800 Virgin Islands of Myanmar
My very first impression on this particular city has to be of its people and their immaculate hospitality. Throughout my time there, they were exceptionally kind and helpful to me that I started to feel as if I am a part of their family or even a local of the town at some point. Aside from people, there are various types of activities and attractions that you should never miss out on.
The waterfall I visited, which is located 24 miles over the airport, has a vibe that calls out people to come and enjoy a day of picnic with fresh water swimming for soothing your weary souls. The trip there can be a bit bumpy, so if you seek comforts, a car ride is a wise option. However, if you want to make an adventure out of the trip, you should try to find a tuk tuk, which often take an hour ride. The entrance fees only cost 700 Kyats for locals and 50 Baht for foreigners.
You will be tempted by the presence of a hot spring nearby, but it will not go will with the type of comforts that you might seek. Hot springs are usually very enjoyable in cold weathers, and since the place had a crispy humid atmosphere when I went, I did not enjoy it at all. As most people did, I just dipped my toes in the warm water.
Please refrain from going to beaches in Kaw Thaung if you are not fine with making a long bumpy trip. Since the conditions of the infrastructures are horrid, at some point, it is not worth the trip anymore.
Bayint Naung Point and Bayint Naung Hill are a must visit sunset spots. I would advise to go to the spot where the statues lies, since it faces the surreal vermilion dusk painted on the canvas of the ocean.
Restaurants in Kawthaung
I was quite unimpressed by the culinary and restaurants scene of the town. There were only two restaurants that caught my attention: Mingalar Café and Shwe Hnin Si Restaurants. Mingalar Café has killer view since it is on top of a hill. The food is not exceptionally good but the creative decorations, the soothing background music, and the amazing view compensate well. Shwe Hnin is located just beside the Victoria Cliff Hotel.
Hotels and accommodations
The tourism industry is not as flourishing as it should be in Kawthaung, and there are only a handful of tour agencies. Even with the hotels, it is very hard to spot a random one on the street. But I would say you can find cheap and decent alternatives in Kawthaung as well as luxurious hotels. Among three moderate hotels that I stayed (Garden Hotel, Honey Bear Hotel, and Penguin Hotel), Garden Hotel is probably a wise choice since it is relatively closer to the airport and has better breakfast. Vitoria Cliff Resort and Grand Andaman Resorts are, of course, of better in quality and higher in rates. Among those two, according to my visits, Victoria Cliff seemed a bit understaffed and the available ones are less skilled than those of Grand Andaman, although, the view of the place is exceptionally astonishing. Grand Andaman has extraordinarily attentive staffs, and the place has more accommodations than you might require. They have Casino, Cheap Buffet, Hair Dresser, ATV, Zipline; you name it! Now if you can spend more, Myanmar Andaman Resort is always a good option. You can have the white sand beach all to yourself there, and it includes various other facilities.
If you want the best of the best of the best diving spots, you would have to take a trip with a liveaboard boat quite a few miles from Kawthaung. There is a famous bank called “Burma Bank” , where you can even swim with the sharks. Usually there is silver tip shark, white tip shark, and the black tip shark (the scariest one). If you take certain caution or if you do not harass them, these sharks will pretty much be harmless.
Snorkeling and Exploring
I visited Horseshoes Island and Zedatgyi Island for snorkeling, but Horseshoes Island was less of an experience than the one I anticipated. The underwater sceneries there are rather ordinary comparing to the one in Phuket. However, in accordance with the conversation I had with a passenger, there is a chance that I visited the time of the year when there are less aquatic life activities than the other times. The best thing I explored at Zedatgyi has to be the underwater coral garden, which is basically a collective set of corals, which shaped like flowers. This, however, made my trip there worth it since you cannot possible find this rare of an aquatic scene even in any of the Southeast Asia countries.
I would highly recommend visiting Cock Comb Island, which has a heart shaped lagoon in the island, where you can explore when the tide is low. Due to the enigmatic and unpredictable vibe that the cave gives out, people usually come to the island to explore around the cave in search of a thrill. Steering clear of days around the Full moon and high tides is always a wise option. The rise of water level may fill up the cave and there is a good chance that you might hit your head with the top of the cave due to the strong waves. For the same reason, the whole group that I was in refrained from going in as it was very dangerous and unsafe for us to do so.
Island Hopping trips are a must since you get to explore various islands with the finest sand. I would strongly advise you not to squander the privilege of staying on an island for the night. Take the chances and try to embrace the white sand beach, the sea breeze, and the millions of stars that are visible from the beach. My whole experience there reminds me of Leonado Dicaprio’s film “The Beach”, where people in the film would come out to a beautiful island to exclude themselves from the world of chaos and troubles. There are a few available islands that you can choose to stay.
The camping site owned by the Grand Andaman Resort on Satan Island would be the closest camp you can choose. However, if you fancy yourself a trip out in the distance, I would suggest Nyaung Oo Phee Island, which is quite far from the land and has better facilities. Lumpi Marine Park is also an option but you would have to take a trip to a village called Aung Ba, which is 2 hours away from Kawthaung and an hour away from the park.
Renting Boats for the Day Trips
With its limited amount of tour agencies, if you want to catch daily tours, there is only one out of nine travel agencies, which offers daily tours due to the crowd they get from Thailand. Some other agencies only depart if the amount of tourists exceeds their anticipated limit. However, you can always rent charter boats for daytrips if it is only for snorkeling or diving.
The Cock Comb Island tour I took (in fact all the tours) starts at 9 am. At first, we went to Tha Htay Island, where we had our breakfast and debriefing of the trip. There were also tourists from Ranong, Thailand joining us as well. The trip started with visiting four islands that are relatively nearby. We had our lunch break and restroom break on Satan Island. There are multiple activities you can do at these islands: swimming and enjoying the beach, chatting in the sand under the shades of coconut trees, and going waterfall hunting on the island. We ended our tour with washing up and buffet dinner at Grand Andaman Resort. You will get the swimming pool, shower, sauna, and other facilities, but it will be crowded with the Thai Tourists. The buffet was wildly mediocre as well.
On the most basic level, aside from Zedatgyi and the excellent tour guide we had, most parts of the tour service provided are not as memorable as it should be.
Cost of transportation in towns
Commuting in both of the towns can be relatively easy because there are a lot of bikes and car taxis. At most, the car taxi costs around 10,000 Kyats and the bike cost 3000 kyats from the airport to the town in Kawthaung. Going around Myeik only costed me 5000 kyats for a half day, but Kawthaung had me spending over 25000 Kyats since the waterfall that I wanted to go is relatively far from the town. Ideally for Tuk Tuks, the cost should not be much more 50,000 Kyats or less than 30,000 Kyats.
Accommodations and other expenses
Staying at Honey Bear costed me over 25000 Kyats per night, which, in my opinion, was not worth as much as staying at Garden Hotel, which costed around 30000-35000 kyats with better experience. Foreigner tourists might have to pay more if it is in dollar (no more than 30-50 USD). Of course, fancier places such as Victoria Cliff and Grand Andaman Resort will cost you double the price. The flights from Yangon to Myeik and Myeik to Kawthaung costed me 110000 kyats and 38000 Kyats respectively. However, the airfare for Yangon to Kawthaung direct flight is also around 110000 kyats at lowest for the local.
Crossing the border to get to Ranong is also an option; however, there would not be much difference in terms of attractions. Kawthaung already has the hot springs and waterfalls, so it would be redundant for me to do so.
If you want a toured trip, you can either choose to book from Yangon or there since it does not make much of a difference. Chartered boat trips can be much more exciting but the optimal amount of people you would need is around 10 to 15 people. You have more freedom to explore as much as you want this way, and of course, you would have to pay more.
1) It is always wise to check where your hotel can provide the commute to and fro the airport
2) You can definitely use Baht currency in Kawthaung for most payment
3) Kawthaung is not for exceptional culinary experts and foodies
4) Bring a camera that is waterproof or get the plastic bag from Yangon for your phone.
5) For those who can, you will not regret staying one night at the island.
6) There is absolutely no night life there
7) Booking the hotels and airplane in advance during holiday season is always a wise choice.