By Keith Lyons – Travel Writer
A chic, back-to-nature resort. Awei Pila, has opened recently in the remote tropical Mergui archipelago, off the coast of southern Myanmar and Thailand, offering exclusive seclusion and barefoot luxury comfort in an unspoiled location.
The 5-star luxury resort, with 24 tent villas along the dunes of a 600m long creamy-sand beach, is the only accommodation on the previously undeveloped island, in a mysterious archipelago formerly out-of-bounds to all for decades.
Established by Myanmar tourism trailblazing company, Memories Group which also has Balloons Over Bagan and Burma Boating, as well as boutique hotels in Yangon, Loikaw, Mawlamyine and Hpa’an, Awei Pila received its first guests recently. General Manager Jon Bourbaud says the beach and jungle resort aims to offer its own unique brand of sustainable luxury, providing guests a comfortable exclusive resort while maintaining the balance of the island’s ecosystem.
The centrepiece of the resort is the main reception area with a crescent infinity pool giving dreamlike views out across the soft coral sands out to the clear azure waters of the Andaman Sea.
The resort features rounded ‘yurt-style’ fabric tents spread throughout the tropical rainforest grounds, which are on raised platforms with vantage point sitting areas and rainforest bathrooms giving guests almost 60 square metres of private space. Quirky ceiling fans, hidden air-conditioners, Bluetooth speakers, and a minibar fridge provide extra comfort, though sea breezes, the use of natural material finishes, lemongrass spa products and the vista of sand and sea give guests Nature sourced relaxation and revitalization.
A digital detox is also available, with no mobile phone coverage available across the archipelago, though the resort does provide wifi via satellite and has its own in-room telephone system. Awei Pila does have a commitment to being a green resort, with various eco-initiatives including solar panels for electricity generation, water from a natural spring, coral reef-friendly sunscreens and lotion, and paper straws in the bar.
Resort marine biologist Marcelo Guimaraes, a Plastic-Free Pledge Ambassador for Myanmar, says the resort is working towards being 100% plastic free, with guests given refillable aluminium bottles. “The only footprint we want to create is when we walk on these deserted beaches.”
As well as the main North Beach with its gently-sloping swimming beach, the tropical hideaway has nearby coves and bays for snorkeling, paddleboarding, and kayaking, with options for diving further out. Guimaraes has been developing eco-friendly land and water activities for guests, as well as surveying the island reefs and mangroves to identify species and working out ways to encourage conservation and protection, including with the Moken and Burmese fishers.
The Moken sea-faring semi-nomadic group, which has gathered and foraged in the island group for centuries, has a small settlement in one bay 45 minutes walk from the resort, while next to the hamlet is a larger village of Burmese fishers and traders. Unregulated fishing, including the use of dynamite in ‘blast’ fishing and the illegal poaching and smuggling of marine life for sale to Thailand and other Asia nations has meant some fish species has been reduced. In front of the resort is a trail coral reef garden to restore coral and create more habitats for fish.
Entry to the Mergui Archipelago was completely restricted up until the mid-1990s when a handful of liveaboard dive boats were allowed to enter the region, which is close to the Thai border with Myanmar. In the last few years the Myanmar government has allowed a few islands to be developed with low-impact, small-scale resorts, though marine park royalty fees add to the already high costs of providing all services and facilities for discerning guests.
It is 150 minutes by fast boat from the gateway port of Kawthaung to Awei Pila, with guests arriving from Myanmar’s former capital Yangon or across a wide river estuary from the Thailand town of Ranong, near to Phuket.
The resort is open seasonally, from October to May, outside the rainy monsoon period. Awei Pila, which will appeal to couples, friends and those seeking a stylish place away from the crowds with virgin deserted beaches and cocktails at sunset, is currently offering three-night all inclusive honeymoon packages in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, from $1690
Kawthaung’s airport may be upgraded in the future to take flights from Thailand and elsewhere in Asia. The unreliability of flight services between Yangon and Kawthaung means that guests are advised to stay overnight in Kawthaung, either at the sunset view 4-star Victoria Cliff, from $73) or the newly renovated 5-star Grand Andaman from $85), situated across from Kawthaung on an island.
Guests to Awei Pila need an e-visa (https://evisa.moip.gov.mm)
for Myanmar, which is easily obtained in advance for US$50.
More information: aweipila.com
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