In a nutshell
Pyay is sometimes compared to Bagan which is a little ambitious, as this is a much smaller and less grand location in the Bago Division of the Irrawaddy Region of Myanmar.
Why go to Pyay
The town lies on a scenic river and was formerly used as a place to stop-off for those who are traveling from Yangon to Bagan. Nowadays you can get between the two cities via a new highway, although if you want to see a more rural and scenic side of Myanmar then opting to go through Pyay is still a good option.
If you are in town or a night or two, then you won’t be disappointed, as Pyay has a range of attractions that make a visit here worthwhile such as the Shwe San Taw Pagoda which sits on a picturesque hill and has views across the city that stretch to the giant Buddha statue.
Another reason to come to Pyay is to explore the Sri Kshetra ruins (which are where the Bagan comparisons come from) and you will also find some further stone carvings in the cliffs on the outskirts of the city.
When to go to Pyay
Myanmar has a rainy season from June to October and at that time you can expect heavy downpours daily as well as flooding. This means that you may find it difficult to get out and about and explore during this time so with that in mind it is better to visit from November or December. This is the season directly after the rainy season when temperatures are still mild but there is less chance of rain.
Where to stay in Pyay:
Hotels and guesthouses in Myanmar need a license to accept foreigners which means that accommodation is sometimes limited. On the whole you will find some cheap accommodation options in Pyay but these often only have small rooms with shared bathrooms.
In Pyay you will find a few different accommodation choices that are used to housing foreign nationals such as the Myat Lodging House. A twin room with a fan here should be between USD 8-12 depending on the season and doubles with air conditioning cost for around USD 32. The guesthouse also has slow Wi-Fi provided.
Another choice is the Smile Motel which is located on Bogyoke Road and has twin rooms for around USD 22. This is one of the best value choices in Pyay as rooms are clean and you get more space and higher standards for your money.
If you have a larger budget then you can also try the Lucky Dragon which has rooms for USD 50 per night and is located on Strand Road. This may seem more than other places in town but this hotel also boasts an onsite swimming pool where you can take a refreshing dip at the end of a day exploring Pyay.
Where to eat in Pyay
As Pyay is not firmly on the tourist trail you won’t find a large selection of restaurants here.
One of the most famous is the San Francisco which is a misleading name as they serve a range of dishes such as rice and noodles and some Western fare for around MMK 6,000 for a main course. If you want to try something a little more authentic, then Auntie Moe’s located on Kan Street is a good option and you will find some toothsome curries here that are typical to the region.
One of the best options if you are looking for something to eat in Pyay is a visit to the night market which is located on Bogyoke Street and skirts along the river front. Here you will find a range of local street food dishes including barbecued meats and some tasty noodle soups. This is also one of the cheapest places to eat in town and is very popular with locals.
How to get around Pyay
You can easily walk around the centre of town, but one of the nicest ways to experience Pyay is to rent a bicycle. Many guesthouses have bicycles for rent for around MMK 500 per day. For longer journeys you can take a motorized trishaw or a regular taxi.
How to get to and from Pyay
You can get a bus from Yangon to Pyay which takes around 7 hours and costs in the region of MMK 10,000. There are numerous buses throughout the day leaving from Aung Mingalar bus terminal in Yangon.
Gettiing from Bagan to Pyay by bus takes around 10 hours at a cost of MMK 13,000 for a VIP Bus and MMK 11,000 for a non air-conditioned bus. Buses leave Bagan at 1.30 pm from Nyaug U Bus Station which means that you will arrive at Pyay late at night so make sure to make arrangements with your hotel accordingly.
There is also a bus from Pathein which takes between 8 and 10 hours and costs MMK 14,000. Note however that it drives through Pyay first before taking you to the east bus station so just ask if you would like to be dropped off in town rather than at the final destination.
You can also travel on from Pyay to Ngapali Beach which costs MMK 15,000 and takes around 11 hours. One last option is to travel on from Pyay to Mrauk U and Sittwe although you will need to travel via Magway or via Taunggok. Be warned that the journey takes around 24 hours once you factor in waiting times in Magway and Taunggok and tickets cost between MMK 18,000 and 25,000.
Is Pyay a safe place to visit?
Pyay is generally considered safe to visit although you should still remain vigilant on a visit here. There have been some reports in Myanmar generally of snatch thefts where gangs on motorcycles try to snatch bags or cameras, and if possible try to leave some of your valuables in a hotel safe.
Myanmar has both malaria and dengue fever. The easiest way to avoid getting ill is to wear insect repellent and long sleeved clothing at night so that you don’t get bitten. Some visitors may wish to take anti-malarial medication and it is best to consult with a healthcare professional before you travel to Myanmar.
Pyay has basic medical facilities and you will need to travel to Yangon or even Thailand if you get seriously ill here.