Driving distance from Yangon to Mawlamyine is 300 km. Trains have to cover more or less the same distance, with railway line going parallel to Hwy 8 major part of the route. There is the airport in Mawlamyine which used to serve a couple of domestic destinations and also one international – to the border town of Mae Sot in Thailand. It was closed for a while but now receives flights from Yangon again. Buses provide the fastest link between Yangon and Mawlamyine, but the night train, though painfully slow, can also be considered if you do not need to have a hotel bed to sleep comfortably all night through.
From Yangon to Mawlamyine by train
Trains are slow – yes, we mean really slow – in Burma. It takes between nine and 10 hours to cover the distance from Yangon to Mawlamyine by train, though buses do the same job in half the time.
There is the morning train #89 at 7.15am, the afternoon train #175 at 6.25pm and the evening train #35 at 9pm sharp. The morning train takes the whole day to get to Mawlamyine, and if you have limited time for touring the country, it is obviously not the best choice. The afternoon train is arguably the most inconvenient one from the point of view of the schedule as it brings you to Mawlamyine by 4am. But well, is it not a good opportunity to watch the sunset over the scenic river? The evening train is probably even a better idea: you travel by night and arrive to the capital of the Mon state early in the morning thus saving your precious day time and a couple of bucks on accommodation which – as you have probably already discovered – is far from being a great value in Myanmar.
Note Train #175 proceeds further to Ye and Dawei while #35 and #89 both terminate in Mawlamyine.
There are no sleeping carriages on trains travelling between Yangon and Mawlamyine, nor air-conditioned carriages – all of them are fan-cooled. Your choice of seats is limited to ordinary class hard seats and upper class soft reclining seats. The former are insignificantly cheaper but a far way less comfortable – that is why we highly recommend investing in more expensive upper class seats, especially if you travel by night train. Prices are highly dependent on where you buy your ticket: directly at the train station in Yangon or from abroad through an agent. Expect to pay from MMK5,000/USD5 in the first case and from three to four times more in the second one.
In Yangon, Yangon Central Railway Station is located in Kun Chan Road, opposite the stadium.
Mawlamyine railway station sits off Hwy 8, less than one km south of Highway Bus Station. A taxi ride to the city centre costs about MMK1,000-MMK1,500.
From Yangon to Mawlamyine by bus
Buses to Mawlamyine leave from Highway Bus Station in Yangon, aka Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal. It is located well out of the city, 500 m east off Aung Mingalar Highway, between Sat Hmu Street and Sa Gaing Street; further 7 km northeast from Yangon International airport. A seat in a shared taxi from the centre of Yangon to the bus terminal should cost MMK1,000.
Bus tickets can be purchased in the city from counters by the stadium, north of Yangon Central Railway Station.
Travelling from Yangon to Mawlanyine by bus takes from five to 6½ hours. There is a wide choice of departures operated by different companies, including Mandalar Winn Express. Buses leave hourly from 8am till 10pm but note that evening departures bring you to your destination after midnight in the small hours. Prices for a seat in an ordinary express bus start from MMK8,000/USD6, which is a good deal anyway.
Comfortable VIP buses made their way to Myanmar, too, and now you can enjoy soft reclining seats and sometimes even Wi-Fi onboard. Such a luxury costs very reasonable MMK20,000/USD18, but it is not a problem to find a more budget friendly alternative, though not so comfy.
All buses inevitably make a lunch stop en route and it is a good opportunity to go local – look what your fellow passengers order and follow the suit.
In Mawlamyine, buses from Yangon arrive to the Highway Bus Station, off Hwy 8, east of U Kandi Pagoda. You can get to the city centre from there for MMK1,000–MMK1,500 maximum.
Flights from Yangon to Mawlamyine
Though there is at least one flight a day from Yangon to Mawlamyine operated by FMI Air, airfare is absolutely inflated: expect to pay MMK200,000/USD150. For a 40 minute flight it seems too much unless you are strongly against overland travel. The flight departs Yangon at 2.50pm and arrives to the destination at 3.30pm.
Why go to Mawlamyine
Once the capital of British Lower Burma, now, regardless its fourth-largest-city-in-the-country status, Mawlamyine feels somewhat provincial, sleepy and laid-back. Quiet streets lined with trees, cozy cafes, bustling markets and meditative sunsets over the river form a perfect setting for a couple of lazy days. Elegant colonial architecture reminds of the times gone and an unexpected mix of pagodas, mosques and churches add to a feel you are wandering through the pages of George Orwell novels. A convenient base for exploring the area, Mawlamyine brings you close to the largest reclining Buddha in the world, Win Sein Taw Ya, and the Bilu Island where the authentic Mon culture remains well-preserved without that push to cater for tourists needs.
Onward travel from Mawlamyine
One of the three trains from Yangon to Mawlanyine, train #175, proceeds further down to Ye and Dawei, though you have to change the train at Ye if your final destination is Dawei. It leaves Mawlamyine at a weird hour – at 4.30am – arriving to Ye in the morning (10.30am) and reaching Dawei in the evening (7pm). You can cover the same route by bus – it will take less time: four hours for Ye and about 6 hours for Dawei (from MMK12,000/USD10).
Note that southbound buses for Ye and Dawei depart from a small bus station in the south of town off Hwy 8.
With the road via Dawna Mountains to Myawaddy widened and paved recently, it takes around five hours to get from Mawlamyine to the border town of Myawaddy. Note though that some buses use the old road what makes the whole trip significantly longer – up to nine hours. Check with your bus operator before buying your ticket. Myawaddy–Mae Sot border crossing is open for foreigners, too, so you can easily get to Thailand from Myanmar travelling overland.
Heading north, in a couple of hours you can reach Hpa-An by bus or van (from MMK8/USD7), and there are tourist boats available for this journey, too, though the slow government ferry does not ply the route any more. Expect to pay between MMK10,000/USD8 and MMK15,000/USD13 (three hours, the boat leaves at 8.30pm). Buses for Hpa-An leave from the in-city bus station 350 m south of the city hall, in the north.
Detour to Mount Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock)
Travelling back to Yangon, you have the same choice of buses and trains. If Mount Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock) is in your travel itinerary, make a detour to visit it on your way from Mawlamyine to Yangon.
There are three trains from Mawlamyine to Yangon at 8am (#90), 7.30pm (#36) and 8.55pm (#176), all passing via Kyaiktiyo (for Golden Rock; 4½ hours) and Bago. You can reach Golden Rock from both Kyaiktiyo and Bago, travelling via Kinpun, but getting off at Kyaiktiyo saves you at least three hours with train #90 being the best choice.
Note There are direct buses from Mawlamyine to Kinpun, from where you can take a truck to go half the way to Mount Kyaiktiyo. Buses take about four hours but are a bit more expensive than trains.