Remote Asia: three wilderness destinations that offer mountains, islands, or steppe for solitude and reflection when flights resume
- To reach Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago takes two flights and three-and-a-half hours by boat. Jungle, clear water, wildlife and eco-resorts await you
Deserted islands: Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago
There’s no hiding the fact that it’s an effort to get to the Mergui Archipelago off the west coast of Myanmar. You fly through Bangkok to Ranong in southern Thailand, then jump on a long-tail boat that splutters gently to Kawthaung, the southernmost tip of Myanmar, from where it’s a two-hour ride aboard a speedboat.
The experience is a reminder that there are some parts of the continent still largely untouched and, thankfully, underdeveloped. There are only a handful of resorts, all well away from one another, but two stand out for their sustainable approach. Wa Ale sits on its own island within a marine national park in impossibly clear azure water that teems with sea life. Monkeys keep a watchful eye from nearby rocks as you reach the wooden walkway that winds through mangroves and takes you to the resort’s heart, The Pavilion. It quickly becomes home from home – at least when you can pull yourself away from your private beachside villa.
Not a single tree was felled during construction, and the resort’s Lampi Foundation supports the local village school and clinic as well as multiple conservation projects. The Pavilion is where chef Aung Soe cooks using local produce to brilliant effect, be it in real-deal Neapolitan pizzas or barracuda curry, breakfast spreads that cry out to be posted on Instagram, or friendly, wine-fuelled communal dinners. Boulder Bay is another option, on one of the archipelago’s most western islands, known for its clear water, valleys and cliffs. Twenty bungalows built from renewable materials blend seamlessly into the environment and surrounding jungle.
While relaxing is a critical component of any holiday, you will also want to make the most of the island’s biodiversity, which includes dozens of bird species, among them the white-bellied sea eagle and brahminy kite. When you hit the waves, you can see manta rays, blacktip sharks, whale sharks and extraordinary coral life, as well as technicolour species of fish. It is there, in the warm embrace of the water, a true aquatic wilderness, that your post-coronavirus sense of peace and place may well be found.
- Getting there: Nok Air and Air Asia fly from Bangkok to Ranong. From there it’s an approximately 3½-hour journey to the Mergui Archipelago.
- Staying there: Wa Ale resort rates start from US$425 per person per night, full board and inclusive of boat transfers and activities. Boulder Bay rates start from US$150 per person per night, full board without alcohol.