Tours of the Kawthaung town mostly include visits to its surroundings, such as Myeik (Merqui) Archipelago, or Andaman Club Resort & Hotel, spreading over the entire Thahtay Khyun Island (MacLeod Island). Within the city itself, there are few sights to see, but walking through downtown, the Kawthaung Pier, or up the nearby Victoria Cliff, or visiting the Third Mile Temple and Myo Ma Market near the checkpoint of the same name and Bayint Naung Point, where the statue of King Bayint Naung is located, are a full-day, or two days, tours by themselves. Some of the tours around Kawthaung include visit the local Moken people, better known as “sea gypsies”, or island safari on some of the islands of the Merqui Archipelago. Increasingly popular is the day tour to the nearby city of Myeik and its surroundings, including the Thein Daw Gyi Pagoda.
The Third Mile Temple (Pyi Daw Aye Pagoda)- located on a hill, most frequently called the Kawthaung Hill by tourists, this is actually an assemblage of small temples, with the biggest one standing at the very top of the hill. The main temple is called the Third Mile Temple, for being 3 miles away from the town, and hosts the biggest stupa and Buddha Statue in Kawthaung. This temple contains a main stupa that is gilded with an octagonal base with seated Buddhas. On the highest level, the Buddha sits on a lotus flower, protected by the Naga or serpent god. Outside of the main temple, there are seven Buddha Statues, one for each day of the week.
Kawthaung Port- this is where the life happens in Kawthaung. From early morning, fishermen from local villages, as well as other traders selling cigarettes, drinks and other commodities at suspiciously low prices (probably something to do with the proximity of the Thai border) bargain with both local and foreign buyers. This place is called the Myo Ma Market, although it is pretty hard to determine where the pier ends, and the Market starts. There is probably no border at all.
The Bayint Naung Point- everything in Kawthaung seems to be wearing the name of the famous Burmese king, Bayint Naung. He is a highly respected ruler, due to his struggle to keep the Burmese free from the Thai occupation. The point offers a great view of the town, and there are beer stations and restaurants along the way, so the trip shouldn’t be very exhausting. Near to the point is the Bayint Nanung Monument Square, featuring a park and a statue of the same name.
Tours around Kawthaung
Much more popular are the tours around the town of Kawthaung. From visits to the Myeik Archipelago’s undiscovered islands, island safaris, waterfalls, local fishing villages, to pagodas and bridges around town, there is a little something for everyone’s taste.
Palautonetone Island Tour- just a few kilometers north of Kawthaung, there are an island, a village and a bridge wearing the same name- Palautonetone. The bridge is what connects the island to the mainland and is the longest teak wood bridge in the world. After getting off the bridge, the village is nested only a kilometer or so into the mangroves. This is a picturesque village where fishing is the only job, activity and source of income. It is also a pretty large village, with its own tea-house, beer stations and seafood restaurants. They are located mostly on the north side of the island, on the beach which is still litter-free and unspoiled by tourists. It is one of the best places just outside the town of Kawthaung for some diving and swimming, since the water is very clear and warm.
Maliwun Waterfalls Tour- besides visiting the two-part waterfalls 16km north of the city, this tour also includes a visit to the nearby hot springs, where water temperature reaches up to 60 degrees Celsius, and the famous Palu Village Bridge, 4 km north of the city, and stopping along the way to see the process of obtaining rubber from the palm trees. Visitors are allowed to participate in the rubber-making process, done traditionally for centuries here, and to drink homemade toddy, called htan ye. After this, the tour returns to the city.
Myeik City and Thein Daw Gyi Pagoda Tour- Myeik city is lot bigger and more vibrant than Kawthaung, and located not far to the north. Taking a boat ride from Kawthaung is a must for those willing to see this busy and lively city, or the nearby Myeik Archipelago. Though the Archipelago is far more attractive, the city of Myeik also has a lot to offer, especially squeezed in a day-trip or tour from Kawthaung or other nearby city, Dawei. Upon arrival by boat, visitors are dropped off at the Strand Road (Kanna Lan in Burmese). This strand is particularly busy and vibrant during early mornings, when fishermen sell their catch on the local market, and in the evenings, when the night market is the center of activities in Myeik. In the center of the city, on a small hill, the most famous landmark of Myeik is located; the Thein Daw Gyi Pagoda. This is the biggest pagoda in the Myeik City. The tour continues along the Bogyoke Road as far as Mingalar Lake, 20 minutes from the city. This tour can be either a day, or two-day event, depending how one arranges it, and on where the tour starts from Kawthaung. Return is usually done by the same boat the tour arrived by, but can be otherwise arranged.
Myeik (Merqui) Archipelago Tour
This is not actually a tour, but more of a set of tours around the archipelago of virtually untouched islands. Only 30-something islands, out of 850 plus, are inhabited on the archipelago. The most booked tours include diving, island safari, sailing, tour with the local “sea gypsies”, etc. To preserve it intact and breathtaking as it is, the Burmese government requests a special permit which is paid separately and can only be given through tourist agencies. The whole process lasts about a month, so have this in mind. Some of the most visited islands and tours are:
Pataw Padet Kyun Island Tour- this island the closest island to Myeik, sitting 500 meters across the water. A fishing boat charter, which will allows to circumnavigate the island and visit the Reclining Buddha, hilltop pagoda and monastery at its southern end, costs around MMK25,000 (around $20). The large reclining Buddha is made interesting by virtue of being hollow, with hundreds of small, pink Buddhas lining its interior. The hilltop pagoda, which can be reached through the monastery located just north of the Buddha, offers panoramic views of Myeik across the water and the islands further out to sea.
Myanmar Mergui Islands Safari Day Tour- there are several tours offering sea island safari around the islands of the Merqui Archipelago. One of the most popular tours includes 5 days with the local Moken people. The “sea gypsies” are very friendly, they allow tourists to watch them and even participate in their everyday activities. Every island has sunny beaches with fine, white sand, clear, clean water and virtually no visitors.
Kadan (King), Kala, Marcus, Natthamee Yae (Drakes) Islands’ Tour- this islands are all within a few hours of Myeik by boat and tours include English language guides and full safety equipment. Day trip prices range between US$120-$150 per person. Activities here include diving, and visiting the Moken people, now world famous tribe known for deep diving with no extra equipment. Even children of the tribe are so well adapted that they can go 10 plus meters under water and keep a perfect vision. Some tours include diving with them, with equipment, of course.
Maung Ma Kan Island Group Tour- these Islands are not part of the Mergui restricted area and are openly accessible. Access can be arranged by bargaining with a squid boat owner. It takes a little over two hours to access the Islands from Maungmagan Beach. The islands are covered in jungle and for the most part have a rocky coastline with a number of small sandy beaches on the south eastern side. There is no accommodation or food available on the islands so only daytrips are available.
Marcus and Dome Islands’ Tours- these two islands are located some two hours away from the city of Myeik. Kala offers plenty of mangroves to navigate through and a variety of birdlife whereas Kadan has settlements where you can observe the fishermen’s catch and see them netting jelly fish. There are also some small beaches at the far north of Kadan Island. The price depends, again, on a deal with the boat captain.
Mac Leod Island Tours- this island is locally known as the Thahtay (Thah Tay)Kyun Island, and hosts the only accommodation in the entire archipelago- the Andaman Club Hotel & Resort. This 5-star resort is described in details in the accommodation article on our site. Spreading throughout the entire island, the resort offers various tours, from diving to visiting nearby islands. The Eco lodge is based in a large bay in the south of the island. The lodge provides a variety of water based activities. In addition walking tracks are formed on the island and it is possible to hike to the top of the hills behind the bay. The island is also famous for providing spectacular views of the surrounding islands and mainland coastline. Guests staying at the Resort are also privileged by a pool access, diving and snorkeling classes, and many more additional amenities.
Lampi Island (Lanbi Kyun) Tour- its immense natural beauty, as well as a great wildlife population of barking deer, flying lima, flying foxes, hornbills, leatherback turtles, pythons, and two elephants, and the fact that this is a living round of the “sea gypsies”, this island is named a Natural Reservation. Safari is the most popular activity on the Island, but other activities include fishing with the local Moken people, diving, kayaking, island exploring, etc.
Red Monkey Island Tour- this island is famous for hosting a big population of flying foxes, or fruit bats. These mammals live in the tree tops and are a great attraction to see at night, when they gather and leave for the hunt. Local tour companies as well as the Andaman Club offer kayaking and snorkeling ventures to the Island. The island is one of a very few located south of the Kawthaung town, some 40 minutes by boat.
Cocks Comb Island Tour- this island is well-known for its beauty and unusual shape; seen from above, the island looks like a heart-shaped pool. It is located 2 hours by boat south from Kawthaung, and will undoubtedly become one of the most visited islands in the Myeik Archipelago, as it opens up for tourists.
Island 115 Tour- an island with no name, actually. It will surely acquire one very soon, since its beautiful beaches offer great shallow snorkeling, kayaking, diving and other opportunities.
These are only a few of the islands of the Myeik (Merqui) Archipelago, those that have been explored enough to be able to organize tours on, but the other 800 plus islands are certainly equally, or perhaps even more, exotic and beautiful. Our advice is to book a tour or two while they are still unexplored and enjoy the best a nature still has to offer at one of the last unspoiled places on Earth.