This morning was our first adventure into the domestic flying experience in Myanmar. Very interesting check in process – the fastest we have ever encountered! There were no other passengers at the check in counter, some tiny but strong guys in uniforms lifted our bags onto a gigantic old fashioned scale (just like the tall ones I used to beg my mother to let me ‘have a go on’ when I saw them when shopping), then we were escorted with our bags on a trolley to the security check point. All painless, swift, and many more smiles than the US airport officials.
Our flight with Air Mandalay to Ngapali was via Sittwe – very like a bus trip in that you rarely have direct flights, but stop to let people off and have others join you. It was more than a tad disconcerting when on the ground during ‘pick up’, permission was granted for one woman to hop off and have a cigarette – never mind the refuelling going on next to the plane!!
Our accommodation, Amazing Ngapali Resort, was 5 minutes from the airport, so the transfer was fast, if a little bumpy in the old 1950s spruced up bone-shaker army vehicle. This hotel got so many things right in so many areas that I wouldn’t hesitate to return. Admittedly, some of things are beyond their control, like the surprisingly warm and therapeutic water of the Bay of Bengal and the deserted and private beach and the perfect ‘Goldilocks’ weather. The design of the villas and bungalows worked very well, and were of a size that allowed friends to gather on the decks for a chat or in the rooms after dinner for a nightcap. To be able to walk 7m from your deck onto the sand, straight to your own personal lounge chair and umbrella on the beach was too perfect – we spent most of our 2 days in this one spot, just stirring for sustenance. We enjoyed (and endured!) one of the best massages we’d ever had in the onsite spa and didn’t indulge in more only because the warmest ocean water since our visit to Fiji kept calling us! (And having the luxury of time to actually plough through a book was just too precious!)
Dinner was had in the resort restaurant – sharing a lobster and grilled vegetables. When placing the order, the waitress took us by the arm to the BBQ, all the while shaking her head. There was only one small lobster left in the large ice-filled viewing trough, along side the many fish, crabs and prawns. She was very concerned that our lobster was far too small to share, but it was sweet and tasty, and we were more than happy for the extra vegetables we were given to make up for the crustacean’s peachy puniness!
Some more educational morsels about Myanmar that may be of interest. There is a kind of national service expectation as a monk in the this very Buddhist country – it is compulsory for every man to at some time in his life to spend time as a monk. Now this time might be as short as a week when he is 14 or it can be a life of devotion to the faith. If he is married at the time he chooses to ‘serve’, he must ask his wife’s permission before he is allowed to enter the monastery – just in case it ends up appealing to him more than his married life and he doesn’t want to ‘go back’! Interestingly, there is no such compulsory service for women as nuns. Maybe to many would stay there!!
Another quirky fact about Myanmar is that while they drive on the right hand side of the road, nearly all of the cars are right hand drive (!!), which makes overtaking a real risky venture – and there is a heck of a lot of that! What’s even more strange, is that while some new cars are left hand drive, most people still choose to buy a right hand drive vehicle cause that’s how they’ve always driven!
Our travel agent on this trip was Kyaw Khaing at One Stop Myanmar. He handled all of our internal flights, transfers and tours. We were very impressed with his efficiency, helpfulness, excellent advice, friendliness and price!