Few travellers associate a trip to Myanmar with sun, sea and sand, but believe us when we say the beaches here are just as good as any in South East Asia. Granted the majority of areas are much less developed, but for us, this is also part of the appeal. Although brief, this mostly self-guided itinerary aims to showcase the highlights of one of Yangon’s most popular beach destinations (Ngapali), with a quick stop in the fast changing city of Yangon either side.
An example of a typical White Sand Getaway itinerary can be found below. Please note that this is merely a suggestion and all of the arrangements can be tweaked and tailored to your heart’s content. By clicking on the day, it’s possible to read more about the general logistics and featured excursions.
Day 1 - Yangon (Airport transfer / Shwedagon)
On arrival you will be met by one of Tour Mandalay’s representatives and escorted directly to your accommodation.
Explore what Rudyard Kipling described as, “A golden mystery that upheaved itself on the horizon – a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun”. The 99-metre tall Swedagon Padoga is the country’s most famous landmark; one that looks extra impressive in the early hours of the morning or at sunset. The current hti (a golden umbrella that adorns the top of pagodas) is decorated with approximately 85,000 jewels, with the centerpiece being a 76-carat diamond. History and opulence aside, for us the highlight of any trip here is the chance to naturally brush shoulders with the locals as they go about paying their respects to Shwedagon (and the 150 smaller pagodas and shrines that surround).
Day 2 - Yangon (Colonial walking tour / Circle Line)
Starting with the point that marked the central point of Lieutenant Alexander Fraser’s design, Sule Pagoda, together with your guide you’ll explore the cracks and crevices that make up Yangon’s nostalgic downtown quarter. Visit buildings such as the City Hall, High Court, Rowe & Co Building (once the Harrod’s of South East Asia) and the old Reserve Bank of India (now the Yangon stock exchange). Perhaps you’d even like to stop off at the city’s most famous hotel, The Strand, and order a colonial-inspired Pegu Club cocktail? From here we’ll then zig zag up a few streets before concluding the tour at The Secretariat. Both an iconic feat of British pomp and a decaying, mysterious presence, the Secretariat (also known as the Ministers’ Building) was the home and administrative seat of British Burma. Today it is perhaps remembered less for that and more for the assassination of Myanmar’s independence hero, General Aung San (also Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s father). On the 19th July 1947 he was gunned down along with six cabinet ministers and a bodyguard, for reasons that are still unknown to this day.
To get a true sense of Yangon life, we will next take a short journey on the Yangon Circle Line. Built by the British over 100 years ago, this is still the cheapest and most time efficient way of connecting with Yangon’s outer suburbs. Time permitting, alight at a local market before driving back to your hotel by car.
Day 3 - Yangon to Ngapali (Airport transfer / domestic flight / beach / Min Thu)
Transfer to Yangon’s domestic airport terminal in time for your flight to Ngapali. On arrival, find the representative from your hotel who will direct you to a dedicated shuttle bus. PLEASE NOTE: We do not recommend arranging private transfers here seeing as it’s not very cost effective and most hotels include a shared transfer service as standard.
Once checked into your accommodation, the remainder of the day is then free for you to soak up the sun and swim in Ngapali’s calm waters. PLEASE NOTE: Calm conditions only apply in the dry season, which typically lasts from mid-September to April. Furthermore, many hotels do not operate outside of this time.
This evening, why not head out into town and enjoy a slap up meal at one of Ngapali’s many tasty local restaurants? One that can’t be missed out on is Min Thu (located in-between Ngapali Bay and Aureum Palace), which serves up some of the freshest and tastiest seafood dishes in town – Mr Min Thu is often there and if you’re flexible when it comes to choice, simply ask him to recommend something rather than ordering from the menu. There’s a surprisingly good selection of imported wine on offer too.
Day 4 - Ngapali (Oriental Ballooning / beach / Two Brothers)
Thought Ngapali was all about beach? Think again. Oriental Ballooning currently operates a seasonal flight offering a unique perspective of the region’s unspoiled coastline, luscious jungle and otherwise inaccessible terrain. Other highlights may include floating over bustling markets, photographing mist covered stupas, spotting rare species of birds and being greeted by overexcited children as the balloon looks for a spot to land. Although it will involve getting up long before sunrise, we currently rate this as one of the best excursion experiences currently available in Myanmar. PLEASE NOTE: Oriental Ballooning only operate in Ngapali from the end of December until mid-March.
The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to spend at leisure.
This evening, how about dining Two Brothers, another great seafood restaurant set in an authentic Myanmar environment (located in-between Sandoway Resort and Amata)?
Day 5 - Ngapali (Snorkelling / beach / Ngapali Bay)
Before breakfast, meet with some local fisherman who will ferry you to some pleasant snorkeling spots in a long-tail fishing boat. This can be booked directly through the hotel, but it’s just as easy to go direct. Snorkels and flippers can be arranged, but it’s worth specifying your size well in advance.
The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to spend at leisure.
If you’re starting to tire of seafood, how about eating at one of the hotel’s restaurant’s this evening? Although they’re a little bit more expensive, you do get the benefit of a wonderful sunset view and more relaxed setting. One of our favourites is Ngapali Bay, a small boutique hotel with a well-though menu and great selection of wine.
Day 6 - Ngapali (Snorkelling / beach / Bayview)
The day is free to spend at leisure. This gives you plenty of time to explore Ngapali on bicycle, or to enjoy some water sport activities (both can be arranged through the hotels).
For your final evening in Ngapali, we’d recommend making a reservation at Bayview’s beachside Sunset Bar. Due to it being a popular choice for the hotel’s guests, making a reservation is strongly recommended. If that’s not available, another good recommendation’s the restaurant at Sandoway.
Day 7 - Ngapali to Yangon (High tea at the Strand Hotel / Chinatown walk / Doh Ein)
This morning you will fly back to Yangon (once again, a complimentary transfer will be arranged by the hotel).
Once back in Yangon, you will be met by a guide and escorted back to The Strand Hotel to enjoy the finest high tea set in town.
For that extra slice of contrast, this afternoon we’ll take a short drive to the west of downtown to explore a cross section of Yangon’s most diverse quarters on foot. Firstly, we’ll pay a visit Kheng Hock Keong, a Chinese temple built in 1903, dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu who is believed to keep watch over sailors and fisherman. As Yangon’s largest Chinese temple it still plays an important role in community life to this day and is particularly popular in the morning, when worshippers offer candles, flowers and incense to the Buddhist and Taoist alters.
Heading north on one of the nearby streets, you will immediately notice the difference in street style. Everything’s a lot more packed together, with more signs of residential use. In our opinion, these streets are some of the best for people spotting, even though life here is typically carried out at a much faster pace. This becomes even more apparent once you rejoin Maha Bandula Road (the same road the Secretariat’s located), downtown’s major connecting artery and one of the best when it comes to showing off Yangon’s incredible diversity and rich cultural makeup.
By continuing right for approximately 20 blocks towards Sule Pagoda, we will pass the Musmeah Yeshua synagogue built in 1896 (26th Street), an Indian Jain temple built in 1871 (29th Street) and the Persian built Mogul Shiah Jaamay Mosque built in the mid-nineteenth century (30th Street). Apart from a few licks of paint, these buildings have seen little change since they were first constructed and have played a major role in keeping the city together, even through a prolonged period of hardship and uncertainty.
Before concluding the tour, we’ll stop at a heritage building currently serving as the office of Doh Ein (this means “Our Home” in Burmese language. Doh Ein is a social enterprise business with a focus on heritage conservation and urban renewal. To best get a sense of what they’re trying to achieve, be sure to take a quick look behind their office. Here you will find Yangon’s first community upgraded back alley, which now functions as a recreational space and urban garden. This was made possible thanks to Doh Ein’s unique vision and a team of local residents, artists and volunteers.
Day 8 - Yangon (Airport transfer / fly home)
Transfer back to the airport in time for your international flight back home.
Images featured in this itinerary (all taken on Tour Mandalay’s travels)