After reading the Lonely Planet’s review of Mawlamyine as less frequented by foreigners and sleepier than other towns in Burma, for me, this is a good enough reason to visit!
Shwe at the travel office (phone: 01 249672) by the train station, speaks English, is very helpful, and can organise a bus to almost anywhere in Myanmar, it seems.
Apart from the little stops along the way to pick up cargo or people, the bus stops once for a half-hour at a restaurant and toilet stop.
Take ear plugs and an extra coat for the bus as the TV and air-con are cranked up quite high.
As a long time fan of George Orwell, I am pretty excited to be visiting this city as it was home to George Orwell for some years in which he spent here as a police officer. The time here resulted in his famous 1936 essay: Shooting an Elephant.
Although quite poor, the locals are super friendly and welcoming. Everyone shouts out “Mingalaba” (hello) and sometimes, it is as if the children have seen ghosts, when they see us walking along the road or footpath. This town is not touristy at all and so, I only saw about one or two tourists here during the stay.
Walk around Mawlamyine seeking the mythical colonial architecture, which does exist, but not in abundance and albeit crumbling or shrouded in crawling greenery.
Although most of this famous architecture is dilapidated, you can still envisage what these buildings must of been like in their grand hay day.
There isn’t a lot to do in this town but relax, which is not a bad thing when you’re on the go all the time.
Although if you find yourself here, I suggest you take the time to sit at one of the many intriguing tea houses and try the delicious fried Indian snacks and very sweet strong milky tea, for ridiculously cheap prices. Mostly frequented by local men, you will definitely be a novelty in these tea houses, especially as a female. And, be prepared for some stares but they’re more inquisitive then unfriendly.
The lengthy Strand runs along the pretty Salween (Thanlwin) River and is worth the long walk – even in the heat.
Along the way, stop for a Cappuccino (K1,500) or an iced cold drink at the Mawlamyaing Strand Hotel whilst hooking on to the free available wi-fi. This is the only place in town that serves western-style coffee.
As the grandest and flashiest hotel you will find in this city, it is a great place to to relax and lounge around, with great friendly service and a lovely aged ambiance.
The Cinderella Hotel, which is great for fresh juices (K1,500) and The Strand Hotel are the only places offering free wi-fi in town. Although Internet cafes advertise as just that, none seem to have internet, let-alone wi-fi, which is a little strange.
Zeigyi Upper Market
This seems like quite a large market for the size of the city.
Bustling with locals selling and buying fresh produce, cheap clothes, local delicacies, meat, and everything imaginable, you can buy almost anything here. The market is also a wonderful place to people watch and take photos.
Gilded Balancing Rock
From Mawlamyine, you can head north on a day bus trip to see the famous Gilded Balancing Rock but after learning it would cost USD$10 to see this rock on top of the bus fare, I gave this rock a miss. If anyone has visited, please let me know what I missed out on. I know that the famous photographer, Steve Mc Curry has photographed this rock but a very long time ago.
Pyone Pann Wai (No (D-2), Myo Shaung Street)
This is the worst accommodation in 4 months of travelling in SE Asia so far! And, the reason I haven’t bothered to even provide a link for this guest house.
Apart from the frosty, unfriendly, rude, and unhelpful reception staff, there is no breakfast, bottled water, wi-fi, or communal PC, as advertised on Agoda, when booking. What this Guest House did provide is noisy run-down accommodation with mouldy walls in the room and also in the bathroom. We shared the room with many ants that trailed along the mattress and up across the wall and room. The air conditioning did not work either. Although I did try to change rooms, the curt staff member treated me as if I was someone dragged up from the black lagoon, and so, we were stuck in this pre-paid room.
The guest house is about 4 kilometres from the city centre (K2,500 on a bike taxi). The taxi prices quoted here are for 2 people, although I’m not sure that the taxi would halve the price for a one-person fare.
Believe it or not, I like to find positives in every situation. So, these are the only positives I can think of for this guest house:
- The location is about 300 metres to the train station and about 900 metres (K1,000) to the bus station
- You can find a very good local restaurant across the road and a few doors up, which serves cheap and good local food. I didn’t see a name for the restaurant, otherwise I would include it here. Basically, it’s some old tables and chairs opening up to the road and that’s about it.
We are making this trip up as we go and just looking at a map of Burma, then picking a spot to go to after some research on available and interesting sights.
Wanting to catch a direct bus from Mawlamyine to Inle Lake without travelling back through Yangon, isn’t possible at the time of writing. So, we then decided on a bus to Mandalay instead. From Mandaly, we will explore another avenue for the journey to Inle Lake.