Written by Charlie and Lauren
With Yangon, Bagan and Mandalay taking priority on most peoples Myanmar itineraries, the southern states of Mon and Kayin quite often get overlooked…
So when we were given the opportunity to explore the more unseen parts of the country – bursting with culture and happiness – how could we say no.
Here’s a break down of exactly where to go and what to do in each state. But before we start, the first thing you need to know is that the main spots to head to are the capitals – Mawlamyine and Hpa-an…
Mon State – Mawlamyine
Win Sein Tawya (the world’s largest reclining Buddha) – Laying at nearly 600ft, the largest reclining Buddha in the world is a must see. You can actually explore the inside of the concrete statue and tour the three (soon to be eight) floors of chambers. It relays scenes of history in the life of buddha and touches on heaven and hell through life-size sculptures.
Kyaik Than Lan Pagoda – The highest structure in Mawlamyine and the heart of the city. If you’re looking for amazing views and a great spot for sunset then this is your place!
Queen Sein Don Monastery – An interesting old monastery where Queen Sein Don once lived. You can now visit the sacred grounds and interact with the monks that live here.
Night Market – For something to do in the evenings head down the local food stalls where hundreds of locals crowd around the big screens to watch the latest sporting events whilst enjoying their Burmese dinner.
Transportation between cities
To get between Mawlamyine an Hpa-an there are a few options including train, bus and river boat. Or of course you can pay for a private taxi too.
We opted to hop on a river boat that lead us along the Than Lwin River taking around three and a half hours in total. The morning boat ride was ideal…it was super relaxing and a great scenic switch up from wheels and tarmac.
Kayin State – Hpa-an
Kaw Ka Taung Cave & Kayaking – The cave is great cultural start to Hpa-an but if you’re looking for something more adventurous then kayaking is an awesome way to switch off and get your muscles working. Also, at the back of the cave, there are a handful of floating restaurants and a beautiful natural Ruby Lake that the locals use as a swimming pool.
Latt Ka Na Village – We were on a guided tour with Myanmar Tourism that happened to include home cooked lunch at a local village. We don’t think this is available without booking through a tour guide but it was a great experience if you get the chance.
Gong Thar Phaung Village – This is one you definitely shouldn’t miss! Surrounded by paddy fields lives a community that follow a different type of Buddhism. They have no electricity, eat no meat (surviving on only the vegetables they grow in their fields) and have certain clothing to identify the people of their village. Most importantly they worship no ‘god’ but a man that has dedicated his whole life to living in the jungle.
Saddan Cave – An amazing naturally formed cave full of history and religious stories behind the rock formations. The best part has to be the river taxi taking you back round to the entrance of the cave – an eerie but fascinating place.
We absolutely loved our tour of these southern parts of Myanmar and it gave us a great feel for the culture behind the country. So if you have time it’s well worth adding these two states to your route!