(with confirmation), really!
In our previous hotel we met an older couple, Sue and William from the UK, who needed a ride to the airport at the same time we did. So we shared a taxi. Easy piecy, 18.000K. They picked us up at our hotel at 7.30am (early!!) and we had a great chat with these two world travellers. One of their sons lives in Indonesia, in a town Sue describes as 'the ass hole of the world', which made me laugh so much. Sue and William have a house near Toulouse where they live permanently. At least once a year they travel to Asia. I like to see that people at that age are still so alive and kicking and adventurous (maybe Sue a little bit more then William -who is an accountant-,..which says it all :-)
And last the lovely Yoma Cherry, click here, a 15 minute walk from the 'main' area. Yoma Cherry offers bungalows between 50-70 dollar but the room comes with free bikes. All these places have no electricity between 6am and 6pm (so only at night).
Like all the other flights we took, we had great fun at the airport...uuuhhhh airport? See it more like a big room with chairs and people running around with signs in their hands saying which flight needs to board. So relaxed. The guys at the x-ray machines don't even look at our stuff on their computers. Liquid on board,..hell why not? Surprisingly there was an espresso joint in the waiting area, so for 2.000K we had a proper cappuccino, mmmm delicious. Our plain took off right on time and after having a chicken sandwich, some pastry and a coffee, we landed at the airport of Ngapali beach. We looked for our complementary hotel pick up taxi, but there was nobody with a sign in his hands with my name on it. I asked around and one guy said: 'Yes it's me for Memento resort'. So after a ride of 15 minutes we were dropped of at the Memento resort which I booked 2 months ago.
The lady behind the reception had no idea who we were. There was just NO reservation of us in their handwritten system. We showed her all the e-mails we sent and the confirmations, but she kept on saying 'different resort'. I was flabbergasted and showed this straight away. Klaas looked angry at me and snarled to keep my big mouth shut. I know that it's wrong to show my emotions, but after all my preparations and confirmed reservations, months before showing up, I can't stand it that -with all of the written proof in my hand and on my iPad- people say it's not their problem.
What the actual problem was, I still don't know, but after quit a bit of hassle we got our 50$ bungalow without twin beds which we specifically requested! There were no twin beds available said the lady. On our last day we had to switch to a 35$ bungalow in the back row, because the 50$ bungalows were already reserved for other people. After another hassle, we got an extra sheet and blanket. That's why we always ask for twin beds, we need our own sheet and blanket (difficult sleepers you could say!). The mattress was about 3 cm thick and the sheets were made of polyester and as usual too small for the bed. So after turning around a few times, the sheet on the mattress folds up so in the morning you notice that you slept on the (dirty) mattress...aarghhhhh..
We explored the surroundings a bit and went to the nearest village, Thandwe. We took a tuk tuk (40 minutes, 500K pp) to buy some gear to make our bungalow and bed a bit less spartan and more comfortable. Thandwe is a small village with no tourists, so we were an attraction again. After buying our stuff, which was not easy, we bought some pastries at the market and took a tuk tuk back to our bungalow.
For sunset we met Simon in his posh hotel named 'Bayview', next door to our backpack kind of place. Bayview is everything you wish for if you are looking for peace and comfort. I was so jealous of him. He showed us his bungalow. I was basically gasping for air...the shower, with all the pebbles, that enormous bed,..that...that....damn what a super cool place. "Although it's a lot of money, it's worth every penny" (Simon's words).
We sat down at his beach bar and watched the sunset while nipping on our 5$ cocktails. Quit cheap drinks for such a nice hotel (glass of decent wine also 5$). We took a couple more and decided to have diner across the street, because the food is really expensive at Bayview. We found a great place near our bungalow called 'Golden Rose' were we ordered all kinds of fresh fish...wowww! Dirt cheap: 4.000K for a fish, potatoes and lovely avocado/tomato salad. To top it off with a 2.000K beer. The owner and his son are such a nice people. The son works during the day at the Bayview...what a life: work ..work..and work, and still look happy and warm & helpful towards the customers.
That night we slept very bad. Why? Because the air conditioning of the 'fancy' 85$ apartment above us was heavily dripping water on our thin iron roof. This made such a noise, the whole fu.. night long, that we could not sleep. It sounded like a heavy rain shower. Klaas was totally fed up with it all at 3am and whispered in my ear: 'Darling no worries, we move to that beautiful place next door where Simon is in too, and I pay the extra costs..'. I was flabbergasted, but so happily surprised by his gesture.
No more of this:
Or blankets on the roof,..like that will help...yeah right!
Day 18: It's all about finding the right place
The next morning we saw that the staff of Memento knows all about our roof dripping air con problem, because there was a blanket on the roof to avoid noise coming from the dripping air con above it. What a stupid solution. Again, tourism, service and Myanmar: a long way to go. What makes me angry is that they ask European prices (in eight years time prices for accommodations are multiplied by four !! I know because I still have my old Lonely Planet from 2005) without providing any (extra) comfort and/or service. I think this is so wrong and probably will work against them in the long run; that's what I hope because this whole industry right now is all greediness.
We checked out at the Memento Resort the next morning. I was so grateful to Klaas that he firmly made the decision to go to the Bayview (113€ a night!), because this week on the beach was something we looked forward to so much, and with this very unpractical and noisy bungalow we were definitely not going to have a good time! But Elles is Elles; I was actually really angry that after all the problems we had, we still had to pay the full amount for that night. 50$ is just crazy for such a place. At least showe some understanding for our feelings and deal with it, in a way. But complaints are just not in their vocabulary. Although I have much appreciation for the Myanmar people, there is a limit to my comprehension. In Thailand a bungalow of this kind would not cost more then 15$ (and it comes without leaking aircon's).
But checking out, doesn't mean checking in. We went to the Bayview to use their computer room to book through Agoda (the only way possible to pay with a credit card). The walk-in rate of the Bayview is 190$. There are only a few hotels in Myanmar that are bookable through Agoda (the only booking site that offers Myanmar accommodation). The lady of the reception asked us what we were up to. We explained to her that we were about to book this hotel for 5 nights. She said that it was not allowed for non guest to use their computers. Duhhhhh, we said, let us use the computer so we can book this hotel. Happily for us a smarter reception clerk understood us but the internet of the Bayview didn't work so we left to find an internet cafe. There was one around the corner, so we tried to book the hotel, but only 2 out of 5 nights were available. Damn...! Klaas went back to the hotel to talk to the hotel manager who told us that except for 1 night he had a room for us. We didn't mind taking that risk; for sure someone will cancel and we will be able to stay also that particular day. The manager 'opened' the dates we needed in Agoda and we were able to book our ridiculous splurge midweek. Oooh yeah! But my god, what a hassle! This is the downside of travelling in Myanmar. No ATM's and no credit card payments possible.
Our room looks horrible, as well as the swimming pool:-) See for yourself:
After we jumped around in our huge room -like little children- and taking a loooooooong hot shower, connected all our electrical gear, we said hi to Simon (the lucky bastard was moving to a beach front bungalow). He was so surprised to see us, and that we decided to stay at his place while the night before we told him that the resort was waaaaaaaay above our budget.
We took a walk on the beach to explore the rest of the competition in this sleepy fisherman's village.
What we saw was one over the top priced resort, after the other. It's really ridiculous. The resorts are huge (we often got lost finding the reception). All the premises are super well maintained and nicely decorated, but prices start most of the time at 250$ a night. Seriously..? Yes! So what happens: there are no backpackers nor flash packers, instead only old senior kind of package tour tourists with little to no Myanmar interest (this is my own opinion after doing 'Elles style' research. Most of the resorts were at least half empty. Not in our place, always fully booked and has by far the coolest and chillest vibe of all the places we saw (but hardly any young people 30/40 year).
Strange place this Ngapali beach and what a shame that such a fantastic beach is basically not 'available' for the less fortunate tourists and travellers. The only three places that have 'budget' options ar Lin Thar Oo click here(60$ for a beachfront bungalow, very run down. Or a new one, very nice for 80$) and Memento resort (35$ for a very simple bungalow no sea view no airco, or 50$ for beach bungalow, very simple and old with airco and 85$ for a normal bungalow).
And last the lovely Yoma Cherry, click here, a 15 minute walk from the 'main' area. Yoma Cherry offers bungalows between 50-70 dollar but the room comes with free bikes. All these places have no electricity between 6am and 6pm (so only at night).
After our long exploring walk, we had lunch at #1 Tripadvisor restaurant Silver Winner. According to the TA contributors, this is the place to be. Right! Food wise, no complaints, but service wise we got totally annoyed by 3 girls of the staff breathing in our necks. Privacy,..Jeehuuu? The cook / owner came also to our table and asked if everything was alright. Please people, leave us alone for a bit. Actually, we didn't like the place. It was all so extremely pushy and too much in our face. Again, I try to understand that they think we like this kind of service, and that they are very anxious to make us feel at home, but for us this works totally the other way around.
We had a rendez vous around sunset with Simon in his oooh la la fancy beachfront bungalow. We bought some wine and Simon managed to get a few candles, chairs nuts and a wine cooler at the restaurant. Look at us, sitting like kings, watching another crazy sunset; finally without any of the notorious Myanmar touristic drama, but with Mr. Jobs nearby...(if you look closely you see an iPad and and Iphone to catch the dramatic sunset)..
For diner we went again to our favourite place across the street from our hotel, the 'Golden Rose'. Simon had lunch there that day, and specially asked the owner to throw in some bottles of white Myanmar wine and 3 big snappers (fish) for our diner that evening. When we arrived, the table was all set up with a sign 'reserved' and the wine cooler stood firmly in the middle of the table: let the games begin!
We had again a wonderful evening (Simon is a charming and vivid story teller and Klaas and me don't mind to share our stories). It was also great to see that the Myanmar staff of our hotel, and the German manager Patrick, were having their own private drinking party in the back of the restaurant. We are almost sure that the staff working at the Bayview really enjoy their job and I also think that the management of Bayview takes good care of them. You never know for sure, but from what I have seen: no alarm bells.
Day 19: SPF 15 or 30?
The next morning (after a fantastic night sleep...finally!) we saw Simon who was just checking out. We hugged each other and promised each other to keep in touch. Simon didn't sleep that well, since the kitchen staff (next to his fancy up scaled bungalow) decided to have a party till 5 in the morning. That's why we never take fancy up scaled bungalows :-) Simon looked so tired, or was that because of the 3 bottles wine and some cocktails we drank the night before?
While Simon went off to the airport, we went to our first Bayview breakfast buffet. And that was no punishment, what so ever, ladies en gentleman! Wow, I like! Pastries, fresh juice, eggs, pancakes, real cheese, muesli, yogurt and to top it all off: great coffee latte. View: a magnificent swimming pool. I can get used to this.
The rest of the day we basically didn't do anything, besides swimming, working on the golden brown tan, hanging around, eating, drinking, another swim (pool or clear blue sea...damn all these choices!). We wrote some postcards while we had lunch at Htay Htay (good lunch, nice place).
I took it really easy while my cold wasn't getting any better. Having a cold at the beach..WTF *%#^!! Fortunately there is a cooker in our room, so every few hours, me and my nose take a steam bath and we sniff purified salty water. Aaarggg, not my favourite waste of time. I also bought some heavy tiger kind of balm which opens all the pores in my body. That will do the trick hopefully.
There is one thing we didn't really figured out yet, and that is our ride from the airport of Yangon to the north-east, to Golden Rock, in 3 days time. When we collected our plane tickets at our travel agency Peace House Travel in Yangon, we saw that our flight back from the beach to Yangon was an afternoon flight, not a morning flight as agreed upon. May, owner of Peace House Travel knew very well that the only demand we had, was a morning flight from Thandwe back to Yangon. Klaas already figured out back in Holland that there was no morning flight with KBZ that day, but May assured us that there was. When we collected our tickets, we noticed on our tickets the difference in time. No morning flight, but an afternoon flight. What???
May said to us that there was just NO alternative aircraft company for morning flights back to Yangon. She explained to us how difficult the whole flight thing is in Myanmar; not enough planes & pilots, so itinerary's change all the time. We totally believed that. And I think to a certain extend it's true, (but in our case I think it was not). So back then we thought we had no other choice and more or less accepted it.
But frankly, over the past couple of weeks, we talked to several travel agencies at several places throughout Myanmar and they all told us the Air Bagan and Air Mandalay flights do ALWAYS fly in the morning, already for a long time. The KBZ flight, she booked for us, on a Tuesday, is at 15.40pm for quit some time. Only on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday KBZ offers morning flights at 9.30am. Like Klaas already figured out in Holland. So this information has been available for quit some time. I don't understand why they booked us on a KBZ flight (with the wrong time, while two other companies offer morning flights). This bothers me a lot actually. So in order to arrive early in Yangon we now have to buy new tickets with Air Mandalay.
By the way, we noticed that all our KBZ tickets are more expensive then the Air Mandalay tickets. Every time we fly, I ask people what they paid for their tickets. Our KBZ tickets are always quit a bit more expensive then the other aircraft companies offer (same day, same itinerary). Sometimes there is a 16$ (!!) difference per ticket. I don't mind that a travel agent takes some money as an agency fee, but I would like to have known this. Explain it to the customers, because I assume that a travel agent takes the cheapest option for their clients, not the most expensive. So when we collect our refund at Peace House Travel, I want to discuss this thing with May, I like to understand why she did it this way.
I asked Klaas if he didn't mind to have diner 'at home'. We are having such a great terrace and lazy chairs, I like to enjoy this luxury. Besides that, I really want to take it easy to get rid of this silly cold. So we got ourselves a great diner (from the Golden Rose again), but this time in white plastic take away cups. It was yet another perfect evening while Keane played their best songs.
Day 20: Happy men, are gay men
It wasn't easy; the next morning we had to pull ourselves out of our mega comfi beds, towards the breakfast buffet (joke). While Klaas went to his most favourite place in whole Myanmar (the egg station), he met a strange species there. A German woman that barked to the 'egg man' of the egg station. According to her, he didn't know shit about cooking eggs, bla, bla, bla! After she sent one omelet to the trash bin, she took over the station and began frying her own scrambled eggs. When Klaas came back to our table, he was disgusted by her behaviour. I said, always in for a riot, let's talk to here, let us explain her something about human behaviour vs politeness. But as always, Klaas didn't want me to put up a scene, so we ignored this monster - probably a country side imbecile - who thinks that Myanmar is some kind of region of Lloret del Mar.
We like to hang around the buffet, talk to the elderly ;-) and drink tons of coffee. Klaas met two very spontaneous men from our country (Breda) who are retired and enjoying life for the full two million percent. They just did a two months around the world cruise (that involves dancing, jogging on the deck and black tie diners). During wintertime these two blokes always take two months time out in Holland to spent time at Hua Hin (Thailand). Two well dressed men, far away in their sixties and already 43 years together. I say hurrah for such an achievement! We invited ourselves (a very Dutch thing to do) that evening at the boys (Wijnand and Ad) bungalow, promising them that we bring a chilled bottle of white wine. In return we asked them to entertain us with their (cruise) stories. And by cruising I mean sailing on a boat..
We had a terrific lunch at the Ngapali kitchen (fresh tuna, Thai style, mjam!) and while I was taking my last bite, I almost fell of my chair. What the hell.....NO WAY! (mind you: we are in Myanmar. A very very prudish country, were everybody wears longs skirts and tops covering the shoulders. Only at the beach, people wear less.
Are they...no really? Yes they are: walking around in the street wearing only a bikini and a pair of swim trousers..... WHATTTTT?
And there they were: zeeeeeeee Russians!!!! They spoiled Thailand and Egypt and probably they slowly start taking over Myanmar too? I feel so bad about this. I think that Russians are the most horrible travellers/tourists in the whole wide world and I have far too often totally been disgusted by their manners and overall presence. This is really bad news and although the Myanmar people do not have that much experience with (mass) tourism, they know very well who Russians are, and they are not happy with their presence at all.
Around sunset we went to our 2 Dutch men. These guys are full of funny stories. There seems to be no ending to what they've seen, done and are going to do. After 2 bottles of wine, we asked them to come along to our favourite Golden Rose for diner. Good choice, because Ad is crazy about French fries and they happen to make a damn good 'frietje' (Dutch for fries) at the Golden Rose. I think we, all together, had 4 plates of various fresh fish and 5 plates packed with 'frietjes' (of which Ad ate at least 4) and a few plates of avocado and tomato salad. It's such a luxury to have this kind of food available, so fresh, so tasteful for only a couple of dollars.
We totally fell in love with these two charismatic handsome Dutch personalities. They promised us to come and see us in Amsterdam. OMG...I need to be fit then, because these two naughty boys are in a different league when it comes down to energy and late night chats (including drinking).
Day 21: Moving to the neighbours
We are in Myanmar now for 3 weeks. I am sad that time flies so very fast. I remember so clearly that we arrived in Yangon at the Sunflower hotel, but it also feels like centuries ago. We haven't had one argument yet, my lovely honey bunny and me, and we've been counting our blessings every day. We are healthy and we made the right choice not to go for the whole baby and children thing; instead we travel and that suits us more then perfect. Well enough of these reflections, we have things to do! We have to move out of the Bayview, they are still fully booked, there were no cancellations. We saw that one coming, so we went made a reservation for 2 nights at the place next door, 'LinThar Oo'. They have a few brand new wooden bungalows on the beach for 'only' 80$.
After chatting again for a long time with our brand new BFF's Ad and Wijnand while having another superb breakfast, we packed our things. I moved my stuff in three times. I am so fed up with packing my backpack (hihi). The bungalow of LinThar Oo is fab! Wow! I am actually happy that we had to move out of Bayview; this is the real Thai beach vibe I feel here! With one foot I'm standing in my bungalow with the other one in the sea. I am so spoilt right now.
Our gay happy men came to take a look in our rustic bungalow, and although Ad couldn't really believe that no electricity during the day is possible, they both agreed our bungalow wasn't as bad as they expected, ha ha. We said goodbye to them, because they were about to take off to Yangon. We unpacked our stuff and sat down on our fantastic porch overlooking the silver white sandy beach while listening to gentle waves rolling on the shore. The rest of the day we did nothing, except for things you expect people to do at the beach on a sunny day. Klaas has a bit of a cold again so we took things easy.
We had lunch at Paradise across the street, okay fruits-de-mer noodles. By the way, I forgot to explain about the crown cap's of Myanmar beer bottles. Well we've could have been drinking free beers for the past 3 weeks, if we would have known that there are hidden messages under the plastic layers in every Myanmar beer cap...
So what does it say? From left to right ->
Free bottle/1.000K discount/500K discount/100K discount. And if you are unlucky you get this one:
That says: Je su tin ba de (thank you).
If we only had known....
That night we stayed in again. I went to the Golden Rose for some small bites to take home and a few candles for some extra romance. With 2 bottles of chill wine in the fridge and the latest novel of Leon de Winter on my e-reader, our evening on the porch was going to be just perfect.
Day 22: Germany and Italy in one bungalow
The night before, at the Golden Rose, I met an Italian guy who stays also at the Lin Thar Oo (LTO). We chatted for a while and the next morning we saw each other again at the breakfast table. By the way, they serve a pretty decent breakfast buffet at LTO. He told me that he shares a bungalow with a German guy. We chatted about the usual stuff people talk about while travelling. His German room mate joined us later and I found out that both man are gay but that was the only thing they had in common. Wow, two totally different characters. Later that day John (Italian) and me walked all the way to the end of the bay (1 hour walk).
The Ngapali bay is so extremely beautiful, many older aged travellers think it feels like Thailand 30 years ago (but with Swiss prices :-)).
I didn't take my camera with me, but John promised me to sent some pics of our walk. At the end of the bay, on the cliffs, there is a cute little (expensive) restaurant were we had two lovely cocktails (the pina colada is fantastic with fresh milk directly from the coconut). Later the German (nameless) guy showed up and ordered a carrot juice, which made John and me laugh so much. This guy is totally healthy. He swims, runs and doesn't drink alcohol, and that shows. I almost asked him if they photoshoped his body. The Italian is totally the opposite, back home they call him 'Sue Ellen' (Dallas, alcoholic, remember?) and he smokes. So there I was, sitting in between 2 guys with totally different views on how to life, arguing German vs Italian style. Pfffff.(The next morning I think they decided to go separate ways, which I think was a wise idea).
That evening we packed our bags feeling sorry for ourselves. Our days at the beach are almost over :-( We had dinner for the last time at our favourite Golden Rose. I gave the owner two wooden shoes on a hanger from Holland and he gave me a cute shelf with Ngapali written on it. So cute.
Bye Bye beautiful beach!!
Traveller facts: Accommodation is very expensive at the beach. If you want a bit of service and a good breakfast is will cost you around 135$ a night (Bayview). There are only view 'budget' options. Linthar Oo/Memento/ArkanLand/Yoma Cherry. Food is very cheap. A set menu with a whole fresh fish is 4.000K. Tuktuk to Thandwe 500K. pp one way. Happy hour almost everywhere between 5-7pm. Fancy drinking in the big hotels 5$ per cocktail. There are good wines available at the local liquor store (near the new hotel Jade resort & spa/ next to Ngapali Kitchen). Decent red French wine 7.000K. a bottle. Our favourite restaurant by far: The Golden Sunrise. The worst: Silver Winner. We also liked Ngapali Kitchen a lot. Next door to Htay Htay is an internet cafe May: 1 hour: 1.000K. The Bayview has free wifi. Password: ocean (they will probably hate me for sharing this). Flight to and from Yangon to Thandwe airport: 99$.