Upper Myanmar’s Historical Capitals Bagan, Mandalay, Sagaing-Inwa & Shwebo

Highlights

This drive goes on a circular historical tour through upper Myanmar, visiting Bagan and Mandalay, the first and last of the nation’s old royal capitals.

It goes to Mount Popa, a home for Nat spirits on the slopes of a 1500m caldera, and the university city of

Monywa on the Chindwin River before continuing to Halin, the northernmost of the UNESCO Pyu Ancient Cities that mark the beginning of the Myanmar era of historical record.

A visit to Shwebo, the first capital of the Konbaung Dynasty is optional before the return to Mandalay and the old capitals of Sagaing, Inwa and Amarapura.

About this Guide

This guide is designed to make self-drive touring in Myanmar easier and must be used together with an online navigation application—we recommend Google Maps®. This guide uses Google Maps® spelling conventions for place names and distances, but actual distances from those shown in this guide may vary (±) by 2.5kms depending on starting point.

Tip: Google Maps is not always as up-to-date as their satellite imagery. Revert to the satellite view for road networks when such is missing from maps.

Use printed or online media (such as Lonely Planet’s Myanmar guide or Travelfish.org) for detailed information. This guide lists sights and a few suggestions for restaurants and upscale (USD75+) and mid-range hotels (USD30–60+) in “overnight” paragraphs.


Before You Arrive & Drive

Valid Driver’s License

To legally drive in Mynmar, you must have a valid international driver’s permit or ASEAN driver’s license.

Smart Phone and Navigation Application

Your smart phone should be preloaded with Google Maps® or other navigation applications.

Myanmar Sim Card

Getting a Myanmar sim card on arrival (essential for Google Maps®) is recommended—wifi in mid-range hotels is often inoperable. MPT coverage is good.

Removable Device Holder

Bring a detachable holder suitable to attach your device to the windscreen or dashboard for driver’s ease of vision and minimal distraction from the road.


Contents/Planning Your Drive

Average journey speeds are often far less than 50 kph—do not plan on more than 200–250kms/day to ensure arrival at destination before dark!

Page
Section 1 : Mandalay Int. Airport – Mandalay City & overnight; Around Mandalay – Amarapura, Inwa 3
Section 2 : Mandalay – Bagan; Bagan & overnight; Around Bagan – Mt. Popa & Sa Lay. 4
Section 3: Bagan – Monywa; Around Monywa - Bodhi Tataung, A Myint, Hpo Win Daung 8
Section 4: Monywa – Halin/Shwebo – Sagaing & overnight 9

Distances ( ± 2.5 kms) between main destinations:

Mandalay City – Old Bagan: ± 183 kms
Old Bagan – Monywa: ± 153 kms
Monywa – Sagaing via Halin/Shwebo ±200/248 kms
Monywa – Sagaing /Mandalay City ±112/132 kms

Suggested One Week Itinerary (7 Days, 6 Nights):

Day 1: Mandalay – Bagan via Inwa & Myingyan,
Day 2 & 3: Bagan
Day 4: Bagan – Mt. Popa
Day 5: Mt. Popa/Bagan – Monywa
Day 6: Monywa – Sagaing/Mandalay via Halin
Day 7: Sagaing – Mandalay/Airport

Driving in Myanmar

All Yoma Fleet rental vehicles are left-hand drive (right -hand gear shift) for driving on the right in Myanmar.

Traffic Speeds are relatively slow. Myanmar drivers are usually polite and often give way, especially outside of major cities like Yangon and Mandalay.

Due to old policy, more than 80 percent of vehicles are right-hand drive vehicles. This may contribute to uncertainty and greater caution. Approach intersections and circles cautiously and you will get through.

Lane discipline approaching intersections is strict. Drivers do not enter empty left-turn lanes and then cut back in—they may pass on the inside (right side)!

Sealed main roads are generally good, but beware of uneven surfaces and abrupt gradient changes—do not drive faster than the speed limit of 100 kph! Narrow one-lane provincial highways require extra care; drivers must slow and put offside wheels on the unsealed hard shoulder to pass oncoming traffic!

Tolls are common on Myanmar’s roads and usually vary from MMK 200–900+. Keep plenty of small notes of Myanmar currency to hand in your vehicle.

Night Driving should be avoided since unlit vehicles and other hazards raise the accident risk factor.

Gas Stations: Please only top up your tank at new gas stations near large towns. These are less likely to serve contaminated fuel from old storage tanks that can lead to a breakdown of your vehicle!

Hotline - 09 966235338 (09 YOMAFLEET)
Contact: aung@yomafleet.com
Further information: yomacarshare.com

Section 1 Mandalay Int. Airport – Mandalay (± 39 kms)

From the airport, follow the toll-free extension of the Yangon–Mandalay Expressway north directly into the City. To visit Inwa (Ava), Sagaing (section 4) or Amarapura en route, fork left (north) at the second traffic circle (see “Around Mandalay” below).


Mandalay City


King Mindon founded “Shwemyo”, his golden capital in 1857, creating Mandalay’s simple grid of roads. Getting around this city of more than 1.2 million people (40–50 percent of whom are Chinese mainly from Yunnan) feels relatively easy.

The last of the royal capitals in the cultural heartland of the Bamar (Mranma) people, Mandalay contains some of the nation’s most significant Buddhist sites as well as the Myanansankyaw, the 1990’s replica of Mindon’s golden palace inside the citadel moat. To visit the palace (in the middle of a restricted military cantonment), park outside the east gate and walk in.

The royal palace is conveniently near the Shwenandaw Kyaung monastery northeast of the moat. The richly decorated hall is perhaps the only genuine extant example of a pre-colonial-era royal wooden building in Myanmar. Formerly the bedchamber where King Mindon passed away, its survival is due to his successor, King Thibaw, moving it and, reportedly, Mindon’s ghost with it outside the moats — the palace citadel was heavily bombed in World War Two.

Parking is easy at the Kuthodaw Pagoda just to the north, where the good King Mindon convened the 5th Buddhist Council in 1860 and had the entire text of the Tripitaka inscribed in Myanmar script on 733 upright stones, each sheltered in its own pagoda, and the Pali Commentary on the central pagoda on gold and silver leaves. Thus it is that the largest book in the world is preserved in stone.

Continue to the Kyauktawgyi Paya near the foot of Mandalay Hill to see a 900-ton marble Buddha image dedicated by King Mindon in 1865. Nearby is the start of the covered walkway up Mandalay Hill, which passes several shrines on the way up to Su Taung Pyae Pagoda on top. A one-way toll road up begins next to the U-Khanti Monastery (containing the Peshawar Relics) and goes to a pay car park near the summit before snaking down on the north side and then emerging from the east side of the hill.

A second area of interest in the city is the colorful life of the quays and the market along the river frontage road on the east bank of the Ayeyarwaddy, which is easily reached on 26th Street. Park where convenient and walk, perhaps to enjoy a drink at one of the beer station-type restaurants on the river. This is also the place to take a boat trip across the river to Mingun (see ‘Around Mandalay).

From there, it is relatively simple to go to the Jade Market near the Shwe In Bin Kyaung Monastery—a pay-parking area is located on the west side of the market on the road next the canal. Parking should also not be difficult near the Unison Tea House at the first intersection to the north. The narrower streets in the surrounding area may reward walking more than driving.

If interest in Buddha images and Myanmar’s culture centered on Buddhism is fervent, do not miss the Mahamuni Paya, one of the most revered Buddhist sites in Myanmar. It is to the south of the intersection of BoBaHtoo Road and 82nd Street. Aside from paying respect to the Arakanese image and rubbing (for good luck) the famed 13th century Khmer bronzes, walk around the area to look at the handicrafts, whether carving images from wood or sculpting them from marble (the latter takes place south along the road directly west of the complex).

To see men create gold-leaf by sledge-hammering pure gold wedged between bamboo paper, go to two places open to foreign visitors on 36 between 77 & 79th streets. The Moustache brothers’ house and the Aye Myit Tar Restaurant are not far away.

Overnight in Mandalay

For Myanmar food, the Aye Myit Tar Restaurant stands out for its genuine feel; it attracts more local customers than the good but touristy Green Elephant Restaurant. Mandalay has a good number of restaurants serving Indian, Chinese, Thai and Western foods otherwise.

Upscale hotels are the Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel, The Hotel by the Red Canal and the Sedona Mandalay. Higher end mid-range hotels include the Ayarwaddy River View Hotel, one of few hotels by the river, the Eastern Palace, the Hotel Mandalay, the Mandalay City Hotel and the Noble Mingalar. Less expensive mid-range hotels include the Great Wall Hotel and the Wilson Hotel. Advance booking is advised in the peak season.


Around Mandalay

It is an easy drive east to Patheingyi, from where lanes lead to various sites including a golf course near and in the hills bounding the Shan Plateau to the east. Apart from having higher views, the Buddhist sites are minor.

To got to Amarapura, Sagaing and Inwa south of Mandalay, follow the Shwebo Road (for directions, see Section 2 opposite). For Sagaing, see section 4.

Amarapura (± 10 kms from Mandalay)

A royal capital for 70 years until King Mindon moved it to Mandalay in 1857, the old citadel is just to the north of the Taung Tha Man Lake and consists of an encampment and suburbs. Today, visitors go to the leafy suburb on the west side of the lake, where roads (Kan Pat St. is closed at its southern point) end at a car park and local restaurants and stalls crowding the access path to U-Bein’s (U Pain) iconic teak footbridge. The Soe Moe handicrafts shop and silk shops on Mone Tane St and the Mandalay-Shwebo Road are nearby

Inwa (± 30 kms)

Most visitors to the four times royal capital once known as Ava take horse carts waiting by the former city’s east gate. The carts are best for the narrow, unsealed country lanes through farming land to Ok Kyaung & the Namyin Tower within the moat. Driving along the sealed road outside is practicable to visit the pagodas, the archaeological museum and the Bagaya Kyaung wooden monastery to the west.

Mingun (± 41 kms)

The 22-kilometer road to Mingun from the Koe Pay (9 feet) Bridge in Sagaing becomes a narrow lane winding between pagodas below Sagaing hill but widens to the north. In Mingun, the white Mya Thein Tan Pagoda looks pristine and the Mingun Bell sonorous, but the vast, badly cracked pile of the Mingun Pahtodawgyi and broken chinthe nearby seem apt symbols of a king (Bodawpaya, 1781-1819) unable to properly care for his builders let alone armies or people. Most visitors to the site come across by boat from Mandalay.

Tip: If you find a restaurant you like with an English-Myanmar bilingual menu, photograph it so that you can use it to help you order at restaurants without English menus.

Section 2 Mandalay – Myingyan – Bagan (± 180 kms)

Head for the Mandalay – Myingyan Road at the traffic circle close to the Kainkyi Shan Restaurant near Inwa. Distances and initial directions are via the Mandalay – Shwebo Road.

West of Inwa, the Myingyan road quickly enters a rural landscape of low hills with occasional views over distant landscapes, passing small villages en route.

± 10-11 kms: Amarapura: turn east & follow Maha Gandar Yone Street south to U Pain Bridge.
± 16 kms: Sagaing Bridge junction
The Mandalay – Shwebo road goes northwest under the railway & over the river to Sagaing.
± 16+ kms: Inwa Bridge junction
The old road to Sagaing turns right (northwest) to the road-rail bridge. Turn left (east) and then promptly right (southwest) for Inwa & Myingyan.
± 21kms: Yangon – Mandalay Expressway circle
The road joins the toll-free part of the expressway from Mandalay: continue southwest.
± 24 kms: Myingyan Road circle (Kainkyi Shan R.)
Turn right (northwest) for Inwa and Myingyan/ Bagan. N.B. The BOC gas station is the last before Mandalay Int. Airport.
± 25 kms: Inwa
Turn right (north) for Inwa—4.5 kms to the east gate of the old capital and the waiting area for horse carts (see opposite). The route passes several old pagodas.
± 47 kms: Gway Kone village
± 58 kms: Myotha small town
± 67 kms: Mandalay Myotha Industrial Park
± 103 kms: Highway 2 (Myingyan – Myittha) junction
± 107 kms: Myingyan
Myingyan Township has a population of ±275,000 and is known for its infamous prison (Wikipedia), but stopping for tea at stalls in front of the Sanvadawpyae Pagoda will be more restful. The mid-range Kaung Kaung Hotel in the south part of town offers reasonable comfort.
± 109 kms: Myingyan – Nyaung-U junction
Southwest to Nyaung-U and south to Mt. Popa (± 83 kms) via Thaungtha (± 21 kms)
± 120 kms: Road-rail bridge
Possible traffic delays at a very rough, narrow combined road and rail bridge
± 153 kms: Ayeyarwaddy Bridge junction
Southwest to Nyaung-U or north to Pakokku (see Section 3)
± 168 kms: Junction east of Nyaung-U:
Left (south) to Nyaung-U – Kyaukpadaung Road, Nyaung-U Airport (± 6 kms) & New Bagan (± 14 kms). Continue right for Nyaung-U (± 7 kms).

Tip: Take the Anawrahta Road from Nyaung-U to reach sites in Old Bagan west of the Tharabar Gate, which is closed to all 4-wheel vehicles—consider propitiating the Min Mahagiri Nats associated with the niches by this gate if passing through

Bagan

The heart of the more than 10-kilometer-wide archaeological zone is Old Bagan, which, no less than the huge pagodas, has its own strange recent history. For long a sleepy village amid the greatest concentration of crumbling (especially after the 1975 earthquake) remains in Myanmar, the villagers of Old Bagan were moved in 1990 five kilometers south, eventually to create what is now the large tourist village of New Bagan (NewB).

Gathering pace in the 1990s, meanwhile, the urge to renew resulted in more than 2,000 ancient religious sites being rebuilt or repaired; crumbling piles of brick became relatively scarce.

Replacing the backpacker atmosphere that until 1990 had pervaded Old Bagan (OldB), came high-end government-sponsored resorts built on the best sites along the river, the architecturally curious but worthwhile Bagan Archaeological Museum and the reconstructed Thirizayabhumi Golden Palace. The palace builders attribute the design to King Anawrahta, though history suggests Kyanzittha is likely to have built a larger one.

Bounding the archaeological zone five kilometers to the northwest is the relatively small old market town of Nyaung-U (Ny-U), which over the years has similarly grown with tourism, but in a way that reflects its longer history than New Bagan.

Three main sealed roads trisect the zone between Nyaung-U and New Bagan—unsealed lanes pass

clusters of sites between them. Between Old and New Bagan is the village of Myinkaba (MyinK), which is known for its lacquer wares.

Later Bagan-era sites and (handicraft) villages and the controversial Nan Myint Tower are located near the southernmost of the three roads crossing the plain.


Chronological Itinerary for Bagan Sites

Visiting sites in (approximate!) order in which they were built shows how Bagan architecture evolved.

Though King Pyinpya is credited with first building its walls around CE 849, Bagan’s greatness is attributed to King Anawrahta (1044–1077?), who brought Hinayana Buddhism from the Mon kingdom of Thaton, reputedly “honorably confining” its king Makuta in the Nan Hpaya (MyinK) in the process.

Among the sites attributed to his and his son King Sawlu’s period are the Hindu Nat Hlaung Kyaung (OldB), the Pahto Thamya (OldB), which contains paintings illustrating the Pali Scriptures, the Manuha Paya (MyinK) and the Lawka Nanda (NewB), where boats landed.

Grand temple construction beginning in the reign of Kyanzittha (1084–1113) includes the Shwezigon (Ny-U) and the small compound on its southeast side with figures of the 37 Nats formalized by Anawhrahta (who may also have initiated construction of the Shwezigon), the Ananda Pahto (OldB) and the Apeyadana (MyinK).

Temples built in Alaungsithu’s reign (1113–1165) include the That Bin Nyu (OldB), Shwegu Gyi Phaya (OldB) and the Gu Byauk Gyi (MyinK), which has fine stucco work and is next to the Myazedi Pagoda where the stone inscription that allowed deciphering of the Pyu script stands.

Narathu (1165?–1174) did some vile deeds when he built the Dhammayan Gyi Pagoda in the central plain. Naraptisithu (1174–1211) is credited with the Gawdaw Palin (OldB) and the Sulamani Pahto (central plain) if not his son, Nantaungmya (1211– 1231), who probably built the Maha Bodhi (OldB) and Htilominlo (OldB–Ny-U).

A final site is the Mingalar Zedi (Mingalazedi OldB-MyinK) built by the reputed tyrant Narathihapate (1256–1287), whose work gave rise to the Myanmar expression “The pagoda is finished and the great country ruined.” His son murdered him in 1287, the year the Mongols occupied Bagan.

A longer 200-kilometer circular route that includes the historical village of Sa Lay is possible but would best include an overnight stay in Popa or Sa Lay.

± 3 kms (from Nyaung-U on Kyaukpadaung Rd)
2nd Street intersection: turn east turn for Nyaung-U Airport.
± 5 kms: Myingyan Rd. junction
Bagan bus station & gas station
± 23 kms: Byat Ta Pan Sat Road junction
Turn left (southeast) for Popa.
± 46 kms: Kyaukpadaung – Thaungtha Rd. junction
Turn right (900m west to a sharp left turn for Taung Kalat).
± 49 kms: Mt. Popa (Taung Ma-Gyi) junction
Turn left on the lane to the Popa Mountain Resort (2.4 kms). A small parking area is at the start of the climb to Taung Ma-Gyi (Mt. Popa).

Climbing Mt. Popa (Taung Ma-Gyi, 1518m)

The hike begins at around 800m in elevation from a point near where the road to the Popa Mountain Resort crosses above a stream ± 300m from the resort (you may also park at the resort). An early start is recommended, perhaps after brunch at the restaurant at the Popa Mountain Resort (if on a day-trip from Bagan), which enjoys a view over the Taung Kalat and the plain to the west. The ascent reportedly takes around two hours for a 5–6km hike and 700m change in elevation (take a left after about 10 minutes walking up a dirt trail from the car park). Don’t forget to take enough water!

Tip: travelling with a light change of clothes and a towel is advisable to refresh after any physical exercise. A towel can also cover the car seat and help keep it clean.


± 51 kms: Taung Kalat (657m)
The village at the foot of the volcanic plug is the start point for the stairway passing shrines to the Nats on the way up to the pagoda at the top. The village contains several restaurants and a Nat museum (south past the entrances to the covered stairways). Though all the Nats are represented, the four Nats said to have their home here are the Mahagiri nats, Byatta and Me Wunna. Getting your hotel to organize a loquacious guide to explain it all will doubtless enliven a visit.

Overnight near Mt. Popa

Two upscale resorts near Mt. Popa make an overnight stay appealing, especially if plans include climbing Taung-Ma-Gyi. The Popa Garden Resort (opened 2017) admires the Taung Kalat and Taung Ma-Gyi from below, while the Popa Mountain Resort looks down on the Taung Kalat and the plain beyond. A few other mid-range resorts are in the area.

± 78 kms: Kyaukpadaung intersection
Turn right (northwest) for the fast return to Nyaung-U (± 47 kms). Continue south and then west for a direct route to the historical village of Sa Lay south of Chauk (± 46 kms)

Sa Lay(± 62 kms)

Highway 2 follows the east bank of the Ayeyarwaddy south, crossing a number of dry sandy creeks (these may become fords in the green season), passing villages before entering the low hills containing the Chauk oilfield. Passing through the town of Chauk and the crossroads (to the bridge across to the West bank of the Ayeyarwaddy and alternative route to Pakokku), the route follows Highway 2 east before turning off and heading back to the river.

± 40 kms: Chauk
± 48 kms: Sa Lay junction
Turn south (Sa Lay ± 14 kms).

Sa Lay ‘s origins are thought to date back to the late Bagan period in the 13th century, at some time after which it must have been a larger settlement judging by the number of zedis nearby.

For many visitors, the zedis alone would unlikely justify a journey from Bagan, but the old wooden Yoke Sone Kyaung pagoda, the vestiges of colonial architecture in the streets near the market and the languid local atmosphere of this riverside village contrasts with the more globalized feel of Bagan. An overnight stay is possible at Salay House.

To avoid returning on the same route to Bagan via Highway 2 after visiting Sa Lay, go to Kyaukpadaung (± 46 kms) and Popa (± 69 kms) or continue to Monywa by crossing the Ayeyarwaddy to Seikphyu and heading north via Kyun Chaung (± 58 kms from Chauk), Myit Chay (± 67 kms) & Pakokku (± 97 kms). This route is ± 28 kms longer than the direct route on the east bank from Chauk to Pakokku via Bagan.

Section 3 Bagan – Monywa (± 144 kms)

This route follows the Mandalay Road for ± 23 kms before turning off north to cross the Ayeyarwaddy. After Pakokku, It passes through low country where dry farming predominates before crossing the Chindwin River.

On the route north to Monywa, side trips go to the historical village of A Myint and the Buddhist site of Boddhi Tataung (see Around Monywa).

± 21 kms (from Nyaung-U)
Ayeyarwaddy Bridge Junction: turn left (north) and cross the river via the 3.5-kilometer-long road & rail bridge.
± 28 kms: Mindat – Pakokku Road intersection
Turn right (east) to enter Pakokku or continue north to bypass.
± 30 kms: Pakokku
Pakokku is a medium-sized university and market town on the Ayeyarwaddy. Mid-range hotels like the Thu Kha, which is the closest to the downtown market area, should offer enough comfort for visitors who wish to stay and engage with this town’s peoples.
± 57 kms: Pa Khan Gyi
Turn west in this small village to visit the wooden monastery building of Kyaung Daw Gyi. Less than 100m north of this turning, the main road passes through an old walled settlement.
± 69 kms: Yesagyo Junction
Go right (east) for Yesagyo (± 5 kms to a town on the Chindwin that is likely to be seldom visited by foreigners. The route to Monywa goes left (west).
± 75 kms: T-Junction
Turn north (right) for Monywa.
± 93 kms: Sin Phyu Shin Bridge (road & rail)
At the end of the ramp on the east bank of the Chindwin River, an unsealed track follows the levee north, eventually reaching the historical village of A Myint and continuing to Monywa. This route will be rutted, muddy in parts and generally very slow—4WD recommended.

± 118 kms: Monywa – Sagaing Road junction
Left (northwest) for Monywa and east for Sagaing.
± 120 kms: Chaung U
A Myint historical village side road: turn left (± 14 kms west, see “Around Monywa”).
± 128 kms & ± 133 kms: Monastery side roads
Turn east for Thanboddhay Monastery & Boddhi Tataung (see “Around Monywa”).

Monywa

Monywa has a pleasant location on the Chindwin River, but like most Myanmar riverside towns the river frontage is not (yet) advantageously used for recreation. The old commercial center is roughly between Nyaung Pa Pin Street (south), the railway station (east) and Bula Lan Street marked by the traffic circle with a statue of Gen. Aung San astride a horse (north). This area contains the old market and the two main pagodas, the Shwezigon and the Sutaungpyi Paya.

The town is a center for agricultural products and is known for its cotton blankets. Extensive university facilities are to the east of town and presence of the military is a reflection of former troubles with communists in distant hills to the west.

The urban atmosphere changes around Kan Tar Yar Lake to the north, where trees, the lake and a small pagoda on an island create a park-like feel. It is in this area where the city’s best restaurants and accommodation lies.

Overnight in Monywa

Places to eat downtown near the clock tower circle include the Eureka Bakery & Café, where a fresh coffee in the morning might make up for 3 in 1 served elsewhere. Restaurants are plentiful in the vicinity of the lake, including one on a small island. The Oke Soe Food Garden & BBQ House (evenings only) and Fancy Restaurant are among restaurants popular with locals in this area.

By the lake, the Win Unity Hotel offers upscale bungalows and a pool. Not far way, the mid-range Monywa Hotel has old-style lodge rooms in a leafy setting and reasonable parking compared to the Chindwin Hotel, which has newer rooms in a downtown medium-rise. South of town, the modern, spacious mid-range Jade Royal Hotel is a second hotel with a pool in Monywa.


Around Monywa

Thanboddhay Monastery & Boddhi Tataung (± 20 kms)

Drive ± 10 kms south on Highway 71 and turn right (east). After ± 2 kms, the road passes the Thanboddhay Monastery. Its main feature is a pagoda with many spires over a hall containing arched alcoves with large Buddha images and thousands of smaller ones.

± 8 kms to the east are the two colossal Buddha images of Boddhi Tataung, one sitting, one standing (and a lesser reclining one). Visitors can climb up to the 25th floor inside the standing image, where murals depict worlds according to spiritual attainment—small windows restrict views, however. The road south passing the lane to the seated image joins Hwy. 71 ± 15 kms south of Monywa (± 128 kms from Nyaung-U).

A Myint (± 38 kms)

To reach the historical village of A Myint, take Highway 71 south to Chaung - U (± 24 kms) and turn right (west) on a narrow and uneven sealed lane to A Myint (± 38 kms). With many ageing pagodas in the area, this village is not unlike Sa Lay (near Chauk), but the village is smaller and is surrounded by rice paddy that may flood in the rainy season. The village has a small market and a couple of teahousestyle local restaurants. The sometimes rough, muddy unsealed road along the levee north eventually becomes a pitted, sealed lane to Monywa (± 26 kms).

Hpo Win Daung (± 42 kms)

Hpo Win Daung is a site west of the Chindwin where Buddhist devotees have hollowed out cave-like chambers and Buddha images from sandstone rock, creating an unusual pilgrimage site.

± 9 kms (north from Monywa)
Chindwin Bridge junction: turn left (west).
± 13 kms: Junction: turn left (south).
± 25 kms: Ladpardraung intersection
Turn west (right) before the second copper mine.
± 36 kms: Hpo Win Daung junction
Turn left onto the small lane heading south.
± 42 kms: Hpo Win Daung
±100m beyond the entrance gate, a stairway left goes up to chambers with Buddha images dug into rock. The road south from the car park at the foot of this stairway goes about 600m to the Shwe Pa Taung, which is sunk deep into rock.

Section 4 Monywa – Halin (Shwebo) – Sagaing
(± 225 kms)

The route described here follows a one-day diversion on the Monywa – Wetlet road to Halin/Shwebo before going to Sagaing. If daylight time becomes short after visiting Halin, consider missing Shwebo—as of mid 2017, Shwebo’s hotels were not up to the same standard as others listed in this guide.

Aside from being part of the Pyu Ancient Cities UNESCO World Heritage Site, Halin itself is a farming village with friendly folk deep in a rural landscape—getting there is as much the fun as seeing the bare remains at Halin’s archaeological sites.

The shorter alternative is to drive on Highway 71 directly from Monywa to Sagaing (± 112 kms), passing the small town of Myinmu (± 57 kms), which has one or two places for a cold drink along the river frontage (see section 1 “Around Mandalay” for places near Sagaing).


East to Halin & Shwebo

± 27 kms (Monywa – Wetlet Road)
Monywa Industrial Zone junction (Hard-to-pass tanker trucks head north for the oil refinery here.)
± 43 kms Ayadaw
± 59 kms: River Mu Bridge
± 71 kms: Sagaing–Shwebo Road intersection
Turn left (north) on the Shwebo Road—avoid the route to Halin via Wetlet (unsealed north of Wetlet).
± 86 kms: Halin side road
(± 4.5kms north of the Shwebo toll booth) Turn east onto a lane to Halin (± 16 kms) where Highway 7 turns sharply north after crossing a canal. This part-sealed and part-unsealed all-weather road is the best to Halin. It crosses a canal (± 8.5 kms—do not follow Google Map’s suggested routes along this canal!) and the railway between Shwebo and Wetlet before reaching Halin Village.

N.B. The route south from Halin to Wetlet (± 12 kms) is unsealed and, depending on season and maintenance, rougher than the route described above from the Shwebo Road.

± 101 kms: Shwebo market

UNESCO World Heritage Pyu Ancient Cities:
Halin

Archaeological remains show the area has been a site for human habitation for at least 4,500 years, but the visible remains are those of the Pyu civilization from circa 200 BCE to 900 CE, predating Bagan. The remains largely consist of excavated/reconstructed brick foundations, the most significant of which are protected by roofs. Some of the 12 entrance gates to the 3,200 (north-south) by 1,600-meter formerly walled site can be seen from the air, but the once 9-meter thick walls have all but vanished.

The Pyu are said to have skillfully engineered irrigation at the site and mined salt and silver. The settlement is thought to have had extensive trading links.

To reach the main archaeological sites north of the village, drive east past the short access road to the hot spring (and a tea shop) to the Halin Archaeological Museum (closed Mondays). Follow this road north between the pagoda atop a low rise to the west and some old ruined zedis to the main sites.

While this access road is all weather, unsealed tracks link almost all remote sites within the archaeological zone. Along with 4WD vehicles, oxcarts have no problem with muddy ruts in these tracks, especially in the rainy season.


Shwebo

King Alaungpaya, who founded the city and the Kongbaung dynasty that was to rule Myanmar for more than a century in 1752, presumably had Shwebo’s slightly tilted square moat (its sides are ±3.5 kms) buiilt before he died in 1760. The remains of the moat and the reconstructed palace (at the end of the road on the north side of the market), are the main evidence of Shwebo’s once grand royal origins.

Overnight in Shwebo

Apart from local Myanmar restaurants and beer stations, Café Just (Shin Phyu Shin St) has a menu with pasta dishes. Shwebo has a few lower mid-range hotels, of which the Pyi Shwe Theingha looked the best (and consequently may be fully booked by commercial travelers). Hotels in Sagaing are much better (± 91 kms on good road from Shwebo—avoid driving after dark!)

Shwebo – Sagaing


± 30 kms: Wetlet-Monywa Rd Intersection
East to Wetlet & west to Monywa (71 kms)
± 48 kms: Sadaung
± 68 kms: Monywa – Sagaing Road junction
± 84 kms: Kaungmudaw Pagoda
± 89 kms: Traffic Circle
Keep right for Sagaing Market (± 2 kms).

Sagaing

Sagaing was a capital for 49 years in the 14th century and three years in the 18th, but its legacy is as a center of Buddhist learning and practice. Dozens of monasteries are on the hills—Sagaing appears to have been where nobles weary of the royal courts in nearby capitals sponsored a zedi and retreat for themselves. It remains pleasantly quiet today, but you will need a guide to introduce you to more than the views over the river from the Soon U Ponya Shin Paya and U Min Thonze Caves atop the hill. To reach them, follow the road that passes to the east of the Sitagu International Buddhist Academy.

Overnight in Sagaing

Finding restaurants in the suburbs of Sagaing may not be straightforward. At night, stick to places in the market near the Aye Cherry ice cream shop, if not a beer station. The mid-range Hotel Sagaing and the Happy Hotel are comfortable enough to consider Sagaing as an overnight alternative to Mandalay.

± 23 kms (from Sagaing) Mandalay Int. Airport
Cross by the Inwa Bridge and drive to the Mandalay – Yangon Expressway (a gas station is by the Tada U– Mingyan Rd circle and the Kainkyi Shan Restaurant). Continue on the Expressway, turning west for the airport at the traffic circle before the first expressway tollbooth.

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Lower Myanmar Yangon – Bago, Taungoo, Pyay & Hinthada

Highlights

From Yangon, the drive visits the historical cities of Bago and Taungoo in the Sittaung Valley.

After a side trip high into the hills to the east, the drive strikes west across the forested Bago Yoma,

following a scenic route to the old river trading city of Pyay, passing Sri Ksetra, the UNESCO Pyu Ancient City world heritage site en route.

From Pyay, the shorter, direct return route to Yangon on Highway 2 is a fast alternative to a more varied route taking less busy roads through the upper delta region via Hinthada west of the Ayeyarwaddy.

About this Guide

This guide is designed to make self-drive touring in Myanmar easier and must be used together with an online navigation application—we recommend Google Maps®. This guide uses Google Maps® spelling conventions for place names and distances, but actual distances from those shown in this guide may vary (±) by 2.5kms depending on starting point.

Tip: Google Maps is not always as up-to-date as their satellite imagery. Revert to the satellite view for road networks when such is missing from maps.

Use printed or online media (such as Lonely Planet’s Myanmar guide or Travelfish.org) for detailed information. This guide lists sights and a few suggestions for restaurants and upscale (USD75+) and mid-range hotels (USD30–60+) in “overnight” paragraphs.


Before You Arrive & Drive

Valid Driver’s License

To legally drive in Myanmar, you must have a valid international driver’s permit or ASEAN driver’s license.

Smart Phone and Navigation Application

Your smart phone should be preloaded with Google Maps® or other navigation applications.

Myanmar Sim Card

Getting a Myanmar sim card on arrival (essential for Google Maps®) is recommended—wifi in mid-range hotels is often inoperable. MPT coverage is good.

Removable Device Holder

Bring a detachable holder suitable to attach your device to the windscreen or dashboard for driver’s ease of vision and minimal distraction from the road.


Contents/Planning Your Drive

Average journey speeds are often far less than 50 kph—do not plan on more than 200–250kms/day to ensure arrival at destination before dark!

Page
Section 1 : Yangon Int. Airport – Bago & overnight 3
Section 2 : Bago – Taungoo & overnight; Around Taungoo – Tandaung Gyi 4
Section 3: Taungoo – Pyay & overnight; Around Pyay –Sri Ksetra, Akauk Taung 6
Section 4: Pyay – Yangon via Highway 2, via Hinthada & overnight 8

Distances ( ± 2.5 kms) between main destinations:

Yangon International Airport – Bago: ± 75 kms
Bago – Taungoo: ± 205 kms
Taungoo – Pyay ±235 kms
Pyay – Yangon via Highway 2 ± 275 kms
Pyay – Yangon via Hinthada ± 365 kms

Suggested Itinerary (6 Days, 5 Nights):

Day 1: Yangon – Bago
Day 2: Bago – Taungoo
Day 3: Taungoo – Tandaung Gyi – Taungoo
Day 4: Taungoo – Pyay
Day 5: Pyay – Akauk Taung – Hinthada
Day 6: Hinthada – Yangon

Driving in Myanmar

All Yoma Fleet rental vehiclesare left-hand drive (right -hand gear shift) for driving on the right in Myanmar.

Traffic Speedsare relatively slow. Myanmar drivers are usually polite and often give way, especially outside of major cities like Yangon and Mandalay.

Due to old policy, more than 80 percent of vehicles are right-hand drive vehicles. This may contribute to uncertainty and greater caution. Approach intersec- tions and circles cautiously and you will get through.

Lane discipline approaching intersections is strict. Drivers do not enter empty left-turn lanes and then cut back in—they may pass on the inside (right side)!

Sealed main roads are generally good, but beware of uneven surfaces and abrupt gradient changes—do not drive faster than the speed limit of 100 kph! Nar- row one-lane provincial highways require extra care; drivers must slow and put offside wheels on the unsealed hard shoulder to pass oncoming traffic!

Tolls are common on Myanmar’s roads and usually vary from MMK 200–900+. Keep plenty of small notes of Myanmar currency to hand in your vehicle.

Night Driving should be avoided since unlit vehi- cles and other hazards raise the accident risk factor.

Gas Stations: Please only top up your tank at new gas stations near large towns. These are less likely to serve contaminated fuel from old storage tanks that can lead to a breakdown of your vehicle!

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Section 1 Yangon Int. Airport – Bago ( ± 75 kms)

From Yangon International Airport, follow the divided Yangon–Mandalay Highway north. After ± 26 kms, choose whether to go directly to Taungoo ( ± 252 kms) via the Yangon Mandalay Expressway and skipping Bago or taking the Yangon-Mandalay Highway ( ± 290 kms to Taungoo). There are two convenient links to the Yangon–Mandalay Express- way (YME) from the old highway north of Bago.

The expressway is straightforward, much quicker and has less traffic. But it is dull to drive. Heavy trucks use the more interesting old Mandalay Road, which passes through Bago, Nyaung Lay Pin and other small towns. Traffic tends to be dispersed in rural areas but can back up at intersections and railway crossings in the towns.

± 22 kms: Taukkyan War Cemetery (Htauk Kyant)
commemorates 6374 burials of servicemen of the Western Alliance who died in battles against the Japanese in the Second World War; a memorial lists the names of 27,000 servicemen who died in other campaigns in the country (a cemetery plan can be downloaded from cwgc.org).
± 22 kms: Yangon-Pyay Road fork junction:
Hlawga National Park: Follow the Pyay Road for 1200m and turn left (west) for Hlawga Nation- al Park (± 2 kms to ticket office for the walk-in & drive-in zones). The drive-in entrance (one-way) is 300m west of the ticketing area and walking zone. Hundreds of macaques wandering free in the drive-in zone will be only too happy to climb over your vehicle to feed on peanuts sold by vendors inside the park. Deer, lizards and peacocks should also be visible.
± 26 kms: Ah Myan Lan
The Yangon–Mandalay Expressway via Naypyitaw starts here. Take this road for a fast route to Taun- goo if wishing to bypass Bago and the Moeyungyi Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary (see Section 2).
± 27 kms: Hlegu Tollgate
This is the first of several tollgates on this drive. Have MMK 1,000 bill or smaller notes handy!
± 31 kms: Hlegu Town
± 58 kms: Shwe Pyi Resort (& Restaurant)
A lakeside resort ± 17 kms south of Bago
± 61 kms: Han Thar Gardens Hotel & Restaurant
Resort & Golf Course on the west side of highway
± 73 kms: Kyaik Pun Pagoda(Bago)
Turn west to the southernmost of the main his- torical sites in Bago. Four colossal Buddha images seated back-to-back face the cardinal directions.

Tip: Foreigners must pay an inclusive MMK 10,000 fee to visit any of Bago’s archaeological and religious sites per day. To avoid a repeat payment, see all sites in one day.

± 75 kms: Shwe Thar Lyaung Pagoda Rd.(Bago) This road goes west to several historical Buddhist sites including the Maha Kalyani Labhasima, where King Dammazedi (r. 1472–1492) placed 10 stone inscriptions, the huge Shwe Thar Lyaung re- clining Buddha image and the Mahazedi Pagoda.

Bago

The main sights not to miss east of the river (see above for places west of the river) are the Kanbaw- zathadi Golden Palace (09–16:30hrs) and the Bee Throne Hall in the palace grounds.

These two magnificent reconstructions leave no doubt as to how the builders thought one of Myanmar’s great kings (Bayint Naung r. 1551–1581) perceived his majesty. The contemporary Archaeological Muse- um is also in the palace grounds.

Three blocks north of the palace is the Shwemaw- daw Pagoda. At more than 114m in height it is the highest paya in Myanmar (according to the “Guide to Bago,” a small printed guide on sale for MMK 5,000 in the Bee Throne Hall and elsewhere). To its east is the Hintha Gon Paya.

Overnight in Bago

To eat, try the Kyaw Swa Restaurant, Dagon Restaurant & Bar & BBQ (Ngwe Taung), the Shwe Li or the Hanthawaddy Restaurant. For mid-range rooms fairly close to town, try the Kanbawza Hinthar Hotel. The Supreme, the Aurora Gold and the Bago Star (which has a swimming pool) are in the same area.

Tip: If you find a restaurant you like with an English-My- anmar bilingual menu, photograph it so that you can use it to help you order common dishes at restaurants that do not have English menus.


Section 2 Bago – Taungoo
( ± 205 kms via Yangon-Mandalay Highway)

The Yangon-Mandalay Highway follows a less direct route north between towns in the Sittaung Valley than the YME. North of Bago, convenient roads west to the YME are from Hpa Yar Gyi and Daik-U. North of Daik-U, diverting west to the YME is probably less worthwhile.

± 18 kms (from Bago): Hpa Yar Gyi Intersection
Highway 8 goes east to Kyaikto, Thaton and Mawlamyine (See Yoma Fleet’s “East to the Mon Heartland WorldClass Drive in Myanmar”); the Phayagyi Segment goes west to the YME (± 8.5 kms). Many local restaurants serve Myanmar food at this intersection, and there is a food center at the end of the Phayagyi Segment by the YME.
± 32 kms: Moeyungyi Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary
Turn east onto an unsealed lane—the Wildlife Sanctuary Office and car park is ± 1300m. A 250m boardwalk leads to the Moeyungyi Wetlands Resort. Its restaurant is a relaxing stop for a meal (8 a.m. – 5 p.m. for non-residents) on the way to Taungoo, especially after a morning’s sightseeing in Bago. To see the birds an overnight stay in the mid-range resort and an early morning boat trip are necessary—boat engine noise may be a disturbance to the birds, however.
± 59 kms: Daik-U
At the north end of this town, turn west on Oke Shit Kone St for the best link to the YME (± 24 kms) north of Moeyungyi.
± 69 kms: Pyuntasa: railway crossing
± 79 kms: Nyaung Lay Pin: railway crossing
Consider staying in the better rooms at the Sann Htay Motel on Bogyoke Street if night is approaching
± 105 kms & 110kms: Kyauktada: railway crossings
± 116 kms & 117+kms: Penwegon: railway crossings
± 154 kms: Phyu
± 198 kms: Railway crossing on Taungoo’s outskirts
± 205 kms: Taungoo

Taungoo

Like Mandalay, Amarapura and Shwebo, Taungoo is an old historical capital within a large square moat. Its origins go back at least to the 14th century when it became a sanctuary in a position easily fortified against Karen raids from the hills to the east. It subsequently gained strength when Bamar (or Mranma) people sought refuge there to escape fighting in the contested regions around Ava in the north and Martaban to the south.

After the fall of Ava (Inwa) to Shans from Mohnyin in 1527, Taungoo grew to so strong that Tabinshweti, the second king of the Taungoo Dynasty, was able to subdue the whole of the Mon kingdom to the south and take its capital, Hanthawaddy (now Bago), as his own. It was from there that the dynasty’s greatest king as measured by military conquest (Bayint Naung) subdued much of what now constitutes modern Myanmar and Thailand in the 16th century.

Taungoo remained a provincial center when Myan- mar’s modern rulers bypassed it and built Naypyitaw more than 100 kilometers to the north, inaugurating it as their new capital in 2005. Taungoo today is a pleasant old rural town with only low-rise buildings within the moat. The newer part of the city stretches along the Yangon-Mandalay Road just east of the moat bordering the old city.

Apart from the quaint, crowded streets during market hours on the east side of the old city, places to go within the moat include the splendid Shwe- sandaw Pagoda and the park by the lake.

Overnight in Taungoo

Three beer-station style restaurants in the old city have English menus—Stellar, Grace Star and Moe Kaung Kin. Like Restaurant serves Myanmar food in an open-sided hall, but some say the small, down- market Win Myanmar Food has better food.

For upscale accommodation, go to the Royal Kaytu- madi Hotel, but for modern and comfortable rooms as well as a good restaurant, the mid-range Pathi Hotel is recommended. The mid-range Myanmar Beauty Hotel (II) offers dark-wood décor and gargantuan breakfasts next to open paddy land to the east (apparently good for walking tours east to the Myat Saw Nyi Naung Pagoda), and the Mother’s House Hotel has bungalow-type rooms and a reportedly good restaurant by the highway.


Around Taungoo

Rural landscape begins more or less at the moat on the west side of the old city, so it is a simple matter of following lanes to the southwest if wanting to drive out though the paddy landscape to visit local villages nearby.

Pho Kyar Elephant Ecotourism Camp (± 60 kms from Taungoo)

Local guidance is required to visit elephant camps in the hills to the east, but it is relatively straightforward to drive northwest to the Pho Kyar Elephant Eco-tourism Camp ( ± 62 kms via the direct road west on the north of the moat to the YME, or ± 58 kms via Kyun Kone; the latter route passes the Southern Star Golf Club). Take the Thagayar exit and keep to the west of the MYE, following the narrow sealed road that initially parallels the YME north before diverging west.

After ± 7 kms from the YME, the road passes the elephant camp and a couple of local restaurants in a planted teak forest more than 100 years old. For walk-in clients without prior arrangement, the 15-acre campsite seems best geared up for offering 20 USD/head elephant rides. It will require Burmese speakers to negotiate in advance for more involved elephant experiences at the camp, which is run by the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, a nationwide operation involved in protecting and caring for elephants.

Myat Saw Nyi Naung Pagoda (± 13 kms)

For Myanmar people, pagodas are destinations for an outing and this one in its park-like surrounds is no exception. A long (more than 500m) covered walk- way goes from the main pagoda to a second pagoda to the northwest. Guests at the Myanmar Beauty can walk cross-country from the resort to this pagoda.


Tandaung Gyi (± 43 kms from Taungoo)

“Be prepared to switch off and enjoy the sights around you!” suggests a brochure called ‘Discover Thandaunggyi—An idyllic Kayin hillside retreat’: this after advising that internet access and mobile cover- age is still limited in the area.

Best known today for its Naw Bu Baw Prayer Moun- tain and largely populated by ethnic Kayin and Karen, the settlement straddling a ridge below the peak of the Prayer Mountain ( ± 1465m) seems almost unique as a Christian pilgrimage site in Myanmar.

Opened to tourists only in 2012 after decades of inaccessibility due to conflict between Myanmar’s military and armed ethnic groups, Tandaung Gyi origins go back to when the British annexed lower Myanmar at the end of the second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852. Some time after that year, the British first opened it up as a hill station, building a fort the remnants of which may be seen today.

The views over the surrounding countryside alone make the journey up there worthwhile. Starting where a cascade has become a recreational area, around 10 kilometers of the route where most of the climbing is done follows two roads in an unusual one-way system that intersects at one point.

One of the pleasures of going there for English speakers is the ability to talk with fluent En- glish-speaking Karen elders. Stop off at Star of the East (Tel: 054–45017) to chat with U Saw Bo Thar, who single-handedly acts as an information center, if not stay in his guesthouse.

Overnight in Tandaung Gyi:

Though visiting Tandaung Gyi on a day trip is quite manageable, stay overnight to appreciate the dawn and sunset and enjoy guided hiking in the area— warm clothing is a must in the cold season.

At present, visitors should not expect facilities on a par with those in the lowlands of Myanmar, whether for restaurants or accommodation, but rather antici- pate experiencing the local life of friendly hill folk. Expect rooms to have little furniture, to be separated by thin partitions, have mattresses on floors and basic if not shared bathrooms.

Possibilities to stay in rooms with bathrooms at- tached are offered by Grace for Grace (Tel: 054– 45026), I Wish (Tel: 054–45024) and Kaing’s Villa (Tel: 054–45065) among others.

Warning: On the way up, just before a small checkpoint about three kilometers from the top, do not take a right at a road junction marked by an arrow on a red background pointing to a sealed lane descending to the right. This road goes through a military camp that may not allow foreigners to pass through. On the slightly wider downward leg of the one-way road system, drivers should beware of possible oncoming traffic (especially motorcycles) despite the supposed one-way routing.

Section 3 Taungoo – Pyay ( ± 235 kms)

The drive to Pyay from Taungoo will take an entire day—begin early as travel speeds are slow in the Bago Yoma, especially if hoping to visit a few sites in Sri Ksetra the same day on the way into Pyay.

Initially following a two-lane rural road west from Oktwin, the road to Pyay west of the MYE under- pass becomes a sealed single-lane road with hard shoulders for passing oncoming traffic.

This narrow road (sealed throughout) snakes across the forested Bago Yoma on a route that twists and turns as it climbs and descends over hills not much higher than 300m, occasionally offering views over distant forest landscapes. Average speed will be low for this part ( ± 140 kilometers) of the route. Villages occur about every 10 kilometers.

Fill your tank in Taungoo (no fuel in the Bago Yoma) and then drive south on the Yangon-Mandalay Highway.

± 13 kms (from Taungoo): Oktwin: turn west.
± 20 kms : YME underpass

Warning: Four-wheel traffic is very light in the hilly Bago Yoma, but local motorcycle traffic is more frequent. Approach blind corners with caution and be prepared to veer onto the hard shoulder at a moment’s notice! Drive with care and you should encounter no problems—help will take time to reach you should you need it in this relatively remote area!

± 32 kms : Small village:
An unsealed track right goes to a small landing on a reservoir. A sign nearby designates that you are entering an Elephant Sanctuary Project, Pyaing Chaung. More signs for this project are further along the route.
± 42-43 kms : viewpoints to the west
± 44 kms : Sto Taung Ngu Elephant Hospital 7 miles south on unsealed track of uncertain condi- tion (7-mile Elephant Hospital—4WD only; do not enter this track without a local guide/authorisation).

Tip: Many of the villages have local shops where you can sit and have an instant coffee or a (fairly) cold drink—ice may not be available. Such stops will offer interesting opportunities to meet with friendly local people who may not have met with many foreigners before. While driving, some good listening may help enliven this part of the route.


± 66 & 93 kms : Villages
± 103 kms : Bridge in village
Kabaung Wildlife Area
± 111 kms : Bridge in small village
± 126, 127 & 129 kms: Villages
± 137 kms: Bridge in small village
± 151 kms: Village group in valley
± 154 kms: lowlands and wider, faster road
± 175 kms: Sign for Pyi (Pyu) iron furnace:
Archaeological remains are an unspecified dis- tance south but cannot be directly accessed by this dirt road according to local folk.
± 180 kms: Paukkhaung junction
Turn left (southwest). The road right leads to a large dam.
± 200 kms: Paungdale
± 229 kms: Phaya Mar Pagoda (±500m):
Take the unsealed track north to one of the three similarly large brick paya (stupa) that are among the main archaeological remains in Sri Ksetra. The other payas are Phaya Gyi and Bawbawgyi.
± 230 kms: Take the sealed lane south for Sri Ksetra Tharaykhittaya (Sri Ksetra) Archaeological Museum ( ± 2500m from the highway).
± 232 kms: Highway 2: junction
north to Magway, southwest to Pyay
± 233 kms: Phaya Gyi: (south side)
The second of the large brick paya in the Sri Kse- tra group
± 238 kms: Pyay



Pyay

Like Taungoo, Pyay (or Pyi) is an old settlement that was historically the seat of lords who paid fealty and would often be related by marriage to whichever ruling dynasty dominated central Myanmar, whether in Hanthawaddy (Bago) to the south or Bagan, Ava and Mandalay to the north. Unlike Taungoo, Pyay was never the founding seat of a dynasty, though through alliances its rulers could exert strong influ- ence on political affairs, especially given its com- manding position on the main transportation route of historical Myanmar.

Located where the Ayeyarwaddy narrows as it flows between bluffs on opposing banks (now joined by a road bridge), the city has long been seen as marking the boundary between upper and lower Myanmar.

Pyay gives the impression of being pleasant to wander around and is worth at least two nights, especially if part of the intervening day is spent visiting sites around Pyay. The city’s signature pago- da, the Shwesandaw Paya, is to the south of Highway 2, but most of the city’s commercial district is to the north. Extensive suburbs extend to the east and encroach in one part within the archaeological remains of the old walls of Sri Ksetra.

Overnight in Pyay

Highway 2 enters the city and turns south at the traffic circle with the statue of Gen Aung San astride a horse. Convenient accommodation and restaurants are near this location.

For dining, the Wish River View gets good reviews but by the same rubric the Yokohama to the north should also be worth trying. At night, a market closes the Old Post Office Road to traffic and offers lots of street food. To go to the Valley Restaurant south of town will require driving, however.

The city’s most upscale hotel is the Mingalar Gar- den Resort, which has bungalows and dining in a pleasant park-like location around a small lake. It is more than five kilometers east on Highway 2 (and thus the first hotel on the route from Sri Ksetra/Taungoo).

The mid-range Lucky Dragon Hotel offers com- fortable lodges and a pool in a good downtown location near the river. To ensure a room you should book in advance as this hotel is used by tour compa- nies. The mid-range Hotel 3D nearby is less prefera- ble but its better rooms also tend to be fully booked.

Away from the town center to the south, the Sweet Golden Land Hotel and the Golden Dragon Hotel have reasonable rooms; the former is located within walking distance of the Valley Restaurant.

Nine kilometers south of town, the Golden Guest Hotel also offers comfortable rooms in its new wing and is located on the route to the Shwe Myet Man Pagoda in Shwe Daung (see Around Pyay).


Around Pyay Tharay Khittaya/Sri Ksetra(± 10 kms from Pyay)

To reach the site of Sri Ksetra ( ± 10 kms from downtown Pyay), follow Highway 2 east, passing the Phaya Gyi paya en route, and then turn off on the Paukkhaung Road. Turn south on the sealed lane to the archaeological museum after driving 2400m east on the Paukkaung Road. Other routes from Pyay are complex and require driving on unsealed lanes.


UNESCO Pyu Ancient Cities: Sri Ksetra

Sri Ksetra is the southernmost of five major walled cities of the Pyu peoples in the Ayeyarwaddy and Chindwin river basins. The Pyu civilization inhabited these sites from around 200 BCE until their gradual absorption by the Bamar (Mranma) people under the rule of Bagan from the 9th century on. At that time, Sri Ksetra was located closer to the then maritime coast before the southern part of the Ayeyarwaddy delta was formed.

Of the three Pyu ancient sites—Beikthano, Halin and Sri Ksetra—that currently form UNESCO’s Pyu Ancient Cities, Sri Ksetra has the most impressive remains. These include three massive brick paya, two of which may be seen from the route between Paukkhaung and Pyay on the periphery of the old walls of the ancient city.

An elliptical walled settlement roughly four kilome- ters in diameter at its narrowest point, the original fortified perimeter of Sri Ksetra contains several relatively well-preserved remains; these are reached on unsealed roads south from the Tharaykhittaya Archaeological Museum.

Visit the museum first (closed Mondays) before going to the Palace Citadel and continuing south on the unsealed lane that passes through a gate in the southwest part of the old city perimeter near the Rahanda Temple. Follow the main unsealed lane south of the lake on an anticlockwise route that passes Bawbawgyi, the third of the large paya, and other sites before going back to the museum through a village. A few restaurants are near the museum.

Tours by oxcart may be arranged from the archaeo- logical museum—these have the advantage of giving local folk employment and can pass without difficul- ty along narrow muddy tracks.

Shwe Myet Man Pagoda (± 14 kms from Pyay)

Around 600m west of the Yangon-Pyay Road, the Shwe Myet Man Pagoda is noted for its unique bespectacled Buddha image. Like any sensible person, the image has a spare pair in a case nearby. The River View Garden ( ± 6.5 kms south of Pyay) offers the possibility of a sundown drink with a pleasant view over the Ayeyarwaddy.

Akauk Taung/Tonbo Village (± 63 kms from Pyay)

A visit to this site (see below) must either be consid- ered as a day trip ex Pyay, or as a side trip on the way to Hinthada.

Drive to the main pier at Tonbo and park; there you will be directed to buy a (return) boat ticket. The boat journey passes the site on the way to Akauk Taung Pagoda, where passengers disembark and walk up to the top of the bluff and a small pagoda that stands next to some drink shops. There are good views over the Ayeyarwaddy from this point. The return boat trip need take less than two hours.

If considering including this as a side trip on the way to Yangon via Hinthada, however, it will be necessary to start early in Pyay and overnight in Hinthada to avoid driving in the dark back to Yangon.

If driving south to Hinthada and planning to visit Akauk Taung en route, keep to the main road west of the Ayeyarwaddy Bridge at Pyay to save time.

If planning a return day trip from Pyay and wanting to take a slightly different route, consider turning off the main road on the ramp down at the west end of the Ayeyarwaddy bridge and taking the slower, narrow rural road that follows the Ayeyarwaddy southwards via Padaung till it joins with the main route ± 24 kms from Pyay.


Akauk Taung

Dozens of Buddha images carved into the sandstone cliffs on a bluff overlooking the Ayeyarwaddy to the south of the village called Tonbo can only be seen from a boat. It is said that tax collectors who taxed all river trade passing between lower and upper Myanmar at this point sponsored these images. Perhaps the Buddha images were to salve their consciences; interesting to note, then, that a recent addition is dated 2001.

Section 4 Pyay – Yangon (via Highway 2 ± 275 kms) (via Hinthada ± 360 kms)

For a fast return to Yangon, there is no alternative to Highway 2, the Yangon-Pyay Rd., which passes through low, rural areas of wet-rice cultivation and near if not through small towns regularly spaced along the route. Traffic can be expected to be relatively heavy.

A more varied but longer return to Yangon can be made on the west side of the Ayeyarwady via Hinthada. The return to Yangon via this route can be driven in one day if starting early enough, but the distance to be covered is long for driving in Myanmar, thus staying overnight in Hinthada is recommended.

At time of research (2017), however, only lower mid-range guesthouse accommodation was available in Hinthada. That said, staying in any Myanmar town should offer its own rewards, especially should you befriend Myanmar folk in a teashop or beer station.

Whichever route is taken in this section, however, driving after dark is to be strictly avoided. There are few if any reflective road markings and unlit hazards are legion, greatly increasing the accident risk factor!


Pyay - Yangon via Highway 2 ( ± 275 kms)

Though traffic may at times be heavy on Highway 2, such will be spread out on the long stretches in rural areas. Accommodation in towns should offer adequate comfort—staying overnight en route is strongly preferable to driving after dark.

± 13 kms (from Pyay): Shwe Myet Man Pagoda
Left turn (600m to the pagoda)
± 40 kms : Innma
± 57 kms : Paungde
± 65 kms : Nattalin
Overnight possibility: Shwe Htaketan Guesthouse.
± 78 kms : Zigon
± 90 kms : Gyobingauk
± 98 kms : railway crossing
± 105 kms : intersection with road west to Okpho

± 123 kms : intersection with road west to Minhla
± 145 kms : intersection with road west to Letpadan
Overnight possibility: Pineland
± 161 kms : Tharrawaddy
Overnight possibility: Motel Kyal Sin
± 180 kms : Okekan: railway crossing Overnight possibility: Hotel Oakkan
± 209 kms : Taik Gyi
± 239 kms : Hmawbi: railway crossing
± 240 kms : T-junction with Lower Mingalardon Rd. (No. 4) Rd
± 252 kms : junction—west to Hlawga National Park (see section 1)
± 253 kms : Yangon-Mandalay Highway: Taukkyan War Cemetery (Htauk Kyant—see section 1)
± 275 kms : Yangon International Airport

Pyay – Yangon via Hinthada ( ± 360 kms)

The route south on the west side of the Ayeyarwad- dy is considerably longer than that on the east bank, but it offers greater variety of landscapes and roads and will involve far less traffic; that is until the route joins the Pathein road for the approach to Yangon.

The first part of the route to the intersection at Oke Shit Pin follows a good road through low hill coun- try alternating with flat paddy land along tributaries flowing into the Ayeyarwaddy. South of Oke Shit Pin, the road straightens, traffic lightens and for 80 kilometers the route south follows an upgraded road with light traffic, allowing rapid passage.

At a road junction ± 81 kms from Pyay, the route turns inland, but a second, slower route closer to the river may be taken via towns on the Ayeyarwaddy—if choosing the latter, staying overnight in Hinthada or at other towns along the route is essential to avoid driving after dark.

On the inland route, progress becomes slower on older road surface further to the south and on the narrow road where the route crosses the Pathein River floodplain.

South of Hinthada, the roads are good until the route joins the Pathein Road, which is scheduled for reconstruction beginning late 2017. Journey speeds are likely to be slow on the Pathein Road for the last 40 kilometers into Yangon.


Staying overnight in Hinthada, a pleasant town on the banks of the Ayeyarwaddy, is worth considering despite the lack of upscale accommodation (as of mid-2017)

± 500m from Pyay
To cross to the west bank of the river from Pyay, first drive away from the river in order to join the road that crosses the bridge (no direct access from Highway 2, which tracks the river under the bridge). Once across the bridge, follow the Pyay - Toungup Rd south unless taking the old road that follows the west bank of the Ayeyarwaddy (see Around Pyay/Akauk Taung).
± 24 kms: Junction
The Pyay-Toungup Road converges with the old road via Padaung.
± 32 kms: Oke Shit Pin intersection
Turn left (south).
± 58 kms: side road to Tonbo Village (± 3 kms)
Departure point for boats to Akauk Taung (see “Around Pyay”)
± 81 kms: Immigration checkpoint & junction
Fork right (southwest) for the faster inland route to Hinthada ( ± 115 kms) followed by this drive. This route continues southwards through low hill country on good road for ± 30 kms. Beyond this point the road surface degenerates where it has not been upgraded.

For a slower and possibly more interesting route that passes a few towns on or near the Ayeyarwad- dy, consider the alternative route via Myanaung ( ± 132kms to Hinthada, left/southeast fork at this junction—see below). This route is ± 17 kms longer than the inland route.

± 148 kms: T-junction: turn left (east) for Hinthada.
The road becomes narrow as it crosses floodplain.
± 161 kms: T-junction—continue south.
The route via Myanaung rejoins the road to Hin- thada at this junction.

Alternative Route via Myanaung (± 96 kms)

Kyangin & Myanaung are the largest of several towns on this longer, slower but more interesting route.

± 15 kms (from fork junction): Kyangin
Overnight possibility: Golden Royal Guesthouse
± 26 kms: Myanaung
Overnight possibility: Myint Moo Oo Guesthouse
± 64 kms: Tugyi
± 74 kms: Me Za
± 86 kms: Ingapu
± 96 kms: rejoins inland route
Turn left (south) at T-junction.

± 163 kms: (via inland route) Bridge
Expect possible delays at this single lane road-rail bridge over the Pathein River. The road widens a little east of the bridge.
± 197 kms: Hinthada

Hinthada

Though Hinthada has a population of more than 170,000 and has long been a trading town exporting rice grown in the surrounding fertile delta lands, it is a small town by comparison to either Pyay or Taungoo. Aside from a bustling market area sur- rounded by narrow streets—these are interesting of themselves to walk around—there is cultivable land on the river’s floodplain within plain sight and walking distance. Hinthada makes a good base from which to explore both a less-visited market town and readily accessible areas of wet-rice cultivation nearby.

A university town, Hinthada is likely to have people wishing to converse with foreigners and practice their English and thus the town should offer good opportunities to interact with Myanmar folk.

Overnight in Hinthada

For comparatively upscale dining, the Galaxy Restaurant (2400m south on the highway to Zalun) offers the best-looking possibility, but the small YGP Thai Pot & BBQ Restaurant on the road into town from Pyay has an English menu.

While new construction suggests that Hinthada may shortly be graced by better accommodation, only guesthouses are available (as of mid-2017). Best in terms of room quality and parking is the AZ (Guest- house) on the highway to Zalun in the southeastern part of town, but the Lucky Guest House has a central location (street parking only) by the market.


South from From Hinthada

From Hinthada to the junction with the Yan- gon-Pathein Road, road quality is good and driving through the delta landscape pleasant.

± 24 kms: (from Hinthada): Zalun T-junction
The highway goes southwest. The market and river frontage are to the east ( ± 900m).
± 53 kms: Danubyu
The highway goes right (southwest).
± 80 kms: T-junction near Bridge
Turn left (east) for Yangon. The road & rail bridge is 1000m east.
± 87 kms: T-junction with Pathein Road:
Turn left (east) for Yangon. Expect traffic to be much heavier from this point on. Until the new Pathein Road is completed, progress along the old, sometimes badly broken up road can be slow.
± 95 kms: Fork-junction
Go right (southeast) for Yangon, bypassing Nyaungdon on the Pathein.
± 100 kms: T-junction
Turn left (northeast) for Yangon.
± 107 kms: T-junction
Turn right (east) for Yangon. The route rejoins the Pathein Road from Nyaungdon.
± 147 kms: Traffic Circle
Hlaing River Road (E), Pathein Road (SE) & Twantay Road (S) on the outskirts of Yangon. Take the Hlaing River Road for the direct route to Yangon International Airport.
± 162 kms: Yangon International Airport

Happy & safe driving!

Hotline - 09 966235338 (09 YOMAFLEET)
Contact: aung@yomafleet.com
Further information: yomacarshare.com

East to the Mon Heartland Yangon – Bago, Hpa-An & Mawlamyine

Highlights

The route east first passes through Bago, site of the old imperial capital of Hanthawaddy, and crosses the Sittaung River delta before reaching the access road to Kyaiktiyo, site of the Golden Rock.

At the historically old town of Thaton, the suggested route goes east, entering a magical landscape of karsts surmounted by pagodas around Hpa-An on the banks of the Thanlyin River.

A tree-lined road from Hpa-An goes to Mawlamyine, a pleasant city of hilltop payas and historical diversity that is easy to drive around.

Destinations south include Thanbyuzayat, former terminus of the Death Railway, and Setse Beach.


Contents

Page
About this Guide & Before You Arrive & Drive Planning Your Drive & Roads in Myanmar 2
Section 1: Yangon–Bago (Yangon-Mandalay Highway) & Bago overnight 3
Section 2: Bago–Thaton
(Mawlamyaing Road/NH8/AH1); Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock) & overnight; Thaton & overnight
4
Section 3: Thaton–Hpa-An (NH85/AH1);
Hpa-An & overnight; Around Hpa-An
6
Section 4: Hpa-An–Mawlamyine;
Mawlamyine & overnight; Around Mawlamyine; South from~ (NH8); North from~ (NH8)
7

About this Guide

This guide is designed to make self-drive touring in Myanmar easier and must be used together with an online navigation application—we recommend Google Maps®. This guide uses Google Maps® spelling conventions for place names and distances, but actual distances from those shown in this guide may vary (±) by 2.5kms depending on starting point.

Tip: Google Maps is not always as up-to-date as their satellite imagery. Revert to the satellite view for road networks when such is missing from maps.

Use printed or online media (such as Lonely Planet’s Myanmar guide or Travelfish.org) for detailed information. This guide lists sights and a few suggestions for restaurants and upscale (USD75+) and mid-range hotels (USD30–60) in “overnight” paragraphs.


Before You Arrive & Drive

Valid Driver’s License

To legally drive in Myanmar, you must have a valid international driver’s permit or ASEAN driver’s license.

Smart Phone and Navigation Application

Your smart phone should be preloaded with Google Maps® or other navigation applications.

Myanmar Sim Card

Getting a Myanmar sim card on arrival (essential for Google Maps®) is recommended—wifi in mid-range hotels is often very slow or does not work at all.

Removable Device Holder

Bring a detachable holder suitable to attach your device to the windscreen or dashboard for driver’s ease of vision and minimal distraction from the road.


Planning Your Drive

Distances (± 2.5 kms) between main destinations:

Yangon – Hpa-An: 290 kms
Hpa-An – Mawlamyine: 60 kms
Mawlamyine – Setse Beach: 80 kms
Mawlamyine – Yangon Int. Airport (RGN) 295 kms

Long weekend ex Yangon (3 Days, 2 Nights):

Drive directly to either Hpa-An or Mawlamyine (journey time will be ± 6 hours depending on traffic), tour on day 2 and return to Yangon on day 3.

Short Itinerary (4 Days, 3 Nights)

Day 1: Yangon, Bago and overnight at Kin Pun Sakhan Village, Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock)

Day 2: Kyaiktiyo morning and drive to Hpa-An, visiting Kawgon Cave & Kyauk Tan Pagoda; overnight in Hpa-An
Day 3: Sadan Cave and drive to Mawlamyine; overnight in Mawlamyine
Day 4: Morning in Mawlamyine & return to Yangon

Comfortable Itinerary (7-8 days, 6-7 nights)

Both Hpa-An and Mawlamyine are worth at least two nights each for one full day of sightseeing. Also consider staying overnight in Bago, Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock), if not a couple of nights on Setse Beach.


Driving in Myanmar

All Yoma Fleet rental vehicles are left-hand drive (right -hand gear shift) for driving on the right in Myanmar.

Traffic Speeds are relatively slow. Myanmar drivers are usually polite and often give way, especially outside of major cities like Yangon and Mandalay.

Due to old policy, more than 80 percent of vehicles are right-hand drive vehicles. This may contribute to uncertainty and greater caution. Approach intersec- tions and circles cautiously and you will get through.

Lane discipline approaching intersections is strict. Drivers do not enter empty left-turn lanes and then cut back in—they may pass on the inside (right side)!

Sealed main roads are generally good, but beware of uneven surfaces and abrupt gradient changes—do not drive faster than the speed limit of 100 kph! Nar- row one-lane provincial highways require extra care; drivers must slow and put offside wheels on the unsealed hard shoulder to pass oncoming traffic!

Tolls are common on Myanmar’s roads and usually vary from MMK 200–900+. Keep plenty of small notes of Myanmar currency to hand in your vehicle.

Night Driving should be avoided since unlit vehi- cles and other hazards raise the accident risk factor.

Gas Stations: Please only top up your tank at new gas stations near large towns. These are less likely to serve contaminated fuel from old storage tanks that can lead to a breakdown of your vehicle!

Hotline - 09 966235338 (09 YOMAFLEET)
Contact: aung@yomafleet.com
Further information: yomacarshare.com

Section 1 Yangon Int. Airport – Bago (± 75 kms)

From Yangon International Airport, follow the divided Yangon–Mandalay Highway north to Bago. Distances are from Yangon International Airport.

± 22 kms: Taukkyan War Cemetery (Htauk Kyant) commemorates 6374 burials of servicemen of the Western Alliance who died in battles against the Japanese in the Second World War, as well as a memorial listing the names of 27,000 servicemen who died in other campaigns in the country (a cemetery plan can be downloaded from cwgc.org)
± 26 kms: Ah Myan Lan
The Yangon–Mandalay Expressway via Naypyitaw starts here.
± 27 kms: Hlegu Tollgate
This is the first of several tollgates on this drive. Have MMK 1,000 bill or smaller notes handy!
± 31 kms: Hlegu Town
± 58 kms: Shwe Pyi Resort (& Restaurant)
A lakeside resort ±17 kms south of Bago
± 61 kms: Han Thar Gardens Hotel & Restaurant
Resort & Golf Course on the west side of highway
± 73 kms: Kyaik Pun Pagoda (Bago)
Turn west to the southernmost of the main historical sites in Bago. Four colossal Buddha images seated back-to-back face the cardinal directions.

Tip: Foreigners must pay an inclusive MMK 10,000 fee to visit any of Bago’s archaeological and religious sites per day. To avoid a repeat payment, see all sites in one day.

± 75 kms: Shwe Thar Lyaung Pagoda Rd. (Bago)
This road goes west to several historical Buddhist sites including the Maha Kalyani Labhasima, where King Dammazedi (r. 1472–1492) placed 10 stone inscriptions, the huge Shwe Thar Lyaung reclining Buddha image and the Mahazedi Pagoda.

Bago

The main sights not to miss east of the river (see above for places west of the river) are the Kanbawzathadi Golden Palace (09–16:30hrs) and the Bee Throne Hall in the palace grounds. (cont. page 4)


Alternative Slow Route to Bago (± 169 kms)

The first part of this route can be a return day-trip ex Yangon. It crosses the eastern suburbs of Yangon and the Bago River, passing Thanlyin and the Kyaik Khauk Paya, to end at the Kyauktan Market and the “midstream” Kyauktan Pagoda.

The second part takes Road No. 6 through increasingly rural country, offering a glimpse of rustic life in the fertile delta between the Bago and Sittaung Rivers. Plan to stay overnight in Bago or possibly Kyaiktiyo if taking this route.

Yangon International Airport to Kyauktan via Wai Zar Yan Ta Rd & Kyaik Khauk Pagoda Road (± 42 kms from Yangon Int. Airport)

± 7 kms: Okkala Golf Resort
± 16 kms: Tharkayta Crocodile Farm (6–18hrs)
Feed fish to crocs from a boardwalk a meter above their snapping jaws.
± 19 kms: National Races Village (09–17:30hrs)
A large, lush park contains buildings and peoples representative of Myanmar’s main ethnic groups.
± 23 kms: Thanlyin Town
site of the historical port of Syriam
± 25 kms: Thanlyin Golf Club
± 28 kms: Kyaik Khauk Paya
± 42 kms: Kyauktan Market
& ferry to the Kyauktan Pagoda on an islet.

Road No. 6 & Bago – Khayan – Thongwa Road (± 127 kms from Kyauktan)

From Kyauktan, the route goes to villages and small towns, following a road that is narrow between Thongwa and Thanatpin. Single lane bridges with abrupt ramps across waterways are frequent.

± 47 kms: Thongwa
(59kms direct from Yangon Int. Airport)
± 59 kms: Khayan
± 72 kms: Thet Ka La
± 81 kms: Ohn Hne
± 95 kms: Ka Mar Se
± 104 kms: Thanatpin
± 127 kms: Bago

These two magnificent reconstructions leave no doubt as to how the builders thought one of Myanmar’s great kings (Bayint Naung r. 1551–1581) perceived his majesty. The contemporary Archaeological Museum is also in the palace grounds.

Three blocks north of the palace is the Shwemawdaw Pagoda. At more than 114m in height it is the highest paya in Myanmar (according to the “Guide to Bago,” a small printed guide on sale for MMK 5,000 in the Bee Throne Hall and elsewhere). To its east is the Hintha Gon Paya.

Overnight in Bago

To eat, try the Kyaw Swa Restaurant, Dagon Restaurant & Bar & BBQ (Ngwe Taung), the Shwe Li or the Hanthawaddy Restaurant. For mid-range rooms fairly close to town, try the Kanbawza Hinthar Hotel. The Supreme, the Aurora Gold and the Bago Star (which has a swimming pool) are in the same area

Section 2 Bago – Kyaikto – Thaton (± 157 kms)

From Bago, drive north on the Yangon-Mandalay Highway to the intersection with NH8 east at Hpa Yar Gyi and then east on NH8, stopping overnight in the Kyaikto area if planning to visit the Golden Rock, or in Thaton for an easy day’s driving.

± 18 kms: Hpa Yar Gyi Intersection
The route goes east on NH8.
± 35 kms: Waw Town
± 62 kms: Sittaung Bridge (via Mawlamyaing Rd.)
Piers of the former rail bridge blown up in World War II in the “Sittang Bridge Disaster” (see Wikipedia) can be seen just to the south.
± 81 kms: Adventure Land (06–18hrs)
Zipline, rock climbing & bungy jumping etc. and the Sein Lei Tin Resort by a lake at back
± 83 kms: Bellay Restaurant (09–16hrs)
Choose from pots of Myanmar curries in the back of the restaurant and wait at a table for the curries you chose to arrive with side dishes of condiments as is the custom in Myanmar curry restaurants.
± 90 kms: Kyaikto Town
± 91 kms: Kyaiktiyo Intersection
Turn northwest here to visit the Golden Rock.
± 119 kms: Bilin Town


Kyaiktiyo—The Golden Rock (± 13 kms from Kyaikto)

One of Myanmar’s most significant pilgrimage sites, the Golden Rock should not be missed. To reach it, drive to Kin Pun Sakhan Village, park securely (large compounds offer pay parking) and take the obligatory ±45 min open-sided truck ride (06–18hrs) with other visitors up a tortuous ±13 kilometer-road to the top. The religious site (access on foot only— sedan chairs lifted by porters are available) extends almost a kilometer along a ridgeline; the Golden Rock is at the highest point (±1080m).

Tip: Pay extra and book a few trucks in advance to get one of six seats in the driver’s air-con cab for the journey up the mountain—if sitting in the open back and prone to motion sickness, sit at the end of a row and avoid the rows toward the back of the truck.

Kyaiktiyo is a fascinating pastiche of pilgrim’s devotions and Buddhist commercialism; hours can be spent wandering between pagodas and along alleyways lined with often unusual souvenir stalls— allow half a day minimum including the truck rides up and down.

Overnight in Kyaiktiyo

Many pilgrims stay at hotels on the hilltop in order to participate in rituals that take place all hours of the night. Mountain Top Hotel offers rooms (some with dawn views over the hills east) that are better than the generally low quality at (most) other hotels on the ridge.

Staying in one of the resorts near Kin Pun Sakhan is much better value for money, especially if making a half-day visit to the Golden Rock. Recommended are the Thuwanna Bomi Mountain View Hotel (11 kms from Kin Pun Sakhan) and the Golden Sunrise Hotel (1 km from Kin Pun Sakhan).

Tip: Book in advance for all hotels near Kyaiktiyo!

± 139 kms: Theinzeik
The fruit market is well known for durian fruit.
± 157 kms: Thaton
NH8 continues south to Mawlamyine (±69 kms– section 4) and AH1/NH85 goes east to Hpa-An
(±51 kms–section 3) from a junction ± 300m south of the clock tower circle.

Thaton

A quiet market town, Thaton was the site of a Mon capital around the 10th century, but almost nothing of the old ruins appears to remain visible today. The lane past the Suvarnabhumi Hotel does lead to a narrow concrete lane that climbs up to the Mya Tha Bake Pagoda, one of many pagodas on top of hills east of the Mawlamyaing Road; these provide fine viewpoints over the delta country to the west.

Overnight in Thaton

The mid-range Suvarnabhumi Hotel (Thuwunnabhumi) is good and within walking distance of the Sithu Tun Restaurant. The Two Lakes Resort (± 3kms on NH85 to Hpa-An) is an alternative.

Section 3 Thaton – Hpa-An (± 51 kms)

± 300 m (south from clock tower circle) AH1/NH85 East turn to Hpa-An & Myawaddy
± 21 kms: Bayin Nyi Cave (laterite road 800m north) Compared with other cave sites nearer Hpa-An, this one is as memorable for its bluish pond as for the many Buddha images in the cave interior.

Tip: Long, deep caves filled with Buddha images in Myanmar are usually well lit—a donation helps pay for electricity. However, make sure you have a torch, if only a small one, should the lights go out.

± 42 kms: Kawgon Cave (±13kms from Hpa-An) (Turn south and drive ±3.5kms on a sealed and then laterite road). The cave has origins dating back to the 7th century and should not be missed. Most impressive are the thousands of votive clay Buddha images plastered over large areas of rock overhang. To the left of the entrance, flights of steps climb to a viewpoint over the Thanlyin River and beyond to the Zwegabin karst range.

A west turn 1km+ north on the road back from Kawgon (2km+ from the highway) goes to Ya Thae Pyan Cave, a cave with zedis and Buddha images.

± 49 kms: Kyautt Ka Latt Pagoda
(±12 kms from Hpa-An) This small, very distinctive karst topped with zedis protrudes from a landscaped lake; it is one of Hpa-An’s signature sights and best seen early morning or late afternoon.

Hpa-An

Located on the east bank of the Thanlyin (Thanlwin) River, Kayin State’s capital has a distinctive feel due to its Kayin and Karen people; it is a popular backpacker destination. Hpa-An Market lies in the streets to the north of the “Main Road” (east to Ein-Du, Kawkareik and Myawaddy), mainly along Thit Sar Street, but also along Myae Tadar Street.

Other places to visit include the Shwe Yin Myaw Pagoda, where a good sunset viewing platform overlooks the river.

Tip: park at the north end of Kan Nar Street and watch the riverside volleyball late afternoon before walking through the pagoda’s southern extension to the platform for sunset.


Overnight in Hpa-An

Do not miss the chance to eat Myanmar curry at the San Ma Tau (Myanmar) Restaurant; the curries you select from large pots at front will be joined by more than the usual number of savory side delicacies. The Shwe Myint Moe Restaurant also offers good Myanmar curries. The Khit Thit and Lucky 1 are good for meals later in the evening.

Tip: It is best to go to restaurants in Myanmar’s towns by 8 p.m. Most do not usually stay open after 9 p.m.

Pha-An’s Night Market on the northwest corner of Kan Thar Yar Lake appeals to local folk. For a place to take young children, consider driving south ±11 kms to the Chitthu Myaing Park, a garden lit by fairy lights. Inflatable bouncers and other attractions will please children, and there is a restaurant at back.

Far in a way the nicest resort in Hpa-An is the luxury Hpa-An Lodge, which lies in the shadow of Zwegabin Mountain. From the lodge, downtown Hpa-An is an easy (±10 km) drive and most of Hpa-An’s main sights are that much closer. The Hpa-An Hotel Gabbana and the Hotel Than Lwin Paradise are mid-range hotels closer to town.

Around Hpa-An

With several karsts topped by zedis in plain sight of Hpa-An, climbing one of them for the view seems a good thing to do. The closest is Hpan Pu, which is reached by taking a boat from the jetty next to the Shwe Yin Myaw Pagoda, crossing the Thanlyin, walking through a village and then up to the temple.

The Lumbini Buddha Garden (±10 kms) contains more than 1120 identical, larger than life, seated Buddha images. It is also the beginning of the longer but only marginally less steep climb up the Zwegabin (Zwe Ka Bin) from the west. This path passes a pagoda around a quarter of the way up.

Taung Wine Pagoda (± 15kms—approach via laterite road from Taung Ka Lay): this is a more recently developed hilltop pagoda site that requires another hot climb up!

Kaw Ka Thaung Cave (± 11kms, 500m from NH85) is a Buddha cave site with a relic seen through a magnifying glass. The site is small in comparison to either the Kawgon (Kaw Gun, ± 13kms) or Ya Thae Pyan Cave (± 14kms)—see above—but the roads past the cave lead to a second site and villages amid a pastoral idyll.


Zwegabin

Zwegabin (±11 kms to the eastern approach) is the highest of the karsts topped by a Buddhist pilgrimage site. It presents a physical challenge since to reach it requires climbing more than 3300 steps from ±35m to more than 710m in elevation and will take upwards of two hours (less if fit). Apart from the benefit of physical exercise, the rewards at top are meeting other pilgrims who have come to revere the Buddha hair in the paya, the spectacular views, cooler air and encounters with monkeys depending on season. Begin the climb well before dawn to enjoy the sunrise and avoid possible heat exhaustion.

Tip: If planning to climb karsts, please have a sarong or longyi (for changing), a change of clothes and a towel to cover your car seat. Taking water is a must, especially for ascending Zwegabin.

Sadan Cave (Saddan) is the most spectacular Buddha cave in the area, both for its Buddha images and its length. The first cave emerges at a lake—a second long cave follows from near the end of the first.


From the lake, many visitors pay to return by boat paddled by local folk through a flooded cave and a channel between rice paddy to the start of a short, open-air trail back to near the main cave entrance.

Tip: take your shoes, especially if planning to return by boat.

Directions to Sadan Cave: small English signs to Saddan Cave (as spelt on signs) are placed at the start and junctions of unsealed access roads from:

1) ± 4.5 kms south of the Zwegabin junction (near the Lumbini Garden) south turn— ± 7 kms
2) ± 4kms south of Ein Du on the Ein Du-Mawlamyine Road, west turn— ± 5 kms
3) ± 11kms south on Hpa-An–Mawlamyine Road, east turn— ± 7.5 kms

Section 4 Hpa-An – Mawlamyine (± 63 kms)

Leave downtown Hpa-An by way of Kan Thar Road (N85) and continue south on a straight, tree-lined highway.

± 4–5 kms: N85 Road junctions
West to Thaton and Yangon
± 7.5 kms: Road Junction
East to Kyauk Ka Latt Pagoda, Zwegabin Junction and N85 to Myawaddy
± 11 kms: Saddan Cave
Unsealed access road east (no. 3 above)
± 37 kms: Road junction
With the Ein Du–Mawlamyine Road
± 44 kms: Kha Yone Cave (south turn 600m)
Go straight to the cave—the sealed lane lined with statues of monks goes west to a pagoda with a second, smaller Buddha cave.
± 54 kms: Traffic circle
Turn north and follow the route northwest to Strand Road.
± 63 kms: Strand Road, Mawlamyine

Mawlamyine

Mawlamyine is easy to drive around, though to see the central market area it is best to park close by and go on foot. The most convenient hotels and restaurants are on Strand Road, the river frontage road overlooking the inland branch of the Thanlyin delta that creates Bilugyun (Bilu Island).

The city offers three areas of ethnically derived sights. Dominating the ridge overlooking the town and not to be missed, not least because of good views east and west, is the Kyeik Than Lan Pagoda; also be sure to visit the Mahamuni Pagoda with its namesake Buddha image to the north.

Visiting other pagodas along a lane that follows the ridge to the south ending at the U Zina Pagoda can be done conveniently by car. Of interest may be the Cotton Thread Buddha image in Taung Pauk Monastery and the Hindu temple nearby.

Christian churches and 19-20th century architecture—a heritage from Myanmar’s colonial past—are found along Upper Main Road and Baho Street, especially in the vicinity of Mawrawaddy Park. The Mon Cultural Museum on Baho Street is also worth a visit (09:30–16:30 clsd Mons)

Tip: ask for a portable light at the museum ticket counter

The river frontage area around the market seems predominantly Muslim, whose religion first came with traders. Two mosques, the main market and trading houses are on Lower Main Road.

Overnight in Mawlamyine

Whether at the Bone Gyi Restaurant, places by the Myoma Jetty, the Nadi Hlaing Restaurant or at the Night Market further south, Strand Road is the first place to look for restaurants. For rooms, the upscale Mawlamyine Strand Hotel offers grand style, while both the nearby Attran Hotel (its restaurant is said to be good) and the Ngwe Moe Hotel have good rooms at mid-range prices.



Around Mawlamyine

Local sights southeast of town include Kandawgyi Lake (± 12kms), a picnic spot, and Kyaikmaraw Pagoda (Kyaikmaraw Buddha Statue, ± 21kms).

A bridge (opened 2017) connects Bilugyun (Bilu Island) to the mainland. Though its name translates as Ogre Island, the island has the feel of an unhurried retreat.

At least two villages on Bilugyun are known for their local products: Mudu (±15kms) for its once thriving production of slates that were used by all Myanmar schoolchildren in former times (only two manufacturers now operate); Ywalut (±18kms) is known for its wooden tobacco pipes and other carved wood products (look for manufacturers in the southwest part of the village).

South from Mawlamyine

South from Mawlamyine and especially south of Mudon, NH8 passes through plantation country. Journey speeds should be fairly quick, but approach curves preceding narrow bridges with caution!

± 23 kms: Win Sein Taw Ra
(Win Sein Taw Ya, 1.5kms east from highway at entrance marked by two huge silver birds). Myanmar visitors may first pay respect to the embalmed corpse of the site’s founding sayadaw in a hall by the car park. Steps lead up to a truly vast reclining Buddha image, inside of which are three floors of Buddhist-themed sculptures.
± 29 kms: Mudon Town
± 40 kms: Colossal seated Buddha image
The image is set back ±300m east of the highway
± 64 kms: Thanbyuzayat Circle
Turn west at the circle for the War Cemetery, Kyaikkhami Pagoda & Setse Beach.

Thanbyuzayat

Located on a crossroads, Thanbyuzayat is a small market town.

Continue south 1.5kms on NH8 to visit the Death Railway Museum. Located at the junction of the line to Ye and the remains of the death track—the latter diverges from the Ye line ± 500m south from the station before disappearing in undergrowth next to a plantation—the museum site and grounds are more interesting than the unfortunately limited contents within the museum building itself.

West from Thanbyuzayat

± 65 kms: Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery (07–17hrs)
The cemetery commemorates 3770 Australian, British, Canadian, Dutch, Ghurkha, Sikh and other lives that ended while building the Death Railway.
± 89 kms: Kyaikkhami Pagoda
(Turn north at junction 8 kms west from Thanbyuzayat circle). Set by the sea on pillars over rocks and mudflats with sparse mangroves, the pagoda contains a splendid array of gilt Buddha images surmounted by a lone image seated beneath a Naga. Visitors arriving at high tide may witness the unusual spectacle of waves washing inside the pagoda’s forecourt, an unfortunate augury for the site. Kyaikkhami village, known as Amherst in British colonial times, was the point from which Christianity first spread into Myanmar.
± 82 kms: Setse Beach
(Turn south at the junction 8 kms west from Thanbyuzayat circle)

Setse Beach

Setse beach is a wide, 5-kilometer-long stretch of brown sand—perfect for running around, playing with tubes and other beach activities. The beach does not have the mudflats along the foreshore that are common to beaches closer to the deltas to the north.

Overnight on Setse Beach

Restaurants, local lodges and other buildings occupy a casuarina grove backing part of the beach. At least one restaurant—the Myanmar Restaurant—has an English menu. For upscale rooms, go to 21 Paradise Hotel, but for mid-range prices and a large pool, try the Set Sae Hotel.


Mawlamyine – Thaton (± 60 kms)

± 38 kms: Zin Kyaik Waterfall (east turn 1km)
± 40 kms: Hilltop pagodas in the Zin Kyaik area
(See Google satellite imagery for possible sealed/ unsealed routes.)
± 60 kms: Thaton

Tip: See sections 2 & 1 in reverse order for the return route north via the Mawlamyaing Road to Bago and Yangon.


Happy & safe driving!

Hotline - 09 966235338 (09 YOMAFLEET)
Contact: aung@yomafleet.com
Further information: yomacarshare.com

Dawei

Highlights

Located around 375 kilometers south southeast from Yangon by air (almost double that distance by road), the Dawei region and its friendly people enjoy a distinctive southern Myanmar culture.

A city of around 140,000 people of Myanmar Buddhist and Karen Christian descent, much of Dawei (Section 1) has an atmosphere of a bygone era thanks to its many wooden buildings that have escaped conflagration or redevelopment.

From a centrally-located hotel, the town center is small enough to walk around, but a car becomes convenient for cross-town trips and indispensable for longer day-return journeys (see “Overnight in the Dawei Area” page 4 for hotels).

Out-of-town sightseeing covers three areas. Foremost is the 60-kilometer-long peninsular west the Dawei River estuary (Section 2). Its rugged west coast landscape of scenic bays backed by sandy beaches and picturesque fishing villages is of outstanding natural beauty.

North of the peninsular, an almost straight 22-kilometer beach is divided by two inlets. This is where the Dawei Deep-sea Port and Special Economic Zone is scheduled for construction (Section 3).

Hilltop temples on the mountains to the east of Dawei are easy to reach (Section 4), but day return journeys to places in the scenic hills along the road to Myitta and the Htee Pee border crossing to Thailand are limited by a lack of accommodation inland and the time required for a return journey.

About this Guide

This guide is designed to make self-drive touring in Myanmar easier and must be used together with an online navigation application—though we recommend Google Maps® in general, Maps.me using OpenStreetMap data may be better for the Dawei area. This guide uses Google Maps® spelling conventions for place names and distances, but actual distances from those shown in this guide may vary (±) by 2.5kms depending on starting point.

Tip: Google Maps is not always as up-to-date as their satellite imagery. Revert to the satellite view for road networks when such is missing from maps, or try Maps.me

Use media such as Lonely Planet’s Myanmar guide or Travelfish.org, or hire a guide for detailed information—this guide only lists sights. Suggestions for restaurants, hotels (upscale USD75+/mid-range USD30–60+) and guides are given on pages 3 & 4.


Before You Arrive & Drive

Valid Driver’s License

To legally drive in Myanmar, you must have a valid international driver’s permit or ASEAN driver’s license.

Smart Phone and Navigation Application

Your smart phone should be preloaded with Google Maps® or other navigation applications.

Myanmar Sim Card

Getting a Myanmar sim card on arrival (essential for Google Maps®) is recommended—wifi in mid-range hotels is often inoperable. MPT coverage is good.

Removable Device Holder

Bring a detachable holder suitable to attach your device to the windscreen for driver’s ease of vision and minimal distraction from the road.


Contents/Planning Your Drive

Average journey speeds will be far less than 30 kph on many of the roads in the Dawei area. Unless planning to stay in Maungmagan or Sin Htauk (4WD only), routes in this guide require returning to Dawei. Always fill your tank in Dawei—a convenient gas station is on Ka Myaw Kin Road to Maungmagan, ± 600m east of the bridge over the Dawei River.

Returning to a hotel in Dawei before dark requires leaving out of town destinations in the afternoon well before sunset (repeating outbound distances). If traveling after dark (not recommended), drive veryslowly and be ultra-cautious—pedestrians, vehicles with no lights, confusing road works (at night), piles of rocks and are other unlit hazards are common!

Page
Section 1: Dawei 3
Section 2: The Dawei Penisular
West to Maungmagan Beach (± 17 kms) &
South to the Myat Shin Maw Pagoda (±85 kms)
4
Section 3: Nabule & The Dawei Deepsea Port
Special Economic Zone (± 40 kms)
6
Section 4: Inland from Dawei
Religious sites south on the Myeik Road &
East toward Myitta (± 50 kms)
& the Htee Kee Border Crossing (± 145 kms)
7

Driving in Myanmar

All Yoma Fleet rental vehicles are left-hand drive (right -hand gear shift) for driving on the right in Myanmar.

Traffic Speeds are relatively slow. Myanmar drivers are usually polite and often give way, especially outside of major cities like Yangon and Mandalay.

Due to old policy, more than 80 percent of vehicles are right-hand drive vehicles. This may contribute to uncertainty and greater caution. Approach intersec- tions and circles cautiously and you will get through.

Lane discipline approaching intersections is strict. Drivers do not enter empty left-turn lanes and then cut back in—they may pass on the inside (right side)!

Sealed main roads are generally good, but beware of uneven surfaces and abrupt gradient changes—do not drive faster than the speed limit of 100 kph! Nar- row one-lane provincial highways require extra care; drivers must slow and put offside wheels on the unsealed hard shoulder to pass oncoming traffic!

Tolls are common on Myanmar’s roads and usually vary from MMK 200–1000+. Keep plenty of small notes of Myanmar currency to hand in your vehicle.

Night Driving should be avoided since unlit vehi- cles and other hazards raise the accident risk factor.

Gas Stations: Please only top up your tank at new gas stations near large towns. These are less likely to serve contaminated fuel from old storage tanks that can lead to a breakdown of your vehicle!

Hotline - 09 966235338 (09 YOMAFLEET)
Contact: aung@yomafleet.com
Further information: yomacarshare.com

Section 1 Dawei

Dawei airport is northeast of the town center and, depending on traffic, only a few minutes drive (± 3.5 kms) from downtown.

The capital of Thanintharyi Division, Dawei’s former English appellation of Tavoy (reflected in the city’s airport code TVY) was changed in 1989. When spoken in Burmese, the D of Dawei beomes a T.


Dawei

For most of its history the town has been part of the Myanmar polity, whether under the kings of Bagan in the 11–13th centuries, the Toungoo Dynasty in the late 16th century or the Konbaung Dynasty from 1760, or as part of British Burma and then Myanmar since independence in 1948.

However, the area was also part of former Siam three times in its history; under the Kingdom of Ayutthaya from 1287 to 1564, from 1594 to 1614 and from 1740 to 1757. The heritage from Siam may be seen in some of the town’s pagodas.

With the Myanmar government giving the green light to the Dawei Deep-sea Port and Special Economic Zone (DPSEZ), a development project heavily promoted by Thai and international business interests, Dawei’s economic future may once more orient towards Thailand.

As is the custom in Myanmar, sightseeing in the town can begin with a visit to the city’s main pagodas, which are located close to each other in a religious quarter easily reached by heading along Payar Street, the road that goes northeast from the intersection of Yay (Ye) and Niban Roads downtown.

Going northeast, the first monastery on the west side of Payar Street also runs an orphanage. If you are in the area around the time of the alms round in the morning, you may see the pagoda’s few young novices (in robes) being followed by the young children living at the temple.

Continue along the street to the Shwe Taung Zar Zedi, the city’s grandest pagoda. Notice boards near its entrances give the names of the structures on a plan of the pagoda. Other pagodas may be of equal architectural interest but it will be best to hire a guide for detailed help.

The must see main market is on Azarni Street, to the west of Yay (Ye) Road and the city hall (built 1841)

and contemporary government offices opposite. At the far west end of Azarni Street is the fish market.

About 1500m on Seikkan Thar St northwest from the fish market is the Thanintharyi Region Cultural Museum (09:30–16:30 closed Mondays). The museum is worth visiting for the insights it provides into local history and culture.

Other places a guide may take you to in town are a shop that produces crisps made out of fish, a cashew nut factory, and one of the last shops in town where women still weave on handlooms—finely woven cloth for use in women’s tubeskirts is a specialty of Dawei.

That said, on whichever street in Dawei you may be, you are almost certain to see fine examples of the wooden houses with hipped roofs covering second floor balconies, a style typical of this town.

Apart from the charm of local people, it is the abundance of well-preserved wooden and colonial architecture that makes Dawei special and helps give the town an ambience and a more traditional appearance when compared with other large Myanmar towns.

Given the economic development that has swept through Myanmar in recent years, that so much wooden architectural heritage remains in Dawei is a blessing for visitors.

Dining in Dawei

For Myanmar food, Daw San has garnered much attention but for friendly local feel and equally good inexpensive local food, try the Irrwaddy Myanmar Food Shop (sic) or other similar local Myanmar food restaurants—ordering is no harder than selecting any of the curries in the pots on display by pointing. The Thaharya Bakery & Cafe (on Bogyok Street) offers interesting local alternatives to hotel breakfasts all day.

English menus can be found at local Chinese-type restaurants as well as the Tavoy Kitchen. Hotel restaurants include the fifth floor restaurant of the Golden Guest Hotel, the two-floor resturant of the Zayar Htet San Hotel and the upmarket Dawei Hotel.

Other possibilities include the grand sounding Royal Pyaewa Restaurant, which has a local beer garden atmosphere and a long English menu (on the road to Maungmagan opposite the Mediland Hospital) or any of at least three restaurants serving Thai food.

At the risk of driving after dark, which is not recommended due to the profusion of motorcycles, numerous unlit hazards and near lack of reflective road markings, the most interesting places for a seafood meal come the evening are at Maungmagan beach, where many of the restaurants have English menus and stay open until around 9 p.m.

If returning to a downtown hotel in Dawei at night, please be very careful—watch in particular for pedestrians, motorcycles and farm vehicles without lights, road works and other unlit hazards. Drive slowly!

Overnight in the Dawei Area

The Dawei Hotel—the sole hotel in Dawei with a pool—is the top choice for a room. Otherwise, apart from the mid-market Golden Guest Hotel and Zayar Htet San Hotel (with restaurants already mentioned) the Garden Hotel and the economical Shwe Moung Than Hotel can be considered. Booking in advance at peak times is recommended for all hotels in Dawei.

At least two places to stay at Maungmagan Beach are commendable. First is the Maungmagan Beach Resort, which is uninspiring in design but located next to the beach; the second is the friendly Coconut Guest House some 500m back from the beach. Other new resorts can be expected to open up since easy access helps make Maungmagan Beach the focus of beach tourism development in the area.

Two other places to stay are near the southern tip of the Dawei Peninsular (west of the estuary of the Dawei River), but neither is directly accessible by car.

The Myanmar Paradise Beach Bungalows are at least a 45-minute walk along a motorcycle (only) track from the road. Sinhtuak Beach Bungalows (sinhtaukbeachbungalows.com) offers nice-looking beach bungalows built of natural materials at mid-market prices. It is about 15 minutes walk from the nearest parking. Unfortunately, the road to Sin Htauk is very rough at the pass and is therefore only suitable for 4-wheel-drive or pickup type vehicles with high clearance and tough suspension.

No other accommodation is to be found at any of the beaches on the peninsular. Nor is there any accommodation on the road inland toward Thailand. Unless staying at Maungmagan then, plan on staying in Dawei and making day return trips.

For locally-based guides, contact your hotel, Dawei Panorama Travels (0)9 450 009 860 or Titan Travels & Tours (0)9 450 994 118



Section 2 The Dawei Peninsular (± 85 kms)

The 60-kilometer long north-south peninsular formed by the hills west of the Dawei River Delta is a potential jewel in the crown for beach tourism in Myanmar, outclassing the nation’s more developed beaches west of Yangon.

There is a sealed road extending down the sheltered east side of the peninsular, where most of the people live and farm the fertile plains formed by the delta. From this road, unsealed roads west snake over passes and drop down to small villages located behind scenic bays on the west coast. Roughly halfway down the peninsular, more than 20 kilometers of its western coastline consists of rocky points separating at least seven bays with sandy beaches. These are not accessible through the forests and hills along this coast. Only in the north between Maungmagan and Panyit is there something approaching a road linking west coast beaches.


West to Maungmagan Beach (± 17 kms)


± 3.5 kms (from downtown Dawei): junction
After the bridge over the Dawei River, follow the road right for Maungmagan. The entrance for Dawei University is shortly after this junction on the west side of the road.
± 5 kms: junction for Shin Zalun Pagoda
Continue west on the road to Maungmagan or go right (north) to the Shin Zalun pagoda.

Shin Zalun Pagoda(± 9 kms from junction)

The pagoda is inside the ancient settlement of Thagayar. Old circular fortifications around the settlement can be seen on satellite imagery. More information on this ancient site may be found at the Thanintharyi Region Cultural Museum.

± 15 kms: Maungmagan junction
Go left (west) along Maungmagan’s high street for routes west to the beach and the Myaw Yit Pagoda. The road to the right (north) passes a turn-off to a hot spring on the way to Pandin-in (section 3)
± 16 kms: junction for Myaw Yit Pagoda
Follow the man road right to Maungmagan beach, or head straight (left) for the Myaw Yit Pagoda (± 13 kms) and nearby beaches.

Myaw Yit Pagoda(± 13 kms from Maungmagan)

The narrow road south from Maungmagan to the Pagoda passes through several villages. After ± 11 kms, where the road circles round to head north to the pagoda, a dirt road south that seems little used by 4-wheel vehicles, climbs over a point and drops down to a wooden bridge of uncertain condition. This is the start of the dirt road to Panyit. Given potential deterioration of wooden bridges on this route as well as rough surfaces on the pass over to Panyit, this route is not recommended for any Yoma Fleet vehicles. Please go to Panyit Beach via Launglon.

Shortly beyond the turn off for the dirt road south, there is access to a parking space behind Samara Beach, which you will likely have to yourself, that is apart from fishing folk who may be living in huts near the south end of the beach.

Pagodas give a reason for Myanmar people to go places and Myaw Yit is no exception. It consists of an image hall and zedis on rocks on an offshore islet reached by a footbridge above a rocky spit.

± 17 kms: Maungmagan Beach
This is Dawei’s main recreational beach, where local people enjoy playing in the surf with tubes, playing football or riding motorcycles and tandem bicycles on sandy flats exposed at low tide.

The sealed lane behind the beach does a loop back to Maungmagan market. Unsealed tracks west from the road to the beach go to parking areas behind and in front of a row of local restaurants by a shady casuarina grove. Maungmagan Beach is the only beach in the Dawei area that has readily accessible restaurants (most close at 9 p.m.) as well as a few resorts.



South to Beaches & the Myat Shin Maw Pagoda via Launglon (± 85 kms)

± 3.5 kms (from downtown Dawei): junction
Turn left (south) for Launglon west of the bridge.

N.B: Please note that though 4WD is only required for the roughest of the unsealed roads that cross the chain of hills running down this peninsular, care should be taken on all such roads. Some of these unsealed roads are likely to become temporarily impassable to vehicles without 4WD after rain!

± 22 kms: Launglon
Coffee shops offer chance of a break. Side streets west (Gandamar Street) from the main road near
without 4WD should look at the ford carefully before deciding whether to attempt to cross it. From the T-junction, the main lane continues northwest through the village and then across some flats to the fishing village at the north end of the bay
± 40 kms: road narrows
Road widening work southwards may be ongoing—passing other traffic becomes more difficult!
± 54 kms: junction for Sin Htauk Beach

Sin Htauk Beach(± 8 kms)

Though the pass over to the west coast is quite low, the road surface is very rough and only suitable for 4WD vehicles. The track ends in Sin Htauk village by a steep ramp down to a ± 500m-trail across tidal inlets and sand dunes to the beach.

Sin Htauk Beach itself has a small, quite attractive looking resort consisting with basic but fairly comfortable-looking (but not cheap) huts and a small restaurant on a covered deck in a shady grove. A promontory separates Sin Htuak Bay from the bay to the south, where an inlet divides a large arc of pristine beach into Tha Yaun in the north and Po Po Kyauk (Grandfather Beach) in the south.

± 63 kms: Kyauk Wat Pin junction
The road goes straight into the largest fishing village on the peninsular. Turn right at the junction at the foot of the hill in the village to go south.
± 66 kms: Kyauk Ni Maw
Two local restaurants have English signs.
± 70 kms: Aut Kyauk Wap junction
Turn right (west) for Nyau Pin & Po Po Kyauk

Nyau Pin & Po Po Kyauk—Grandfather Beach (± 3 kms)

A short sealed road crosses to Nyau Pyin, another relatively large fishing village with plentiful shops selling drinks. Drive to the road closest to the beach and turn right (north); continue through for the unsealed road that goes over a hill and down to Po Po Kyauk. Do not attempt this short road without 4WD if it has been raining. Parking near the beach is restricted to a small graded space by a drinks stall just above a shallow inlet at the very southern end of the beach.

± 70 kms+: motorcycle trail to San Sa Aw Beach
Paradise Beach Bungalows ± 45 min walk
± 75 kms: fishing village
± 78 kms: Min Kwa Aw Beach
“Horseshoe Bay” is undeveloped except for a drinks stall at the sharp corner where the road turns east to follow the beach.
± 81 kms: fishing village
± 84 kms: Myat Shin Maw Pagoda
Located at the tip of the peninsular, the pagoda has platforms with zedis and images at different levels on the steep rocky slopes dropping down to the sea. Local restaurants are by the parking area.

the first 90 degree bend in the middle of town lead to the unsealed road over the hills west to Panyit and the Kyaunt Mae Oo Pagoda.

Panyit & Kyaunt Mae Oo Pagoda (± 9.5 kms from Launglon)

Buy water, food or anything else you need on the beach before leaving Launglon.

Away from Launglon, the dirt road west has been sealed with concrete for about three kilometers in the steepest part of the pass over the hills to Panyit Village. The latter is little more than a collection of dispersed houses near the dirt road. Beyond the village, the road tracks across a plain to an area of sand dunes and trees backing Panyit beach. Apart from the pagoda at the very north end of the beach, there are no buildings. On parts of the beach where few trees afford shelter, near desert-like conditions will likely prevail in the heat of the day.

Shan Maw fishing village (± 3 kms from the Launglon-Panit Road) is a comparatively small fishing village with friendly folk who, when not fishing, appear to pass much time at simple soft drink stalls in the village.

± 23 kms: junction for San Hlan fishing village

San Hlan Village & Lee Khant Hill Pagoda(± 9.5 kms)

Though not sealed, the road over to San Hlan is well travelled by vans and trucks. Park up somewhere near the temple at the southern end of the lane that goes into the village and walk in via the beach or the lane. The latter becomes narrow and jammed up with trucks handling fish. U turning will be tricky and your vehicle will be in the way.

From the top of the pass over to San Hlan, a sealed lane south climbs steeply for ± 3kms to the Lee Khant Hill Pagoda. At around 580m in elevation, the pagoda is one of the highest points in the area from which to enjoy views, especially to the east, south and west.

± 28 kms: junction for Tizit Beach

Tizit Bay(± 7 kms)

It is ±5 kms over a pass with switchbacks to a junction where a sign points south to Tizit. This lane goes through a village and passes through a ford before continuing to the beach, where there is nothing but sand and sea. Drivers of vehicles

Section 3 Nabule & the DPSEZ Project (± 40 kms)

Given the quality of sightseeing on the peninsular to the south, driving north along the dusty road (roads are unsealed north of Pandin-in) through tracts of scrubland to Nabule—pleasant though the people, villages and nearby cultivated areas and beaches seem to be—may feel less worthwhile. Should development activity following plans for the proposed DPSEZ increase, however, the entire area and conditions driving through it will undergo significant change.

± 3.5 kms: (from downtown Dawei)
Follow the road right for Maungmagan.
± 15 kms: Maungmagan junction
Turn right (north), passing a turn-off to Padan Village Hot Spring after 1300m.
± 18 kms: Pandin-in village
The road north becomes unsealed
± 29 kms: village in a shady grove
± 32 kms: intersectionwith east-west DPSEZ road
Turn left (west) for the project offices (± 3kms) and the beach. An unfinished bridge near the KM 0+000 marker on the main east-west project road may prevent direct access to the beach on that road.

Turn right (east) along the unsealed DPSEZ eastwest road for Highway 8 (± 16.5 kms).

± 35 kms: Nabule
Turn right (east) for the Buddha Footprint Pagoda
± 45 kms: Mudu village
Turn west after the bridge north of old Mudu for Bawah fishing village (± 3 kms): the unsealed lane passes through a construction village purpose-built by the Italian-Thai Group in an initial phase of the DPSEZ project.

Section 4 Inland from Dawei. (± 50 kms)

Religious Sites South on the Myeik Road (± 30 kms)

± 3 kms: Junction—Highway 8 turns sharply south.
Go east (straight) here to visit “Popa East

Popa East (± 8.5 kms)

± 2 kms east of Highway 8, leave the sealed lane and take the dirt road that climbs up the hill almost directly ahead. This unsealed road follows the ridge up for more than 3.5 kilometers, passing several zedis and at least one Nat shrine. This site is in no way comparable to Mount Popa in Mandalay Division (See Yoma Fleet’s “Upper Myanmar’s Historical Capitals” WorldClass Drive).

± 5 kms: east turn for a Reclining Buddha (± 1200m)
Though large, this image is modest in size compared to the Wein Sein image (See Yoma Fleet’s “East to the Mon Heartland” WorldClass Drive).
± 10 kms: Shin Mote Htee Pagoda
The ornate pagoda is on the west side of the road. The area around the small hill to the south is the site of two other pagodas and an ancient settlement, but almost no trace remains of the latter.
± 27 Kms: east turn for the Shin Tauk Pont Pagoda
A sealed lane goes through an archway and an 1800m route up to the pagoda, which stands on a hill ± 220m in elevation. A viewing platform offers a fine panorama of the Dawei River estuary

East to Myitta (± 50 kms)
(Htee Kee border crossing ± 145 kms)

The route east from Dawei to the Thai border goes through scenic hill country over a low pass into an area drained by the headwaters of the Thanintharyi River, which flows into the sea by Myeik. People in the area are mixed Bhama, Mon and Karen. The latter predominate inland and are mostly Christian.

Mining for tin and other minerals has taken place in this locale since colonial times; the largest mine is the Heinda Mine south of Taung Tone Lone Village. A few local restaurants are in Taung Tone Lone and

Myitta, which are the largest villages on this route.

East of Myitta, the road follows the Thanintharyi River, but the route may be broken up and dusty depending on the state of upgrading as part of the DPSEZ project.

There are no hotels/guesthouses on this route, limiting the distance that may be traveled if wishing to enjoy overnight comfort by returning to Dawei before dark. If returning to Dawei along this road late afternoon, be very wary of youths speeding home on motorcycles after school!

Going with a guide is the best way to understand and travel in this inland area.

± 3 kms (from Dawei on Hwy. 8 to Ye): junction
east of the Dawei Hotel—turn right for the road to Myitta
± 16 kms: Papagyi Village
± 19 kms: Pakha Village
± 30 kms: dirt road north for Thin Gon Tone Falls
(data uncertain).
± 42 kms: unsealed road north
to the upper headwaters of a tributary of the Thanintharyi River—a scenic area (data uncertain)
± 44 kms: Taung Tone Lone Village
± 7km south to Heinda Mine (tin & other minerals) from a T-junction in the village
± 48 kms: junction east of Shwe Chaung Village
Unsealed road south and a side road to Wu Zoung Chaung Falls and a small hot spring
± 51 kms: Myitta
± 145 kms: Htee Kee border crossing
(data uncertain)

Happy & safe driving!

Hotline - 09 966235338 (09 YOMAFLEET)
Contact: aung@yomafleet.com
Further information: yomacarshare.com

Sittwe & Mrauk U

Highlights

Located on an island in the com- bined deltas of three rivers, Sittwe is a state capital and interesting regional port for peoples and goods.

The land route north from Sittwe keeps to the sides of a maze of inhabited islands created by tidal creeks in the lower Kaladan Valley.

The highway passes an old Bud- dhist site near Kyauktaw and two

ancient Buddhist settlements before reaching Mrauk U. A small town today, Mrauk U’s market and residential areas remain amid the temples and ramparts of a great Buddhist capital in the 17th century.

About this Guide

This guide is designed to make self-drive touring in Myanmar easier and must be used together with an online navigation application—though we recom- mend Google Maps ® in general, Maps.me using OpenStreetMap data also provides useful informa- tion for the Sittwe area. This guide uses Google Maps ® spelling conventions for names and distances, but actual distances from those shown in this guide may vary ( ± ) by 2.5kms depending on starting point.

Tip: Google Maps is not always as up-to-date as their satellite imagery. Revert to the satellite view for road networks when such is missing from maps, or try Maps.me.

Use media such as Lonely Planet’s Myanmar guide or Travelfish.org, or hire a guide for detailed informa- tion—this guide only lists sights. Suggestions for restaurants, hotels (upscale USD75+/mid-range USD30–60+) are given on pages 3 & 5.


Before You Arrive & Drive

Valid Driver’s License

To legally drive in Mynmar, you must have a valid international driver’s permit or ASEAN driver’s license.

Smart Phone and Navigation Application

Your smart phone should be preloaded with Google Maps® or other navigation applications.

Myanmar Sim Card

Getting a Myanmar sim card on arrival (essential for Google Maps®) is recommended—wifi in mid-range hotels is often inoperable. MPT coverage is good.

Removable Device Holder

Bring a detachable holder suitable to attach your device to the windscreen for driver’s ease of vision and minimal distraction from the road.


Contents/Planning Your Drive

Average journey speeds will be reasonable on the main highway from Sittwe, which, except for around a ± 20 kilometer section in the vicinity of Kyauktaw, is a new two-lane concrete highway for much of the distance. Away from the main road, however, road conditions are likely to be much less good.

The ± 140 kilometer drive to Mrauk-U need only take around three hours, but allow longer to visit places along the route. Kyauktaw is a typical market town similar in size to Mrauk-U, but without the historical heritage and hills in close proximity.

Obtaining a copy of “Mrauk – U A Guide: An Ancient City of Rakhine, Myanmar” by Tun Shwe Khine (M.A.), 1992 is essential for in-depth sightsee- ing (available with illustrations on scribd.com or as a text only file on archive.org). A freely accessible but far less detailed online guide for sites all around Mrauk U is at: http://mrauku.blogspot. com/2015/08/mrauk-u.html

Page
Section 1 : Sittwe 3
Section 2 : Sittwe to Mrauk U 3
Section 3 : Mrauk U and Around Mrauk U. 5

Warning! Police roadblocks on minor side roads may prevent access to “sensitive places” in the Sittwe–Mrauk U area.


Driving in Myanmar

All Yoma Fleet rental vehicles are left-hand drive (right -hand gear shift) for driving on the right in Myanmar.

Traffic Speeds are relatively slow. Myanmar drivers are usually polite and often give way, especially outside of major cities like Yangon and Mandalay.

Due to old policy, more than 80 percent of vehicles are right-hand drive vehicles. This may contribute to uncertainty and greater caution. Approach intersec- tions and circles cautiously and you will get through.

Lane discipline approaching intersections is strict. Drivers do not enter empty left-turn lanes and then cut back in—they may pass on the inside (right side)!

Sealed main roads are generally good, but beware of frequent uneven surfaces and abrupt gradient changes—do not drive faster than the speed limit of 100 kph! Narrow one-lane provincial highways require extra care; drivers must slow and put offside wheels on the unsealed hard shoulder to pass on- coming traffic!

Tolls are common on Myanmar’s roads and usually vary from MMK 200–1000+. Keep plenty of small notes of Myanmar currency to hand in your vehicle.

Night Driving should be avoided since unlit vehi- cles and other hazards raise the accident risk factor.

Gas Stations: Please only top up your tank at new gas stations near large towns. These are less likely to serve contaminated fuel from old storage tanks that can lead to a breakdown of your vehicle!

Hotline - 09 966235338 (09 YOMAFLEET)
Contact: aung@yomafleet.com
Further information: yomacarshare.com

Section 1Sittwe

Sittwe’s status as the capital of Rakhine State is due to its strategic maritime location in an area where an entrepôt between the Indian subcontinent and South- east Asia had served trading vessels since the times they used to sail near the coast rather than across the open seas of the Bay of Bengal.

Historical sources refer to it as Akyab, but the impor- tance of Sittwe’s present location during the height of Mrauk-U’s influence in the 16-17th centuries, when Ponnagyun to the north may have served as the base for the Arakan Kingdom’s then considerable fleet, is uncertain.

After the first Anglo-Burmese War in 1826, it became an administrative headquarters in then British Lower Burma and an important port of commerce for coastal and river traffic north along the Lemro, Kaladan and Mayu rivers.

Aside from a host of islands, towns like Pauktaw and the increasingly important port of Kyaukpyu to the southwest involve much shorter journeys across water than by land. With the failure to construct a bridge carrying an otherwise completed rail link to Kyauktaw over the main channel that creates the island upon which Sittwe stands, the city’s land route inland is by a single road. Unsurprisingly, water-borne means of travel and transportation remain important.

Sittwe’s downtown market area is next to the port and along the town’s two main roads. The population of less than 200,000 has not encouraged the growth of big retail stores. Shops in the city are small, many being little more than stalls under the common roof of the central market. This and the fish and rice markets immediately to the north of the port are where local life is at its most colorful—wander through the fish market onto the pier and look back to see small boats crowding the pier and life along the sandy foreshore to the north.

The Rakhine State Cultural Museum is within walking distance of the market and is adjacent to the Jama mosque (built in 1859 but closed since 2012). The museum provides a useful introduction to Mrauk-U. The surrounding area contains most of the city’s hotels as well as trees where its famed fruit bats hang.

Your car becomes useful to go to places outside this central downtown area. The main road south of the

city goes around two kilometers to the city’s recre- ational beach and point with a sunset view. The beach is pleasant enough and seems well suited for a stroll around sunset followed by a drink at one the local restaurants near the Royal Sittwe Resort.

The remaining places to visit in Sittwe are Buddhist sites on the main road (Section 2) out of town—the Lawkananda Pagoda and a Buddhist Museum.

Dining & Overnight in Sittwe

Most restaurants likely to offer a pleasant meal are located on ShuKhin Tha Street, the road along the waterfront south of the general hospital. The River Valley Restaurant is the most established of 3–4 places along this road.

This guide recommends but two upper mid-range hotels (USD 50+)—the Memory Hotel, which has restaurant on its top (fifth) floor that serves a good breakfast (by Myanmar hotel standards), or the Strand Hotel nearby. Both are within walking distance of the central market area and the restaurants of ShuKhin Tha Street (± 1 km).

Another possibility for a meal is the Global Restau- rant, which has an English menu and is among the local places at the back of the beach by the Royal Sittwe Resort. The pricier Royal Sittwe Resort has a beach location and large rooms, but the latter do not look as modern as those at the hotels suggested above.


Section 2Sittwe – Mrauk-U (± 140 kms)

The road out of Sittwe is wide and good, becoming for most of its length a recently upgraded two-lane concrete road (Chinese built?). Views along the route consist of low hills to one side, and prospects over the villages and paddy of the Kaladan River delta to distant hills on the other. Going up to at least one of the pagodas atop low hills to get a panoramic view of the area should be rewarding.

The route includes two narrow road-rail bridges (trains are very infrequent) and at least one narrow wooden bridge yet to be upgraded. Road works in the vicinity of Kyauktaw are closing a ± 20-kilometer gap in the new concrete road surface. Much of the road south to Sittwe and all of the road from Maha- muni to Mrauk U has been upgraded.

± 1 kms (from Sittwe): Lawkananda Paya
Unusually, this paya is hollow—small groups of students from the nearby university use its cool, cavernous space to study.
± 2 kms: Maka Kuthala Kyaungdawgyi Museum
The museum contains an eclectic mix of colonial and Buddhist artefacts.
± 2 kms: Junction— southwest for Sittwe Airport ± 700m to the airport parking area
± 3 kms: Gas stations
Top up your tank here before dropping your car on departure.
± 3-4 kms: Police Checkpoint
Be ready to show passport and car documents (the police seldom check driving licenses). Checkpoints on the main road to Mrauk U will be no problem.
± 19.5 kms: Junction
The highway turns sharply northeast; the minor road continues to a ferry station.
± 24 kms: high bridge over channel
± 28 kms: Junction—minor lane east
Access to the start of the railway to Kyauktaw
± 34.5 kms: Junction—Uritetaung Pagoda
A road goes northwest, passing the entrance to the pagoda (± 3.5 kms). Situated on a low hill, the pagoda should be a good viewpoint over the delta.
± 35.5 kms: Road-rail bridge
± 37 kms: Ponnagyun
± 48 kms: Yeoya Village
The road skirts several villages on the route north.
± 72 kms: Railway crossing
± 80 kms: Z bend and pass over a low ridge
± 85 kms: Railway crossing
± 86 kms: Apaukwa
± 91 kms: Road-rail bridge
± 99 kms: Junction: Kyauktaw
The main road goes east to cross the Kaladan Riv- er on a high bridge—bear left to visit Kyauktaw.
± 100 kms: Kyauktaw Mountain Pagoda

Kyauktaw Pagoda (± 1 kms)

Turn left onto a side road ± 300m east from the bridge, drive round the southwest foot of the hill and then up on the sealed road to a car park on a lower terrace north of the pagoda. At the foot of the covered stairway from the car par, vendors sell food to feed the macaques crowding the steps on the way up to the pagoda—be wary lest the monkeys grab your things!

This site also appears to be the Salagiri Hill ar- chaeological site referred to by Tun Shwe Khine.

± 109 kms: the road goes round Mahamuni

Mahamuni Pagoda

Located at the northeast corner of the former royal palace of an early principality known as Dh- anyawaddy, the Pagoda is on one of Myanmar’s oldest Buddhist sites. A Buddha image said to be a likeness of the Buddha himself is thought to have resided at this site since it was cast in antiq- uity. The image was taken, along with the Khmer bronzes the Arakanese themselves had taken from Pegu in 1599, by King Bodawpaya back to his capital near present-day Mandalay when he captured Mrauk U in 1785.

The main image appears to be a Rakhine crowned image, but the small stone image to the right seems more revered. Its provenance may date back earlier than the 2nd or 3rd centuries C.E.

± 123 kms: Lim Mhwe Taung Pagoda
± 129 kms: Narrow bridge near Tein Nyo
± 133 kms: Junction - east to Vesali (Vaisali)

Vesali

The founding of Vesali predates that of Mrauk U by around 1000 years. At the junction with the minor road to the two villages inside the old perimeter (the latter clearly seen on satellite imagery) are the reconstructed foundations of a gate similar to those found in Pyu sites in central Myanmar. The northern village straddles the site of the old palace. According to Than Shwe Kh- ine, ruins are found at several places, but a guide may only take you to the Great Vesali Image and a collection of standing figures reminiscent of Vedic gods.

± 137 kms: junction for Tin Gauk Taw Pagoda
Located on a hill ovelooing Vesali (± 1800m from the highway), the pagoda is the site of a festival held around December according to lunar month. The minor road is the southern exit from Vesali.
± 145 kms: north turn to main historical area
(± 200m) of Mrauk U


Section 3Mrauk U

Mrauk-U is a fascinating place. Sometimes referred to as Mrohaung (the latter perhaps better translit- erates its name when the final ‘ng’ is not voiced), it straddles the southern tip of a narrow north-south line of ridges in a location difficult to reach by land due to a maze of channels—at first glance it might seem an unlikely site for a once great capital.

Tidal creeks both made the site accessible to ship- ping and provided protection, while the steep ridges formed natural walls around a small valley. This led to the resurgent Rakhine (Arakan) King Narameikhla choosing the site for his capital around 1429.

Modern Mrauk U’s market area and commercial streets lined with shops is wedged between water- ways and the site of the former royal palace. To the north nearby are pleasant residential streets where a couple of restaurants and most hotels are located.

The Mrauk U Archaeological Museum in the grounds of the former palace may or may not be open; otherwise the site of the former palace con- sists of an open ground surrounded by walls. The Portuguese missionary Sebastien Manrique who stayed in Mrauk U in the 1630s (reproduced in Tun Shwe Khine cited on p2.) described the palace.

Of the city, Manrique wrote: “the greater number of its streets [were] navigable for different kinds of craft, big and small, the vehicular service, public and private, depending mostly on these.”

Though historical sites surround the town within the fortifications that used to protect it, the main religious sites and the heart of the sightseeing area is less than a kilometer to the north of the market.

Foremost of these are the Shittaung Paya, and the Andaw Thein, Htukkan Thein and Lay Myet Hna Temples, which are within easy walking dis- tance of each other. The ridges to the east of these temples are where visitors congregate at sunset for the iconic view of pagodas amid misty surrounds.

Of the sites outside the main ones within the core-fortified area, the Koe Thaung Pagoda east of the town is foremost. It is reached by a rough, un- sealed road that is slowly being upgraded (by hand).

Though lanes in the main areas visited by tourists are sealed and smooth, a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle is most useful, especially to venture to any of the more peripheral sites within the ancient fortified area or beyond.

Visitors wanting to take a serious look at Mrauk U must obtain Tun Shwe Khine’s written guide, which has detailed historical and archaeological information (and illustrations) for many sites in the area. Local guides may be unable to surpass this resource (for sightseeing in local villages, organizing a local guide through your hotel is recommended).

Dining & Overnight in Mrauk U

Mrauk U is a fairly small place and does not have many restaurants. The Happy Garden and Moe Cherry Restaurants, and possibly the Shan Noodle Tea Shop, are the first to try.

Most of the hotels are within a few hundred me- ters of the market and Shittaung Pagoda. Of the mid-market hotels, the Mrauk U Hotel and the Mrauk U Palace Hotel offer fair value, good lo- cations and reasonable parking. The Prince is also recommended as a pleasant, family-run hotel.

Alone and far above the rest in terms of facilities is the Mrauk U Princess Resort. It has a pool seem- ingly floating in a lotus pond and rooms in individual lodges with Myanmar-style tiered roofs—the walk- in rate (more than USD 200) seems relatively high, however, and the approach by road is on poorly graded unsealed lanes through a suburb.


Around Mrauk U

East to Koe Thaung and the Lemro River (± 7 kms)

Immediately before the main road south crosses the river to the east of the market, the unsealed Koe Thaung Hpaya road goes 1500m to a fork junction by the Peisi (Pisai) Taung. The left fork goes 250m to Koe Thaung Pagoda and another five kilometers on a concrete lane to a village and boat landing on the Lemro River. The south fork takes an unsealed route of similar length to another jetty for boat trips to Chin villages upstream on the Lemro.



Boat Trips to Chin Villages on the Lemro

A boat trip upriver is a pleasant way to relax. It takes ± 3 hours to go upriver to Chin Villages, which are

home to a few remaining women more than 50 years old who were born when tattooing faces was still the custom in their community. This is a good opportu- nity to see hill folk villages upriver. The return jour- ney takes most of the day but this also allows suffi- cient time for visits to Koe Thaung and other sites to the east. Boat trips must be organized through a guide or your hotel in advance.

South to Minbya (± 34 kms)

Few tourists go farther south of Mrauk U than a few local villages where local guides will show you homes involved in betel nut production from Areca palms.

The main road south goes via Myaung Bwey to a junction (± 28kms, unsealed in villages), where the coastal highway to An and Taungup turns sharply south to a bridge across the Lemro and the contin- uation of new concrete surface for ± 20 kilometers south until it reverts to being a single lane sealed road with uneven surface and frequent potholes.

Continue west (straight) at the junction for Minbya (±34 kms from Mrauk U) , another small market town on a creek that few foreign visitors visit. The pagoda on the hill provides another viewpoint over- looking the town and surrounds. The road south to Pauktaw (± 64 kms) may not be in good condition.


Arakan before 1826

Prior to Mranma migrations across the Rakhine Yoma from around the 10th century, the Arakanese are thought to have been similar to the people of Bengal. Considered to be Mranma people today, the Arakanese have a noticeable Indian genetic heritage.

Arakanese chronicles suggest a principality known as Dhanyawaddy existed from more or less the time of the Buddha in the sixth century B.C.E, but while states of some form had probably long existed in the area, archaeological and epigraphic evidence does not predate the middle of the 4th century C.E., when the Buddhist state known as Vaisali was the capital— Buddhism was established in Arakan long before it reached the interior of Myanmar. Vaisali had trad- ing and political relations with both the Pyu in the Ayeyarwaddy basin and with kingdoms in Bengal.

King Anawrahta of the Bagan dynasty conquered Vaisali in the mid-11th but left it’s hereditary king’s to rule as vassals. When Mongols invaded Bagan in

1283, Arakanese kings enjoyed independence until 1404, when a king of Ava retaliated for an Arakan raid into central Myanmar, forcing the Arakanese king into exile in Bengal. Around 1428, this king reclaimed his throne with help from the Bengali kingdom of Gaur, and then founded Mrauk U around 1430.

A high rainfall facilitated fresh water storage, allowing enough rice to be grown both for export and to sup- port a population large enough for warfare.

Subject to frequent raids, the Arakanese became skilled in marine warfare. From the 16th century, Portuguese freebooters ably assisted them in raiding neighbors in turn.

Mrauk U’s favorable trading situation attracted a cos- mopolitan population that included Dutch, Japanese, Muslims and Portuguese. By the 17th century, Mrauk U’s reputation had become that of a golden Buddhist capital, yet its wealth was partly built on the slave trade.

Mrauk U’s regular slave raids into Bengal—they exported slaves and rice to the Dutch in Batavia—an- gered the Mughals. In 1663 a failed Mughal attempt to rescue three royal Muslim hostages held in Mrauk U incited Mrauk U’s king to execute his hostages and then slaughter many Bengalis and Muslims in the capital.

When Portuguese helping the Arakanese fleet switched sides in 1666, Mughal forces destroyed Mrauk U’s fleet, initiating a long, slow decline in Mrauk U’s power. Though Arakanese raiding continued periodically, internal strife weakened the kingdom. In 1785, King Bodawpaya’s forces captured Mrauk U, forcing half the people to flee into Bengal (now Bangladesh).

Bodawpaya military ambitions were to clash with those of British India, eventually leading to the first Anglo-Burmese war in 1825, and the absorption of lower Myanmar as a British colony.

Inle Lake
&
The Southern Shan Highlands

Highlights

The Intha people who live and farm on the waters of Inle Lake depend entirely on boats to get around, making their wetland home a magical place to visit.

The Intha are just one of many different peoples living in the Shan uplands, a scenic area more than 800 meters above sea level.

The cooler upland clime helped establish Kalaw as a hill station during the colonial period; it re- mains an attractive hill resort today. Like Nyaungshwe near Inle Lake, it is a good base for touring the sur- rounding valleys, where ethnic peoples live in watersheds separated by folds of hills and rugged karsts.

These ethnic groups are clearly identified in The Shan State Cultural Museum in Taunggyi, the lively Shan State capital high in the hills to the east of Inle Lake. If visiting during the cool season (Dec-Feb), you may need to emulate local people and go there to buy some warm clothing.

A road trip south to Loikaw (± 150 kms), the capital of Kayah State, can follow a loop that encompasses the full variety of scenery in the Shan uplands as well as the wealth of ethnic minorities living there.

If planning to go no further south than Samkar and Pinlaung, or north to the famed cave at Pindaya, you will still see much of what the Shan Plateau has to offer.

About this Guide

This guide is designed to make self-drive touring in Myanmar easier and must be used together with an online navigation application—though we recommend Google Maps ® in general (especially satellite view), Maps.me using OpenStreetMap data may at times be better. This guide uses Google Maps ® spelling conven- tions for place names and distances, but actual distanc- es from those shown in this guide may vary ( ± ) by 2.5kms depending on starting point.

Tip: Google Maps is not always as up-to-date as their satellite imagery. Revert to the satellite view for road networks when such is missing from maps, or try Maps.me.

Use media such as Lonely Planet’s Myanmar guide or Travelfish.org, or hire a guide (your hotel will be able to arrange this) for detailed information—this guide only lists sights and suggests a few restaurants and hotels (upscale USD75+/mid-range USD30–60+).


Before You Arrive & Drive

Valid Driver’s License

You cannot legally drive in Myanmar without a valid international driver’s permit or ASEAN driver’s license.

Smart Phone and Navigation Application

Your smart phone should be preloaded with Google Maps ® or other navigation applications.

Myanmar Sim Card

Getting a Myanmar sim card on arrival (essential for Google Maps ® ) is recommended— MPT coverage is good. Wifi in mid-range hotels is often inoperable.

Removable Device Holder

(Important!) Bring a detachable holder suitable to attach your navigation device to the windscreen for ease of vision and minimal distraction from the road.


Contents/Planning Your Drive

Roads on the Shan Plateau are being continuously upgraded and are good by Myanmar’s standards. Sealed roads cover the entire area of this drive—only 4-wheel drive vehicles may be taken on unsealed roads.

Allow a full day for a journey from Kalaw/Nyaungsh- we to Loikaw. There is higher-end accommodation in Kalaw, Nyaungshwe (Inle), Taunggyi and Loikaw, and inexpensive hotels in Pekon, Pinlaung and Ywangan.

There should be little need to drive after dark on routes in this guide. If travel after dark is necessary, however, drive very slowly and cautiously—pedestrians, roadworks, vehicles without lights and other unlit hazards are common!

Page
Section 1: Heho Airport to Nyaungshwe (± 33 kms)
& Inle Lake Area (Inn Dein/Samkar ± 33/78 kms
3
Section 2: Heho Airport to Kalaw (± 37 kms) 4
Section 3: East to Taungyi & beyond (± 31–71 kms) 6
Section 4: South to Loikaw & Pinlaung
Nyaungshwe–Kakku–Loikaw ± 200kms:
Loikaw–Pinlaung ± 90 kms: Pinlaung–Kalaw/
Nyaungshwe ±78 kms)
7
Section 5: North to Pindaya (± 41 kms) & Ywangan
(± 103 kms) from Heho Airport
10

Driving in Myanmar

All Yoma Fleet rental vehicles are left-hand drive (right -hand gear shift) for driving on the right in Myanmar.

Traffic Speeds are relatively slow. Myanmar drivers are usually polite and often give way, especially outside of major cities like Yangon and Mandalay.

Due to old policy, more than 80 percent of vehicles are right-hand drive vehicles. This may contribute to uncertainty and greater caution. Approach intersec- tions and circles cautiously and you will get through.

Lane discipline approaching intersections is strict. Drivers do not enter empty left-turn lanes and then cut back in—they may pass on the inside (right side)!

Sealed main roads are generally good, but beware of uneven surfaces and abrupt gradient changes—do not drive faster than the speed limit of 100 kph! Nar- row one-lane provincial highways require extra care; drivers must slow and put offside wheels on the unsealed hard shoulder to pass oncoming traffic!

Tolls are common on Myanmar’s roads and usually vary from MMK 200–1000+. Keep plenty of small notes of Myanmar currency to hand in your vehicle.

Night Driving should be avoided since unlit vehi- cles and other hazards raise the accident risk factor.

Gas Stations: Please only top up your tank at new gas stations near large towns. These are less likely to serve contaminated fuel from old storage tanks that can lead to a breakdown of your vehicle!

Hotline - 09 966235338 (09 YOMAFLEET)
Contact: aung@yomafleet.com
Further information: yomacarshare.com

Section 1 Heho Airport–Nyaungshwe–Inle Lake

Whether staying in Nyaungshwe or at a luxury resort aside the lake, a car is most useful for driving to scenic places around the lake. Of course, boats are necessary to reach many destinations on the lake and surrounding wetlands. While the 12-kilometer boat journey from Nyaungshwe down a river channel and the northern part of the lake to the main sights is pleasant, it is worth driving south to start at better places to begin a boat trip such as Main Thauk, where a picturesque wooden footbridge goes to a village on stilts (see below).

Many of the well-known places to visit are in the wetlands on the southwestern side of the lake. These include the Nga Hpe Kyaung—the “Jumping Cat Monastery” and the Phaung Daw Oo Paya (Monas- tery). Along with the fisherfolk, floating gardens, restau- rants, silversmiths, lotus-thread weavers and scenery reflected in the placid waters of the lake, the monasteries and Intha people living in the villages around them make Inle Lake unforgettable.


Heho Airport–Nyaungshwe (± 32 kms)

Highway 4 is a busy route with heavy traffic, and though it is unavoidable, the distances required to travel along it are not great. In parts the road has been upgraded and is wide and smooth; in others it may be a dusty work in progress. Construction company tollgates are located just east of Kalaw and to the west of Taunggyi.

00 kms: Heho Airport

± 5.5 kms (from Heho Airport): Heho (He Hoe)Town The road north from the stoplights at the T-junction is the best route to Pindaya Cave and Ywangan.

± 11.5 kms: Bawa Than Tha Yar Bridge Halfway down a series of bends where Hwy 4 descends to the valley of Inle Lake, the Kalaw– Lawksawk railway loops itself on an unprotected viaduct (exposed sleepers/no guard railings!) Local folks like to walk on it and take selfies.

± 13 kms: Road Junction The “Inle Lake Corridor Road West (Google)” starts abruptly after the final bend of the descent.

± 20 kms: Shwenyaung: intersection with stoplights Turn south for Nyaungshwe/Inle Lake. N.B. We recommend fueling up at the new Denko gas sta- tion ± 1 km to the south.

± 29.5 kms: the Inle Zone Checkpoint is just south of the Shwe Nyan Paya. Foreigners must pay US$10. Inle Zone tickets are valid for 10 days; be ready to show the ticket when you pass Inle Zone checkpoints day or night.

± 32 kms: Nyaungshwe

Nyaungshwe

The seat of the local Sawbwa’s, Yawnghwe (the original Shan name) was one of what the 19th century gazet- teer of Upper Burma, Sir J.G.Scott, famously described as a “bedlam of snarling Shan states.” Today, Nyaung- shwe is a tourist center and the main point of entry for Inle Lake. Its pleasant mix of older and modern low-rise buildings on the town’s regular grid of streets is interrupted here and there by newer medium-rise hotel blocks. Inlets off the river channel are the main start point for boat trips.

Nyaungshwe’s center is small enough to walk from downtown hotel to temple, market and restaurant, though a car is useful for cross-town trips to places like the Nyaungshwe Cultural Museum. The building is the former palace of Sawbwa Sir Sao Maung, who built it between 1913 and 1923 (for some interesting infor- mation about the people who lived in the palace, see “Secrets of a Shan Palace” in www2.irrawaddy.com). It is one place not to miss.

Eating & Sleeping: Nyaungshwe & Inle Lake

For Myanmar food in a local atmosphere, try Lin Htett. For Myanmar and Shan food to order, Htoo Rayat BBQ and Sun Flower also offer reasonable value, while the Inlay Hut is recommended for Indian Food. There are numerous other local-style restaurants that may similarly offer good food at modest prices. More mid-market restaurants serving a mix of cuisines include The Ancestor Restaurant, Chillax Bistro and The Green Chilli, not to forget the in-house restau- rants of hotels. Though there are some bars, the streets of Nyaungshwe become quiet later in the evening.

A few restaurants are located along the road down the east side of the lake, where some of the most sumptu- ous hotels on Inle are located. These normally receive guests who come by boat. Among hotels easily reached by car are (north to south) The Inle Princess Resort, The Inle Resort and Spa, the Aureum Palace Resort & Spa and the high-end Villa Inle Boutique Resort.

n Nyaungshwe, The Manor Hotel Inle, Mingalar Inn, Mount Inle Resort, Viewpoint Lodge and White Avenue Hotel are among the many reasonable if not good hotels.

Around Inle Lake

South to Samka (Inle Lake East : ± 62 kms)

The sealed road on the east side of the lake first passes some restaurants and resorts on the route south toward Moebyel Lake. This is also the direct route south to Loikaw and Pinlaung.

0 kms: Nyaungshwe (Yammadaw Rd. & Yone Gyi St. junction) ± 4 kms: Red Mountain Estate Vineyards & Winery (east turn 500m, 09–18hrs) ± 7 kms: Inle Heart View Restaurant (east turn 400m—highly rated on Trip Advisor) ± 8.5 kms: Infinity Restaurant Turn west for The Inle Princess Resort (500m). ± 10 kms: The Inle Resort & Spa (west turn, 500m) ± 12 kms: Main Thouk/Thauk Wooden Bridgewest turn 300m).

More than 400m in length, this picturesque wooden walkway ends at Main Thauk, a village on stilts above the wetland. Three res- taurants are accessible by walkways directly from the bridge—go to the end restaurant and ask for a boat tour around the village—it will be paddled in the signature method of the Intha people.

For motorized boats, negotiate with boatmen awaiting customers at the entrance to the lane down to a pay car park and the walkway, but first learn elsewhere what a typical boat ride should cost.

The lane opposite goes east to Main Thouk Mon- astery; the cool inside the pagoda may impress as much as the view.

± 13.5 kms: Aureum Palace Resort & Spa ± 14.5 kms: Villa Inle Boutique Resort ± 27.5 kms: Detour to Nampan Village

(west turn, 1.5kms). This village is also a good starting point for boat trips and will be especially interesting on market day in the five-day market rota held in different locations around Inle lake.

± 35 kms: Fork junction: turn east for Kakku Pagoda. The oblique junction with a sealed road east is the start of the route to Kakku Pagoda (see page 7/ South from Taunggyi to Kakku Pagoda & South to Loikaw via Loisawn).

± 48 kms: Traffic circle near the Swe Sein Ni Cafe Cafés surround this atmospheric crossroads. The road east to Hsihseng becomes unsealed (after ± 2 kms—not recommended/4WD only). The road west is the start of a pretty route to Pinlaung (rec- ommended). Continue south for Samka.

± 62 kms: Samka Village (west turn on unsealed track ± 700m). This village would be like others bounding Moebyel Lake were it not for a Little Lodge in Samkar. This bou- tique lodge is a comfortable, relatively upmarket base for exploring village life and taking a boat trip across the northern end of the lake to Tharkong Pagoda and other places. Tour groups coming by boat stop for lunch at its airy second-floor restau- rant (08-17hrs)—a good place for a meal break.

± 71 kms: sealed road ends (scheduled for upgrading) A rough, metalled road continues south for 2 kms to a turn off southwest by a tree, and then a dirt track (another 8 kms) to the southern end of the Phaya Taung peninsula, where there is a market and the Inlay Sanctuary Resort. The monastery is a local education center.

South to Shwe Inn Dein Pagoda (Inle Lake West ± 30 kms)

Follow Yone Gyi Street from Yammadaw Rd (00 kms) across the bridge to begin on this route.

± 5 kms: south turn at T-junction. Follow the “Inle Lake West Corridor Road.” There is an Inle Zone checkpoint just to the north of this junction.

± 9 kms: Khaung Daing Natural Hotspring Segregated pools in a well-appointed setting offer warm relaxation (US$10/2 hours/person).

± 12 kms: Khaung Daing Village Known for its production of tofu and noodles, Khaung Daing is also the location for three resorts that are directly accessible from the road: these are (north to south), the Pristine Lotus Spa Resort, Inle Lake View Resort & the Hu Pin Khaung Daing Village Resort Inle Lake. Boat trips on the lake can be arranged from this village.

± 29.5 kms: junction—unsealed road west (4WD). This route west (unsealed ± 17.5 kms/sealed 11.5 kms) passes the Myat Saytaman Traditional Bamboo House (± 10 kms by road from Shwe Inn Dein), a lodge in Kyauk Su Village serving trekkers on the Kalaw-Inle trekking route.

± 30.5 kms: Shwe Inn Dein Pagoda Take time to walk around the old pagodas (stu- pas/chedis) of Nyaung Ohak near the entrance to the long, covered walkway leading up to the central shrine in this pagoda. The covered walk- way itself is lined with souvenir stalls (the sell is soft) for most of its 600-meter length. With no restriction as yet on who may donate a pagoda, there are already more here at Inn Dein than at Kakku. Together with the village and waterway trips through the nearby wetlands (boat trips can be arranged from the village), the pagoda is worth the visit, especially on the day the 5-day market rota comes to the village.

Section 2 Heho–Kalaw ( ± 35 kms)

Apart from possible roadworks and delays in the busy town of Aungpan (Aung Ban), the route to Kalaw from Heho Airport should be straightforward and fast. To the west of Aungpan, the scenery of farmed uplands changes to one of hills clad with pine trees.

A more scenic but longer route for this journey is to go via Pindaya Cave (see section 5, page 10).

± 00 kms: Heho Airport: turn west on Hwy. 4 (Turn east for Pindaya—see p10.) ± 23 kms: junction with road south to Shwe Inn Dein ± 24 kms: Aungpan/Aung Ban Junction with Highway 41 north to Ywangan & Kyaukse: Turn southwest (left) for Kalaw.


Aungpan

Aungpan is the second largest town (after Taunggyi) in this drive. It is mainly a commercial center for trading and transshipping agricultural products from the surrounding uplands of the Shan Plateau, but it is also an education center. It has a large market and there are business-type hotels. While Kalaw is likely to be a more pleasant place to stay, Aungpan’s much busier market should be interesting.

±

27.5 kms (from Heho Airport): Road junction: Highway 54 south to Pinlaung & Loikaw

±

28 kms: Highway construction company tollbooth

± 29.5 kms: Side road north to upland villages (unsealed after 3 kms—4WD only)
± 34 kms: Kalaw Myoma Market N.B. A one-way street system operates anticlock- wise round the market. Enter via Min Street.

Kalaw

Kalaw is a relatively small town centered on its color- ful main market; many of the town’s restaurants are located nearby. A fair number of the buildings are old, but even the new ones are seldom more than two stories high. With sealed lanes running between pine-clad hills to tranquil resorts, several of which are in old colonial-era buildings themselves, Kalaw re- mains strongly reminiscent of its origins as a hill station for British colonialists fleeing the heat of the plains. In this regard it is a smaller version of Pyin Oo Lwin (formerly Maymyo, the premier hill station in colonial times) on the Mandalay–Lashio Road.

Many visitors like to walk to sights around Kalaw (distances shown are from Kalaw Myoma Market). The Thein Taung Paya requires a short climb up a covered walkway from just across the main road north of the market. Other sights include the old Railway Station (800m), which has a friendly station master and will be interesting if one of the infrequent trains on the line is imminent, and the Hnee Pagoda on a hill (± 3.5 kms) west of town, which features an old gilded Buddha image made of lacquered plant matter. Amid the grounds of the military encampment that contains the golf course (2 kms + southwest from the market), the Shwe Oo Min Pagoda has a cave full of Buddha images similar to other caves in Myanmar (but not to Pindaya and Htem Sann in this drive).

At least 2–3 days notice will be required to visit the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp (± 28 kms west down Hwy 4 to Payangazu), but trekking companies in town can quickly arrange guides for longer day- hikes to Palaung (closest & mainly to the north of Kalaw), Pa-O, Danu and Taung Yoo villages (mainly to south). Your car may help you reach convenient starting points for hikes, but 4WD vehicles must be used for travel on unsealed roads around Kalaw.

Eating & Sleeping in Kalaw

Restaurants in Kalaw are generally located within walking distance of the market. For Myanmar and other Asian foods, the more genteel Thirighaya 7 Sisters is highly rated, though the Thu Maung restaurant should be good for curries & side dishes in the Myanmar style. Descendants of Indians who came Inle & Shan 5with the British are numerous in Kalaw and have contributed their cuisine to several of the town’s better-known restaurants. The Yadana Talkie House Indian Restaurant has an unusual setting in an old cinema/theater, and the Everest Nepali and the 3 N South India restaurants are nearby. The Red House Bar & Restaurant (European food) is also close by.

Among the mid-upper range hotels, the Hill Top Villa offers views and value, and the Kalaw Heri- tage Hotel has a fine old building; its standard rooms are similarly priced to those of the Pine Hill Resort. The Amara Mountain Resort Kalaw is in two buildings, one in the original, converted private house and the second in a replica. At the top end is the Royal Kalaw Hills Resort, again in a converted building that from outside looks like it could be a period house in England.

Section 3 East to Taunggyi & Beyond

Distances shown are from Heho Airport—subtract 10 kms if coming from Nyaungshwe. See Section 1 Heho–Nyaungshwe for the first 20kms of the route from Heho Airport.

± 00 kms: Heho Airport
± 20 kms: Shwenyaung
T-junction (traffic lights) with the road south to Nyaungshwe & Inle Lake
± 21 kms: T-junction with road north to Lawksawk
± 24 kms: Construction Company Tollgate
± 26 kms: Aye Tharyar Golf Club (north 500m)
± 27.5 kms: T-junction—back route to Nyaungshwe
± 29 kms: Highway divides into one-way roads There are many bends on the ascending/descending roads!
± 30 kms: Aythaya Wine Resort (ascending road) The Sunset Wine Garden Restaurant (08:30– 22hrs) has a good view over the valley.
± 35 kms: Ascending & descending roads merge.
± 38 kms: Taunggyi city center

Taunggyi

Aptly named “big mountain,” Taunggyi is a populous trading center on routes between Thailand (via Kyaing Tong/Kengtung and Takhileik) and China. One of the largest cities in Myanmar, Taunggyi owes its elevated location (more than 1400m a.s.l) to British colonialists who found the local seat of Shan power in Yawnghwe on the plain of Inle Lake below too hot for comfort as a center of administration.

The present-day capital of Shan State, Taunggyi is home to Bamars, Shan, Chinese, Indian and a host of minorities who have Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and other religious affiliations.

Among people living elsewhere in the Shan State, Taunggyi is primarily known as a place to buy clothes, though probably not the traditional costumes of more than 20 ethnic minorities, examples of which can be seen in the Shan State Cultural Museum—though such museums may at first appear to be low in content, there is always something or someone that makes a visit worthwhile.

Just wandering around the shops, market, pagodas and churches should also be interesting, even for those familiar with Asian cities. The pagodas and the ridge (± 1800m a.s.l.) overlooking Taunggyi have viewpoints over vast swathes of the Shan Plateau east and west.

Taunggyi is most famous for its Fire Balloon Festival, a raucous, climactic two-week event held during the waxing moon in the eighth month of Myanmar’s lunar calendar. If going to this festival, you should (and will have to) park well away from the Awayyar Fire Balloon Field, and then walk in or take a taxi. Keep all valuables but essential cash locked in your vehicle (cutpurses and pickpockets target foreign visitors in the crowds) and don’t get close or downwind when fire balloons are launched, especially those with heavy payloads of fireworks—this event is hazardous!

Eating & Sleeping in Taunggyi

Restaurants to try include the Taung Chune and Kyeing Ton Restaurants for Burmese food, and the Lotus Thai and Shan Tai for Asian food.

There are many downtown business-type hotels in the city, though not many look attractive. The Mountain Star Hotel gets good ratings, while the Royal Taung- gyi Hotel has a grand appearance, but it pales in comparison to high-end places on Inle Lake.

Beyond Taunggyi

East from Taunggyi to Htem Sann Cave ± 43 kms

From Taunggyi, Highway 4 tracks east, but the furthest this drive goes along this route is Htem Sann Cave.There is a tollbooth along this route between Taung- gyi and Hoppong.

00 kms: Taungyi Myoma Market/Ocean Supercenter
± 4 kms: Royal Taunggyi Hotel Just east of the hotel, a side road climbs to the Shwe Pone Pwint and Shwe Modaw Pagodas and viewpoints on the ridge overlooking the city.
± 20.5 kms: Hoppong, junction with Highway 5
± 43 kms: Htem Sann Cave

Formed by an underground stream, the accessi- ble part of Htem Sann Cave is perhaps 150m or more in length and has many pretty stalactites, though these do not appear to have the shiny crys- talline formations of a living cave. Buddha images have been artfully placed among the stalactites dripping from the ceiling on each side of a tiled walkway traversing the well-lit interior. Though there are many images to which devotees may pay obeisance, they are not so numerous as to distract from the impressive calcareous formations.

However, the 43-km route to the cave does not pass anything especially different to what has gone before. Accordingly, foreign visitors must decide whether it is worth going there and paying local religious authorities US$20/head to see the cave.

South from Taunggyi to Kakku Pagoda (± 44 kms)

From Taunggyi, the drive south gradually descends, passing upand villages and Kakku Pagoda on a route to Loisawn and Highway 5 south to Loikaw.

00 kms: Taunggyi Myoma Market/Ocean Supercenter
± 3.5 kms: (Last) Turn south for the route to Kakku.
± 37 kms: Keep left (east) at fork junction.
± 44 kms: Kakku Pagoda The number of pagodas permitted has been fro- zen at 2478. With a US$3 entrance fee, visitors pay 0.12 cents per pagoda to enjoy such a concentra- tion of one of the most elegant Buddhist forms.

The Hlaing Konn Pa-O National Restaurant is in the grove of trees west of the pagoda complex. It has good online ratings.

However, the 43-km route to the cave does not pass anything especially different to what has gone before. Accordingly, foreign visitors must decide whether it is worth going there and paying local religious authorities US$20/head to see the cave.

± 50 kms. T-junction with Nampan–Kyauktalone- gi–Loisawn Road at the village of Lwe Sa, Loisawn is ± 8.5 kms to the east.

Happy & safe driving!

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Contact: aung@yomafleet.com
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Section 4 South to Loikaw & Pinlaung

To go south to Loikaw via Loisawn on Highway 5, go via Taunggyi as described above. Alternatively, drive directly south from Nyaungshwe on the east side of Lake Inle for ±35 kms and then take the sealed road east to Loisawn.

To return from Loikaw, take Highway 41 via Pin- laung, which, after following the Myoebyel Lake, ascends into the folds of the craggy limestone range west of the lakes.

South to Loikaw via Loisawn

Highway 5 to Loikaw is a recently upgraded and generally smooth, though not particularly wide road. It passes two small towns, following a route down a vale as far as Hsihseng before entering more hilly country on the approach to Loikaw.

For the first ± 35 kms of the route south from Nyaungshwe to the fork junction on the Nyaungsh- we-Pinlaung Road, see “Around Inle Lake/South to Samka” (page 4).

00 kms: Fork junction on Pinlaung-Loisawn Rd. ± 35 kms from Nyaungshwe. Take the road northeast to Loisawn.
± 15 kms: Kyauktalonegyi
± 27 kms: Keep right (southeast) at junction.
± 29 kms: Saung Pho Village
± 34 kms: Junction at village (Lwe Sa) Detour north for Kakku Pagoda (6 kms, see page 7) and Hlaing Konn Pa-O Restaurant.
± 42.5/00 kms: Loisawn Turn south on Highway 5.
00 kms: Loisawn
± 20.5 Kms: fork junction in Hsihseng Bear left (southeast).
± 55 kms: bridge/checkpoint/Kayah State boundary
± 55.5 kms: village & detour to Htee Sel Kar Falls Turn east (left) at any of the roads in this village for a road to a pretty spot on the south side of these low falls (±1500m from highway). Drinks and food are available at local stalls.
± 58 kms: Kong Pyek
± 70 kms: detour east to Aung Thar Pyae Cave (500m) This cave may be around 200m long and has the customary Buddha images in various niches. Take a torch (phone) should the lights go out for any reason at this less visited cave.
± 71.5 kms: junction with Highway 41 at Tun Nyu About 200m south of this intersection, a new Denko Gas Station is a reliable place to fuel up.
± 78.5 Junction: both routes go to Loikaw
± 82 kms: Loikaw Clocktower Turn west (right) for places on the north side of the river. The market center is across the river to the south.

Loikaw

With a population of around 130,000, Kayah State’s capital is less than half the size of Taunggyi. Located on a bend on the Pilu River, it is also much lower (± 880m a.s.l.) Its commercial center is fairly small, though low-rise developments in the suburbs are spreading outwards. The town and surrounds have quite a strong Christian presence due to the relative success of missionaries in converting upland folks.

More a medium-sized town than a city, Loikaw is easy to drive around. The most visible physical feature is the karst and precarious-looking pagodas of the Taung Kwe Pagoda. They overlook the center of town from the south and are good places from which to watch sunrises and sunsets. Other things to see in town are the Thiri Mingalarpon Kyaung, a monastery that is the former palace of Kayah’s saopha (Princess; the monastery is near Shwe Lin Tan Noodle on Google Maps), the Catholic complex around Christ the King Cathedral, the morning market and possibly the cultural museum. One seeming anomaly in the town is the large size of the railway station building relative to frequency of trains (± one per day).

Eating & Sleeping: Loikaw

The Pho Kwar restaurant is a reliable spot on the river, but the Golden Lion Restaurant and Mingalar Traditional Food get better ratings. Also try the Amazing Bar, a modern Thai-style sports bar (with a large screen for football matches), which serves food and drink on a rooftop with a view over the town.

There are a several mid-range and higher-end places to stay. At the lower end but away from the center of town is the reliable Loikaw Princess, while the Famous Hotel is one of several with mid-market convenience near the center of town. At the top end are the Loikaw Lodge Hotel and Cafe (try their restaurant) and the Kayah Resort, which overlook the Htay Nga Lia Lake.

Around Loikaw

Though Loikaw is a pleasant town, there might not seem quite enough reason to visit were it not for Kayah State’s ethnic minorities living in the surround- ing areas; many but not all of these people would be described as Karenni or Kayan.

Most famous are the Kayah/Padaung, the “long- neck” Karen, who originate from this area but who can also be seen in Thailand, living in tourism-oriented encampments having either fled adverse conditions in Myanmar or (more recently) gone there for economic betterment. Those who remain near Loikaw (a few have returned from Thailand) appear to receive foreign visitors willingly.

Visiting the Padaung (their preferred name is Kayah) villages on sealed roads is straightforward, and there are other places that can be visited along the route.

Taking a guide for the day becomes very useful for communicating with ethnic peoples. Amazing Kayah Travel & Tours, Treasure Time Travel & Tours or your hotel can arrange guide services.

To visit the Padaung/Kayah, take the road from Loikaw to Demoso.

00 kms: Loikaw, Taung Kwe Pagoda
± 13 kms: Detour to Umbrella Pond & Seven Lakes Turn south (left in direction of travel west):
± 3.5 kms: Htee Pwint Pond: rising gas causes sediment to expand over days into umbrella-like bulges before releasing gas and subsiding.
± 8.5 kms: Kayah village: a community-based tourism (CBT) project liaises with villagers but a Burmese-language speaker is required.
± 10 kms: Seven Lakes. A local picnic spot with a traditional house by one of seven small lakes.
± 15.5 kms: Road junction by Ngwe Taung Dam Go west (right) on the Demoso–Taungoo Road for Padaung/Kayah villages.

Detour south (left) to go to the Marcopolo Res- taurant (± 3kms) on Highway 5 to Hpruso.

± 23 kms: Taw Kyat Taung Pagoda Silver pagodas perch on a karst like birds on a rock.
± 33.5 kms: Turn northwest on a sealed side road. ± 2kms Pan Pet, the first of five Kayah/Padaung (long-neck) villages in the next 5 kms on this road.

N.B. The main road continues on a road of uncer- tain condition on a very long (Taungoo, 240 kms) winding route through remote mountainous coun- try. In the event of a mishap, recovery could take more than a day. Yomacarshare vehicles should not be taken on this route!

Loikaw–Pinlaung

Highway 54 north varies in quality. Some sections near Moebyel Lake are older, the narrow single-lane requiring oncoming traffic to go onto the hard shoulder). Further north in the highlands, the road is slightly wider and generally better.

00 kms: Loikaw Clocktower
± 11/00 kms: junction with Highway 41 & 5 Turn west (left) at this junction after topping gas up at the Denko Gas Station nearby if necessary. Distances to Pinlaung are from this junction.
± 11.5 kms: detour north for Moebyel Dam (5 kms)
± 17.5 kms: Moe Bye
± 27.5 kms: Jeroblo Marian Shrine This Christian shrine is ±200m from the road at a scenic spot where the road is close to the lake. The Bamboo House Restaurant and another restaurant are near this location.
± 31 kms: Pekon The mid-range Pekon Princess Resort is by the lake.
± 45 kms: Highway 54 climbs from the lake to the uplands.
± 76.5 kms: Junction with road to Naypyitaw (± 153 kms)
± 80.5 kms: Pinlaung

Pinlaung

Wedged in a narrow upland valley between limestone ridges, Pinlaung provides the opportunity for a look at life in a small Shan town on an upland crossroads. Things to see are not much different from other Shan towns (pagodas, the market), but its setting within ridges topped by stupas helps create a special atmosphere. A sealed lane past the Hotel Pin Laung ascends to a communications mast and pagoda on an 1800m peak; there are fine views from there.

Eating & Sleeping: Pinlaung

Pinlaung is not a place many would naturally choose to stay, but the small town has its charms, and it is a useful resting point if night approaches and the next destination is too far. The best-rated places to eat are the San Nan Daw and Pin Lon restaurants, but any of the small restaurants along the high street should provide good food. The Hotel Pin Laung and Wine Wine Lae Motel offer low mid-market rooms of similar quality, the former being away from the center and the latter on the high street.

North from Pinlaung

Highway 54 climbs out of Pinlaung over a low pass and descends. to a broad upland vale. Near the foot of the descent (± 83kms from Tun Nyu/± 2.5 kms from Pinlaung), the narrow road to Nyaungshwe/ Taunggyi forks northeast (right).

Pinlaung–Highway 4 near Aungpan (± 68 kms)

Highway 54 ontinues north through several Shan vil- lages in a broad, populous upland vale, joining High- way 4 between Kalaw and Aungpan (see page 5).

00 kms: Pinlaung
± 2.5 kms: junction with road northeast to Nyaungshwe
± 36 kms: slightly industrial ambience There is a coalfield east of the highway.
± 68 kms: triangular junction with Highway 4 Kalaw is 6.5 kms to the west.

Pinlaung–Nyaungshwe (± 78 kms)

The narrow road to Nyaungshwe crosses over three ridges before dropping down to the lakes. 00 kms: Junction with Highway 54 ± 2.5 kms from Pinlaung

00 kms: Junction with Highway 54 ± 2.5 kms from Pinlaung
± 16.5 kms (from Highwy 54): crossroads start of circular route north to Naungtayar
± 27 kms: traffic circle (see page 4/Around Inle Lake/South to Samka). Nyaungshwe is ± 48kms to the north.

Aptly named “big mountain,” Taunggyi is a populous trading center on routes between Thailand (via Kyaing Tong/Kengtung and Takhileik) and China. One of the largest cities in Myanmar, Taunggyi owes its elevated location (more than 1400m a.s.l) to British colonialists who found the local seat of Shan power in Yawnghwe on the plain of Inle Lake below too hot for comfort as a center of administration.

The present-day capital of Shan State, Taunggyi is home to Bamars, Shan, Chinese, Indian and a host of minorities who have Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and other religious affiliations.

Among people living elsewhere in the Shan State, Taunggyi is primarily known as a place to buy clothes, though probably not the traditional costumes of more than 20 ethnic minorities, examples of which can be seen in the Shan State Cultural Museum—though such museums may at first appear to be low in content, there is always something or someone that makes a visit worthwhile.

Just wandering around the shops, market, pagodas and churches should also be interesting, even for those familiar with Asian cities. The pagodas and the ridge (± 1800m a.s.l.) overlooking Taunggyi have viewpoints over vast swathes of the Shan Plateau east and west.

Taunggyi is most famous for its Fire Balloon Festival, a raucous, climactic two-week event held during the waxing moon in the eighth month of Myanmar’s lunar calendar. If going to this festival, you should (and will have to) park well away from the Awayyar Fire Balloon Field, and then walk in or take a taxi. Keep all valuables but essential cash locked in your vehicle (cutpurses and pickpockets target foreign visitors in the crowds) and don’t get close or downwind when fire balloons are launched, especially those with heavy payloads of fireworks—this event is hazardous!

Eating & Sleeping in Taunggyi

Restaurants to try include the Taung Chune and Kyeing Ton Restaurants for Burmese food, and the Lotus Thai and Shan Tai for Asian food.

There are many downtown business-type hotels in the city, though not many look attractive. The Mountain Star Hotel gets good ratings, while the Royal Taung- gyi Hotel has a grand appearance, but it pales in comparison to high-end places on Inle Lake.

Beyond Taunggyi

East from Taunggyi to Htem Sann Cave ± 43 kms

From Taunggyi, Highway 4 tracks east, but the furthest this drive goes along this route is Htem Sann Cave.There is a tollbooth along this route between Taung- gyi and Hoppong.

00 kms: Taungyi Myoma Market/Ocean Supercenter
± 4 kms: Royal Taunggyi Hotel Just east of the hotel, a side road climbs to the Shwe Pone Pwint and Shwe Modaw Pagodas and viewpoints on the ridge overlooking the city.
± 20.5 kms: Hoppong, junction with Highway 5
± 43 kms: Htem Sann Cave

Formed by an underground stream, the accessi- ble part of Htem Sann Cave is perhaps 150m or more in length and has many pretty stalactites, though these do not appear to have the shiny crys- talline formations of a living cave. Buddha images have been artfully placed among the stalactites dripping from the ceiling on each side of a tiled walkway traversing the well-lit interior. Though there are many images to which devotees may pay obeisance, they are not so numerous as to distract from the impressive calcareous formations.

However, the 43-km route to the cave does not pass anything especially different to what has gone before. Accordingly, foreign visitors must decide whether it is worth going there and paying local religious authorities US$20/head to see the cave.

South from Taunggyi to Kakku Pagoda (± 44 kms)

From Taunggyi, the drive south gradually descends, passing upand villages and Kakku Pagoda on a route to Loisawn and Highway 5 south to Loikaw.

00 kms: Taunggyi Myoma Market/Ocean Supercenter
± 3.5 kms: (Last) Turn south for the route to Kakku.
± 37 kms: Keep left (east) at fork junction.
± 44 kms: Kakku Pagoda The number of pagodas permitted has been fro- zen at 2478. With a US$3 entrance fee, visitors pay 0.12 cents per pagoda to enjoy such a concentra- tion of one of the most elegant Buddhist forms.

The Hlaing Konn Pa-O National Restaurant is in the grove of trees west of the pagoda complex. It has good online ratings.

However, the 43-km route to the cave does not pass anything especially different to what has gone before. Accordingly, foreign visitors must decide whether it is worth going there and paying local religious authorities US$20/head to see the cave.

± 50 kms. T-junction with Nampan–Kyauktalone- gi–Loisawn Road at the village of Lwe Sa, Loisawn is ± 8.5 kms to the east.

Section 5 North to Pindaya & Ywangan

From the stoplights in Heho Town, a road north links to two sealed roads that track west through upland scenery to both Pindaya Cave and Ywan- gan. These roads pass through villages and farming country where Pa-O and other upland peoples grow sesame, soya, corn, sugarcane, cabbages and other products to be trucked to Mandalay and Yangon.

The route from Heho to Pindaya and down to Aung- pan is a scenic alternative (± 75 kms) to Highway 4 between Heho and Aungpan (± 25.5 kms).

Heho–Pindaya

00 kms: T-junction with stoplights in Heho Town.
± 10 kms. Intersection with sealed road west Turn west (left) for Ywangan and Pindaya. The second road to Pindaya tracks west ± 19.5 kms on the road north from Heho.
± 23.5 kms. Junction with Highway 41 to Lawksawk Turn north (right) for Pindaya (±13.5 kms). Turn southwest (left) for Aungpan (± 25.5 kms).
± 26.5 kms. Junction with minor sealed road west. Continue north on Highway 41 for Pindaya. Turn west (left) for route to Ywangan.
± 34 kms: side road west to Pindaya Cave Turn west and continue straight. Do not turn left at intersection after ± 1 km as this is a one-way route down from the car park near the cave.
± 36 kms: Pindaya Cave car park.

Pindaya

At the entrance to Pindaya Cave, a sculpture of a prince firing an arrow at a spider refers to a legend in which the prince rescues a distressed princess impris- oned in the cave by the spider. A walkway near this entrance leads to a monastery.

The 9,000 Buddha images accumulated in the cave since the mid-17th century have reached such density that no more are allowed—passage between them can be single file and natural features like stalactites may seem obscured. One of the images in the cave has the name of Senior Gen. Than Shwe on it.

The approach to the cave on Shwe Oo Min Pagoda street from Pindaya Lake passes some fine old trees, where local folk like to take pony rides. The town’s location and the lake at the foot of the ridge to the west create a pleasant ambience.

Eating & Sleeping: Pindaya

The Green Tea Restaurant and Golden Moon Restaurant are among the reputedly good restau- rants in Pindaya. The Pindaya Inle Inn also gets reasonable ratings.

Highway 41–Ywangan

The cross-country route to Highway 411 to Ywangan continues through pastoral landscape from Hwy 41.

00 kms junction on Highway 41 (26.5 kms from Heho/± 28 kms from Aungpan)
± 11.5 /00 kms: T-junction with Highway 411 Turn north (right) for Ywangan (± 40 kms), south for Aungpan (± 30.5 kms). Distances north are from this point.
± 13 kms: Detour west to the Blue Water Lagoon & Taw Gyal Falls (± 1750m) just north of Nyaungbingwa Villlage. These are pleasant but rel- atively small attractions.
± 26 kms: Detour right for a rural route. The route goes through villages at the foot of hills to the east before rejoining Hwy 411.
± 40 kms: Ywangan Ywangan is a center for coffee growing. The Shwe Gue Gu Hotel and Genius Coffee Pro- duction can arrange tours/treks to villages and Padalin Cave.

Happy & safe driving!

Hotline - 09 966235338 (09 YOMAFLEET)
Contact: aung@yomafleet.com
Further information: yomacarshare.com