To commercial seafarers, Kawthaung is the key transit point on the Singapore – Calcutta Shipping Lane. To the British Administration, this far-flung place marked their triumph in the First Anglo-Burmese War – which gave rise to the name Victoria Point. But to the Burmese, Kawthaung – the southernmost town of the country, is just a name that evokes no sense of national pride. It is one of the places that have been largely left on its own – there’s nothing there to quarrel over. On its own it is, the southern extreme now go by the name that will please the Burmese more – Bayinnaung Point, a reminder of a glorious era when Burma was a formidable power to dare.
Location, Terrain and People
Kawthaung is located eight hundred kilometers to the south of Yangon – as crows fly. The town sits on the Myanmar-Thailand border where the Pakchan River empties itself into Andaman Sea and the Andaman Sea in turn joinsthe Indian Ocean. Across the Pakchan River stands Ranong – the sister town to Kawthaung and its Thai counterpart. Kawthaung enjoys daily flight patronage from Yangon, making it a convenient starting point to discover Myeik Archipelago.
The terrain of Kawthaung is mountainous, with hills dominating the landscape. The area is famous for its agrarian products: rubber, betel nuts, cashew nuts, coconut and palm oils.
The population of Kawthaung is culturally varied – the Malays who converse in a language hybrid of Thai and Burmese, the Moken “sea gypsies”, the Chinese, the Sunni Muslim and migrant workers hailing from as far as Bangladesh.
Notable Sights in Kawthaung
Bayinnaung Point (Cape Bayinnaung) and Bayinnaung Monument
The honorific Victoria Point may have instigated pent-up dissent against British rule. As a result, as soon as the Burmese had time to care about it, they renamed the most
southerly point of the country “Bayinnaung Point”. The name took after the greatest Emperor in the history of Myanmar who unified smaller states and conquered Siam, Laos and China’s Yunnan to create the largest empire ever existed in Southeast Asia. To drive the patriotic message home, a statue of Bayinnaung is erected, in full golden armor and – a tactful diplomat will advise against – a sword that is brandished toward Thailand.
Aungdawmu Pagoda and Pyi Taw Aye Pagoda
The mountainous terrain makes discovery of local landmarks a winding trip through footbridges and thatched-palm villages. On the way to reach Aungdawmu Pagoda, one will come across Pyi Taw Aye Pagoda (Pyidawaye). The pagoda boasts a cultural varied architectural style: a banyan tree brought from Sri Lanka, Buddhist statue painted with golden lacquer, glass mosaics and windows with artistic grills. There are eight meditation halls, representing eight days of a Buddhist week. Trees are spare and vision is unobstructed, giving visitors quite a good view over the nearby harbor.
Aungdawmu Pagoda is the most outstanding structure among two mosques, two churches and two Chinese temples and a score of Buddhist pagodas scattering around Kawthaung. The golden spire, proudly sprouting out of the white terrazzo, is visually dazzling. From this perfect vantage point, visitors can see beyond the Bayinnaung Point, the Salon Island where sea gypsies dwell and the Thahtay Kyun Island where a luxury hotel and a casino stand.
Snake Island and Myoma Jetty
Snake Island is the first checkpoint that travelers need to overcome to reach Kawthaung should they take the boat trip from Thailand. The island is a mere 30-minute departure from the Thai checkpoint, Saphan Pla Port. The name of the island may deliver an eerie first greeting but its appearance is at large innocuous with thick jungle and a three-tier pagoda crowing its top.
Circling the Snake Island, travelers will reach the second checkpoint where the papers are scrutinized. Contrary to the untamed contour of Snake Island, the second checkpoint – Myoma Jetty – exhibits a more civil attitude. Colonial buildings and Eastern architecture adorn the headland which raises high from turquoise water. The jetty is lively: bell ringing from pagodas mingles with Muslim prayers, a local market thrives with a myriad of cheap goods and tanned fishermen enjoy hand-rolled cigarettes in a teahouse. A well-known product of the market here is the jellyfish, which is caught by the famous “sea gypsies”. These people are believed to dive more than ten meters in depth with any equipment, adding quite some value to their catches.
Shwezinyah Quarter and Palu Village Bridge
Shweyinzah Quarter is the name given to the residential area that travelers will come across on the way to Aungdawmu Pagoda. The quarter is a collective of stilt houses connected with cracking footbridges. Interactions with locals abound as children greet foreign tourists with their energetic yells and elderly with their toothy smiles. The overall atmosphere appears cryptic and adventurous, save for some loud propaganda billboards jutting out once in a while.
Said to be constructed entirely from natural materials, Palu Village Bridge bears a source of pride for local engineering. Spanning an impressive length of 400 meters, the wooden bridge is a tourist trap, attracting flocks of visitors to take photographs. Palu Village Bridge is located six kilometers to the north of the town of Kawthaung.
Maliwun Waterfall and Pa Lone Tone Tone Beach
Maliwun Waterfall is actually a two-part waterfall with the first part leading directly to the second one. With only sounds of the waterfall to be heard, it is a great place for natural discovery. A boat trips, some bird watching time and a visit to a rubber plantation may fill the day. Not far from the waterfall, hot springs attached with bathing facilities is a good recommendation to conclude the day. The waterfall, located twenty-four kilometers from Kawthaung, can be reached through the highway.
Pa Lone Tone Tone Beach is the closest beach to Kaw Thaung, located ten kilometers from the town. This is a perfect spot for a family trip both to relax and to observe local fishermen’s life. Pa Lone Tone Tone Bridge is an attraction worth visiting. This bridge, connecting Pa Lone Tone Tone Island with the mainland, is the longest wooden bridge in Tanintharyi Division.
How to Reach Kawthaung
By Flight: Kawthaung is connected to Yangon with daily flights provided by Myanmar National Airline. Air KBZ also provides flights from Yangon to Kawthaung twice per week, which can change in accordance with tourist season.
By Land: Tourist can opt to reach Kawthaung by longboat from Ranong, Thailand. No visa is required upon entry but a passport with a paid border crossing permit is compulsory. The boat departs from Ranong and unloads passengers at Myoma Jetty where an immigration checkpoint is located.