If you're travelling in Myanmar and fancy a trip to the beach, Ngwe Saung is without a doubt the easiest one to get to. Just a 6 hour bus journey from Yangon, sits the 9 mile long beach facing the Bay of Bengal. For us, we'd just left from a month in Bangkok and needed a place to relax for a few days as we waited for some friends to join us before throwing ourselves into exploring a new country.
We arrived into Yangon airport around 6.30pm and, after hours of research but not really finding out what we needed, had no real plan. We read there was an overnight bus departing from Yangon at 9pm with a company called 'Asia Dragon Travels', this timing seemed perfect and would save us on the 1st night accommodation. Although, it wasn't that easy...
The airport is around 1 hour and 9,000 Kyat in a taxi from the centre of Yangon. We found another couple in the airport and shared the journey with them. By the time we had gone through passport control and got to the centre of Yangon it was after 8pm, just enough time to grab some food before the 9pm bus. We found the street where we had read it departed from but there was no bus stop in sight, no ticket office, no travel shop or not even any people waiting around for it. We asked a couple of locals who said they'd never heard of Asia Dragon Travels or of a bus departing from this street.
We waited until after 9pm but to no avail so decided to call it a night and jumped in a taxi to, the nearby, hostel 21. It turns out that the hostel sells bus tickets to Ngwe Saung (as will most others) and were able to arrange it for the next day for us. The buses depart at 5am, 7am and indeed 9pm. Except that these depart from Hlaing Thar Yar bus station, about 1 hour out of town (not the same bus station where buses depart from to other places such as Bagan). We opted for the 7am bus the following morning and paid 11,000 Kyat each. We set off at 5am the next morning in a taxi, paying another 8,000 Kyat. To book bus tickets, we recommend you do it with your hostel or guesthouse for ease, however if we'd have gone to a hostel or guesthouse first to book the ticket, we still wouldn't have been able to catch the 9pm bus seeing as how far away the bus station was. We had read some other conflicting information about this bus station too and, in hindsight, we're glad we didn't make that trip out of town after dark because if we hadn't have been able to get that bus, there's no accommodation around that area and would have meant a trip back into the town. Be aware that once you arrive at this bus station, locals will grab onto your car and chase after it trying to make you book through them in order to receive some commission. Once you show them your pre-bought ticket they should relent and your taxi driver should drop you at the correct shop anyway.
The journey to Ngwe Saung was a long, bumpy 6 hours of stopping to pick up locals on every corner and them sitting in the aisles of an already busy bus but it wasn't the worst ride ever. The bus stops in Pathein where a good majority of the locals get off and then continues on a windy road for the last hour to the beach. Maybe we're glad we didn't go overnight after all as it wasn't a comfortable ride, plus there's some great scenery en route. Another benefit of the day bus is the fact that the evening bus drops you in Ngwe Saung around 3am leaving you waiting for the doors to your guest house to open and even then only if you are lucky will they let you check in early.
When we arrived in Ngwe Saung around lunchtime, we were dropped off just a few hundred metres from Dream House guesthouse which we booked on Hostelworld weeks in advance. This doesn't mean to say though that when we arrived around 1pm they hadn't overbooked the room! We were moved to 'Joker' guesthouse for the first night and then back to Dream House on the second night. Despite this minor issue, we highly recommend you stay here in Ngwe Saung (and book in advance!). In a place which is mainly beach resorts, this is the only place you'll find the backpackers. The rooms are basic but clean, the beds are a little hard but the people are friendly and the breakfast is good. They will also book your bus back to Yangon for you, there's one around 10am however we went for the 12.30pm one as it drops you back in the town centre and saves you getting a taxi back from the bus station. This costs 10,000 Kyat and the company is actually with Asia Dragon Travels! This was a better bus than the previous as it was only half full of tourists and not constantly stopping to pick up locals, although we did have to make an unscheduled stop for one tourist to get a taxi back as he had forgotten his passport... d'oh!
Right next door to the guesthouse lies 'Myo's cafe and bar' which was our favourite place to eat in Ngwe Saung. It is run by a Burmese guy who recently moved back to his hometown after working in Thailand teaching diving to tourists and has this real mix of a cockney/Australian accent but is super friendly. We recommend the traditional Burmese curries that he and his family cook fresh.
There's no wifi at most guesthouses or at any bars or restaurants. You can go to the luxury resorts and use there pool and wifi but they'll charge around 10USD for the privilege, there's a small Internet cafe in the town where you can connect to the wifi for 1,000kyat for 1 hour.
Finally, is it worth going? Nah not really! There's not a lot to do here, there's a handful of bars and restaurants which are more expensive than other parts of Myanmar. We spent most days on the beach lying amongst the locals zipping back and forth on their scooters and motorbikes and the sea isn't very clean either. There's definitely much more beautiful places to see in Myanmar, so only if your stuck for something to do for a few days after exploring everywhere else would we advise you to check out Ngwe Saung. There are much more beautiful beaches in Dawei and Ngapali but getting to these is more of a challenge.