Two Days before I arrived in Mawlamyine I was told by a taxi driver, that I believe works for Okinawa Guest House that another guest had paid for a taxi to Bago and Kyaiktiyo Pagoda - The Golden Rock. The guest had told the Taxi driver to offer the 3 extra seat to other guests for free. Being budget conscious kind of traveller I jumped at the offer. He told me that all I need to do is meet him and the others that are going in the lobby at 6:00am. The following morning arrives and I get my self to the lobby for 6 as did seven other people. The taxi driver had just told as many people as he could about the free trip and naturally everyone wanted to get in on it. As I really didn’t want to spend another day in Yangon I made the decision reduce the numbers of the group and just go get a train to Mawlamyine.
Getting The Train From Yangon to Mawlamyine.
The train from Yangon to Mawlamyine cost me 2800 Kyats for an upper class ticket. I later learned that you have to ask for the lower class tickets if you’re a foreigners as they just assume you want the nicer seats. The train ride was great and I spent pretty much the entire journey drifting in and out of sleep from the motion. Upper class seats are very comfortable but the lower class is totally manageable.
Renting The Boat In Mawlamyie.
The boat trip is a suggested thing to do in the Lonely Planet but like most things in the 2011 version (the latest at the time) the information they provide is wildly outdated. The ferry services they say that runs on only two days of the week no longer exists and you have to rent one privately. I read on a blog about how you can rent them from Breeze Guest House so once the train arrived I paid a motor taxi 1000 kyats to take me there. As soon as I arrived I met up with a group of 4 westerners and we all went for dinner at the food markets along the river bank.
They all wanted to do the boat trip as well so I decided to join them. The price to rent a boat from the guest house is 70000 Kyats. In total there was 7 of us signed up to go on the boat making the cost a beautifully divisible 10,000 Kyats each. I was a bit reluctant to go as I’d liked to have at least spent a day in Mawlamyine but it could have ended up costing me a whole lot more for the boat. There were also a LOT of rumours at the time about the water festival so I did have to try and move quickly if I wanted to see everything.
The following morning we all woke up around 7:00am for the standard Myanmar guest house breakfast of 3 in 1 coffee an egg and some toast. We were told the pick-up would come for us at 8:00am but we didn’t leave till about 9:00am.
The boat ride was a little bit disappointing as the visibility was really poor. It would be greatly improved if had a guide and if you could get off at some of the little villages you pass. That being said It was a really pleasant way to spend the day and I was lucky to have great company on the boat. Overall if took us around 5 hours to get to Hpa-an.
The Boat that took us there. You get to sit on plastic garden chairs the whole way.
The whole way you will have excited locals waving at you.
Some advice for taking the boat from Mawlamyine to Hpa-an
- Take water. But try not to drink too much as there’s only one toilet stop about half way through.
- Wear sunscreen. There is a roof on the boat but it doesn’t provide the best coverage and you can very easily end up with one very tanned/burnt arm.
- If you don’t want to take the boat to Hpa-an there is a local bus that takes 1 – 2 hours for a 1000kyats and leaves every hour from 7:00am.
- If you really want to do the boat trip but want to save money it only costs 7000Kyats to do it from Hpa-an to Mawlamyine. I saw this offer at a few hostels in town but they service isn’t daily.
Arriving in Hpa-An.
The area where you dock is used by someone or some people as a place to dump rubbish. Its not really a very good first impression. Once we’d got on to the road a tuktuk driver offered to take us where ever we wanted to go for 1000Kyats each. Thankfully everyone was in a pretty good mind set so we all decided to walk it. From the dock in to the main town is only about 1.5k and very easy to navigate. There are enough locals along the way that’ll gesture where you should be going.