After reading the Lonely Planet’s review of this town as less frequented by foreigners and sleepy, this was a good enough reason to visit!
As a long time fan of George Orwell, I was pretty excited to visit this city as it was home to George Orwell for some years in which he spent time here as a police officer, resulting in his famous 1936 essay, Shooting an Elephant.
The Mandalar Minn Express bus (6,000K) leaves from Yangon bus terminal at 08:30, 12:30, and 20:00 for the 6-hour trip. Shwe at the travel office (01 249672 – by the train station) speaks English, is very helpful, and can organise a bus to anywhere in Myanmar, it seems.
Apart from 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!
The locals are super friendly and welcoming. Everyone says hello and sometimes, it is as if the children have seen ghosts; this town is not touristy at all.
Walk around Mawlamyine seeking the mythical colonial architecture, which does exist, but not in abundance and crumbling or shrouded in crawling greenery. Although most are dilapidated, you can still envisage what these buildings were like in their hay day. There’s not much to do in town but 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 men and locals, you will definitely be a novelty here!
The Strand runs along the Salween (Thanlwin) River and is worth the long walk. Along the way, stop for a Cappuccino (K1,500) at the Mawlamyaing Strand Hotel whilst using their free wifi (it’s the only place in town that serves western-style coffee). This is the grandest flashiest hotel you’ll find in this city and a great place to to relax and lounge around; great service and ambiance!
Tip: The Cinderella Hotel (great for fresh juices – K1,500) and The Strand Hotel are the only places offering free wifi in town and although Internet cafes advertise as just that, none seem to have internet, let-alone wifi – strange!
Zeigyi Upper Market
This is a large market for the size of the city and bustling with locals selling and buying fresh produce, cheap clothes, local delicacies, meat, and everything imaginable…a great place to people watch and take photos.
You can head north on a day bus trip to see the Gilded Balancing Rock but after learning it would cost US$10 to see this, I gave it a miss.
Pyone Pann Wai (No (D-2), Myo Shaung Street)
Worst accommodation in 4 months of travelling in SE Asia so far! Apart from the frosty, unfriendly, rude, and unhelpful reception staff, there was no breakfast, bottled water or wifi (no communal PC) as advertised on Agoda on booking. However, the Guest House did provide noisy run-down accommodation, mouldy walls (room and in bathroom), a room shared with many ants that trailed along the mattress and wall, and the A/C did work! This Guest House is about 4 kms from the city centre (K2500 in a bike taxi). The taxi prices quoted here are for 2 people although I’m not sure that they’d halve the price for solo travellers.
Believe it or not, I like to find positives in every situation. So, these are the only positives I can think of with this Guest House:
- it’s about 300 metres to the train station and about 900 metres (K1,000) to the bus station
- good local restaurant across the road and a few doors up, which serves cheap and good local food (didn’t see a name for the restaurant).
Couldn’t get a direct bus from Mawlamyine to Inle Lake without travelling back through Yangon, so, decided on a bus to Mandalay.