South Eastern Myanmar
Often under shadowed by its big sister cities Yangon and Mandalay, Mawlamyaing has some unique qualities of its own to appreciate. The city's legacy as the first British administration capital can be relished through its deteriorating colonial buildings and Setse beach, a vacation hotspot since the 19th century. Visitors often head to Win Sein Yaw to experience the largest reclining Buddha in the country. This 600 feet giant is found amidst mountain and lush, green fields. You can inspect a museum complete with dioramas of Buddha's teaching within it. For a more solemn look at its past, you can remember the fallen at the Thanbyuzayat war memorial where the graves of 3,770 allied soldiers who died under the inhumane conditions during the construction of the 'death railway' lie.
Hpa An is the quiet capital of Kayin State with a rather small town feel. The main attractions here are found in the outskirts of town where its natural beauty have captivated tourists. Kawgun Cave is one such attraction, located in its remote hills. It houses the rich gallery of ancient Buddhist art dating back to the 7th century engraved on its limestone rock. From there, you can head to Mount ZweKabin, one of the most revered mountains in the country where a pagoda sits atop. It is a 2 hour hike up, but a cable car is also available. The mountain also houses caverns where special surprises await for its curious visitors, such as a vast collection of identical Buddha statues hidden within one of its caves.
Dawei is growing tropical, seaside town with a reputation for being the economic hub in Thanintharyi Division's coastal region. The locals here make a living by fishing and exporting all types of sea life such as lobsters, jellyfish, and prawn. This goes without saying, the restaurants here serve up some of the most delicious and authentic seafood in the country. Unlike the commercial beaches elsewhere, the seaside village of Maungamon enjoys a calm stretch of white sand, yet to be disturbed by the modern world. Just 10 miles from the city, this beach is home to a community of fishermen who journey into the sea daily with old-fashioned, wooden boats.
Kawthaung, being the southernmost town in Myanmar and an entry point to the country, has busy waterfronts with boats coming and going day in and day out. It is from this town you can have access to other stunning 800 untouched virgin islands located within an hour from its busy port. Nowadays, you can charter boats to Myeik Archipelago for diving and other sea activities, as well as to Ranong, Thailand or to Adaman Club Resort on Thahtay Kyun Island to try your luck in its renowned casino.
The Maliwan waterfall, 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.
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. Bayint Naung Point and Bayint Naung Hill are a must visit sunset spots, especially the spot where the statues lies, since it faces the surreal vermilion dusk painted on the canvas of the ocean.
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 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 as well as whale shark. If you take certain caution or if you do not harass them, these sharks will pretty much be harmless.
Snorkeling and Exploring
Horseshoes Island and Zedatgyi Island are quite known for snorkeling, but Horseshoes Island was less of an experience than Zedatgyi. The best thing is that Zedatgyi has the underwater coral garden, which is basically a collective set of corals, which shaped like flowers. Zedatgyi will make your trip there worth it since you cannot possible find this rare of an aquatic scene even in any of the Southeast Asia countries.
Visiting Cock Comb Island, which has a heart shaped lagoon in the island, is highly recommended too 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.
Island Hopping trips are a must since you get to explore various islands with the finest sand. It is strongly recommended 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. The whole experience there reminds you 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, Nyaung Oo Phee Island, is an option which is quite far from the land and has better facilities. Lumpi Marine Park is also a good choice 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. All 800 islands are considered virgin islands however, if you are in the mood for adventure with an intention to look out for sea gypsies, Lumpi would offer the beauty of nature at its best.
Renting Boats for the Day Trips
With its limited amount of tour agencies, if you want to catch daily tours, there is only one regular daily tours due to the crowd they get from Thailand. Some boats to other destinations such as Lumpi Marine Park and Nyaung Oo Phee Island only depart if the amount of tourists exceeds their anticipated limit. However, you can always rent charter boats for day trips if it is only for snorkelling or diving. 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. The tour usually ends with washing up and buffet dinner at a resort with which you will get the swimming pool, shower, sauna, and other facilities.
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.