Discovering Myanmar’s West Coast by motorbike was an incredible experience. Why? Because on the 18 kilometre route from Chaung Tha to Ngwe Saung beach you’ll cross three rivers, go along beaches, through jungle and some extremely remote areas. A true Burmese adventure!
While in a hostel in Yangon, I was talking to other backpackers and exchanging trip advice. Mike, a traveller from the UK, quickly convinced me on where to head next, when he told me about his motorbike trip along Myanmar’s west coast. I gathered all the information I could from Mike, as not even Lonely Planet had much on it. Soon enough, I was on a crowded bus full of Burmese people heading to Chaung Tha Beach.
Myanmar’s tourist industry is booming and so are it’s beach destinations. In March 2016, when I was in Burma, there were only three main beach spots - Ngapali, Ngwe Saung and Chaung Tha. All of them are mainly focused on high-end tourists. Hostels and cheap accommodation is scarce. But this is certainly changing.
Chaung Tha is a little beach town on Myanmar’s West Coast and a popular vacation spot with Yangon’s middle class. It’s 2 hours away from Pathein by bus and about 5 hours from Yangon, Myanmar's former capital city.
At Chaung Tha Beach I stayed at the Shwe Ya Min Guesthouse. For 15$ you'll get a double room with bath and and a delicious breakfast. It’s also just minutes away from the beach.
Early next morning I headed out and rented a scooter for 15$ per day. With a map in my hands, I biked towards the jetty for the first river crossing. No sign and no schedule confirmed that I was in the right place. Things just work differently in Myanmar. You have to be patient with everything. After what seemed like half an hour, a small boat finally arrived. It filled up quickly with locals, motorbikes and goods.
After just a few minutes, the jetty arrived on the other side of the river, near Kangi village. From here, the motorbike route continues through thick jungle and along the beach. My only directions were wheel tracks and footprints on the sand. Then, I arrived at another river again, and as some people were already waiting here, I figured this must be the next river crossing.
Just 18 kilometers is the adventure from Chaung Tha to Ngwe Saung Beach, but it took me a good two hours! The little town of Ngwe Saung is slightly bigger than Chaung Tha. Riding along the one and only road, I was passing gorgeous 5-star resorts. But here, I also found Dream House Hostel, which for 10$ per night was filled with backpackers.
It was midday and scorching hot. Still, the Burmese people didn’t seem to bother. They know how to have fun! Everyone was playing in water and hanging out on the beach. You can even rent ATVs (all-terrain vehicles). It’s a very different beach culture compared to Thailand or Indonesia, but certainly worth the experience!
I went along the beach and arrived at Lover’s Island. At low tide you’ll be able to cross over. A big mermaid’s statue will welcome you here, which is popular for selfies. There’s a pleasant, short hike on the rocky island, with good views from the top.
From Yangon, book a bus to either Chaung Tha Beach or Ngwe Saung Beach with Golden Star or Asia Dragon. Tickets cost around 18,000K round trip. Buses leave from Yangon’s Aung San Stadium at around 9 pm and arrive at 4 am or leave at 12pm and arrive at 5pm. Make sure to buy tickets in advance as buses fill up fast.