Where do beaches go?

There’s a problem on the beaches of Myanmar. It’s not plastic or even that the coral reef you were hoping to snorkel in is in its death-throes.

The matter is this. With beaches pock-marked with giant shallow holes, you’d maybe think a large burrowing critter had made its home on the golden expanses. If only that were true.

“They’re taking it for the hotels along the way,” said Denis, owner of D&W Beach Haven Restaurant & Bungalows. We were in a beautifully remote spot far from the town of Chaung Tha, observing the pits dug into the beach. Sizable holes marked the absence of sand.

We enquired about a furtive operation witnessed the previous night. By torchlight, we explored the beach and found people loading sacks swollen to the brim.

“Yeah, we’ve made complaints, but the police do nothing,” said Denis. “They’ll dig up the whole beach before long. They’ve stopped around our place because they know I’ll get them, but… you see it around.”

They do it in day light. They do it at night. The important thing is the sacks: they must be full. The important thing is the sand: hotels must be put together.

Denis told us this sand is in the building sites of the resorts springing up, resorts designed to host tourists who want to enjoy the beaches, diminishing.

Acres of white gold dust rest upon the cusp of Myanmar. It is golden and receding like the tide, picked away by those who need to make their meagre living and build palaces for the affluent. Natural resources dwindle until all that remains is a rocky shoreline no tourist wants to tourist.

As we stand upon that rocky shore, looking at the vacant hotels rising amidst the struts of scaffolding, I wonder will we dismantle the resorts and replenish the beach with the sand it took to build them?

Chaung Tha is a four hour drive from the city of Yangon, Myanmar.

For a perfect weekend break away from the well-peopled town, do check out D&W’s bolt-hole. The food is freshly cooked on-site, with generous portions, range of cuisine and chockfull of flavour. Dine outside on a veranda over-looking the (it’s still there!) beach.