As the tourism boycott has ended, Myanmar (Burma) is becoming a popular destination on the Southeast Asia trail. John Oates has been travelling across this untouched country for the upcoming Rough Guide Snapshot to Myanmar (Burma). Here he escapes the fast paced city of Yangon to relax on the sandy beaches of Myanmar.
After several days roaming the stifling streets of Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar and still its most interesting city, I was ready for a change of pace and looking forward to my trip to the west coast beaches of Chaung Tha and Ngwe Saung. Things began inauspiciously, though, as I got off the bus to hear a grouchy backpacker complaining about the price of a room – the last thing I wanted to hear after a six-hour journey. It had, he claimed, increased three-fold in the last two years.
Although I didn’t appreciate it at 3am, in retrospect he probably had a point. It’s true that accommodation prices have been skyrocketing in Myanmar since the main political opposition – the National League for Democracy, headed by Aung San Suu Kyi – dropped its tourism boycott. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand: many more tourists are arriving in the country each year, but there are not enough new hotels opening up. This is particularly true at the budget end of the market, due to the levels of bureaucracy involved in getting a permit to host foreign tourists.
Instead many existing guesthouses and budget hotels are increasing their capacity, and my accommodation of choice – Shwe Hin Tha – had opened a new and cheaper block a couple of minutes walk inland. The grumbling backpacker was partially placated and I got a room for myself. The price was right at less than $10 but the trade-off was that it had no air-con or even a fan, and the lack of a generator meant that there was electricity for just a few hours a day. Nobody ever said that a guidebook writer’s life was all about creature comforts.