In a nutshell
Why go to Mawlamyine
It was the capital of Myanmar during the British occupation from 1827 to 1852 and is now the capital of Mon state, located in the South East of the country, not too distant from Yangon. It’s known for its charming old colonial buildings, although many of these are now in a state of disrepair and retains a quaint olde worlde feeling despite its size.
Mawlamyine is a convenient base for day trips, and you can take tours out of town to see everything from giant Buddhas to war cemeteries depending on how you want to spend your trip.
Many just enjoy wandering through the old city streets soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying traditional Burmese food. There are picturesque pagodas as you would expect, and the waterfront is a popular and lively area of the city.
Rudyard Kipling visited the city and described its beauty at length, so many visit there hoping to catch sight of the famous pagodas and sights that he mentions in his writing.
When to go to Mawlamyine
The best time to visit is between November and March, as with much of the rest of Myanmar this marks the dry season where the weather is typically warm and sunny much of the time. It can get chilly in the mornings and evenings but is generally pleasant. June is the first month of the rainy season so it can be a good idea to avoid visiting in the summer months as the monsoon brings extremely heavy rain with it in most years.
Where to stay in Mawlamyine
Accommodation options are varied, with most offering reasonable value for money, although standards can be lower than other areas of South East Asia and there have been reports of bed bugs!
Strand road is a popular option with backpackers and other hotels are located in areas such as Ridge Street and Lower Main Road. Expect to pay around USD10 to USD15 for a single room or room in a dorm with basic standards of cleanliness and simple amenities. If you’re looking for something more comfortable, prices rise significantly, with rooms at around USD30-USD40 for a mid range room in a simple hotel or bed and breakfast.
Where to eat in Mawlamyine
There are lots of places to eat and drink on the riverside, especially if you enjoy traditional Burmese food and want to eat with the locals.
As it’s a less touristy city it’s easy to find low cost local food and drink if you’re not looking for Western style dishes, although due to the country’s proximity to Thailand and China, there are restaurants offering these cuisines.
Getting around in Mawlamyine
Another benefit of spending time in Mawlamyine is that it’s very small compared to Yangon and Mandalay and it’s easy to get around the city centre on foot.
If you do need to travel a longer distance then motorbike taxis are the most popular option and typically cost only USD1 to USD2, making it a cost effective option. Some regular taxis can be found although it may be easier to arrange these with your hostel or hotel as they can be tricky to track down on the street.
Getting in and out
When it comes to getting out of the city and heading to your next destination there are several options available. Bear in mind that the bus and train stations are a couple of kilometres outside of the city, and taxi drivers can charge a cheeky premium to get you there.
Mawlamyine is a great transport hub making it easy to travel to almost any onward destination by plane, bus or train, whether you’re at the beginning or end of your trip in Myanmar.
There are many buses running daily to Yangon that take around 6 hours, and it should be easy to get tickets from your accommodation with no need to book particularly far in advance. Some may also help you get a tuk-tuk to the station at a reasonable price as well.
Buses also run a few times per day to Dawei and Ye, whilst it’s even possible to get a bus over the border to Mae Sot in Thailand and only takes around a day to reach Bangkok or Chiang Mai. There is also a daily sleeper bus to Mandalay if you are heading North.
Trains are also plentiful and cost effective although sometimes these don’t run to schedule as effectively as the buses do. Train travel is always a great way to see a country though, especially somewhere as beautiful as Myanmar and shouldn’t be discounted. They run daily to and from Yangon, take around 9 hours and are a scenic way to see this part of the country.
There’s also the airport at Mawlamyine, with at least one flight to and from Yangon a day. It’s just a small airport and isn’t always reliable when it comes to scheduling. If you want to travel internationally after visiting the city, you have to to make your way to Yangon and catch an onward flight from there as there a lots of international options to nearby countries as well as many domestic flights to other areas of Myanmar.
Safety in Mawlamyine
Mawlamyine is typically seen as a very safe area to visit and crimes against tourists are rare. The biggest danger, as with much of Myanmar, is travelling on unsafe roads with drivers that aren’t necessarily driving to western safety standards. If you do get caught up in an accident it can be difficult to reach hospitals or facilities that offer acceptable levels of medical care, so this is worth being aware of.
With the city relatively close to the Thai border it has had associations with drug trafficking, so be cautious not to get involved in anything to do with drugs or the drug trade during your time there as penalties are harsh it goes without saying that people in this industry aren’t likely to be trustworthy.