|Fishermen continue to make a living from their catch in Ngwe Saung as the beach benefits from the development of tourism in the region.
NGWE Saung native Ko Myo Linn Zaw says the town where he was raised has undergone rapid development in the past nine years.
“Until 1998-1999, to visit Pathein, the villagers from Ngwe Saung had to get to Chaungtha by engine-boats. It took two days to reach Pathein because of the lack of a road link between Ngwe Saung and Pathein at that time,” he says.
He adds that Ngwe Saung town once was a convergence of three villages: Buguilay, Kyaukgyi and Nga Saw.
Ko Myo Linn Zaw, who is assistant manager of the Emerald Sea Resort Hotel, says that over the past nine years Ngwe Saung has experienced a lot of tourism-related business development. Along with this boom has come an increase in accessibility and improved transportation. Local villagers have the chance to work at beach hotels and make a living from tourism.
“We can visit Pathein three to four times a day by motorbike, since the Pathein-Ngwe Saung road was built by a local construction company, Asia World, in 2000,” he says.
Ko Myo Linn Zaw says the town is also on the GSM phone network, though phone communications are available only from 7am to 10 pm. After that, in/out calls are not available because the local telephone exchange is closed.
“The local telephone exchange also uses a generator to provide all power and communication network, so time is limited,” he says.
Ko Myo Linn Zaw says all hotels at the beach use generators to provide electricity to their guests, but time is limited because of the high cost of diesel.
“Some hotels can operate their generators on a 24-hour basis providing lighting only. The power supply at most hotels is available between 6pm and 6am the next day. Some hotels provide additional time for electricity between 1pm and 3pm,” he says.
A spokesperson from the working committee under Ngwe Saung Zone Hotelier Association in Ngwe Saung says the committee also plans to discuss with the local telephone exchange how to get 24-hour electricity without using a generator in all hotels at the beach. The association or all hotels should pay an equal share of the electricity costs.
“The committee is still in discussion with Central Hotel over exemption from camera tax for visitors to Lover’s Island,” he says. “The hotels are supposed to pay the entrance fee for their guests as part of the package.”
“The island belongs to nobody, but since the high season of 2007, Central Hotel has controlled it and charges entrance fee and camera tax for the island’s renovation and maintenance,” the spokesperson said.
The entrance fee to the island is K100 a person. The camera tax ranges from K500 to K2000 depending on category.
He says Ngwe Saung has the potential for development, given enough encouragement from the Myanmar Hoteliers Association, a high standard of service and restaurants, and good transportation.
U Hla Aye, managing director of Shan Yoma Travel Company, says the company had an agreement with some hotels in Ngwe Saung Beach to offer a shuttle-bus service between Yangon and Ngwe Saung beach on Fridays and Mondays since October 2007, but the plan has been cancelled because of an “unexpected series of events” including Cyclone Nargis in May last year.
“The Yangon-Pathein-Ngwe Saung road was in good condition after renovation. Driving time to get to the beach from Yangon is five or six hours. So the road link is improving and accessible now,” he says.
“I’d like to revive my previous plan to offer a shuttle-bus service and two-night/three-day package cooperation with the hotels in Ngwe Saung during the peak season.”
“The beach again attracted local visitors in the early months of 2008, but the numbers decreased as a result of Nargis in May,” he says, adding that the village is silent by 9pm.