Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Myanmar Motorcycle Journey 12 - Gwa to Chaungthar

From the beach at Gwa
I'd spent $130 for one nigh of lodging in Ngapali the day before. 24 hours later, on the same coast, on as spectacular of a beach, I spent $6 for a night at the only guesthouse I could find in the town of Gwa. You might think, at that price, I might want to linger in Gwa. As you saw in the last video, there's a white sand tropical beach there, something I'd be driving towards and longing to spend some time at since I left the mountains of eastern Myanmar.

See, thing is, there is a point at which the seclusion, privacy and virginity of a tropical beach becomes inconvenient. If there was one shop, one place I might get a cold drink or a coconut, a single touristy thing on the whole beach, I might have stayed in Gwa for another day or more. But no. The beach was beautiful, but without amenities. If you want ULTIMATE isolation on a tropical beach, go to Gwa. Me, I wanted a beach chair and some restaurants.

Then, there was the quality, or lack thereof, of the guesthouse. At $6/night (and that was for a room with two beds), I can't expect much. But a 1 inch thick mattress, one electrical outlet, shared bathrooms in the most mold-filled bathroom I've ever experienced (what would it take for them to scrub the damn thing?!?) and no power before 4 PM and none after 11 PM, in my mind, the More Guesthouse and Gwa quickly lost all the attraction that their really cool sounding names initially drew me. I can't
No power? No problem! My motorcycle has its own
USB port for recharging portable devices.
recommend Gwa. Until there's some development there, a neat name is all it has going for it.

Yeah, no power after 11 PM, anywhere in town. It was New Years Eve. I was asleep in my crappy room at the turn of 2016.

And so, in the morning, I left Rakhine State and the ancient kingdom of Arakan. I've studied the peculiar situation of Myanmar and it's ethnic groups since I've been here, and found it weird that one of the longest standing conflicts in the country has been between the Burmese (the Bamar, the dominant ethnic group in the middle part of the country and 60% of the overall population) and the people of Rakhine State. These folks have so much in common. Why is there separatism?  The language, religion, customs, celebrations and foods of the Rakhine are almost identical that of the Bamar, but yet, for in the 60 years of independence from the colonial poweres, there's been continuing resistance by the coastal folks against their cousins on the other side of the hills. I guess it comes down to history. See, for hundred of years, the Arakan Kingdom was entirely separate from the Burmese court at Mandalay. It wasn't until the British came in the 19th century when the British conquered both kingdoms that they were united in any way, forcibly so under colonial rule.

The old Arakan and Burmese
kingdoms, circa 1700
Things are quiet where I was; the resistance now is via a local political party, but a few hundred miles north, and the Arakan Army still fights against the army of Myanmar.

Where to go from Gwa? This was my last planned stop on the journey. I was going to spend a few days there, and then drive my motorbike back to Naypyitaw to leave it where I had it stored before. It was only about 40 miles down the coast, as the crow flies, from Gwa to the twin resort towns of Ngwe Saung and Chaung Thar. If you've been watching my videos from Myanmar these last 2 years, you may remember I'd been to Ngwe Saung with Anthony and Patty back in April of 2014. I really didn't want to go some place I'd been before, so even though Chaung Thar has the reputation of being overcrowded and dirty, onto Chaung Thar I went.

Gotta keep the good karma on the road.
Plus, the smiles are really cute.

40 miles as the crow flies was 150 miles on the roads. I had to cross back over the coastal range, travel south into the Irrawaddy Delta, and then back over the Rakhine Hills to Chaung Thar. It was a lot longer drive than I thought, and I had my first mechanical problems with my bike along the way.

Just north of Chaung Thar. One of the most beautiful places I've been in Myanmar.

Enjoy the Video.

Road Report:
Distance: 220 km
Travel time: 6 hours
Conditions: Good 70%; Fair 25%; Bad 5%


  1. Was that road toll collection or just youngsters out collecting cash for a temple or some thing?

  2. When you are videoing these people, do they understand what you are doing? Do some object? Do they think you are crazy, or charming?

    Were there any other guests at the guest house? If yes, what were they like?

    1. Some people figured out that the thing atop my helmet is a camera, but most didn't. Never got any objections. Not because of the camera, but simply because I'm a foreigner on a bike, many people are confused, even suspicious at first sight. After I smile and nod at them, 9 times out of 10, the worried frown becomes a beaming smile.


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