Late for Nowhere

From life in Southeast Asia to backyard adventures in Kodiak, Alaska

Posts Tagged ‘Beaches Myanmar Burma

Happy Buddhist New Year 1377 from Ngwe Saung Beach

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April is the hottest time of the year in Myanmar, which means it’s the perfect time for the biggest holiday of the year: Thingyan Water Festival, during which the entire country closes down for10 days. Despite the length of the break, the festival itself is only four days long (depending on the year), followed by Buddhist New Year’s Day, which this year fell on April 17.

During my first couple of years in Myanmar, I submitted to the chaos of Thingyan in Yangon, where a significant portion of the populace takes to the streets to toss water on each other using water pistols, buckets, and even garden hoses powered by portable generators. Huge wooden stages are set up from which music is blared and revelers soak the steady stream of passersby who line up for the express purpose of getting doused by the turbo-charged hoses. If you’re in the city, there’s no escape unless you stay locked up in your house: If you show your face outside, you (and everything you are carrying) will get drenched.

Ostensibly, the watering is meant to symbolize the washing away of the misdeeds of the past year; mythically, Thingyan is the time during which Thagyamin, the King of the Celestials, descends to earth and inscribes everyone’s name in one of two books: the golden one for the nice, and the dog-skinned one for the naughty. In reality the holiday inspires plenty of sketchy behavior of its own, most notably four consecutive days of massive alcohol consumption and its attendant idiocy. But not everyone partakes in the water splashing. Many Buddhists use the long holiday as an excuse to spend time meditating in a monastery or nunnery. Others stay home with their families making Thingyan snacks and catching up on their backlog of books and DVDs.

However people choose to spend the water festival, New Year’s Day (April 17) is one of Myanmar’s quietest days. Buddhists flock to pagodas to make offerings, and they also visit elders, parents, and teachers to give thanks.

For me, the attraction of being drowned in water by inebriated Burmese teenagers wore off a few years ago, and now I use the annual holiday as an excuse to get as far away from Yangon as possible. Sometimes this means fleeing the country altogether, but more often it means heading to other parts of Myanmar where Thingyan is generally celebrated in a more low-key, gentler fashion than in Yangon.

This year we headed for Ngwe Saung Beach, located on the Bay of Bengal about 150 miles west of Yangon.


The view from our room.

Our days consisted of morning bike rides, mid-morning swims in the ocean, lunch, afternoon siestas, late afternoon swims in the ocean, dinner, nocturnal beach walks, beer and wine on the patio of our room, and then sleep. Repeat for five days. Our only really excursion was hiring a local boat to take us out to some islands off the coast for swimming and snorkeling.

A few photos from the boat trip:






Letkhokkon: Parting shot

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A misty sunrise at Letkhokkon Beach on our last day before heading back to Yangon.


Written by latefornowhere

March 24, 2015 at 3:14 am

A sunset visit to Sal Eian Tan fishing village

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At the end of our fishing excursion, and before heading back to Orchid Adventure Shore Resort, we stopped off at Sal Eian Tan fishing village. On the far side of the village we found an empty beach with no other people or any development to be seen — the perfect place to watch the sun go down after a hard day of completely failing as competent fishermen.


A local fishing boat with Sal Eian Tan village in the background.



As soon as we waded through the water and onto dry land, this guy walked up to us and demanded that we take his photograph. So we did.







Village kids wave goodbye as we climb aboard our boat and head back to the resort.



An afternoon fishing excursion at Letkhokkon Beach

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Orchid Adventure Shore Resort owns two small motorboats, and the manager offered to take us out fishing near an island just off the coast. The tackle was decidedly rudimentary, consisting of bamboo poles with fishing line and hooks tied to the end. We used small prawn for bait. Neither me nor my friend Tom caught anything, but I did get a few nibbles from some smart-ass fish that kept stealing my bait.










Back to the beach

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With posts about my latest published articles out of the way, here are more photos from Letkhokkon Beach, including a few shots of the low-key Orchid Adventure Shore Resort, and of the very Burmese lunch (with fresh seafood) we were served upon arrival:




Written by latefornowhere

March 21, 2015 at 3:04 am

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Reaching Letkhokkon Beach

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The entrance to Letkhokkon village.

Notice the new concrete road leading into town. Although long stretches of the road to Letkhokkon are currently in terrible shape – it took us two hours to drive 40 miles (65km) – the entire stretch is expected to be repaired by next year, reducing driving time to less than one hour.


Road grime picked up on the dusty road between Dala and Letkhokkon.


On the way to Letkhokkon Beach: Danote Pagoda 2

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During our brief stop at Danote, this friendly attendant walked around with us and explained all the shrines, as well as the history of the pagoda.



On the way to Letkhokkon Beach: Danote Pagoda 1

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Danote Pagoda, located about halfway between Dala and Letkhokkon Beach.

According to legend, Danote is 2,300 years old, nearly dating back to the lifetime of the Buddha Gautama.

The pagoda gained international attention on May 30, 2009, when it partially collapsed during restoration work. Locals said 20 workers were killed in the disaster and many more were injured, but precise casualty figures were never released because the news was suppressed by government censors. Despite this effort to muzzle journalists, rumors of the calamity rapidly made its way across the country.

There was a reason the government feared the spread of the news: On May 7, Kyaing Kyaing – the wife of then-junta leader Than Shwe – had held a ceremony at Danote to dedicate a new gem-encrusted hti (decorative umbrella) for the top of the pagoda. The catastrophe just three weeks later was seen by many in Myanmar as a rejection of this dedication – and therefore a rejection of Than Shwe’s tyrannical rule over the country – by the spirits presiding over the monument.

It is well known that during his 22-year rule, Than Shwe had overseen the severe repression, arrest and even murder of Buddhist monks, students, pro-democracy activists and many others. It was widely hoped by people across the nation that the collapse of the pagoda foreshadowed the imminent collapse of his regime.

Than Shwe was of course replaced by Thein Sein as leader of the country following national elections in 2010. However, some believe that the old military despot still exercises some degree of power behind the scenes.

On the way to Letkhokkon Beach: Dala Jetty 2

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View from the pedestrian bridge leading from the Yangon River ferry to Dala Jetty. These small, colorful boats are a popular way for locals to cross the Yangon River because they’re faster and cheaper than the big ferries, but it’s illegal for foreigners to use them due to “safety” concerns.

Written by latefornowhere

March 13, 2015 at 12:50 am

On the way to Letkhokkon Beach: Dala Jetty 1

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The pedestrian bridge from the Yangon River ferry to Dala Jetty.

With the newspaper where I work, The Myanmar Times, shifting from weekly publication to daily publication since last week, I’m finding that I have much less time to spare for blog posts. Instead, I’ll now aim for a more modest “photo-of-the-day” (or every few days) approach, in addition to posting my stories that get published in the newspaper and in travel magazines.

Today’s post kicks off a series of photos taken during a weekend trip to Letkhokkon Beach, located about 40 miles (65km) south of Yangon along a poorly maintained road – the drive takes about two hours, but travellers must first take the ferry from Botahtaung Jetty in Yangon to the town of Dala on the other side of the Yangon River (US$2 for foreigners), where transport to the coast must be arranged.

My friend Tom and I had organized transport ahead of time through the only hotel at the beach, Orchid Adventure Shore Resort. The resort had originally been owned (and mismanaged) by the Myanmar government, but it closed after suffering damage from Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

The venture was later purchased by the private Orchid Hotels group, and they reopened in 2012, then closed again, and are set to reopen coming April. The owners allowed us to spend the night at the not-yet-officially-open resort in exchange for advising them on how to make the Letkhokkon Beach experience more appealing to foreign visitors.