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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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