We were up early on Saturday for our flight to Dawei. We got a lift with Kim May, Tony’s lovely wife, who was going to Kyaityo. On the way to the airport we narrowly missed a low hanging and moving electrical wire which must have been damaged during a storm on Friday!
Domestic flights involve having a sticker with your airline’s emblem +/- destination. They do announce boarding in English but I’ve found the safest thing is to locate someone with the same sticker early on and basically stalk them in the departure lounge so that you know when to move.
The flight to Dawei was just over an hour passing over some beautiful scenery of mountains and coast. On arrival, immigration involved the writing down of our passport details in a big book. We then tackled the next task of finding a pick up to take us to the guesthouse. A Dutch family (the only other foreigners onboard) were going to the same place so we shared. The journey took about 40 minutes, going through lush village scenery, mountains and finally a view of Maungmagan beach. We arrived at Coconut Guesthouse around 10am. It’s the first accommodation in the area that has been open to foreigners. When we were in Myanmar in 2012 you were allowed to come to Dawei but had to stay within city limits (we didn’t make it that time); for the last six months this has been lifted so we can now visit the surrounding areas, which is great for us.
We threw on our bathing gear and went to Maungmagan beach. It’s well established for Myanmar people, with a long stretch of beachside seafood restaurants and some shops. The sea was the warmest I’ve ever experienced – like a bath!! The beach itself is huge and beautiful but the only negative was that unfortunately there were patches of litter and no bins. Also there are dogs and as much as I love dogs I was wary of some of these ones.
We walked along the beach for a while and everyone was very friendly. Several wanted their photo taken with Ned as I guess he is a novelty still in these parts. We had a lazy rest of the day, enjoying the cooling shaded area at the guesthouse and chatting with the other guests (another family plus the Dutch family). We headed back to the beach for sunset, accompanied by one of the trusty guesthouse dogs who guarded us against some of the beach ones.
Dinner at the guesthouse involved a delicious fried fish with ‘Dawei sauces’ – we could identify lime, fish sauce, chilli. The next day we were a little tired as it was quite hot overnight and although there was a fan, the electricity is off between midnight and 4am, so sleep was restless. We decided to go exploring and each got a motorbike and driver – we could have hired one motorbike for one of us to drive us both – decided we didn’t need the stress and definitely the right decision given the road conditions. I’ve been on bikes in Asia before but being older now and well aware of being the furthest I’ve ever been to trauma medical care, I was pretty nervous.
Firstly we went to Myawyik pagoda which is south of Maungmagan (45 mins drive). The road was quite dodgy in parts and some was being surfaced with big buckets of tarmac, meaning some careful avoidance by the drivers. The pagoda is on a small island which you reach by a causeway across the water. It is really picturesque and calm with great views back across Maungmagan.
We then got back on the bikes and after a brief stop to repair a puncture on Ned’s bike, went to Nabule beach, north of Maungmagan (45 mins). Firstly we were dropped at a pagoda on the beach, many rocks and very pretty and no one around. We then were taken to another area of beach. This was very long, with white sands (in contrast to Maungmagan which is more clay coloured), clear water, no litter, absolutely not a soul around, no shops or buildings, barely any vehicles going along the road. I’ve never been anywhere like it and it was very special. We really wonder how his will be in the future (planned deep sea port coming, more tourists, ???)
We had a very welcome shower on returning to the guesthouse in the afternoon and enquired about having a crab for dinner. They didn’t have one but rang around and managed to get us one (they are really so accommodating and helpful here). We were also a bit sun and windburnt by all the motorbike time. We went to watch sunset at Maungmagan beach before dinner and saw a pig on the beach as you do.
The crab was amazing. It was cooked in some kind of curry powder with garlic and peppers and was full of meat. Wow.
The following day we said farewell to Maungmagan and drove to Dawei for one night. We stayed in a very modern and clean hotel called Zayar Htet San – air conditioning, hot water, satellite tv – luxury! This was where our next task lay – finding Mum’s cousin Eddie who lives in Dawei. After basking for a while in the air conditioning, we asked a lady at the front desk about getting to Eddie’s address. Being a small place, turns out she lives near there and knows who he is (‘He is the English teacher. He looks like Chinese’ – I don’t know what he looks like!). So she did some investigative work and discovered he is in Yangon visiting an Aunt. What a shame we will miss each other! I’ve left my number for the lady to take to him when he returns and hopefully he will get in contact (he doesn’t have a phone!).
So we spent the day just wandering around the streets of Dawei, admiring the old wooden buildings and enjoying the peace and quiet. We had a sugarcane juice at the market and also found a random little bakery. We had dinner in a great Chinese style restaurant near the hotel of hot and sour fish.
Using the wifi at the hotel this morning to do some work for the coming week before the flight back to Yangon. It has been truly a special weekend far exceeding our expectations. When I get home I need to ask Grandma more about what she remembers of the place.