If you have limited time then an all-day organised tour of the city itself could be a great option. A car and driver will take you around all of the main city sights, including key pagodas and churches like Santawshin, St Matthew’s Church and local markets. These tours often give a better insight into these locations than guide books do, as you’ll be benefitting from local expertise.
Several tour agencies also have tours that give the option to sample local street food which are always a good investment and a great way to spend a couple of hours.
Pagodas in Mawlamyine
Some of the pagodas are located on a hilly range just outside of the city, and are well worth visiting. Popular ones to try and see include Nwa Le Bo Pagoda which is 12 miles outside of the city and Kyaik Tan Lan Pagoda which is a great place to see the sunset.
Win Sein Taw Ya
The most popular day trip out of Mawlamyine, which can be either a half day or a full day trip, is a visit to Win Sein Taw Ya Reclining Buddha. It’s the largest reclining Buddha in the world and at 30 metres high and 180 metres in length is well worth making the trip out to visit.
There are many different floors and layers to visit with amazing pictures telling the story of the Buddha, and it’s worth having a guide if possible so you get the full experience. Do be sure to dress modestly and ensure that your shoulders and knees are covered.
Other popular trips include taking the boat to Hpa An which is around a 5-hour journey and a beautiful way to take in some of the local scenery. Expect to stop at a local village and see local fisherman in action which can be a magical experience. Although dress up warm as it can be very chilly in the morning. Hpa An is a small town and features various caves in the vicinity that are great to explore, and it’s worth spending a couple of nights here on a trip from Mawlamyine.
Gaung Se Kyun island
Another interesting and peaceful place to visit outside of the city is Gaung Se Kyun, and whilst you can visit on a tour it’s also possible to just rock up at the jetty and pick up a boat to take you across to the small island. You can see most of the island in just 40 minutes or so, so it doesn’t need to be a full day trip if you’re on a tight time schedule. There are plenty of nice shady areas, pretty stupas and pagodas, and it’s a great place to sit and watch the local monks going about their daily business.
Another small island that you can visit is Bilu, where a boat will take you to the island and its many villages, where local residents still practice traditional crafts and industries.
Generally very welcoming to tourists, there are over 60 villages, and you can easily spend a day exploring. It’s much larger than Gaung Se Kyun and it’s easy to arrange a truck or car to transport you, or alternatively you can try a motorbike or bicycle.
From making rubber bands to tobacco pipes there’s loads to see and it’s a fascinating glimpse into local life in an isolated area of Myanmar. Sometimes passports will be checked at the jetty so be sure to take yours along with you.