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Even amid all the tourist glories of Myanmar, the town of Myeik is a diamond in the rough.

Long neglected under the military regime, Myeik seduces the first tourists to find their way here.
Between the picturesque islands of Pahtaw and Pahtete, opposite the seafront of Myeik, there is a soft-shell crab farm. Its products can be enjoyed at nearby Yadanaoo restaurant, along with a wide variety of other seafood from the region.
Still on seafood, take a look at the lobster farm, which can provide you with a three-star Michelin dinner at street prices.
And then there are the swallows’ nests. This is thought of as a Chinese delicacy, but you can find them here too. The Natural Edible Birds’ Nest House on Strand Road is a cross between a shop and a zoo, with hints of museum.
Not far from the nest farm and opposite the central market is a little alley where people are continuously coming and going, each bearing a bag or parcel of snacks. You can’t pass through Myeik without visiting the snacks stalls of the Myit Nge Market, also known as Dawei Su Market. Look out especially for the ar pone, a kind of crêpe topped with whisked egg and grated coconut. This delicacy truly melts in the mouth, and goes particularly well with sweetened tea.
Myeik is certainly a fishing town, and they have a huge fish-drying neighbourhood. On my second day in the city I had the chance to witness the process. It’s great to see the fishermen return with their haul as women clean, cut and prepare it for drying.
There’s also light industry, including a little factory where they manufacture all kind of brooms, and another where they turn raw cashew nuts into a tasty snack. The speed and skill of the workers is fascinating to watch. You can even work alongside them.
The same is true in the shipyards. In Myeik they still make ships the way they always have. You can mingle with carpenters, blacksmiths, turners, sailors and captains to see up close the way they work.
On the third day I headed to the port and a boat took me upriver to the old village of Tanintharyi. While having breakfast on board I was treated to one of the most amazing sunrises. The dark purples brightened as the night faded and intense yellows, pinks and oranges contrasted with the vivid green of the luxuriant vegetation on both banks.
In Tanintharyi, the ancient capital of the region, few signs from that glorious time remain. But you can see the popular dragon boat races, a unique show presented on special occasions. Tanintharyi monastery, where a little museum displays coins, tools and objects found at archaeological sites around the village, is worth a visit.
Myeik and Tanintharyi are attractions by themselves, but the region still keeps an ace up its sleeve. Myeik port is a springboard for the exploration of the Myeik Archipelago, the last long paradise of Myanmar, a group of about 800 beautiful islands and islets with gorgeous beaches and untapped potential for tourism – hopefully, ecotourism.
Most tours to the archipelago focus on scuba diving, but recently companies like Asia Whale and Mergui Sakura have started organising camping trips. It’s quite an experience to huddle by a bonfire at night and wake up in the morning to the sound of birdsong.

We stopped at Pin Zin to discover how local people live in a village of the mangrove belt. Here I had the chance to taste ngapi, the famous strong-tasting fish paste, that rare delicacy that the country is proud to export.

At Natthemee Yetwin, our destination for the following two nights, the magic of another astonishing sunset awaited. I have never seen so many stars. A midnight walk along the beach unveils the secret of the sands, glowing with plankton.

If sunset is beautiful, sunrise is breathtaking. A morning ride in a kayak brought me to a camp on the beach against the background of the thick green forest and a rising column of smoke, like a dream of a desert island.
The day brought yet another natural spectacle: breakfast time for the fish in the rift, the perfect moment to put on your goggles and stare discreetly at them. The colours of the fish underwater compete with those above the surface.

Myeik is definitely a rediscovered paradise, as yet virgin and almost deserted. Swimming, diving, fishing, kayaking, island-hopping, trekking or just relaxing in the sun or under the trees make for a perfect day.

Most of the archipelago is uninhabited, but the waters are home to the Salone people, also known as "sea gypsies". Although they are a nomadic seafaring people most of the year, during the rainy season they set up camps as shelter on some islands.

Visiting a dome shelter at one of these camps, I was able to explore their home. Here I got to mingle with four generations of the same family and also play with their unusual pet, a monkey.

Dome Island is also one of the few islands in the archipelago that has natural fresh water, in the form of a dazzling waterfall. It’s a fantastic view, and the best grand finale for our trip.
One last tip: For dinner one night I went to one of the most popular local restaurants in Myeik, Sakura Foods and Drinks, where they serve mainly seafood. Don’t miss the prawn curry, let alone ta nyin, a tasty leafy vegetable you will only find in this region.

By Dodi Fog | Friday, 19 February 2016
Credit : Myanmar Times


A new sunset viewpoint may be built in Bagan in an effort to relieve the strain on the ancient city’s temples.

sunset-earthwork-pic-thirilu

The structures, some of which are almost 1000 years old, are popular spots to watch as the sun descends behind the Ayeyarwady River. However, the growing number of local and foreign visitors to Bagan – the number of foreigners has more than doubled since 2011, from 120,000 to 250,000 last year – means hundreds are turning up each evening to ascend the temples.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has proposed building a raised earthen bank at the northwest corner of Nyaung Lat Phat pond near Sulamani temple.

“We are looking for a new site to reduce the strain on the ancient temples because they are quite old,” said Ko Han Nyunt, a project assistant for tourism development at JICA, adding that a ground survey has already been conducted.

“The proposed site, on the bank of Nyaung Lat Phat pond, has a very nice view so we will extend this bank with earth to create a better viewing spot for sunset visitors … if the Ministry of Culture allows it. We wouldn’t charge for entry.”

The proposed bank would be able to hold more than 100 people, he said.

The Department of Archaeology and National Museum has already reported the JICA proposal to the ministries of culture and of hotels and tourism a month ago, said U Thein Lwin, a deputy director general.

He said he supported the plan but was not sure if it would be approved by the two ministries.

“We don’t want large crowds at each old temple at sunset time. It would be terrible if one of these temples collapsed due to the heavy weight. That’s why we want to build a small hill instead,” he said.

Bagan has more than 3000 ancient pagodas and temples, of which five are particularly popular for watching sunset: Shwesandaw, Thitsarwady, Pyathetgyi, Shwenanyindaw and Oah Chan Pae Kone. Another popular but pricier option is a sunset cruise on the Ayeyarwady River.

By Ei Ei Thu | Wednesday, 13 January 2016
Credit : Myanmar Times


Foreign visitors to the ancient city of Bagan could double by 2018, thanks in part to a smooth election and Myanmar’s improved international reputation, industry sources say.

tourism-development-bagan-1-kh

About 250,000 tourists are estimated to have visited the site this year. But U Zaw Win Cho, chair of Bagan’s tour guide association, said he believes this could hit the half-million mark in two to three years.

The main reason, he said, is the impact of the impending change of government on Myanmar's international image. The National League for Democracy, led by international democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, won the November 8 election in a landslide and will form a government and take office at the end of March.

“The election is successfully done and the country is changing with good potential for transparency. That is why we have a good image and can grow the tourism industry,” U Zaw Win Cho said.

Catering to the masses will not be without its challenges, he added, citing the need for more hotel rooms as a major priority for Bagan’s hospitality industry.

He points to regulatory reform as a key part of this process, saying it would be beneficial for the local economy for smaller-scale hotel operations to be permitted. “It can also improve local people’s businesses, and it will directly solve the accommodation problem,” he said.

A lack of suitable accommodation and high transport costs make Myanmar an expensive destination for package tourists relative to other ASEAN nations. This, U Zaw Win Cho said, could also hold the tourism industry back.

“The tourist will choose the cheaper country instead of Myanmar even if they would like to visit,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Bagan’s intake of tourists this season increased by 15 percent. It is also bullish about the industry’s prospects under the new government.

“The tourism industry will surely grow under the new government,” said U Myo Win Nyunt, a ministry director.

The tourism industry will still be impacted by external events, noted Daw Maw Maw Aung, proprietor of Bagan House Lacquerware. She cited as an example the recent terrorist attacks in France.

But she said she expected the NLD government would result in more investment in the sector, particularly if it overhauls the legal framework.

“The NLD government can enact the strong and exact laws for tourism. When the political situation is good, foreign investment will come to Myanmar,” she said.

By Ei Ei Thu | Monday, 04 January 2016
Credit : Myanmar Times

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