Yangon to Mawlamyine – Southern Burma

July, 2014

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!


Mawlamyine, Yangon, Burma, MyanmarThe Mandalar Minn Express bus (6,000K) leaves from Yangon bus terminal at 08:30, 12:30, and 20:00 Hrs for the 6-hour trip.

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.

Yangon, Mawlamyine, Burma, Myanmar, SE Asia
City taxi

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.

Mawlamyine, Burma, Myanmar, SE Asia
Local transport


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 road 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.

Mawlamyine, Burma, Myanmar, SE Asia
The Strand, near the Zeigyi Upper Market

The Strand

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 does provide is noisy run-down accommodation with mouldy walls in the room and also in the bathroom. And, sharing the room with an army of ants that trails along the mattress and up across the wall and room.

The air conditioning doesn’t 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 are stuck in this awful 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 deliciously good authentic food. I didn’t see a name for the restaurant, otherwise I would include the name here also. Basically, it’s some old tables and chairs opening up to the road and that’s about it.

Leaving Mawlamyine

Making this trip up as we go, it’s a case of 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 currently possible, so, decided on a bus to Mandalay instead.

From Mandalay, the sketchy plan is to explore another avenue for the journey to Inle Lake.

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More blogs on Burma.

14 responses to “Yangon to Mawlamyine – Southern Burma”

  1. Carolyn Avatar

    My friend Tim and I went to Burma the first time in 1982, arriving by ship which was rather unconventional and involved much negotiating. When we finally were cleared to disembark, we traipsed across the road to the Strand which had not yet been taken over by Raffles. It was very basic and the staff were the only surly people we met. You could order beer to be delivered to your room but you could not drink in the bar. It was very hot and my mates were gasping for beer. I’ll never forget the look on Joe’s face when he was told “no beer”! We went back a couple of years later with other friends and it had not improved. We had to use a communal bathroom and when I got up in the night I met a rat in the corridor. I did not report this to the girl I was rooming with and when she went down to the bathroom I expected to hear a scream but she did not meet any rodents. I only told her about the rat when we had departed the country. One of my most beloved destinations. I remember it all very fondly. Tim got to see the gilded rock but said “well it’s a rock painted gold” end of story! My favourite thing was outside Mandalay where we came upon a signpost “Home for Aged Cattle”. There were delights every day. I could go on forever. There had been a cyclone and Mandalay was knee deep in mud. And it was delightfully cool! Sorry…it makes me ramble!

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Wow, in 2014 Burma was still rustic so I can only imagine how it was back in 1982.
      Love your stories and don’t be sorry, I’m glad my posts bring back memories for you. That’s something that I like hearing from my followers/readers. We spent the allowed 28-day visa but could have stayed longer as travelling wasn’t fast but I did love the country and people. Check out another 9 posts when you have a little reading time. 😉
      It’s great reading about your travels and thanks for sharing here…

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  5. fancypaperblog Avatar

    There is something almost fantastical about getting to Burma. I have Mandalay on a lost of places to.see since I was a child- maybe because of literature. The whole trip seems winderful overall despite some poor accomadation. I feel that where I am from in Ireland waa seen in such wonder by tourists by many moons ago which strangely makes me feel we are all connected. Very enjoyable post once again.

    1. Image Earth Travel Avatar

      Many thanks for your comment and I totally agree, it’s a country I’ve always wanted to see but not on an organised tour. Luckily, Burma is a little more liberal these days with tourists to a point, but wasn’t around Hsipaw as there was still serious fighting.

      Check out my Mandalay blog and see what you think.

      1. fancypaperblog Avatar

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      2. Image Earth Travel Avatar

        I’m going through and re-formatting my older posts as something’s changed in WP and everything is out of whack – what a pain.

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