March 9, 2016. My Thai visa expired so I headed towards my new destination: Myanmar (Burma). One of the roughest border crossings that I have suffered so far, the Kanchanaburi-Dawei border crossing (Phu Nam Rom/Htee Khee). The Thai side was fine, a small mini van took me to the border, got my exit stamp on the passport and set foot on Myanmar. There, I hitched a ride with 4 other Thai and Burmese guys through “No Mans Land”, which is basically a 5km distance between the Thai border and the Burmese immigration office, where there is absolutely and literally nothing but a dusty “road”. With the heat and dust, I would not reccommend walking through it.
The Burmese guy who gave me a ride stopped at a booth to show the passports to some police officers which ended up keeping them for a while. After getting them back, my lift dropped me in the immigration office. There, we realized that he forgot my passport. FUCK (excuse my French), I thought I was about to be scammed or involved in some dodgy story. I could see the headlines: “Colombian caught smuggling, robbing, crossing border illegally, etc…”. Nonetheless, the guy just happened to be really distracted and nothing bad happened, he brought my passport back and got my stamp from the immigration officers, who were really excited to see a tourist from Colombia, especially because they had never met someone from my country before. After I got my stamp, I went outside to look for a bus or a ride that would take me to Dawei but couldn’t find any sign of public transportation. Nothing, there was nothing but an empty, dusty and deserted land with construction works and only one or two small container offices (one was the immigration office) and a small food shop, nothing else was around. A guy told me that some pickup trucks took people for a small fee so I decided to grab one. It was not easy since not many people spoke English there, and the only ones who did, just did not look trustworthy.
Anyways, I paid a guy USD15 and jumped on the back of the pickup convinced it was going to be an easy ride. Five minutes later, one of the guys gave me a mask to cover mouth and nose. At that moment I realized it was going to be “interesting”. Almost four hours through a bumpy “road” (if you may call it a road), covered in dust, many stops and with my flat ass hurting every time I bounced as the car hit the pot holes… I made it to Dawei in the end.
As I came down from the pickup truck, two Buddhists monks approached me to ask where I was from. I said: “Colombia.” And one of them replied: “Oh, Colombia good in football”. I was glad he didn’t say “Oh Colombia good in cocaine”. So I knew it was a good start! A great start for what would be an amazing time in Myanmar.
After looking for many places, I decided to stay at the Dream Emperor. I took a room that night with TV, AC, private bathroom, etc. I needed to give myself a treat after that crossing. Next day I did my research on things to do in Dawei and found a really good blog (“No Need to Archipielago”) which talked about the still “untouched” beaches of the Dawei Peninsula. As I read more and more I knew I had to explore these beaches (they where located on the outskirts of Dawei). So next day I decided to rent a motorbike from Mr. Zaza (best deals in Dawei) and head towards one of them: San Maria Beach.
The road was not too bad and I got to see some villages on the way. Once I got there I found myself an empty beach, with a bit of rubbish but beautiful almost white sand and warm water, perfect for a nice swim. I chilled all day with some local kids who approached me and just smiled (they didnt know any English) so we communicated through signs (which is nice at the beginning, but afterwards is mentally exhausting). That night I headed back towards the hotel and met an Argentinan girl who didn’t stop talking about the beaches in the south of the Dawei Peninsula. She spent two weeks camping in there and told me how beautiful these beaches were.
Next day I checked out from the hotel, took one of my bags with me and my motorbike and decided to head south of the Peninsula. After a two hour ride, I stopped for lunch at YWAY, a place with really good Burmese and Thai food, and “real coffee”. Plus, the owner speaks English and is really helpful. They recommended me Paradise Beach, which apparently was one of the nicest beaches there. After a good fried rice, I took some food for dinner and rode towards Paradise Beach. The “road” was not the best, especially because the day before it rained and there was a lot of mud. Anyways, I made it. Again, no one there.
I just saw a German couple for some minutes and then they left. I spent all afternoon on the water, reading, writing and smoking, just chilling by myself. When the night came, I opened my sleeping bag and slept on the beach. That night I forgot to put on mosquito repelent, so next day I was literally all swolen, even I got my eye stung by something.
I spent a couple of days in Paradise Beach just doing nothing but chilling. Every day I would have to ride back to the nearest town for food and fuel and come back just to chill. Some days I would meet people that were visiting during the day or staying in one of the bungalows that were just starting to build and talk for some minutes, but that was it, I had so much time to spend WITH myself, I was enjoying it.
Some days I would ride towards other beaches and visit pagodas such as Shin Maw Pagoda with a beautiful coastal view and end up sleeping in Paradise again.
One day, I headed back towards YWAY for food and met a particular guy named Stephen Barker. He looked 40, had some of his finger nails coloured, a scarf and seemed like he knew everything, at least about Myanmar and the beaches in the south. Other travellers were asking him a lot of questions about the beaches and later I realized that he was the one who wrote the blog on “No Need to Archipielago”. That day, I also met Pete Cosby, a fellow friend and traveller from Slovakia who was in a similar plan as I was. We decided to ask Stephen for a couple of advices and headed towards other beaches.
We took our bikes and visited Grandfathers Beach, one of my favorites since it has a beautiful lagoon next to the ocean. Its accessible during certain times of the day (depending on the tide) so check before getting there or wait for a couple of minutes or hours until the tide is low.
We snorkelled and later met “Grandfather”, a 70 year old Burmese man who has a small hut there and spends big part of his day fishing with a net and his hands. That night Pete, Stephen and I slept in a pagoda located at the top of a hill (its a steep 15 minute walk) with an amazing morning view. A really peaceful place worth visiting.
The next day, my friend Dave Stal, with whom I travelled in Varanasi (India) wrote to me telling me that he would join the adventures of the Dawei Peninsula. I had been telling him about these beaches before and he decided to join me. So I went back to Dawei township and picked him up. We hadn’t seen each other for almost a year but it felt like nothing had changed. After catching up, we got him a bike. He was not so confident with the bike but managed to do it fine (at least at the begining). We went to San Maria first just to chill and headed next day towards the southern beaches. We visited Tizit beach, passing through a fishermen village first, and then reaching this beautiful but smelly (“smelled fishy”) place. We chilled there for a while and kept going.
We slept at the pagoda the first night and the next day explored more. Dave fall off his bike to prevent himself from running over a small kid that was crossing the road without looking. He had a few scars but it was fine. He tells the story as he “saved that kids life” and gets all serious when talking about it. We also went to Paradise Beach and Grandfathers Beach, saw Stephen those days and ran into Pete a couple of times.
One day we went looking for lunch to YWAY but they were closed so we had to look somewhere else. As we were riding searching for food Dave hit the side of a bus. The roads were very narrow and Dave took the curve too open and the bus too close… BOOM. I just saw Dave on the floor shouting as loud as he could. I only saw some scratches on his knees until he removed his shoe. He had a hole below his toes, you could almost see the bone. I was shocked. He asked me how it was, I lied. I said it was fine, “Its ok bro, not so bad, but we should go to the hospital”. It was bad. The closest hospital was 2 hours away and the bus driver who hit him didn’t want to take us back. He was worried about not getting into trouble. No one else understood or wanted to take us. So, we covered his foot with toilet paper and his socks, left his bike there and I took him on the back of my bike. Man, I went as fast as I could and Dave was complaining and swearing so much that it was actually funny (sorry bro, you know I love you). We tried to get help on the way but no one understood. Poor guy, he had only two weeks left before going back to Canada and still was planning to visit other countries… not anymore.
We got to the hospital in Dawei township and he got attention immediately. About 20 Burmese nurses around him taking care of his wounds. Then, a very serious but charismatic doctor took control of the situation. He was the Burmese version of McDreamy, a really cool guy who did a good job with what he had (which was not so much). They put some stitches, got crutches and sent Dave home. Next day he couldn’t move from bed, so I got some food and alcohol. We ate and got drunk until we forgot what happened. Dave flew to Thailand and back to Canada after that. I kept exploring the rest of Myanmar, but thats another story.
Those were my glorious 10 days on the beaches of the Dawei Peninsula. If you are adventurous and have the time, I recommend visiting these beaches… worth it.
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