This article provides practical information to visit Mawlamyine, Hpa-an and Kyaktiyo (Golden Rock) in Myanmar. You’ll find how to get from one place to the other, accommodations, activities in each town, how long it takes to get there and how much it costs.
Our Burmese adventure was coming to an end. We were in Yangon, waiting for our Indian visa with five days to spare.
We decided to escape the ancient capital for a few days to visit the world’s largest reclining Buddha, the charming town of Hpa-an and its caves and finally the Golden Rock of Kyaiktiyo.
A dormant town which you come to appreciate. There is not much to do within Mawlamyine, a day to visit it will suffice if you are in a rush. The main attraction is the largest laying Buddha less than a half-hour from Mawlamyine.
Where to Stay – Hotels in Mawlamyine
Aurora Hotel – $20 for a double room with air-conditioning, en suite bathrooms, no hot water, no WiFi. Clean and comfortable room with TV, desk and mini fridge. Though there are power outages.
Sandalwood Hotel – across the street from the Aurora hotel, Sandalwood offers rooms for $16 and has free WiFi – which they let us use for free in the lobby. It seemed like a newly developed/built hotel.
Breeze Guesthouse – the guesthouse is facing the water and is the most renowned hotel for backpackers. We visited the cheapest rooms on the bottom floor – they were quite awful and the prices high, which made us decide against this hotel.
Activities – What To Do in Mawlamyine
Mawlamyine is a quiet and small town. It is nice to just stroll in the city and enjoy its quietness.
Santawshin Pagoda – we did not get to visit but there’s apparently a beautiful panoramic view from this pagoda set on the hills.
Win Sein Taw Ya – took a bus from the market in Mawlamyine to the actual bus station. From the bus station, we hopped onto another bus to the largest reclining Buddha in the world – cost per person: 1,000 Kyats (USD $1).
From Win Sein Taw Ya, we took a bus back to Mawlamyine bus station for 500 Kyats each and had to get a tuk tuk to get back to Aurora Hotel costing 1,500 Kyats total (USD $1.50).
Therefore getting a ticket to Win Sein Taw Ya directly at the Mawlamyine market should be cheaper than buying it from the bus station.
Right next to the Aurora Hotel, there is a coffee shop where local men gather in the early morning for coffee, chats, listen to the radio or enjoy fried snacks and chinese bao – one of our preferred activity in Mawlamyine, hanging out here and people watch. We really enjoyed the ambiance (I was also probably one of the few females at the cafe).
How To Get to Mawlamyine
From Yangon, buses depart at 7pm and reach Mawlamyine bus station around 4-5am. You’ll need a tuk tuk to take you to your guesthouse (cost: 2,000 Kyats – USD $2).
From Mawlamyine to Hpa-an:
by boat: to be scheduled with Breeze Guesthouse, the boat does not run every day. Ride is about 3 hours.
by bus: From Mawlamyine, request a tuk-tuk to take you to the bus station for Hpa-an. Buses depart every half hour, take 2-2:30 hours and cost 1,000 Kyats per person (USD $1). If you arrive in Hpa-an in the afternoon, you’ll be dropped off 4kms from the town, which will require a tuktuk or motorcycle to reach the town center. Before noon, you’ll be dropped off right by the clock tower, close to the guesthouses.
One of my favorite destinations in Myanmar! I was lucky to celebrate my birthday in Hpa-an with a lovely group of people met the same day while doing a day tour of Hpa-an with the Soe Brothers.
Where to Stay in Hpa-an – Hotels in Hpa-an
Soe Brothers: $12 for a double room with a fan, shared bath. Nothing fancy but clean and meets the needs for a one-day stay. Free WiFi.
Silver Pavillion – $25 for a very large double room, A/C, en suite bath, desk, fridge and clothes rack. Wifi when there is no power outages, or when you ask the owner to reboot the router. Breakfast included on the roof which has a really nice views over the hills of Hpa-an.
Activities – What To Do in Hpa-an
Soe Brothers guesthouse organizes really good day tours to see all the activities in the area: caves, temples, swimming spot. The more people on the tour, the less you have to pay for transportation. Max is 8 people, 5,000 Kyats per person (USD $5). We ended up being 10 people on our tour, which cost the same. The 5,000 kyats do not cover the entrance fees, which were less than 500 Kyats total per person (USD $0.50). Highly recommend them. You can book a tour with them even if you are not staying in their guesthouse.
How to Get to Hpa-an to Kyaktiyo:
From Hpa-an to Kyaktiyo: 5,000 Kyats per person (USD $5). We left Hpa-an in the morning for an afternoon arrival in Kyaktiyo.
Kyaiktiyo, the Golden Rock
The Golden Rock, a boulder which hangs off the edge of a cliff, supposedly with the help of one of Buddha’s locks. An incredible and one of Myanmar’s most important religious site well worth the journey.
Accommodations – Hotels in Kyaiktiyo: The hotel we stayed at was yet to be established, there was no name, or at least no English name and it is located after the no-shoe zone:
We were lucky to find it since the last truck going down the mountain had already gone and we were considering trekking down in the dark (a 2-3hrs trek – probably not a good idea). This hotel is very basic, but we got a double room with private bath for 25,000 Kyats (USD $25), much cheaper than any other accommodation around which ranged from USD $50 to >$100 per room. No WiFi and we did not try the shower.
The temperature can drop considerably at night so don’t forget to bring jackets/ long pants/scarves to keep warm.
The view of the Golden rock is amazing and definitely worth an overnight on top, or waiting until the last Jeep of the day makes its way down. The entrance fee for the Golden Rock is 6,000 Kyats per person (USD $6).
Transportation – How to Get to Kyaiktiyo
Once you made it to Kyaiktiyo, there is another ride waiting for you to get up to the Golden Rock! The trucks going up Kyaiktiyo costs 2,500 Kyats per person (USD $2.50) and don’t leave until the very last seat is taken.
Note about the ride up (as memorable as the site itself): the trucks are old, seats are benches for 6 people in the back of the truck. You can pay extra to sit in the front with the driver (though you have to get there early to secure the seats), the ride is steep and rough, almost like a roller coaster. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the top and there are no seatbelts. It is possible to get a private truck so it doesn’t get too packed but the cost is high.
We got there around 3pm and did not go up until 5:30pm (which explains why we had to spend the night up there). Because it was almost sunset, the truck left with a couple of empty seats but we heard that during the day, the truck is packed to its maximum capacity (and in Asia, that means you’ll be squashed like sardines). There are multiple food joints around the station and many hotels too if you are looking for a place to stay on your way down from the Golden Rock.
Our plan was originally to go up quickly to see the Rock and come down right after but due to or thanks to our timing, we were able to witness the Golden Rock at sunset and sunrise : well worth it.
From Kyaktiyo to Yangon
by bus: a 5-hr ride costing about 8,000Kyats (USD $8).
by train: about a 4-hr ride (expect delays) and cost between 1,000 to 3,000 Kyats (depending on seats and train class).
from Hpa-an: we took a first bus towards Yangon and switched halfway to another bus heading towards Kyaiktiyo. Cost is 5,000 Kyats (USD $5) for a 4-hr ride.
Did you visit these three towns? What activities did you do there? Where else did you go in Myanmar? Share your travel adventures with us!