Mawlamyine was our first landing spot past the border town crossing at Mae Sot/Myawaddy. The ride from the border was a bumpy and cramped share taxi that cost us around $10 USD or 13000 kyat per passenger. It was around 3.5 hours through very rural country side. Once we made it to the city we hopped out of our cab and proceeded to wander around town investigating accomodations. We found a newer hotel not listed in the guidebook that was about $20 USD per night. Expensive by SE Asia standards but hotels have very strict government regulations, even the mom and pop ones pay a fairly high tax so they have to charge people accordingly.
Mawlamyine had a very rustic British colonial feel. There were many local sights with in walking distance of our hotel as well as day trips to larger historic sights (the golden rock etc.) via motorbike or share taxis. If you do a walking tour, be cautious as the sidewalks can end abruptly or be missing parts. You will see this trend throughout the whole country.
We also had our first tea house experience here in Mawlamyine, which by American standards seems to be in violation of child labor laws. However, most of the young boys that are your “servers” in these joints are from very rural areas and poor families so they come to the cities to take jobs and make money to help their families. The tea houses also give the boys room and board while they are working at the establishment. Their cheeky attitudes and curiosity towards foreigners just add to the atmosphere. I should also add that there wasn’t a single person in that tea house that spoke any English so we had our first foray into attempting to speak Burmese, which led to us just pointing to what other people were eating around us to order. They will also bring you endless plates of fried goodies (egg roll and samosa like items) to which you pay only for what you eat. We did however successfully order tea without pointing. Learning a few basic Burmese words will go a long way. Locals appreciate the effort and are always more welcoming and friendly. When you make an effort, they will too.
Mawlamyine also has a great night market along the river. You can find a diverse range of foods to please any palate as well as plenty of people watching opportunity. I found a delicious tomato and avocado salad with lime and peanuts….more or less a disassembled guacamole with an asian twist that I loved. Matt was in love with the skewers. So many foods on a stick. You walk around and point to all the items you want, then they grill it for you and bring it to your table. I was also a fan.
Toward the north end of the road along the river there’s a great beer station and tea house side by side. Grab a cup of tea and watch the sunset, then hop over to the beer station for a cold Myanmar Beer. Be sure to check your beer cap. More than once we won a free beer throughout the country.