While most people in the country were counting the days for the start of the Thingyan Water Festival and the so-called 10-day vacations, I was actually waiting for the New Year’s Day (April 17) as it was the day my real vacation starts. Unlike last year’s trip to Bagan, I have decided to relax at the Ngapali Beach this year. This was my second time to the famous beach after my first one back in 2002.
The Ngapali Beach lies on the western coast in the Rakhine State. It can be reached by air and car, but the trip by car is tiring according to my experience so I took up the promotion from the Amazing Ngapali Resort to fly there and stay at the resort for 4 days and 3 nights.
We have originally planned to go there with our cousin and had already made bookings for the hotel and flight. It cost us 320,000 kyats (around $320) each for the two of us and 305,000 kyats (around $305) for the third person as she was sleeping with an extra bed in our room.
I made the booking and paid for the fees back in March, but I only received the flight tickets on April 10, just a few days before the water festival started. As our cousin was no longer coming with us on the trip, we decided to take my sister’s friend with us. At first, we faced some difficulties with changing the passenger’s name. The staffs at the Yangon Airways told us that they will only change the name if we are foreigners. We called the hotel’s Yangon office and were told to buy a new ticket and get the refund later. Well, we were only going to get around 80 percent from the refund so in the end, my father talked to his friend who knew a higher superior at the airline and eventually, we were able to change the name after paying Ks 10,000 ($10) more.
While I have traveled abroad before, this was the first time I flew with a domestic airline. I wish we had taken another airline because I didn’t like the airline that much. It took about 40 minutes to arrive to the airport and it was quite hot in the plane. The guy sitting next to me kept flapping the instruction paper from the seat while playing a Dhamma sermon from his mobile phone on speaker. The baby sitting in front of me kept crying so the parents had to play some kid videos on their phone or tablet to quiet him or her down. At least, I had my Kindle to keep me distracted.
When we arrived at the airport, we were picked up by the hotel. The hotel is not far from the airport; just about 10 to 15 minutes drive from the airport. We arrived there around 11 am, but we couldn’t check in until 2 pm. The hotel staffs served us some drinks, vegetable tempura, and fish crackers and offered to take us on sightseeing around Thandwe while we were waiting for our room. Unfortunately, the mini bus was full with other guests and they couldn’t get other buses so our group and two other groups were told to come back to the lobby at 4pm if we still wanted to go sightseeing.
While waiting for our room, we decided to have lunch at a nearby restaurant. The first restaurant named See Sein near the hotel smelled like beer so we went to the second restaurant named Golden Fish and ordered some seafood. The food was delicious although we had to wait a long time. It cost us around 19,000 kyats (US$19) so it was a bit expensive than usual. That’s why we decided to eat lunch at the first restaurant for the rest of our trip because it was less expensive but the food tasted better at Golden Fish.
The hotel room is quite nice but it’s a shame that we didn’t really get a sea view. We just got a glimpse of the sea behind a bungalow. A colleague had told me that we could have gotten the sea view if we paid extra cash but I’d already made booking and I didn’t want to spend more money. Actually, this is the first time I stayed in a five star hotel in Myanmar. It was well worth the money. Plus, the hotel’s package also included breakfast and dinner. Breakfast is quite nice and dinner is okay except for the first night. I was feeling a little sick and couldn’t eat the bland food which lack salt, spice, and sourness. Luckily, the hotel served Rakhine and Myanmar food on other days so I was able to eat well despite my lack of appetite.
Actually, we didn’t do much at the beach except for going sightseeing to the pagodas in Thandwe on the first evening and a half-day trip to Pearl Island on the third morning. A friend advised me not to go there, but another said we should go there because the water is crystal clear and we could see fish underwater if we went snorkeling.
The boat rental to the island cost only 40,000 kyats (US$40) for the three of us when we inquired at Golden Fish restaurant, my sister said it would be safer to go with the boat rented by the hotel. Well, it cost us an extra 20,000 kyats (US$20) and I doubted the wooden boat would have been much different from the one offered by Golden Fish. A friend had earlier suggested us to go to a village by motorcycle and rent the boat from there as the village is closer to the island than our hotel.
There was high tide in the morning so I felt nauseous on the way to the island. The island wasn’t really that much different from White Sand Island in Chaung Thar Beach. There wasn’t much to do at the island unless we went swimming. I wasn’t in the mood for swimming so I was put on ‘bag duty’ to watch over the bags while my sister and her friend went around taking photos. My sister tried on snorkeling and she said she couldn’t see anything underwater. Perhaps it’s because of the high tide because my sister showed a photo taken by other people at the same island and the water looked much clearer.
I wish I had gone around visiting other places while I was in Ngapali but nobody wanted to accompany me. I really wanted to see the original mermaid statue, but I never got around to seeing it. The weather was just ‘too hot’ for my sister and her friend who preferred to stay indoors in the afternoon and take a lot of photos and selfies in the evenings. Sometimes I wondered whether their purpose of going to the beach was just to take photos at the beach.
If there’s one thing I’m satisfied with, that is the visit to the Hilton Resort on our second evening. We took a stroll along the beach that evening and saw many hotels under constructions. One of the hotels stood out among the others because of their big gray wall so we decided to see what it is. It turned out to be the Hilton Resort. I wasn’t interested in checking it out at first but the security guard said he would show us around the hotel. I was quite impressed with the swimming pool alone. It made the swimming pool at our hotel looked like a kiddie pool. The hotel is very large and there is a large pond surrounding some of the buildings. I doubt I can afford to stay there but I wish I can stay there for at least for two days. The only downsize is that there was only one restaurant outside the hotel and there weren’t any other shops along the road. Perhaps the area will become more developed after the completion of other hotels. There was even a hotel built in front of the boulders on the beach. The people who stay at this hotel would have to walk a little far from the hotel if they want to swim without smashing into the boulders.
Finally, it was time to go home and we were taken to the airport after 10:30 am on Monday morning. The hotel staffs carried away our luggage with a separate bus so we thought the staffs clad in blue and black uniforms were the hotel’s staffs when I saw them carrying away our luggage at the airport. It turned out those people were from the airport who charged us 500 kyats (US$0.50) for each luggage. I complained to the staff from the airline and he explained that the hotel should have asked us whether we want to carry the luggage on our own at the airport or not. We didn’t have to carry them on the arrival so we assumed that the hotel would also take care of them for us. I felt tricked and learned a lesson not to trust anyone with my luggage.