Myanmarís long coastline on the Indian Ocean stretches from around 29 degrees north and gives haven to many lovely beaches which nestle along the shores of the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. Many are as yet "undiscovered" by tourists, unspoiled by overdevelopment and are only now being opened up as little havens of peace and quiet. The long coastline of 1,385 miles, or about 2,000 kilometres, goes through 20 degrees of latitude from tropical to cooler climates. Most of the coasts face west giving spectacular views at sunset.
One of the most quiet beaches is aptly named Kanthaya, or Pleasant Beach. It is located in the Rakkhine (Arakan) State about 16 miles north of the small town of Gwa.
Ngapali Beach is 65 miles farther north than Kanthaya. Ngapali was transformed from a quiet fishing village to a popular beach resort in the late 1950ís.
The former name of Kanthaya Beach was Thayar Kan Chei Recreation Centre. These names are all derived from the name of the nearby village of Thayar Gyaing formerly known as Tha Khwe Gyaing. In the local Rakkhine dialect of Myanmar language "gyaing" means a sandy bay or beach and there are many of these "gyaing", one of the most well-known being Shwe War Gyaing on which the Ngapali Beach Hotel is situated. "Thayar" means pleasant, pleasurable or delightful. The official name in English "Pleasant Beach" is a direct translation of the Myanmar name and it is a most suitable one as the place is indeed very pleasant with all the natural beauties of unspoilt nature.
How to Get There
The most convenient way to get to Kanthaya is by car from Yangon. The road from Yangon goes across the new Bayinnaung Bridge in West Yangon to the new town of Hlaing Thayar and from there it is only about an hourís drive to Nyaungdon where you cross the third bridge across the Ayeyawady called Bo Myat Tun Bridge which connects Nyaungdon with Setkaw .
From Setkaw on the west bank of the Ayeyawady River, the road goes through the delta towns of Pantanaw, the birthplace of the late UN Secretary-General U Thant, Kyaung-gon and Ye Kyi, and across the bridge spanning the Nga Wun or Pathein (Bassein) River at Nga- thaing Gyaung. Soon after leaving Nga-thaing Gyaung the road climbs across the southern end of the Rakkhine Yoma for about 47 miles till it goes down to the coastal town and fishing centre of Gwa in Rakkhine State. From Gwa the road is along the lovely coast between the sea and the ridge of hills, northwards for about half an hour till you reach Kanthaya.
Altogether it is about 125 miles from Yangon to Kanthaya and the road is fairly good. The total travelling time by road is about six hours; the road passes rice fields, orchards and tropical bamboo forests, going through peaceful, pleasant villages all along the way. The scenery changes from low padi land, lakes and rivers to hills and forests and finally to the blue ocean and sandy beaches, some lined with small islands.
The alternative route to get to Kanthaya is from the popular seaside resort of Ngapali. You can fly to Thandwe ("Sandoway") airport from Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan or Heho and from there hire a jeep to go to Kanthaya, a four hour drive along the coast.
Sadly this hotel is now closed because of the damage incurred during cyclone Nargis in 2008 - we retain here for when the hotel is rebuilt sometime in the future. Budget accommodation is available in the village.
There is only one hotel in Kanthaya Beach which was built in 1995. There are about thirty rooms; the best rooms are with drawing room, bedroom and spacious veranda facing the sea where you can sit out to enjoy the scenery and the cool breezes. Superior and Standard Rooms are all equipped with fridge, bath-tub, shower, toilet facilities, comfortable beds and mosquito netting. There is a good water-supply from the nearby reservoir and the electricity is supplied by a generator owned by the hotel.
There is a hotel restaurant and about half a dozen local cafes and restaurants on the road at the rear of the hotel, where you can get delicious sea-food.
What to Enjoy
Go to Kanthaya to relax, to get away from the hustle and bustle of towns, and simply to live close to nature and enjoy viewing the scenery, trees, birds, small animals and marine life. You can walk for miles along the deserted beaches dotted with fishing villages and little creeks and bays where the local fishing boats are moored. You can also ask some of the villagers to take you to the reef or one of the several small islands like Be-Inn Kyun about half a mile from the shore.
Climb the small ridge of hills at the back of the hotel to sit near the reservoir which is a resting place for migrating water birds and from there you can see wonderful views of the beach, the ocean and the islands.
Hire a bicycle and go to the nearest market at Sat-thwar about five miles to the north. You can go along the road eastwards to the villages of Ye-tho, Ma-dawt and Shwe-Oo-Kwin, or the Kin-bon and Sat-thwar villages to the north, and Laung-kyo and Nyaung-chaung villages to the south. The local people are mainly Rakkhine (Arakanese) but as they are living close to the mainland Bamar (Burmese) people, the dialect is similar to standard Myanmar language.
See the oriental, local style thatch huts and timber houses, some with intricately woven mat walls. The rural people are simple and honest, mainly farmers and fisherman. You can also see some of the village handicrafts and small mills for making coconut oil.
If you are interested in climbing, there is a rocky promontory close to the hotel and also ranges of hills all along the coast.
Kanthaya is ideal for bird-watching as there are many kinds of tropical birds, even wild flocks of parrots in the hotel compound which has huge casuarina pines, coconut palms and other tall trees and flowering plants and bushes.
Kanthaya is indeed a pleasant beach resort for those who want to get away from the noise, hustle and bustle of living in crowded cities. Very few tourists go to this beach where you can enjoy the lovely scenery, taste the gastronomic delights of the local sea-food and get to know the simple native folk. Experience its natural beauty and simple pleasures before it becomes too crowded.
With thanks to Thaw Ka