Dawei is one of Myanmar’s biggest trading towns but, based on appearances, it’s hard to believe. There are no high rise buildings, no fancy shopping malls and few luxury cars on the roads. In fact, the streets are lined with leafy palm and betel trees and dozens of colonial-era buildings are found throughout the town center. Combine this laid-back atmosphere with friendly residents and miles of undeveloped coastline and you get Dawei: a town unlike any other. Although it is not on many tourists radar, those who do visit Dawei inevitably fall in love with it. Let Myanmar Diaries introduce you to Dawei and the wonders it holds.
The way to Dawei
Dawei is located in the south of Myanmar, more than 600 kilometers south of Yangon. In fact, it is closer to Bangkok than it is to the former capital. Until recently one had to travel overland from Yangon to reach Dawei, a long yet scenic bus or train trip that usually included at least a one night stopover in Mawlamyine or Hpa An along the way. But now the Dawei airport is open and several flights a week connect the city to Yangon. There are also flights and buses to Myeik and Kawthaung, the southernmost towns of Myanmar that serve as jumping off points to the Mergui Archipelago. Regardless of how you arrive, you will immediately be struck by the lush, green landscapes that surround Dawei.
Due to its geography, Dawei is one of the rainiest places in Myanmar yet it is also one of best walking cities. The town is laid out on a grid-like system of wide streets, most of which have sidewalks- a rarity in Myanmar! So after your long journey, taking a walk around Dawei is the best way to get a feel for the city. Although there are not many sites, per se, there is a lot to see around town. Of course there are pagodas, with Shwe Taung Zar Pagoda being the largest and most beautiful, but there are also charming wooden homes, small shops selling smelly dried seafood and an eclectic blend of Indian, Thai and Myanmar cafes. You may also stumble upon workshops making wood carvings, processing cashew nuts or packaging areca nuts from the betel tree.
Fishing villages and Floating temples
The next day venture west of Dawei to where the land meets the Andaman Sea. There are miles of coastline to explore with beaches, bays and small villages. Start the morning with a trip to a fishing village, arriving in time to see the fishermen unloading their fresh catch from colorfully-painted wooden boats. This is a fantastic look at the local fishing industry and the lives of Dawei’s coastal residents. Then continue on to Myaw Yit, a small Buddhist pagoda located on a rocky outcrop. Although the pagoda itself is not spectacular, the views are great and it is a fun chance to mingle with the locals who come to feed the fish and enjoy the sea breeze.
Although the beaches and bays of Dawei lack the facilities and quality hotels of Ngapali and Ngwe Saung, they are still perfect destinations for a relaxing afternoon. From Myaw Yit, return north and stop at Maungmakan, a long stretch of beach just 30 minutes west of Dawei. Drop your bags at one of the simple seaside restaurants and order up a feast of seafood- such as squid salad and barbequed fish. While they are preparing the food, go for a swim in the warm water to work up an appetite. Then grab a seat under a thatched hut and enjoy your lunch, washing it down with a fresh coconut or a cold Myanmar beer. Linger here until the sun sets, relaxing under a swaying palm tree or strolling down the seemingly endless beach.
Two-wheeled adventure to Secluded bays
If you are comfortable riding on the back of a motorbike, there are more hidden beaches to discover. Spend a full day cruising down unsealed, sometimes bumpy, tracks along the coast. Enjoy the views of passing tropical jungles, quiet hamlets and glimpse of the coast as your driver negotiates the terrain. Stop at San Maria bay and other stretches of shoreline before reaching Langlon Village for a well-deserved break. Then it is just a short drive onwards to Teyzit beach, arguably the most beautiful beach in the area. You are likely to find the beach almost deserted, with a few kids playing and maybe some fishermen in the area. Relax, enjoy the sea and soak up the solitude of this natural gem.
Out to Sea
If the weather is in your favor- and it usually is from November to March– a private boat trip on the Andaman Sea is a great day out. The adventure starts with a trip in an open-air truck to the jetty. Once onboard the wooden motorboat, cast off into the sea. Move further away from land, watching as the shore becomes a tiny ribbon of white sand in the distance. After an hour or so, the boat arrive at a secluded, uninhabited island. Take a dip in the ocean or grab a mask and go snorkeling to see the colorful fish that live underwater. Walk along the soft sandy shores and find a shady palm tree to sit under. Then hop back on the boat to head to another beach on the island or to a completely different island, depending on the weather. The day continues like this- moving from beach to beach, swimming and snorkeling and relaxing in this tropical paradise. A delicious picnic lunch will be served at midday and you will return to land in the late afternoon.
Back to Land
Although there is nothing in the way of ‘nightlife’ in town, there are a few lively restaurants and what better way to wrap up your Dawei holiday than a great dinner. Grab a table at Pale Eikari, a popular place that is part restaurant, part beer garden. Sip cold draft beer and dine on delicious Myanmar and Chinese dishes among the locals. If you are here on a weekend, do not be surprised if the tables get a bit boisterous after a few drinks- with laughter and perhaps even a song filling the air!
Zar Yi Hnin (Ms.)
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- Wandering past colorful colonial buildings
- Feasting on seafood at a secluded beach
- Joining local Buddhist pilgrims at Myaw Yit pagoda
- Island hopping through the Andaman Sea
BEST TIME TO VISIT :
- From November to March
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