Wa Ale Island, Myanmar

Photo: Wa Ale Island Resort

You’re supposed to be planning a trip to Myanmar right now. 2019 is the year you were finally going to visit the Southeast Asian country. A victory in the November 2015 general elections gave the National League a majority in both chambers of parliament. But sweeping changes didn’t follow as expected. Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who became the State Counsellor (a role similar to a Prime Minister), hasn’t used her voice the way many expected. The Burmese military remains incredibly powerful. They’ve even been accused of genocide on the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority group, in Rakhine State along the northwest coast.

While the government seems to be taking two steps back, the tourism industry has surged. 2012 was the first year that more than one million visitors arrived in Myanmar. That number continues to grow each year. Eco-tourism, with its goal of preserving pristine natural areas, has thrived. New resorts are even starting to pop up beyond the capital of Yangon.

Wa Ale Island Resort is one of the new resorts on which you’ve been keeping an eye. It’s in the Mergui Archipelago, an isolated group of islands in the far south of Myanmar and the Andaman Sea. It’s part of Lampi Marine National Park. The country’s only marine national park protects rare marine life, including three species of sea turtles. It’s also on Wa Ale Island, a 900-acre island that’s home to sugar-white beaches, massive rock formations, a thick jungle, and even a mangrove-lined river.

Photo: Wa Ale Island Resort

The resort, considered the archipelago’s first luxury accommodations, just opened a few months ago. After flying from Yangon to Kawthaung, transferring to the Kawthaung Jetty, and riding a luxury speedboat for almost three hours, arrivals are met at the resort’s reclaimed-wood jetty in a protected cove on Wa Ale Island’s southern shore. An ice-cold drink and a wet towel are the first offerings. The hosts then step back to let guests soak up their beautiful surroundings.

There’s a main pavilion sitting right above the beach. The open-air space, made with stone and lots of old boat wood, has high ceilings, cozy sitting areas, a wide deck, and an unobstructed view of the turquoise water. The dining room is here, too. Though its menu changes daily, it always features produce from the chef’s garden, off-the-boat seafood, and locally grown coffee.

Sandy paths lead to 11 tented beach villas and two treetop villas. The spacious beach villas hold up to four people, while the cozier treetop villas are meant for just two. There’s also a River Cafe on the beach. The beach shack has short tables and oversized bean-bag chairs right on the sand. Paddleboards and kayaks are out there, too. While trails, leading into the jungle, wind up to lookout points with views of more green, undeveloped islands. This is the Myanmar about which you’ll continue to dream for now.

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