Naypyitaw - Rakhine State (ngalapi Beach) - Naypyitaw

Discussion in 'Myanmar - Motorcycle Trip Report Forums' started by Simon43, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. Simon43

    Simon43 Member

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    A hot season trip to the coast - 1,159 Km in 5 days

    Seeing as I was nearing the end of my long school holiday, I decided to take a trip to Ngalapi Beach, the resort located on the Bengal coast in Rakhine State, west Myanmar.

    My Myanmar colleages at work all told me to go and see the 'beautiful' Ngalapi Beach. I lived on the island of Phuket for 12 years, so the idea to compare my thoughts about Ngalapi Beach with Patong Beach sprung to mind.

    Rakhine state is the region beset by the Rohingya tragedy, with mass killings and expulsions of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. However, I would be travelling to the southern region of this state, where no violent incidents had occurred.

    This would also be a useful trip to try out some new motorbike accessories that I had bought in Thailand to pimp up my Honda XR125L motorbike! On my last visit to Bangkok, I had collected various accessories that were mostly bought online from Lazada, (who don't deliver to Myanmar).

    There were flashing lights, heated handlebar grips (why? - because it is freezing when riding in the Shan Hills in the cold season). The most useful accessories were a very large top-box, a windshield and (to add to the enjoyment), a rainproof MP3 player with stereo speakers. All these had been installed ready for my trip to the coast.

    Here is a round-trip route plot from the GPS alarm/tracker (another accessory that I installed on my bike):

    RAKHINE ROUTE.

    Perhaps as an indication of how bad the roads were, my average speed did not exceed 30 km/h. This was either because the road was full of potholes, or that it was winding around the hills, or a combination of both.

    Although there were few lorries on these roads, most of the hill roads were the standard 3 metres, which means that I had to drive off the road to allow the lorry to pass me.

    Day 1 (Tuesday 24th April). I left Naypyitaw about 7am and headed for my destination for that night - the historic town of Pyaya, located on the Irrawaddy River, in Bago State. Pyay was about 250 Km distance.

    After leaving Naypyitaw, the road climbed up to cross the hill range west of the city. As it was a very hot day (more than 40 degrees), I had my face, hands, arms and neck well-covered to protect from the sun. It's very important to carry plenty of water, because some areas of the region are rather remote, with long distances between villages.

    I would stop every hour or so for a swig of water, or stop at a roadside cafe for a hot coffee. Myanmar people are always very friendly. These are the children of the cafe-owner.

    photo1.

    After a few hours, the road came down from the hills and I drove for what seemed like eternity across arid, flat land, devoid of villages and people.

    PHOTO2.

    As the road turned south for the run into Pyay, it ran parallel to the great Irrawaddy river. This stretch was no fun on a bike, because the afternoon wind kicked up sandstorms which smothered me in sand and dust. The windshield certainly helped to reduce the amount of sand that was deposited on my upper body.

    PHOTO3.

    Finally, I reached the cheap (but recoommended) guesthouse (Jade Motel) in Pyay, where a single air-con room with shared bathroom (hot showers!) was available for $15 USD per night. There were lots of signs in the motel saying 'wi-fi free zone', which in real-life, seemed to be akin to 'this is a smoke-free zone', meaning that the motel wi-fi didn't work in that area! No problem, because mobile network internet always seems reliable nowadays in Myanmar. I ordered a large and cold Myanmar beer, plus some spicy chicken. The motel staff were very friendly, and there was safe parking for the bike.

    Day 2 - My plan was to travel through the Rakhine Hills and spend the next night at Ngalapi Beach, and admire this beautiful location.

    I left Jade motel and followed the road that crossed the main bridge over the Irrawaddy River.

    PHOTO4.

    After crossing over the river, the road got narrower and started to climb into the hills, following a switchback of bends, occasionally dropping down to a valley, passing through a hill-top village. From time to time, I had to slow to pass road-work gangs, who were repairing or resurfacing the road. Most of these gangs were made up of women, toiling in the heat of the sun as they carried small rocks from a pile to spread out on the road, their heads protected by wide-brimmed hats and scarves. The men boiled up hot bitumen by the roadside and poured it on top of the gravel.

    At last, I reached the border post for the state of Rakhine, and stopped at an immigration post where the government officer wrote down my passport details.

    PHOTO5.

    Nearby was a small cafe. So I stopped for a refreshing cup of coffee and some prepacked sponge cake. (Note - Unlike in Thailand, where I'm happy to eat tasty street-food, in Myanmar I avoid street-food like the plague because 1) - the cleaniness of this food is highly suspect and b) Burmese food IMHO, tastes revolting, consisting of unknown animal genitalia cooked in GTX engine oil...)

    I got chatting to the people in the cafe. The girl in the photo is 16 years old and attends school in Yangon. She was on a short trip 'home' to visit her grandfather, who is the monk. She pestered me like crazy to practice English with here, since it's rare for her to get the chance to speak with a native English speaker. The young boy is 12 years old and attends local government school. He was very friendly but his English knowledge seemed non-existent.

    PHOTO6.

    So I continued on my way to Ngapali Beach, leaving the hills and coming down to the town of Thandwe, which is where the airport serving the beach resort is located. I drove for another 20 minutes until my phone GPS indicated that I was at Ngapali Beach.

    There were plenty of resort shops, restaurants and guesthouses. But where was the beach? I rode up and down the high street looking for the beach. Suddenly I realised what the problem was!

    In their utter stupidity, the beach-side of the resort road had been totally built up with large hotels. Each had erected a high wall facing that beach road. The small hotels and shops occupied the opposite side of the beach road. The result was that there was no beach view, no view of the sand or the sea - only the view of an anonymous hotel wall!

    In any other country, the authorities try to limit building on the beach-side of the road. In Phuket, although there are some beach-side hotels, they are in the minority, (and the authorities/army regularly demolish any buildings on the beach-side of these resort roads.). Think of Patong - you have a great view of the beach, as you do in Pattaya and Jomtien Beaches. It is well... just plain stupid to block off the sea view.

    I read that many of those beach-side hotels do not have planning permission or licences, ignore the local authority regulations, and are owned by family or cronies of the military.....

    To ensure that I actually got a chance to walk on the beach, I stayed the night in a beach-side resort called Lin Thar Oo. I had to pay $60 USD for a gloomy room that would be classed as 2-star in Thailand and would cost no more than $15 USD.

    PHOTO7.

    A quick comparison of Ngalapi Beach and Patong Beach:

    - I'm sure the sea is cleaner at Ngalapi (Patong sea smells of sewage)
    - Ngalapi Beach was clean, but Patong Beach sand was softer and more golden in colour
    - No hawkers hassling you on Ngalapi Beach!
    - Very few foreigners at Ngalapi (it was out of season). I saw 2 foreign couples sitting in beach-restaurant deckchairs who studiously ignored my cheery 'hi'
    - No hookers at Ngalapi Beach (seriously, if you want hookers, you're in the wrong country. I only found them in Yangon...)
    - Overpriced accommodation at Ngalapi Beach
    - Rocks at Ngalapi, Patong Beach is much nicer view.

    PHOTO8.

    PHOTO9.
    My opinion of Ngalapi Beach? Totally ruined, don't waste your effort, time or money to visit this overpriced and overbuilt resort.

    DAY 3 - So where to next? After being let down by Ngalapi, I decided to ride south along the coast road, to see if I could find any unspoilt beaches. This coast road actually runs a few Km inland for most of the way, so you don't even get a view of the sea (unlike the Phuket coast road between Surin, Patong and Nai Harn).

    There were small rivers and streams to cross, usually on wooden bridges like this one.

    PHOTO10.

    Occasionally, the road would come close to the sea, and I'd ride my bike through the palm trees to reach the sea. I was mainly disappointed - either it was all rocky or mud and no sand.

    PHOTO11.

    After a couple of hours of leisurely biking, I reached Kanthary Bay, and here was the unspoilt beach!

    PHOTO 12.

    There was a new resort under construction (on the beach-side of the road). But nothing else, except for a small restaurant with a few guest rooms. I stayed the night here for $30 USD, which gave me an air-con room and electricity from the generator for a few hours in the evening before all was quiet and pitch-black at night, as I tried to sleep in the muggy heat under a mozzie net.

    Day 4 - I got up early the next day, thanks to the guest in the next room who spent 30 minutes loudly coughing up phlegm. But it's good to ride early when it's still cool.

    PHOTO13.

    Now I was on the return leg of my trip, crossing again over the Rakhine hills and then turning north to follow that hill range all the way back to Pyay and the Jade Motel. This was an uneventful day, with regular stops at roadside cafes for a refreshing cup of strong coffee, and stocking up on bottles of cold water to keep me going during the hot day.

    I reached Pyay in the early afternoon, and checked in again at Jade hotel, where a cold bottle of Myanmar beer was waiting for me. This guesthouse is fine for one or two nights, but be careful with the food! My breakfast included 4 slices of toast, but I noticed green mould all down the side of the slices...

    Day 5 - Today was Saturday and I followed the same road from Pyay and back to Naypyitaw. Saturday is a good day to ride a motorbike in Myanmar because there are few vehicles and no lorries. The switchback crossing of the hill range west of Naypyitaw was 2 hours of enjoyable riding on a small, windy hill road, but with no traffic, no road work gangs and long views of the road bends ahead, meaning that I could enjoy a fast (ish) ride without worry about hidden vehicles approaching around blind corners.

    PHOTO14.

    I arrived back home in the afternoon, having completed 1,160 KM without incident.

    What were the highlights of my trip?

    - The local Myanmar people, always so friendly and welcoming
    - The riding on the hill roads, a joy for anyone who enjoys rural biking
    - The beautiful views at Kanthary Beach.

    What about my new bike accessories? well, nothing broke! I lost a few retaining screws, due to the continual bumps and vibration on the hill roads.

    The most useful accessories were my new Taichi Drymaster riding boots, which were very comfortable throughout the
    journey. Also the leggings (gaiters) which kept most of the dust and sand off my lower legs and trousers. The accessory which got most use was definitely my MP3 player, which got all heads turning as I rode through remote hill villagers whilst blasting out Gypsy Kings and Shuffle Dance music!

    Would I recommend this route to other riders? Yes, if you have about 5 days to spare and enjoy remote hill riding. I wouldn't stop at Ngalapi Beach, but head for Kanthary Bay, because no doubt in the future, it will end up overbuilt and 'destroyed' by development.

    PHOTO15.
     
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  2. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

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    We were there in December and Yes the Roads are Unbelievable! The Beach Was a pleasant stay, Very Nice! Post a Couple of pictures of Your Bike i would like to see it?
     
  3. Simon43

    Simon43 Member

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    Hi, here is my bike...

    bike.
     
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  4. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

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    Great report Simon.
    That coastline would be a nice place to check out Id say.
    Thanks for the information and great photos,

    Moto-Rex
     
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Magic report Simon. Very informative.

    You're a lucky man living where you are at the moment & getting to experience rides like this.

    Many thanks for contributing to GTR.

    Your bike looks well set up.
    bike.
    I bet you're a happy man.
     
  6. phuketrichard

    phuketrichard Ol'Timer

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    Great report Simon!!!
    Next trip head to the chin state,
     
  7. Simon43

    Simon43 Member

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    Yes, I thought of going up to Chin state, but it's a long way when time is limited. I'll have to wait now 'cos the rainy season will come along soon....
     

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