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.

12 thoughts on “Yangon to Mawlamyine – Southern Burma

Add yours

  1. First off I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your head before writing.
    I have had a difficult time clearing my thoughts in getting
    my thoughts out there. I do take pleasure in writing
    however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes
    tend to be wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions
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    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi,

      Thanks for the feedback and sharing your link.

      I don’t really have a writing process as I just get stuck into it and write. I have several decades of travel stories to share, so unlimited material to write about and photos to match my posts.
      I’ve just started digitising my travel journals and currently writing about 4 months in Indonesia, which I hope you’ll check out.

      One tip I can share is close down all your social media when you’re writing as for me, this is a big distraction and easy to procrastinate when on these time-wasting platforms. 😉



  2. 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.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 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.

      Liked by 1 person

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