Considered one of the last frontiers in Southeast Asian tourism trail, Myanmar is a land of untold treasures that are slowly being unearthed. Since the country relaxed its border restrictions in recent years, travelers have been making their way to Southern Myanmar, lured by the tales of golden temples, unspoilt beaches, and a genuine vibe untouched by mass tourism.
The most famous icon in southern Myanmar may be the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon yet travelers to this region will quickly realize that there are a world of natural, cultural, and spiritual experiences waiting to be had.
Most visitors will start their journey in Southern Myanmar from Yangon and the city acts as the perfect introduction to this beautiful region. The economic and cultural hub of Myanmar, Yangon was the capital until 2005 and today one of the most culturally diverse and best preserved cities in Southeast Asia.
Travelers in need of some beach time and island life should head far south to the Myeik (Mergui) Achipelago which has some of the best diving in Asia and hundreds of remote islands, or explore the 60-kilometer stretch of beaches which adorn the Dawei peninsula.
With about 800 islands of remote islands off the southernmost tip of Myanmar, the Mergui Archipelago is becoming one of the premier island destinations in Southeast Asia. The area is popular for amazing tropical sailing, kayaking, scuba diving and fishing. Visitors can get to Mergui Archipelago with plane from Kawthaung or by boat from Ranong or Phuket in Thailand.
1. Samkar (southern parth of lake Inle)
2. Capital town Taunggyi (famous with hot air balloon festival)
3. kakku (over 2478 stupa's close to each other)
4. The pagoda festival in March
4. Pindaya cave famous for its lime stone cave and over 8000 buddha images inside from the the 17 century.
5. Kalaw town famous for its pleasant weather, built by British and now a happening starting point for trekking from kalaw to Inle lake
There are many cottage industries around Inle Lake. Here you can buy fresh handmade Burmese cigarettes or tiny cigars which hint of anise. Even non smokers enjoy the the taste. Boat making, blacksmiths, silversmiths, weaving looms and cottage industries are located in floating villages or houses on the lake.
One of the most fascinating human endeavors on Inle Lake are the creation and use of amazing man made floating islands which are using for growing fresh vegetables. See the Daytrips Tab or more details and images of these unique farming methods.
Inle Lake is fed by various streams and small rivers which offer interesting opportunities to explore the weekly markets which roam from one village to the next. You can visit the Dain Pagoda, a complex of 1054 Stupas dating back about 200 years.
The Pindaya Cave is about a one hour drive from the Heho Airport. The cave has about 8,000 Buddha images inside. Handmade paper, handmade umbrellas and a new cottage wine industry all flourish in the villages around Inle Lake.
West of Yangon, on the other side of the Gulf of Mottama, the Golden Rock (Kyaiktiyo Pagoda) continues to be an important pilgrimage for Buddhists from all over the world. The trek up to the rock is tricky but in fact not as hard as the guidebooks make out. After the journey, soak up the atmosphere in Mawlymaing, Myanmar's fourth largest city or visit the world's largest reclining Buddha in Mudon near Mawlynaing.
Southern Myanmar is one of the most diverse travel destinations in Asia offering something to suit everyone's taste. Here travelers can immerse themselves in Theravada Buddhism with pilgrimages to the world-famous Shwedagon Pagoda or the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, the latter precariously perched on a gilded golden rock. Just south of Mawlimaine, a 180 meter-long reclining Buddha statue – the largest of its kind in the world – is unique that its hollowed interiors are open to visitors.
The bustling city of Yangon offer the perfect eclectic mix of past and present; the leafy “Garden City of the East”, as it was known during colonial times, showcase the region's history through architecture. The city also boasts a bustling Chinatown neighborhood, where locals congregate over sumptuous food and visitors stroll to pick up souvenirs.
The city is an mix of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influences. Some colonial architecture remains but decay is rampant, however, remnants 19th-century British colonial capital can be seen. Yangon continues to be a city of the past with betel nut chewing and spitting male pedestrians everywhere. People are genuinely friendly and willing to help strangers.
The Moken people are the indigenous minority group of the islands. The islands are not developed, your foot prints in the sand may be the only foot prints you will see. The Andaman Sea here is known for its clear warm waters, great for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and sailing.
For more laid back beach life, the entire southern west coast of the country offers one sleepy beach resort after the other and travelers can explore quaint fishing villages, verdant rice paddies, and rubber plantations.
Spend a morning in awe of the impressive Shwedagon Pagoda, the spiritual center of Myanmar and a pilgrimage destination for Buddhists from all over the world. Afterwards, spend the afternoon trailing the many cultural influences in downtown Yangon including the historic Strand Hotel, the former High Court, The Secretariat, the City Hall, and the Customs House.
The famous Karaweik, a concrete replica of a Burmese royal barge built in 1972 now a restaurant is a an attractive setting for a walk around, or stop by for lunch or dinner on Kandawgyi Lake, one of two lakes in Yangon.
Less than two hours' drive north of Yangon is Bago, a perfect day trip destination from Yangon, with attractions including the Shwethalyaung Reclining Buddha Image, once the largest reclining image of the Buddha in Myanmar, and Shwemawdaw Pagoda, the second largest in the country after the Shwedagon Pagoda. Travelers also shouldn't miss the Kambawza Thardi Palace, a reconstruction of the grand palace built by 16th century King Bayinnaung.
Sailing west of the islands, the continental shelf drops off into the deep sea, a range of underwater mountains called the Burma Banks make for a thrilling dive area for the experienced diver.
If you love fishing you can cast for tuna, barracuda, mahi mahi, giant trevally, Spanish mackerel or snapper while sailing or when close to shore. Most of the local fishing boats in the area catch squid and cuttlefish and. Marling or sailfish can be found in this area as well.
Beach combing, hiking, trekking, trail blazing, swimming, snorkeling, diving, fishing, relaxing, star gazing, bird watching, bartering and trading with the Moken peoples.
The capital of Kayin State is home to caves, lakes, and numerous hiking options for the active traveler. One of the main attractions here is the 800 meter-long Saddan Cave which houses a reclining Buddha statue. Nearby Kyauk Kalap – a pagoda perched atop a sheer rock finger in the middle of a lake – is also worth a visit.
Cucumbers and tomato's are the most common productive crops. These plants never need watering. The roots simply find the fresh lake water below the floating islands.
The food in the many small restaurants around Inle Lake is very fresh and tasty. Very large avacodos, cucumbers, tomatos and onions are often served in local dishes and salads.
Transportation in Southern Myanmar revolves around Yangon. Most people arrive here by plane and either travel on to other destinations by plane or use the country's extensive train network. Buses also leave Yangon throughout the day to popular destinations such as Bagan, Kyaiktiyo and Bago.
The road network in Myanmar is fairly poor and travelers wanting to commute by car or bus should expect long travel hours and basic roads. That said, traveling overland is a great way to see the countryside and experience a country that seems like it has stood still for half a century or longer. Bus travel out of Yangon originates from one of the city's two bus stations, The Highway Bus Center (Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal) or the Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal. Tickets are sold at the bus stations or through larger hotels and guesthouses.
Trains depart from the impressive Yangon Central Railway Station located in downtown Yangon – tickets are cheap but expect long travel hours and debatable quality trains. There are trains to major cities upcountry as well as other southern destinations such as Kyaiktiyo, Mawlymaing and Dawei, a journey of six, ten and 24 hours respectively.
For convenience' sake, most tourists choose to travel by plane; national airlines include Myanmar Airways International and Myanma Airways while the most well known private carriers include Asian Wings Airways, Air Bagan Air Mandalay, Yangon Airways and Golden Myanmar Airlines. Tickets are relatively cheap; few domestic flights cost more than US$100.
Several relatively new airlines in Myanmar are Air KBZ, Yangon Airways, Air Mandalay, Asia Wing, Golden Myanmar and Air Bagan.
You can drive from Thailand via Phuket International Airport, which is a convenient and well-connected place to fly to; this option involves a scenic 4-hour car ride to the town of Ranong north of Phuket in Thaialnd, Ranong is the Thai border town just across the Pakchan River from Kawthaung in Myanmar. Cross the river and you are in Myanmar.
Flying to Ranong in Thailand is another excellent option. There are daily flights from Bangkok by Nok Air and Happy Air that go direct to Ranong. The airport is well served by local taxi drivers. Once you are in Ranong, you take a longtail boat across the Pakchan River to Kawthaung on the Myanmar side, which takes only a few minutes. If you book our Mergui Sailing adventure, we will help you with the immigration procedures before boarding the yacht.
If you are already in Myanmar, then you can fly to Kawthaung, Myanmar directly to Kawthaung Airport, which is connected to various domestic airports with flights by Air Mandalay and Myanmar Airways.