
So I had two options here. First, go back to Dawei and take the room in Dream Emperor and finally rest or do what my adventurous and clueless brain was more eager to do, drive for 2 hours with the backpack, get to the monastery (with the sun almost down) and sleep there for free. I went for the second one. HUGE MISTAKE! (Although at that moment it looked like the best option by far).
The next hours doesn’t give special insights and tips about Dawei but it’s quite an adventure so if you wanna read it, just click here: Adventures finding accommodation in Dawei. Otherwise and for more tips keep reading down here 🙂
Maungmagan beach – Day 5
This was a day of chilling, not many adventures but that’s necessary from time to time and especially after the previous day I had…
In the morning I woke up at 7 am first, to say goodbye to my new Indonesian friend and to leave the floor! Then, already on a mattress I slept a bit more and then spent the whole morning writing on the computer.
The plan for the day was to go to Maungmagan beach. It’s the closest to Dawei city and I didn’t want to drive for a long time. Strength was going to be necessary for the next day 😉
I got to the village near the beach, via an easy road and with nice scenery on the way there. From the village, it was pretty easy to arrive at the beach. In the main “street” in front of the beach, there were so many colourful and small local restaurants. The atmosphere was vibrant with quite a lot of locals, it looked beautiful.
The beach was extremely long and the sea was low so it looked even wider. No big resorts around, just these small restaurants, beach and sea.
I parked the motorbike and started to walk and walk (1 hour) until I reached a spot in which I was totally alone to enjoy the sunset. It was just magical there. I started to think about Myanmar as the sunset country! Three great ones in the first four days, not bad at all!
It was getting dark so I went back. The colours in the sky and their reflection on the sea were still vivid which made the panorama wonderful!
It was around 6 pm when I drove back to Dawei. I had dinner at Tavoy’s Kitchen. This place is good if you want to remember something more familiar than Burmese restaurants. They are still a Burmese restaurant but they have a menu (which isn’t common in rural Myanmar where they just show you the big pots with the food they have) and they have a good level of English (not that common either so far). Also, it’s a place frequented by foreigners so a good chance to meet some other travellers.
The end of the rainy season festival
That night there was a huge parade celebrating the end of the rainy season (beginning of November) across the whole city. I then understood why everything was fully booked those days, so watch out if you are visiting Dawei those days.
At the restaurant I asked what was going on with the festival, where the main point was and so on. They told me that the big moment had already been at 6pm at the main Pagoda of the city where the parade started (it was already 9.30 pm).
From there, three trucks with pretty loud music and other 28 trucks with one mini-pagoda each would go around the city leaving one pagoda in each area of the city. Around 3 am, everybody would pray in front of the mini pagoda they had closest.
So feeling a bit disappointed I went back to the guesthouse where I met my Finish fella (from the previous day). He had been in the ceremony from the beginning and told me that was great. As expected he was the only foreigner there and everybody was giving food and beverages away along the parade. He told me that I could still catch part of it near the guest house.
I went and checked it out. I caught the last part of it, the trucks with loud music but just that. The atmosphere looked great and quite fun with colourful trucks full of lights. Some young guys talked to me and gave me some beverages. After some selfies, I went back to sleep.
It was already around 12 am and the next day I had a loooong drive to paradise beach, the place where I planned to stay to enjoy the brightest full moon in 20 years!
Getting to Paradise beach. The second challenge – Day 6
Falling into temptation… buying a SIM card in Myanmar
The day started at a decent time. I managed some things before getting back on the road. A SIM card (I know… I fell into the temptation of having internet everywhere :/) which cost me 1.500 kyats (1€) for the SIM card and 3.000 kyats (2€) to top-up, I didn’t know how many MB I got with that but I’d realise some days later that it was around 600MB.
Then I asked about the bus for the next city at an agency and the schedule since I was going for “x” days to a beach lost in the middle of nowhere, so better to arrange this things in advance.
The bus to Mawlamyine was 12.000 kyats (8.15€) for a 7 hours journey and it would depart at 11 pm, which was great to skip one night in a guesthouse (there are other schedules, I ended up taking a bus at 5.30 pm).
On the way to Paradise beach
I checked out of the guesthouse and around 12.15 pm I was on my way to paradise beach. I knew about this beach from my Indonesian friend. The bungalows there cost 35.000 kyats (23.8€) a night but there was the option of pitching a tent or sleeping in their hammocks for 10.000 kyats (6.8€) and breakfast included.
This beach was 2.5 hours away from Dawei and looked like a paradise as per some of the pictures I saw. For more info you can check their website, they explain how to get there with public transport if you don’t feel like taking a motorbike and more useful tips.
As I was getting further from the city, the view and the scenery got wilder and more beautiful. It was a total pleasure for my senses to drive along these roads 🙂
After 1 and a half hours and with half of the way done I stopped to have lunch. I found a really cute place for it.
The guy was super nice and offered me a sugar cane juice. At the beginning I wasn’t sure about how the taste was going to be but it was deliiiiicious! I asked for another one actually. The way he made it was really curious as well, with this rudimentary machine to squash the cane.
The food was a HUGE pad thai with chicken, vegetables and shrimps. It was delicious and I paid 1.600 kyats (1.1€) for everything.
One hour later, I got back on the road to do the rest of the way. The road was getting narrower and narrower but still pretty ok. The children were more surprised at seeing foreigners as soon as I started getting closer to my destination. They came running out of the houses just to say hello and give you the sweetest of their smiles 🙂
At some point I saw this:
I was a bit confused on where I was at this point but after asking some locals they told me that the way was on the right.
I didn’t know how the beach was going to look but just the road trip was amazing!
I arrived at the village where I was supposed to turn right and go to the beach. I saw this big sign so I knew I was on the right way.
The path looked ambitious but doable. Buuut… the path got worse :/
And worse… but incredibly beautiful and intriguing.
Falling in love with Paradise Beach
Finally I got here, I freaked out by the path to reach that place. I was a bit afraid at some moments and I was lucky that the path was dry, I couldn’t imagine how bad it could be with rain.
But then I saw this:
And I realised that the difficult journey was worth the destination! A beautiful beach for just a few bungalows and 4 hammocks!! 😮
This place was opened just 8 months ago and it was already booked for the next month. Only the option of going to the beach and sleeping in a hammock was available so I got it.
We had a common delicious dinner all together for the full moon night, around 20 people at one huge table. Rice, fish, some salad and typical soups from there for just 2.000 kyats (1.35€)!
After that, the staff made a bonfire on the beach to enjoy the shiny full moon and more chatting with everybody. As always I remained the last one there. Enjoying this beach with that moon was totally priceless!
So around 1 am and with the sound of the waves in the background, it was time to sleep in my cocoon-hammock and say goodbye to the best day in Myanmar so far 🙂
Getting to Sin Htauk beach. Third challenge (this one made the others look like a joke) – Day 7
The sun and the sound of the waves woke me up at around 8.30. Some swimming to start the day with a good mood and I went to have breakfast, delicious pancakes with bananas.
A Spanish guy that was also there asked me about my plans. I said that I’d probably visit a beach in the surrounding area so we agreed to go to Sin Hthauk. It was around 2 hours far from where we were.
Everything was great along the main road and the first 15 minutes of the track were really fun with many ups, downs and bumps but still a decent path and with beautiful scenery.
We arrived in a little village and the path got worse, kind of the same to get to Paradise beach, but here it took way longer to get to the beach.
At some point we were totally in the jungle and the path was almost non-existent.
It was like that for a while, quite difficult but it was still doable. Some minutes later… we got stuck. It was full of mud and mangroves.
We tried to cross with the motorbikes but it was totally impossible. I had flip-flops and one of them ended up broken. At that point we decided to leave the motorbikes and keep going on foot (half-barefoot in my case). After some minutes and wondering if we were lost, we saw this little sign.
Two minutes more and behind a little hill we saw this 😉
Sin Htauk. Awesome beach and the “best” journey!
We had made it! Such a tough journey but the place was increeeedible! There were just some fishermen and the two of us. We stayed for a long time watching how they worked. It was a totally rudimentary way of fishing but looked very interesting for us.
After a couple of hours under the sun and with more than ten guys working, they got less than 100 kilograms of tiny shrimps… A quick calculation about how much that fish could cost in a restaurant and you get to understand how low their salary is. Still, they were there with a smile and glad to see us in such a remote place. They even told us to give them a hand, pulling the rope to close the big net.
Later we went to the other side of the beach. We saw there were some bungalows under construction, like the ones in paradise beach.
We talked to the workers there and among them was the owner. He told us that in one month (this happened in November 2016) they were going to open. We asked him about the difficulty of getting all the paperwork done and he said that it was really hard. Even being Burmese, as he was, it took him 3 years! You can check their website here.
It was time to leave our stuffs aside and swim in those crystalline waters for a while before getting back to the tough journey. It was great!
For the way back the same adventure awaited us but we already knew what to expect so we made it faster. We had a late lunch at one of the roadside restaurants at around 4 pm and got back to paradise beach in just over an hour.
Before dinner, the last remains of the monsoon came and it rained a loooot! Some new fellas, a Polish guy and a Swiss girl, brought some rum to overcome the bad weather 😉
After dinner we kept talking and talking. Then I saw that my German friends (had met them the previous night) had some wine, so I joined them to celebrate whatever they were celebrating. We ended up dancing salsa (or trying to) by the beach and swimming late at night.
Around 1 or 2 am and a bit tipsy, it was time to sleep.
Chilling day at Paradise Beach – Day 8
This was one of those days in which you don’t need adventures and just feel like chilling at the beach, so I did .
I spent the whole day at paradise beach. Reading, swimming, chatting, swimming, reading and chatting more. At night more chatting after dinner and I planned my next day’s adventure with my German friends.
It was time to visit another beach around there, time for Grandfather’s beach!
Grandfather’s beach. The best day – Day 9
This was the third night I was spending there… I was supposed to spend just one but that cocoon-hammock, the interesting people I met and the beautiful and unspoiled beaches around the area made me stick around this place for more days than what I had planned.
However, I had already decided that day was going to be the last and that the next day I would start my journey to Mawlamyine. It was time to move on and the people I met and who made that place so great were leaving too.
I woke up around 9am to catch the breakfast before the kitchen closed at 9.30. I had some toast with fried eggs and avocado dip, a mix I thought was quite strange but that turned out to be delicious.
After breakfast, we took the motorbikes and started a day trip to Grandfather’s beach, just 45 minutes away from Paradise Beach. We took two motorbikes; I carried one of the girls, which made the difficult track even more “interesting” but everything went fine.
Right after getting to the main road, we stopped to put on some sun cream. The sun was hitting quite hard. An old woman invited one of the girls to sit down with them, so we all joined.
They were suuuper nice (nothing new already)! They gave us fresh water, some bananas, lolly pops and a few fans to kill the heat. They even invited us to take a nap inside if we were tired! After a while there, we left to go to the beach but taking a family picture first (Not the best quality though :/ ).
Getting to Grandfather’s beach
Just a few metres ahead on the main road and in the direction of Dawei city, we turned left. We followed the track for some minutes until we arrived at an interesting village of fishermen. It was so colourful and it looked like a festival was going on there.
After crossing the village, turning to the right when there is no option to go straight and following that track for 10-15 minutes we arrived at the beginning of Grandfather’s beach.
It was around 1 pm so the sea was still up. We waited there for a bit and around 2 pm, we were able to go to the beach, THIS BEACH!
The beach is MAAASSIVE and totally empty. It was super-long and incredibly wide. We drove with the motorbikes along it, which was such an experience! I think I better show a video. (Thanks for the camera work, Yonci 😉 )
We reached the northern part of the beach, where the river separates the beach in two. From there, we were able to see the next beach and with the sea low it was even possible to cross from one to the other. We swam there for a couple of hours and went back to paradise beach before it was dark and too late.
Wandering around a Burmese fishing village
When we got into the village again the atmosphere was soooo charming that we decided to stop the motorbikes and have some late lunch (4.30 pm). We had some noodles with soup and we paid in total around 2.000 kyats (1.3€).
Later we walked through the village, all the children wanted to come to us and say hello or just ask what our names were 🙂
It was already dark, around 6 pm, so we went back to Paradise Beach.
It had been such an intense and full of special moment’s day. Some light dinner, more chatting and time to enjoy the last night in the cocoon!
Bye bye Dawei. I’ll always remember you – Day 10
It was finally time to say goodbye to this special place. I woke up at 9 am and had a delicious last breakfast with that awesome view.
I was planning to leave at around 10.30 am to get to Dawei city before 2 pm and return the motorbike on time (I had taken it 6 days ago at 2pm) since I didn’t want to get overcharged for just a couple of hours.
My dear German friends had left before, around 10 am, so it was the time to say goodbye. This is one of the worst moments of travelling alone… you say goodbye too many times.
Another feeling when travelling long term and alone is that you meet a lot of people but don’t make real friends. It’s kind of normal especially if you are hopping from place to place for 2-3 days but sometimes you come across people with whom you forged really strong bonds in a few days. This is exactly what I felt with these girls.
So after the goodbye, I just chilled for a while more, enjoying the last moments.
It was already 1 pm (time flies in paradise) and I was a little bit behind my schedule. I got to the road, everything great, the scenery beautiful but I have already talked about this, so I’ll skip it 🙂
I stopped for lunch at around 2 pm in the same cute place as when I was going to paradise beach. The same guy was there and he was both glad and surprised to see me there again. Same food and same feeling, delicious!
At 4.30 pm I arrived in Dawei. I had to withdraw money to pay for the motorbike (the only ATMs in the surrounding area are in Dawei city) and I did it in the third ATM I tried. The rest of them weren’t working. Be patient with ATMs in Myanmar, especially out of the 4 main tourist places (Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake).
The plan was to take the bus going to Mawlamyne at 5.30 pm, sleep there one or two nights and then head to Hpa-An.
As always, I was cutting it close with the time. Dirik, a guy that worked at the motorbike rental store gave me a ride. He saved my life! He was so helpful and nice that I wanted to give him a small tip of 2.000 kyats (1.3€).
But then he told me: No man, no money! We are friends 🙂 After some chatting, my bus to Mawlamyne was departing so we said goodbye and I left.
This was the first time taking a big bus and not a minivan in Myanmar. The comfort is definitely better but it’s a bit slower. We made it in 7 relaxed hours without armpits on my face or people puking around me.
That’s all for the moment, already 10 days of the journey but many adventures and tips still to come. Sign up below if you don’t want to miss the rest of the journey! If you can’t wait, check the best 50 picture of the trip! 😉