For a day trip to remember, head to Nyaung Chaungtha, a beach ‘resort’ located on the banks of the Ayeyarwady.
A return trip costs around 40-50,000k and the journey should (our taxi broke down) be pretty straightforward. Nyaung Chaungtha lies just off Pathein road en-route to Ngwe Saung and the other Chaungtha, and if you set off in good time, the journey should take around 2 hours.
Once you’ve arrived, just follow the pathway down to the beach through the stalls selling snacks and novelty t-shirts and boom! You’re there. The beach is reasonably big and when we arrived mid-week we had no trouble finding a table. Still, even on a Wednesday, it was pretty busy. It’s safe to assume that on public holidays and weekends the place packs out a bit so keep in mind this isn’t an isolated retreat.
There also aren’t any restaurants as such. When you’re feeling hungry or thirsty you just flag someone down and they’ll bring you a beer or something to eat. Young men and women selling fish, corn, shrimp and assorted snacks patrol the beach constantly, so if you’re in need of refreshment, you shouldn’t have to wait for more than a couple of minutes.
But you’re not really here for the food are you? You’re here to experience Myanmar like a local and have a swim in the river, and on that front Nyaung Chaungtha delivers! A lot of people ask –quite understandably – what’s the water like? Is it safe to swim?
What we can tell you is this: it’s not as bad as you may think. We arrived early afternoon and began swimming almost immediately and there was practically no rubbish floating around – the water seemed to be perfectly fine. A little bit later, as the water came in around 4.30-5.30pm, the water got a lot dirtier as empty bottles and wrappers were washed up onto the beach. The main reason for that is, as the tide comes in, those sitting near the riverfront find their tables and chairs gradually getting submerged and inevitably all the trash that’s built up during the day starts floating about. That aside, we really enjoyed the water. In any event, once you’ve had a few Myanmar beers, you won’t even notice.
Once the water’s come in a bit they open up the slides which are a real hoot. We had endless fun on those slides as the sun was setting. You can rent a rubber ring or even a little boat at 1000k a head, although, we should say, that the boat thing seems kind of pointless as you can’t really go anywhere. But hey, the option’s there. There’s also a DJ stage set up in the middle of the river along a rickety bamboo bridge. They blare out techno throughout the day and we had a slightly drunken Brits abroad moment dancing on the stage and then jumping into the river below. Still, no one seemed to mind.
Nyaung Chaungtha makes for a decidedly unusual day out. It’s very much a local thing, the swimming won’t be up to everybody’s standards, and the amenities are close to zero. It’s probably not everyone’s cup of cordial. But, with that said, if you go there with the view of meeting new people, having a bit of a laugh, having a few beers and a bit of a splash around in the Ayeyarwady (and how often do you get to do that?), you’re pretty much guaranteed a fun day out.
And let’s face it; it’s easier than going to the other Chaungtha.
Distance from Yangon: 2 hours
Price for return: 40-50,000k
Do: Swimming; rent a boat; slides
Eat/Drink: Whatever comes along
Stay: We’re not aware of any foreigner friendly hotels. But, to be honest, staying overnight would be overkill.
Editor Note: This article is a part of “Dom’s Day Trips” series which was first published in MYANMORE Magazine July issue.