Ngapali beach in Rakhine State, Myanmar is one of the most picturesque and tranquil places you will find in Asia. Set on the western side of Myanmar and overlooking the Bay of Bengal this area is unspoiled by rapid commercialism but is well equipped to offer the traveler a wonderful experience.
It’s not easy to get to Ngapali beach, which could be why there aren’t that many tourists there at the moment. Myanmar’s infrastructure is not yet up to world standard and although just a few hundred kilometres from Yangon, the journey by Bus or Van will take around 14 hours. The roads are winding, single lane and in parts steep through hilly climbs. By far the best and most comfortable way to get there is by air. Most of Myanmar’s domestic airlines fly to Thandwe airport which serves the beach area of Ngapali. Domestic travel in Myanmar is expensive and you will be lucky to find a flight for under $200. I was lucky enough to find one for $170 but that was the cheapest by a long way. The flight takes less than an hour and all the major resorts will pick you up from the airport for free.
Hotels and Accommodation
Ngapali beach is about tranquility and there are many high end luxurious resorts scattered around the beach. I stayed at the Amazing Hotel and Resort which really was, like its name says, Amazing. Beautiful room, comfortable bed with bathtub and shower, balcony overlooking the beach and an amazing view from the swimming pool. The food is excellent but not cheap. There are some mid-range places you can stay in Ngapali but you won’t really find anything for the budget traveler. In my opinion it is much better to splurge out and enjoy this type of place, it is the type of place you want to relax and enjoy your time so you will be spending quite a lot of time around your hotel, make sure you choose a good one.
The beach really is idyllic. It has lovely white sand and stretches for around 3km from the airport through a number of coves to the fishing village. The sea is the Bay of Bengal and the temperature is lovely for a nice swim. The water is clear and you can see tiny crabs on the beach and in the shallow waters. There are some waves but nothing out of the ordinary and it is not a surfing destination. It is certainly a relaxing beach, there are a couple of hawkers but they are not intrusive.
There is a road that links the airport to the fishing village which is over 8km long and along the way there are restaurants, shops and hotels. It is all divided up into certain sections. I stayed in the part nearest to the airport but there were still a good selection of restaurants near me and a few shops. The busier part is further south near to the fishing village where you will find a number of restaurants and shops and a lot of hotels along the road. There is a road out of Ngapali to Thandwe market and 3 pagodas you can visit, this is worth a day trip although transportation is more expensive than Yangon.
Eating and Drinking
Seafood is the staple of Ngapali and there are some amazing seafood restaurants dotted all along the main road. I had a delightful grilled tuna meal at the Sea Queen restaurant just opposite my hotel. The staff were incredibly friendly and gave me a bracelet and some bananas as a present when I left! Food and drink is cheap in the local restaurants but much more expensive in the hotels. I was paying around $1.50 for a beer in a restaurant compared to $5 in my hotel and a good meal at the sea queen was less than $10 yet lunch in my hotel was over $20 for a lot less. There is no nightlife in Ngapali so things tend to shut down around 10pm when most of the restaurants close. My hotel bar was open until 11 and then things became very quiet.
A Growing Resort
Ngapali beach will no doubt become more and more popular as Myanmar itself develops. I hope it does not lose its distinct qualities and is not ruined by the western franchises as has happened to many resorts in Thailand. Once the infrastructure of the country becomes better more and more tourists will inevitably visit Ngapali which of course has its advantages and disadvantages. It will be interesting to see what happens to this lovely, tranquil place in a few years’ time. My advice is to visit sooner rather than later as this area will build up very rapidly as Myanmar moves forward.