Catering to holidaymakers when the sun is shining, then returning to a former job in the rainy season means two income streams for most families living at Yankin Tha riverfront.
The getaway site, located about 30 miles (48 kilometres) west of Yangon near Ayeyarwady Region’s Nyaungdon town, has created something of a boom for what was once largely a sleepy fishing area.
While it has received visitors since 2011, it officially opened part of the riverfront holidaymakers in March 2014. Yankin Tha – formerly known as Nyaung Chaungtha – is certainly not as luxurious an area as Ngwe Saung or Chaungtha beaches further west in Ayeyarwady Region. Unlike those two established holiday spots, it is an easy day trip from Yangon.
But life is not purely a beach for local residents, who say the area’s popularity is creating its own set of problems. Local residents say shop rent for the area along the Ayeyarwady River allocated for tourism businesses has doubled in the last year, and other costs are climbing as well.
The owner of a local shop named Hay Man Oo said rent has doubled from K300,000 to K600,000 in the space of a year, as cars and buses bearing tourists increasingly arrive. Hay Man Oo and other waterfront shops rent out tents and tables to holiday-goers, while also serving food and cold drinks.
Costs of the shop’s tents have increased over the last year for visitors from K6000 a day to K15,000, partly to meet its increased rental cost.
“We cannot fix the price. Some visitors visit every year and they say it’s getting more expensive each year,” said the owner. He added that prices can sometimes be bargained down, but the shop must do what it can to survive.
The Hay Man Oo shop was also somewhat late to open this year, as water levels have taken longer to fall. Normally it opens in February, but this year it could not open until March 2.
Staff at a separate shop, Nay Chi Oo, said locations are allotted by lucky draw.
A local fisherman said that while the tourist seasons runs from January to May, it is best from March to May. He said he earns K10,000 a day – more on weekends and holidays – by selling fish and prawn to tourists.
Ko Aung Thuya is one local entrepreneur who figures the destination will continue growing. He invested K3 million to open his small restaurant named Kyal Sin Hein, adding it must be rebuilt each year as the river rises with the rainy season, requiring the restaurants to be taken down.
When he first opened in 2011, the shop rental cost was K50,000 a year, though that grew to K300,000 – and now K600,000.
“Things have become a little difficult,” he said.
Ko Zarni, a local holiday-goer, said he is disappointed his favourite escape near Yangon is becoming popular.
Local vendors, though, say on the whole they are getting much more business.
“I sell seafood, and people like to eat seafood on the waterfront,” said U Maung.
Source: Myanmar Times