Mawlamyine or Moulmein (Burmese မော်လမြိုင်မြို့) is the capital of Mon State in Southeastern Myanmar.
Mawlamyine is the fourth biggest city in Myanmar (population about 326,000) and famous for its nearby sights and attractions, especially the largest reclining Buddha in Myanmar 18 km south and the golden rock 20 km north of the city. The first stop for many coming from Thailand, and it is a good starting point for the rest of Myanmar.
Coming in from Yangon, Naypyidaw, Mandalay or Bagan with any of the following transports, don't miss out on Bago and/or the Golden Rock in Kyaiktiyo. An overnight stop resting with thousands of other pilgrims on top of the mountain is a great opportunity, but bring ear plugs and a warm sleeping bag. Alternatively, just stay in a guesthouse in Kinpun, the "base camp".
1 The main bus station is on Maung Rd which bypass the city to the east. Most buses will stop (and start from) here, such as:
- Hpa-An – From the clock tower the bus takes 2 h for 1,000 kyat.
- Myawaddy – The bus is about 5,000 kyat and takes 3-5 h.
- Yangon – From Aung Mingular Bus Station northwest of Yangon several buses a day leave between 07:30 and 21:00, taking about 5:30-7 h, for about 6,000-8,000 kyat.
- Naypyidaw – A Scania bus leaves from the Bawgathiri Highway Station east of Naypyidaw at 19:00 and arrives at 05:00 for about 11,000 kyat.
- Mandalay – A quite luxurious (Swedish) overnight bus (company: Shwe Mandalar) leaves at 18:00 from the Highway Bus Station south of Mandalay. It includes a towel, pillow, blanket toothbrushes and water, and arrives in Mawlamyine at 05:00, with at least two stops on the way. It does most of its way on the new highway between Mandalay and Yangon. Up to 15,000 kyat.
Most non-bus transportation into Mawlamyine coming from the northeastern main road will drop off their passengers at 2 the main junction from where also most traffic travels further south.
The trip from Myawaddy is about 10,000 kyat (shared taxi) and a very bumpy ride, taking somewhere between 3-5 h. A big part of the distance is gravel road.
The 3 train station has up to three (bumpy) trains a day coming in from Yangon, Bago and Kyaikto, arriving at 04:00, 06:00 and 16:30. and starting in Yangon and Bago about 9 h or 7 h earlier, respectively. The price for upper class is only 4,250 kyat for the full distance of 281 km from Yangon. Tickets go on sale 3 days before departure at the downtown ticket office.
There are boats travelling between Hpa-An and Mawlamyine, but their price is beyond that of the bus and train: 70,000 kyat (private charter) or 10,000 kyat per person (shared). Nevertheless, they provide a scenic trip up/down the river. Elegant Myanmar sell tickets on their 08:30 sailing from their office next to Ykko, south of the night market. Alternatively ask at your own guest house, or at Breeze Inn Guesthouse who may still operate a boat. Journey times are listed as 4 hours, but a recent trip in the dry season took just a little over 2 hours.
Walking around can be an option in the centre, but Mawlamyine stretches over 5.5 km along the river.
Motorbike-taxis, trishaws, pick-ups are available all over town, especially at the central market. Just "appear" to be lost and someone will offer you a ride, which should cost no more than 350 kyat in town.
Do not pay more than 700 kyat for the transport from the bus station, train station or the main junction to the city centre (motorbike/trishaw). Tuk-tuk drivers might ask up to 3,000 kyat for the two mile ride, which is too much.
Many of Mawlamyine's famous sights are outside of the city, but visiting all sights in the city (including the markets and restaurants) can take a day.
- 1 Kyaik Tan Lan Pagoda. Up on the hill and famous for its nice views and a great sunset point is this pagoda on the hill in the north(east)ern part of the city.
- 2 Mahamuni Paya (Right next (north) of Kyaik Tan Lan Pagoda that overlooks Mawlamyine). Pagoda which contains a century-old replica of the Buddha in Mahamuni Paya in Mandalay (famous for the early morning face washing). Here you can get a nicer view of the Buddha, woman are allowed to get closer and way less tourists compared to Mandalay but without the washing ceremony. However, the gold cover of the Buddha is not nearly as thick as in Mandalay.
- 3 Ogre Island (Bilu Island) (Small ferry boats leave every 10 minutes from the Jetty next to Help Grandmother restaurant). An island across the river from Mawlamyine, known for cottage industries such as weaving, chalkboards, pipes, hats and rubber bands. A guide is necessary as the island is spread out over an area the size of Singapore. You can arrange a tour from Breeze Inn Guesthouse (18,000 kyat per person) or simply arrive on shore and ask around for an English speaking moto driver. High tide in the mornings means disembarking into watery mud, so it is best to wear sandals. 600 kyat ferry ride.
- 4 Gaung Say Kyun / Shampoo Island with the Sandawshin Pagoda (At the river, 50 m to the right of the bridge). Small island with its own pagoda and nice river view. 3,000 kyat for the boat, but cheaper if you wait for more people.
- Than Phyu Zayat / Death Railway Museum.
- Than Phyu Zayat / War Cemetery.
- Churches: St Patrick's (1829); St Matthew's (1887), abandoned & locked; First Baptist (1827); Holy Family (1954)
- 5 Nwa-La-Boh Pagoda. The main attraction of this pagoda is a golden rock formation, similar to Kyaiktiyo, but on a smaller scale. However, due its shape and balance (3 stones on top of each other) this golden rock is equally impressive. If you go in low season and on a work day, there is a fair chance that you will be the only person there.
To go there you can get pick-ups from the roundabout south of the bridge. Locals pay about 500 kyat one-way, but tourist may be charged 1,000 kyat. Taxis offer you the same trip for 8,000 kyat return, but you can get them down to 5,000 kyat.
Near Kyaun Ka Village exactly 19.7 km north from the roundabout take the 1 concrete track to the right up and by the temple. The distance to the pagoda is 6.7 km not accounting for the elevation. You hike up and down, at least 1.5-2.5 hr each way, but bring enough water, good shoes and sun block as the heat and humidity are high. Alternatively or you can try to get a work truck (2,000 kyat per person return) but higher in the low season if they available at all. Going back from the main road is easy, just hail for a pick-up or any car that passes by. 500 kyat camera fee.
The best way to explore the surrounding and especially southern area and sights is by scooter or motorbike. In the order of distance from Mawlamyine are these destinations:
- 6 Shwe Nat Taung Pagoda (4.8 km from the main junction). On top of a hill offering picturesque views ideal for pictures.
- 7 Pa-Auk Tawya Monastery (Take a local pick-up 10 km south from the main junction). An enormous, tranquil meditation centre with friendly people. Arrive by 10:00 to walk to the eating hall for an 11:00 meal with hundreds of monks and a few foreigners studying meditation.
- 8 Hindu Temple (The hill east of the main road, before Laung Taw Mu Pha Ya).
- 9 Kyauk Ta Tone (The hill west of the main road, before Laung Taw Mu Pha Ya). This hill offers a great view of the surrounding area and even a sneak peak of the famous Buddha. It is great for sunsets. There are two tops, only one is allowed for women. There is an old, open shed on top where you can even stay overnight, although a mosquito net, mattress and sleeping bag are recommended. It takes about 20-30 min to climb.
- 10 The worlds largest reclining Buddha (Win Sein Taw Ya) (7.8 km south of the Pa-Auk Tawya Monastery along the main road). Besides the golden rock in Kyaiktiyo this is probably the most famous sight in the Mon State. Whilst no longer the largest in the world, it is still the largest reclining Buddha in Myanmar. Dozens of monk statues escort the track from the main road towards the reclining Buddha. Arriving at the sight the sheer size of the Buddha (more than 100 m) is quite impressive. Opposite lies another but older one. Due to its size you will have to walk around to find a good spot for taking pictures.
A one-way pick-up to the Buddha should be around 500 kyat, at least for locals. A taxi is about 4000 kyat one way or 7000 kyat return.
- 11 Kan Gyi Lake & Pagoda (26 km south of Mawlamyine and just south of Mudon). A rumour is that nobody knows how deep this lake is, but don't feel tempted to find out. Women are not allowed to swim as otherwise, it is believed, something terrible will happen. The lake can be easily circumnavigated by foot.
- Rent a scooter or motorbike and explore the surrounding area, especially south.
- Take a boat up or down the river.
- 1 Night market & food stalls, Strand Rd (Just north of YKKO restaurant). This place offers a great opportunity to mix with the locals. You can choose from several food stalls, some of which have English menus. However, it is best to watch and choose from the dishes they prepare. Sometimes they will not even be on the menu.p. It offers barbecue (100-200 kyat per piece), cheap seafood, vegetarian, rice and soup dishes. 1,000-2,500 kyat.
- 2 Chan Thar (Next to Sandalwood Hotel). Chinese restaurant with extensive menu in English. More an amusement arcade/gambling hall than restaurant. 1,000/2,000/2,500 kyat (vegetarian/meat/seafood), 1,500 kyat for a bottle of Myanmar beer.
- 3 Yunnan / Yuu Nan Pan Tay Restaurant, Strand Rd. Thai food. Friendly and clean. Fried rice or soups 1,500 kyat. Meals with prawn 2,200 kyat..
- 4 Myo Ma River View Restaurant, Strand Rd (Near Myo Ma Jetty). Situated in a mall-like building and may look expensive, but is not. Large menu, attentive and friendly staff. Restaurant doubles as a small art gallery. 2,000+ kyat, crab with rice 3,000 kyat.
- 5 YKKO Restaurant. Chinese and Thai dishes in a professional setup.
- 6 Shwe Nandaw, Lower Main Rd (600 m north of Aurora Guest House). Opens early morning. Nice local teashop with terrace, fresh bakery, including vegan/vegetarian options, Chinese specialities (fried & steamed), spicy milk tea, friendly shop owner.
- Daw Yi, Uze Na Pagoda Street, corner of Strand Rd (4th Jetty from Breeze Inn Guesthouse, 20min walk). Local restaurant that serves a wide variety of Mon curries. Inclusive tea, soup and salad. Two plates and 1 rice for 3,000 kyat.
- Deli France Bakery, Strand Rd (South of Breeze Inn Guesthouse). Western cuisine, nice decor, air-con. Popular with local couples. 2,000+ kyat for food, 500 kyat for cakes, 1,200 kyat coffee shakes, 1,700 kyat cocktails.
- Help Grandmother and Grandfather (Along Strand Rd, next to Breeze Inn Guesthouse). Breakfast to late dinner. Chinese and vegetarian standard food with good sized portions. New building, big English sign, notably more expensive than in its former incarnation. Nonetheless, a popular spot for locals due to the riverside location and prices. They say the profits help the elderly in Mawlamyine. 1,500 kyat (vegetarian), 2,000-2,500 kyat (meat), free tea.
- Ruby Restaurant (One block north of Aurora Guest House). Chinese restaurant with menu in English.
Faluda, a drink made of ice cream, jelly, syrup, basil seeds and pudding. Found at the night marked or Deli France Bakery.
- 1 OK Hotel (At the corner of Strand Rd and Thaton Tadar St). Famous with foreigners. Food is little more expensive, but the drinks are OK.
- 2 Strand View Restaurant, Strand Rd, (North end of Strand Rd). Outdoor garden in a cosy surrounding. Cocktail 3-4,000 kyat, spirits from 25,000 kyat a bottle.
- Mya Nan Thida (5 doors north of Aurora). Milk shakes, ice cream, faluda and kulfi. 1,000 kyat for faluda.
There are plenty of places to rest in Mawlamyine.
- 1 Aye Chan Mya Guest House, No. 680, Lower Main Road, Maungngan Quarter, ☎ . Brand new guesthouse, a little far from the centre but is good value. 5/10-20,000 kyat (sgl fan shared/dbl AC ensuite).
- 2 Aurora Guesthouse, 277 Lower Main Road (Around the corner from Sandalwood), ☎ . WiFi. No breakfast. Same prices as Breeze Inn Guesthouse but much nicer rooms. Owner seems grumpy at first, but is sweet and helpful if you take the time to talk to him. If you're on your own and only double rooms are available he will most likely charge you as if you stayed in a single room. Fan room with shared bathroom single/double $7/14, AC room with en suite bathroom $15/25 (April 2015).
- 3 Pann Su Wai Guest House, No. 333/A, Lower Main Road (Corner Dawei Trader St & Lower Main Rd), ☎ , . New guesthouse with fan and air-con rooms, hot water, WiFi. En-suite showers. Not particularly luxurious but decent. 13,000/26,000 kyat (sgl/dbl).
- 4 Breeze Inn Guesthouse (Lay Hnyin Tha), 6 Strand Rd, ☎ , , e-mail: email@example.com. Well-known guesthouse with friendly staff. Mr Anthony is an old man and full of stories including useful advice, and he likes to talk. The place is run down and a little unkempt. Rooms are smelly even if you have a window. Sleep in short beds with rock hard, old and lain through mattresses (really no elasticity left) in rooms with thin walls. Rooms in the back seem to be much better value for little extra cost, especially the beautiful colonial era style room for about $40. Breakfast is included (coffee or tea, toast, butter and jam, boiled egg, banana) and served at the terrace with river view. WiFi in the common. $8/$14+ (sgl/dbl).
- 5 OK Hotel, Strand Rd (At the corner of Strand Rd and Thaton Tadar St). Small but clean. Friendly. WiFi. $10/12.
- 6 Sandalwood Hotel, 278 Myoma Bridge St, ☎ , , . Check-out: 12 a.m.. Newer hotel, fully tiled and clean, incredibly friendly staff, price includes breakfast, TV in the room and WiFi in the lobby. Drying rack and umbrella can be borrowed. Only two standard rooms are available, which are hard to get, so call ahead. 20,000/25,000 (sgl/dbl) standard, 30,000/35,000+ (sgl/dbl) Superior.
- 7 Mawlamyine Strand Hotel, Strand Rd, Phat Tan Quarter, ☎ . 24 rooms including AC and bathroom. $36/48 (sgl/dbl).
- 8 Cinderella Hotel, 21 Baho Road (100 m from the post office), ☎ , , , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Beautifully decorated and clean, price includes a large breakfast, TV in room, Wi-Fi, air-con. Has a couple of dorm rooms alongside the large guest rooms. The restaurant serves delicious meals. The staff are very accommodating and helpful. Receive very good online ratings. If you cannot afford to stay you can still enjoy a delicious breakfast for 3,500 kyat. They also have a bunkbed room for backpackers. $15-80.
When going to the bus station by taxi ask whether you will be dropped off at the bus station or at the 2 bus ticket counter (the former/old bus station) in the city along Anauk Tart Myei Rd, which offers free shuttles or so called "ferries" to the main bus station, at least for buses to Hpa-an. Pay accordingly or simply walk to the bus ticket counter.
- Hpa-An – Famous for its caves and green landscape. Old, no air-con bus, several a day, 1,000 kyat, 2 h. There is also a boat available (70,000 kyat private or 8,000 kyat shared per person, 5 h)
- Myawaddy – For Mae Sot (Thailand), bus (5,000 kyat) or shared taxi (10,000 kyat), 3-5 h. Most departures are in the morning.
- Kyaiktiyo – Famous for the golden rock, the most famous sight of the Mon State. 07:30 & 09:30, 7,000 kyat, 3-4 h. There are direct buses to Kinpun, the "base camp".
- Bago – Famous for the highest pagoda in the world, the Shwemawdaw Pagoda. Bus 07:00/08:00/09:00 and 12:30, 5-10,000 kyat.
- Mandalay – Famous for the U Bein Bridge, the Buddha face washing, as well as the nearby mountains and train. Quite luxurious (Swedish) overnight bus (company: Shwe Mandalar). Up to 15,000 kyat. Includes a towel, pillow, blanket, toothbrushes and water.
- Yangon – Famous for the Shwedagon Pagoda and the city itself. Several buses a day.
- Ye – Bus 06:30/09:15/11:45 & 15:30, 4-5 h, 6,000 kyat. Minibus 4,000 kyat.
- Dawei – Famous for its authentic and underdeveloped experience, large Buddha and remote beaches (Maungmagan). Bus 05:00 13:00/14:00/16:00, 8-10 h, 12,000 kyat.
The train for Yangon leaves at 08:00, 19:30 and 20:55. passing by Kyaikto near Kyaiktiyo and Bago, arriving 9 h later. The trip to Yangon is 2,150/5,500 kyat (ordinary/upper class). For more details see Seat61.com, or book at the train station.
The train for Dawei Port leaves at 04:00 and arrives 15 h later.