Thai bay made famous by The Beach shut till 2021

Thai Bay

THE closure of the glittering Thai bay made famous by the movie The Beach has been extended for another two years to allow a full recovery of its corals and wildlife, an official said on Thursday, drawing a sharp rebuke from the tourism industry.

Maya Bay, ringed by cliffs on Ko Phi Phi Ley island and surrounded by azure waters, was made famous when it featured in the 2000 film starring Leonardo Dicaprio.

It was shut last June by Thai authorities due to worries the white-sand paradise was suffering from the pressure of thousands of day-trippers arriving by boat.

Authorities had initially said the beach – a massive draw for Thailand’s more than 38 million tourists – was going to be closed for four months, but the re-opening was repeatedly postponed.

Thon Thamrongnawasawat, adviser to the Department of National Parks, on Thursday said the ban on visitors will be extended until mid-2021.

“The resolution of the Department of Parks yesterday [May 8] is to extend the closure of Maya Bay for another two years to allow its ecology to fully recover,” he said.

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After it is reopened, measures such as limiting the number of daily visitors and banning boats from parking within the bay’s waters will be enacted, Thon said.

Before Maya Bay’s closure, up to 5,000 tourists visited daily, causing trees and smaller vegetation to be uprooted, creeping soil erosion, and severe damage to the corals in the bay.

A majority of the visitors were ferried there from tourist hotspot Krabi province by local longtail boatmen or tour operators who touted the movie-famous bay as a key attraction for day trips.

“Maya Bay is the heart of our tourism,” said Wattana Rerngsamut, chairman of Krabi Provincial Tourism Association which represents some 200 tourism and hotel operators.

Calling the two-year extension “unfair”, Wattana said the Department of National Parks should conduct public hearings so they can find “common ground . . . so that local people can earn a living”.

Chinese visitors, making up a quarter of Thailand’s tourists, have “plunged 50 per cent [in Krabi]”, he added.

Thailand experienced a three-month slowdown in tourism last year, most noticeably since July when a ferry sank and killed 47 Chinese visitors off nearby Phuket.

Since the tragedy, the government has rolled out inducements aimed at regaining trust and making travel easier – including exempting Chinese visitors from paying a visa-on-arrival fee.

Less than a year after its closure, blacktip reef sharks have been sighted swimming in Maya Bay, with conservationists saying their return signals signs of a recovery to the ecology.

Source – ThePhnomPenhPost

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#Indonesia – 8 reasons to visit Lombok and the Gili Islands

If you’re looking for a laid-back escape with an adventure or two, it
would be hard to beat Lombok and the Gili Islands. You can choose to
relax on endless white sand beaches, dive remote coral reefs or hike to
see panoramic views.
 
Devastated by the series of earthquakes in 2018, these destinations
are bouncing back and hungry for tourists. So pack your bags this coming
dry season and go explore paradise.
 
1. Hike Mount Rinjani National Park
 
Lombok’s Mount Rinjani National Park is unbeatable for spectacular
views and challenging trails. While most of the hiking trails on Mt.
Rinjani were damaged in the 2018 earthquakes, one trail has reopened.
 
Located in Aik Berik village, the trail is lesser known among the
mountain’s more popular trails, but offers a similar experience for
adventurous travelers in search of epic views.
2. Hop around Gili Islands
 
For a relaxing break from daily life, consider going island-hopping
around the stunning Gili Islands. These islands are known for scuba diving cruises and offers a chance to truly get away from it all.
 
If you can bear to tear yourself away from the white sand beaches and
turquoise ocean vistas, you’ll find vibrant coral reefs teeming with
life under the waters.
 
The Shark Point dive site offers a chance to dive with sharks and
manta rays, while Deep Turbo offers overhangs and underwater caves for
experienced divers to explore. You might even see a whale shark or two.
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3. Experience Bangkang bat cave
 
A trip to Goa Bangkang will take your breath away with stalactites
and bursts of sunlight through the cave’s ceiling. Tucked underground on
Lombok, it is a cave like no other.
 
Descending the stairs into Bangkang, your senses will be struck by
the sound and smell of thousands of bats. If you stay in the area until
sunset, you can watch the bats exit the cave, covering the sky as they
begin their nightly hunt for food.
 
4. Swim with sea turtles
 
If you’re a fan of sea turtles (who isn’t?), be sure to check out the sea turtle conservation initiatives at the Gili Islands.
 
Green sea turtles, which are classified as endangered, are
well cared for at Gili Meno, thanks to Bolong, the local man who set up
the Gili Meno Turtle Sanctuary. The sanctuary saves turtle eggs from
predators to help release the precious hatchlings into the sea.
The sanctuary is fascinating, and your visit will support turtle
conservation, as it depends entirely on donations from visitors.
 
You can swim with sea turtles at various spots around the Gili
Islands. Gili Air is especially known for green sea turtles at Han Rock.
 
5. Slow down, enjoy the silence
 
No motorized vehicles are allowed on Gili Trawangan, meaning you can
escape the noise of the neighboring destinations and rejuvenate in peace
and quiet.
 
The best way to explore the charms of Gili Trawangan is by foot or on
a bicycle. Stop off at beach bars, do some yoga, or just walk the
endless sands to reconnect with yourself, one day at a time.
 
6. Enjoy epic views from Gili Trawangan
 
There’s only one lookout point on the Gili Islands, at the top of
Gili Trawangan. Head off on a hike at sunrise, and you’ll start your day
off right.
 
At the peak is a shrine and Muslim burial site, plus the remains of a
World War II Japanese bunker to investigate, though the view is the
real highlight.
 
Resting at the top, you can look across the ocean to Mt. Rinjani and
capture panoramic views of the other Gili Islands, plus Lombok and Bali.
 
7. Learn to dive at Sekotong
 
If you’ve always wanted to try scuba diving but were too nervous to
take the plunge, Sekotong in Lombok is a great place to start. The
beautiful reefs there offer easy, sheltered dives, perfect for
beginners.
 
It will be well worth the effort, as you’re likely to spot sea turtles. You can even try spotting the tiny pygmy seahorses.
 
8. Watch the sunset at Semeti Beach
 
Another Lombok highlight are the rock formations on Semeti Beach,
which are not to be missed. These striking pyramid-shaped rocks jut
impressively out of the ocean, providing the perfect backdrop to a
sunset.
 
Semeti Beach is an ideal place to end a day of island-hopping, to see
the best view of the sun setting that you’re ever likely to see.
 
The author is a diver and writer for LiveAboard.com
Source – TheJakartaPost
 

 

#Vietnam – Son Doong Cave an incredible find

The Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh Province is among the most incredible places in the world recently found, The Telegraph says.

 
The cave, part of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam, is the world’s largest, but it did not feature on Vietnam’s tourism map until it was opened for tourists in 2013.
 
The Telegraph has included the once-hidden cave on the list of 11 newly-discovered places that are worth an amazing exploration journey.
 
Son Doong opened to tourists in 2013, four years after members of the British Cave Research Association concluded their initial exploration and declared it the world’s largest cave.
 
The five kilometer-long system, which is 150 meters high and 200 meters wide, contains at least 150 individual caves, a dense subterranean jungle and several underground rivers.
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 Due to limited space, registration for Son Doong tours must be made well in advance. According to Oxalis, now the only company licensed to bring tourists to the cave, only 300 spaces are available for 2019 tours.
 
A four-day expedition costs $3,000, and there are bus routes running from Hanoi to Dong Hoi, the capital town of Quang Binh, and then to the park.
 
The Quang Binh government recently raised the limit for number of tourists allowed to visit the cave from 640 to 900 a year.
 
Other incredible places that are recent finds include the Pico da Neblina mountain in Brazil, Xianren Bridge in China, Cape Melville in Australia, Machu Picchu citadel in Peru and Mount Mabu in Mozambique.
 
Last month, the U.K.-based travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet, named Son Doong Cave in Quang Binh among the best places to visit in 2019.
 
The New York Times has named it among the world’s top eight travel destinations, while the National Geographic has called it a “natural wonder.”
 
 Source – VN Express
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#Cambodia – Siem Reap welcomes plans for aquarium, sanctuary

Siem Reap will be home to a $70-million aquarium and wildlife sanctuary project that seeks to become a new tourist draw for the province.
 
Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium, a joint venture of Cambodian, Japanese and US investors, announced the project on Monday during a meeting with Siem Reap’s governor Tea Seiha.
 
Roger Reynolds, member of the board of directors at Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium, said the project will comprise freshwater and saltwater fish displays as well as a wildlife sanctuary.
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The project will be located on 100 hectares on land in Sout Nikom district.
 
“The project will provide employment for many local people,” Mr Reynolds said.
 
“It is divided into three phases. Phase 1 will use $20 million. Construction of this phase will start in March and will be operational by the end of 2020.
 
“Besides helping to develop the national economy, the project will educate local and international visitors about the environment and the conservation of natural resources by introducing guests to rare aquatic species so that they can see and understand the natural resources of the country,” Mr Reynolds said.
 
Mr Seiha said Siem Reap welcomes the project.
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“The company must now cooperate with relevant departments and authorities to move forward. It must review the location of the project to avoid delays in construction in the future and it must ensure it adheres to the law.”
 

 

Phu Yen, #Vietnam’s land of the rising sun

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 The easternmost province is a top choice for adventures and to enjoy the beauty of nature including some out-of-the-world landscapes.Phu Yen, located on the south central coast, is the first point on the Vietnamese mainland to welcome the sun every morning.

It has a diverse topography consisting of mountains, rivers, lagoons, bays, and islands and a myriad of beautiful natural sights for visitors to explore.

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Phu Yen’s sunny season is from January to around August, and is perfect for sightseeing. There are also lots of local festivals during these months, so remember to check their dates if you want to see them.But April and May can be quite hot, so visitors who choose to go during this period should be mindful and take sun-protection gear and water.

From May until the end of July is the peak domestic tourist season, and during this period Phu Yen can get pretty crowded. It might not be an ideal time for those who prefer a quiet and relaxing holiday.

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Dai Lanh Cape, around 35km from Tuy Hoa, the capital city of Phu Yen, is the first place in the country where the sun rises. The best spots to catch the sunrise from are up the lighthouse or on Mon Beach, both spectacular places.Visitors can spend the night at Mui Dien lighthouse, and, when the time comes, take in the view of the bay and the ocean wide open right before their eyes. The feeling when standing on the top, with the wind carrying the smell of the ocean and caressing your skin and hair, and watching the spectacular scene unfold is indescribable.

You need to call up the lighthouse and make arrangements the day before. Tickets cost around VND10,000 ($0.43)

Camping on Mon Beach for the night and waiting for the sunrise can be an unforgettable experience. The beach is located behind Dai Lanh Lighthouse.

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Vung Ro spreads over an area of 16.4 square kilometers, with beautiful beaches and the ocean on one side and forested mountains like Deo Ca and Hon Ba, and the highest peak, Da Bia (Tombstone Mountain), on the other.It is situated in the commune of Hoa Xuan Nam, Dong Hoa District, at the edge of Ca Pass. The drive, whether from the south or north, is extremely scenic. The coastal road offers a magnificent, unbroken view of the bay’s blue waters, fishing villages, the craggy pass, the green mountains, and the white sandy beaches.

There are hundreds of floating homes, fish farms and wooden fishing boats in the main bay. From here, visitors can take a boat to visit seafood farms, try to be a fisherman for a day and learn how locals catch lobsters or go catching fish or squid.

The seafood at the floating restaurants here are obviously as fresh as it possibly can be as it goes straight to the kitchen from the floating farms around. Some beers while floating on the blue lagoon, and this becomes an experience one just should not miss.

There are also other recreation options such as jet-skiing, snorkeling and visiting historical relics for visitors.

 Vung Ro Bay has 12  beautiful, pristine beaches such as Lach, Mu U, Chua, Chan Trau which are perfect for a refreshing dip in the cool, clear water or just unwinding in a tranquil, quiet place on the white sand.

 

#Cambodia – Koh Paen residents aim to keep bamboo bridge tradition alive

Each year, Koh Paen residents built a seasonal, kilometre-long bamboo bridge for cars and pedestrians to cross the Mekong when the water levels were too low for a ferry.
Connecting the island of Koh Paen to Kampong Cham city in Kampong Cham province is a giant 779m concrete bridge, opened in March last year, able to carry loads of 20 to 30 tonnes across the Mekong river.Is it functional? Perhaps. Does it have any charm? Absolutely not.

But 2km south down the Mekong used to sit another bridge fulfilling a similar function, less robust and practical, but exuding an antiquated charm by anyone’s estimation.

Each year, for decades, the island residents of Koh Paen built a seasonal, kilometre-long (1,000m) bamboo bridge for cars and pedestrians to cross the Mekong when the water levels were too low for a ferry. And each year, when the rains swelled the river, the elements would tear it down again.

For local residents, the bridge was a backdrop to daily life since they can remember – only disrupted between 1973 and 1986 with the civil war and emergence of the Khmer Rouge – though the specific history of the bridge remains hard to pinpoint.

Prior to 1973, the bridge was owned collectively by a company established by 14 villagers from the island, according to 74-year-old Nai Seang, speaking to The Post back in 2017. She joined the company in 1964, purchasing two shares for 7,000 riel (approximately $1,500 after adjusting for inflation).

Back then, the bridge was only a foot and bicycle bridge built from locally sourced bamboo, with a 1 riel toll for pedestrians, or 2 riel for a bike (equivalent to $0.19 and $0.37 today, respectively). As the youngest in the company when she joined at the age of 22, she was the sole surviving member.

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The bamboo bridge also serves as a major tourist attraction for both local and international visitors.
 “The knowledge would be passed down from one generation of builders to the next,” she said. While Seang says she never asked the older members of the company about the bridge’s history, she remembers it when she was an infant, which indicates that it dates back to at least the 1940s.

That the bridge has become a tourist attraction was a strange curiosity for Seang. “I did not know the bridge has become such a tourist attraction. I was very young when I bought my shares, and to me it was just a thing that helps people cross the river, and a business,” she says.

But back in March last year, as the concrete monolith neared completion, for the first time in decades the residents of Koh Paen decided against building their bridge as a river crossing for vehicles.

Yung Oun, the owner of the old bamboo bridge, told The Post that it served as a major tourist attraction in the province, for both local and international visitors, so the loss of the bamboo bridge signalled a loss of money for the area too.

To avoid this, last year enterprising locals decided to keep the tradition alive on a smaller scale by building a tourist friendly, pedestrian only bridge as a replacement.

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 “Last year, our new bridge was only 700 metres. This year, we will construct it up to 800 metres,” said 60-year-old Bun Dara, a former Institute of Technology of Cambodia engineer and owner of the new bamboo bridge.

The bridge, built using more than 20,000 bamboo sticks, was officially opened on December 1. It is open from dawn to dusk, including weekends and holidays.

“On a normal day, I see about 30 to 50 people walking across the bridge,” said Dara.

To cross the bridge, pedestrians cost 2,000 riel, a motorbike costs 5,000 riel, a vehicle or tuk-tuk costs 10,000 riel and a larger vehicle costs 20,000 riel.

Source – PhnomPenhPost

 

 

#Bangkok leads ranking of top travel destinations during Lunar New Year

Bangkok has emerged the most popular destination for travelers in
Asia-Pacific during the Lunar New Year period, the world’s largest
annual human migration, which is currently underway. 
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The Thai capital reclaimed the top spot this year as the most popular
travel destination in online booking platform Agoda’s list of top
spring festival destinations 2019, knocking last year’s winner Tokyo to
second spot, followed by Taipei. 
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The results are based on hotel booking data on Lunar New Year dates for 2019. 
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This year, it’s estimated that Chinese travelers will undertake
nearly three billion trips by car, train and plane in the 40-day period
between January 21 and March 1, an increase of 0.6 percent from 2018. 
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On February 5, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Mongolia,
Indonesia and Malaysia will celebrate the lunar new year and usher in
the year of the pig, the 12th and last position on the Chinese zodiac. 
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In general, Pigs are born in the years 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007 and 2019. 
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 Here are the top 10 most popular travel destinations according to Agoda:  

1. Bangkok, Thailand

2. Tokyo, Japan

3. Taipei, Taiwan

4. Hong Kong

5. Kaohsiung, Taiwan

6. Osaka, Japan

7. Taichung, Taiwan

8; Sapporo, Japan

9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

10. Singapore

Source – TheJakartaPost
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#Malaysia – Triplet families’ double joy

Children dressed up as God of Prosperity giving

GEORGE TOWN: Conceived via “test tube”, two sets of triplets give their families much to celebrate every Chinese New Year.

Assistant manager Chang Peng Hooi, 51, and his wife Goh Siew Leng, 47, recounted having to opt for a “test tube” baby after Chang discovered he had colon cancer.

“We hoped for the best and conceived all three embryos.

“My two boys and daughter were born at 37 weeks into her (Goh’s) pregnancy and they were born healthy.

“They all like different things, and therefore shopping is always fun.

“This year, my wife’s siblings who are based in China will be back for the festivities, so we will be celebrating it with them,” he said.

Chang and Goh’s 12-year-old sons Jia Sheng and Jia Jun and daughter Jia Qi go to school with another set of triplets, who also give their family cause to celebrate each year.

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Wong Boon Keng, 45, and his wife Koay Mooi Shen, 43, who run a wholesale toy business, were blessed with triplets Yin Rou, Yin En and Yin Han via in-vitro fertilisation 12 years ago.

“We consider them miracle babies because they were born premature and although we did have many hospital visits when they were young, they are now three healthy girls.

“We wanted another child as our eldest daughter was turning seven then but we could not conceive.

“We did not realise we would have triplets but it has been a pleasant surprise.

“They are all very different from each other and we also have a younger daughter who is 10, so it is a house full of girls for us.

“Chinese New Year shopping is always a full day event,” said Koay.

Koay said the family usually visits a temple or a tourist site during Chinese New Year.

“Maybe this year we will go to Chew Jetty.

“We seldom visit relatives as everyone comes over to our place,” she said.

When asked if it was an interesting experience having both sets of triplets in the same school, Chang said it was fun as they have been in the same school since Year One and some of them have also been classmates.

Source – TheNation

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Queue No More: Vientiane’s Thai Consulate Visa Appointment Applications Go Online

Visa online

Visa applications to Thailand from Laos via Vientiane are set to get a shakeup with the introduction of an online appointment system, Thailand’s Embassy has confirmed.

Long queues into the Thai consulate in Vientiane are set to become a thing of the past, with all appointments to be made online and walk-ins refused.

Information on the system is set to be released on embassy channels January 28, and come into effect on February 1.

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Apart from saving time, money and streamlining operations in a general sense, the move is set to make the biggest difference in summer, when rising temperatures have occasionally been known to fray tempers and sanity among the queuing applicants of multiple nationalities, many of whom are frequent travelers to or foreign residents of Thailand on “visa runs”, as well as those persons based in Laos seeking visas permitting more than two trips per year overland to the near neighbor via Friendship Bridge.

Visa update

For those folk wistfully nostalgic about their time spent waiting for a visa appointment in the consulate queue, be sure to make it down in this splendid weather for old times sake.

Source – laotiantimes

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#Myanmar (Burma) Yangon-sur-plage

Yangon beach

A hidden beach 100km from Yangon offers muddy wades and fresh fish.

You are in a deserted Yangon and haven’t planned anything for the break, but adventure is still out there.

Most of Myanmar’s beaches are several hours away by car, but one hidden gem awaits just about 100 kilometres from Yangon. Ale Ywar beach, also known as Sal Eain Tan Let Khok Kone, is the ideal spot to go on a mini-break and enjoy some crustaceans – it has one of the best and freshest seafood I have ever had.   

Ale Ywar is in the Mottama Gulf, in Yangon Region. It is a few kilometers away from Let Khok Kone beach. That name probably won’t ring any bells, but Let Khok Kone was a resort opened by the military government in the 90’s. And like many projects from that particular era, it failed. Today, bushes have reclaimed the installations created to welcome families. The resort is surrounded by mud from the delta. Everything is closed there. 

Meanwhile, Ale Ywar is booming. My husband visited it two years ago, he and his friends were the only ones there. Today, the beach is buzzing with shops and restaurants. Parking is full of cars, and the sea is full of swimmers. 

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The boom started in 2016, during the Buddhist water festival, a synonym of national holidays. This was short-lived though. With the rain, shops closed. This year though, the flow of tourists seems to keep the local economy afloat.

Yangon fish

The beach itself is a natural treasure. It is almost untouched and has not been developed yet. It is entirely owned by the villagers, and restaurant owners rent the spaces and have cleared up the lands.  

It isn’t a white sandy beach though. The sand is almost brown and turns into mud as you get closer to the water. 

We were there during low tide and the earthy beach stretched off into the distance. 

You’d think it’s dirty, but it wasn’t. The mud was soft and most pleasurable to walk on – my 3-year old daughter enjoyed it too. She went a-splashing in it and ended up covered head to toe in mud – a proper mud bath spa for free. 

Eatery 

Choosing a restaurant is not the most difficult thing. There are only about five – and they all looked the same to us. We opted for “Yangon”. The menu only included seafood and do not expect an amazing chardonnay to go with it. The list of beverages is limited to beer and soft drinks. 

Yangon crap

Surprisingly, the seafood is not cheap. The law of the market usually commands that if you consume locally, the bill goes down, but here the owner explained that getting the fishermen to sell their catch is rather difficult. They have contracts with shops and supermarkets in Yangon who by everything in advance.

The seafood is worth the price you’re paying for it though.

We ordered a sour and spicy crab curry (K8000 for four pieces), a sautéed fish called Nga Tha Laut Owe Mhauk (K15,000), fried prawns (K15,000 for 10 pieces) and a small dried fish salad for K 2000 a bowl. A plate of steamed rice cost about K500, and wasn’t impressive. One beer cost K 3000 for a bottle, which is a tad pricier than in town. And a single coconut was K1000.

The shop does not have a proper menu – the staff simply hangs a list on the wall with the catch of the day written on it. Tourists beware: the price isn’t written on it.

The setting is so informal that you can go to the kitchen to check how fresh the fish is and pick your own.

We saw a group of guest sitting next to our table checking the fish and told them what to cook for them. They all looked happy when a waitress brought them fish curry. Nothing is prepared in advance; the chef cooks everything on the spot.

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If it was not for the trace of MSG (a flavour enhancer commonly added to Asian food), the curry would have been perfect. 

Unlike Ngapali or Ngwe Saung beaches — the two most popular beaches for Yangonites — there is no official committee controlling the hygiene of restaurants on Ale Ywar. The shop owners buy purified water from the village nearby. At K200 a bucket, it most probably uses it sparingly. 

There are showers at the back of the restaurants and you can buy a bucket of yellowish water for K500. No soap or towel is provided. I suggest taking a barrel of water in your car ahead of departure, or not wash at all. 

If you are too picky, don’t waste your time in Ale Ywar. If you like an adventure but do not have the time to go too far, you’ll find gold in the mud there. 

How to get there?

Take the ferry from Pansodan jetty to Dala and rent a motor bike or car to the beach. If you wish to go with your own car here are two possible itineraries: 

Route one (way there)

Hlaing Tharyar road junction – Dala – 13.7km (8.6 miles)

Dala – War Ba Lauk Thauk (Kawhmu junction) – 32.8km (20.4 miles) 

War Ba Lauk Thauk (Kawhmu junction) – Letkokkon – 22.5km (14 miles) 

Letkokkon – Ale Ywar – 6km (3.7 miles) (10mins)

Total: 75km (46.7 miles)

Route two (way back)

Ale Ywar – Letkokkon – 6km (3.7 miles)

Letkokkon – War Ba Lauk Thauk (Kawhmu junction) – 22.5km (14 miles)

War Ba Lauk Thauk (Kawhmu junction) – Kawhmu – 14km (8.5 miles)

Kawhmu to Hlaing Tharyar road – 23.5km (14.5 miles)

Total: 66km (40.7 miles)

Source – MMTimes