Photo: The sands of Setse Beach.

Setse Beach

Our rating:

Setse is Mawlamyine’s prime beach destination. Until recently, its kilometres of casuarina-backed golden sands were very much a local domain only. But now, with accommodation for foreigners available, curious tourists and public transport allowing access, Setse Beach makes for a great little diversion from Mawlamyine’s historical and cultural sights.

The clean (at least when we visited) sands stretch far enough to provide room for the obligatory fishing boats and drying fish, plus a section of seafood restaurants, beer stations and inner tube renters — and there’s still empty, pristine stretches. Resort-style 21 Paradise Hotel has picked a scenic and peaceful spot towards the northern end of Setse to open.

The family section. Photo taken in or around Setse Beach, Mawlamyine, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

The family section. Photo: Mark Ord

The long beach is book-ended by two rocky outcrops. The northern one, close to Paradise, is topped by a wave-washed pagoda. (The famous Yele Pagoda is a short distance up the coast.) You can enjoy the best of both worlds at Setse: soak up some local flavour and hang out with picnicking families by the wooden beachfront cafes in the busy central part of the beach, or soak up a poolside cocktail at Paradise while savouring an uncluttered view across the ocean.

The central stretch is typical Burmese seaside. It’s not as rough as, say, Ye’s very local style Bin Le Wa Beach but it’s certainly some way off Ngwe Saung or Ngapali. Needless to say, it gets very lively at weekends and public holidays, and you’ll see the ubiquitous inner tubes, banana boats, bicycle hire plus pony rides along the beach. Snack vendors swarm the sands and bamboo shacks sell seafood, tea and coffee and Myanmar beer under the casuarina trees. Early morning or late afternoon, before or after the crowds and heat, make for a great time for a stroll along the beach. At low tide you can wade out to the rocky pagoda at the northern end of the beach. (Watch the tides though to time your return!)

21 Paradise would make a good spot to chill for a day or two, as well as a good base to explore the surrounding area, including Yele plus the various sites of Thanbyuzayat and Mudon. For transport, check out taxi prices from Mawlamyine — expect to pay $50-60 out, depending on your negotiating skills and whether you’d like to include stop-offs on the way.

For public transport, grab one of the rare buses heading south from Mawlamyine (to say Dawei for instance) or just hop on one of the little local bus/vans plying the route between the provincial capital and Thanbyuzayat. These depart frequently and while not super comfortable, they are fun in a local sort of way. They will set you back around 1,500 kyat for the two-hour journey. From the centre of Thanbyuzayat there are plenty of moto-taxis waiting to whisk you the 20 kilometres or so down to Setse for 4,000-5,000 kyat. In the return direction, your resort will help you out and maybe even give you a lift into town if the timing is right.

Setse lies around 20 kilometres southeast of Thanbyuzayat, which in turn is 60 kilometres south of Mawlamyine. Note that Setse is fine weather-wise between the months of November and April, but gets pretty rain-soaked and windswept during the monsoon.

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Setse Beach
20km southeast of Thanbyuzayat
Admission: Free

Location map for Setse Beach

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