To the east of Yangon, the narrow strip of southern Myanmar descends sinuously along the border with Thailand and on to the Malay Peninsula.

GOLDEN ROCK

Like many of the sacred sites in Myanmar, supernatural legends surround the presence of this gilt boulder, said to be balanced of one of the many Buddha’s hairs which proliferate the temples and folklore of Myanmar.

Golden Rock, Southern Myanmar
   
The third most important of the country’s pilgrimage sites, the Golden Rock is 7.6 metres (25 feet) high and sits overhanging the edge of a cliff and is topped with the small Kyaiktiyo pagoda, whose stupa extends a further 7.3 metres (24 feet). Highly photogenic, especially at dawn and dusk, the golden rock is an excellent viewpoint over the landscape and a good place to observe the practices of Buddhist pilgrimage. 

If you enjoy unusual architecture, a detour on the southward route to Mawlamyine will bring you to Hpa An and the Kyauk Kalap Pagoda, sitting atop a shapely rocky outcrop. Though Hpa An itself has little to offer, the surrounding countryside, caves and mountains make for good trekking.

Kyauk Kalat, Southern Myanmar

MAWLAMYINE

Formerly known by the British as Moulmein, this city was the colonial capital between 1826 and 1852 and is the true inspiration of Kipling’s poem, Mandalay, as cited in its first line (‘By the old Moulmein Pagoda lookin’ lazy at the sea'), believed to refer the pagoda of Kyaikthanlan Paya.

Another British Author, George Orwell also wrote his perceptive classic ‘Shooting an Elephant’ based on his experiences here. The city still retains much of its colonial heritage at its old centre, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Baptist church and the waterfront Mansions.

To the south of the city, a modern reclining Buddha at Win Sein Taw Wa maintains continuity with ancient traditions in its 170 metre (560 feet) monumental form, one of many hundreds of structures that inhabit this little visited landscape.

Mawlamyine, Souhern Myanmar

Further south, at Thanbyuzayat, the war cemetery houses the graves of British, American, Dutch and Australian soldiers, and commemorates the westernmost terminus of the notorious Burma-Siam ‘Death Railway’.

MYEIK ARCHIPELAGO

The main attraction of southern Myanmar is the Myeik archipelago, also often referred to by its colonial name of Mergui Archipelago, a fabulous collection of 804 largely undeveloped and uninhabited islands, resplendent with countless fine white sand beaches and crystalline sea.

Nyang Oo Phee, Mergui archipelago, Southern Myanmar

Previously only accessible for divers by liveaboard boats from west coast resorts in Thailand, this unique archipelago will inevitably become a much sought after paradise beach haven of the future and represents huge tourism potential for the country.

Horseshoe Island, Mergui Archipelago, Southern Myanmar

Nowadays, it is possible to travel by boat from Dawei and also Kawthaung, close to the Thai border crossing point. As of now only one true resort exists on Kho Yinn Khwa Kyun (Macleod Island), with development already underway for others.

Lord Loughborough Island beach, Mergui archipelago, Myanmar

LUXURY YACHTING

Accessible from several Myanmar airports, Kawthang is the point from which a fleet of fine yacht and catamarans set sail in luxury and style to explore the archipelago. As the accommodation is in a refined and spacious cabin on board, and not restricted by the lack of tourist development on the islands, this is the most satisfying way to get around at present.

Standard cruises of six days are a regular feature, but wholly private charters can also accommodate tailored durations, and add touches such as a personal chef, masseur, and professional photographer.

These classically sleek vessels offer a first class relaxed experience and the opportunity to explore this marine treasure in depth, and can include a visit to enjoy the company of the amazing Moken sea gypsies and learn about their fascinating lives.

 

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