Photo: Market scenes near Mawlamyine.

If you've ever flown from Kathmandu, Nepal to Bangkok, Thailand you'll most likely have flown over southern Burma. With a window seat you probably gazed dreamily over the long drawn out coastline with more than its fair share of islands -- we certainly did!

Down to onward travel

For our purposes, Southern Burma encompasses Kayin State to the north -- it could just as easily be covered in our Central Burma section thanks to a long finger of territory between Bago Region and Kayah State. Separating Kayin from the Andaman Sea is Mon State, while to the far south lies Tanintheryi Region, which encompasses masses of islands and tapers off to a point between Thailand and the ocean.

The south is Burma's least visited region, primarily due to previous travel restrictions south of Mon State and north of the Kawthoung in far southern Tanintheryi Region. This is all about to change now though with two new overland border crossings given full international status -- the crossing from Mae Sot in Thailand's Tak province into Kayin State and the sea crossing at Ranong to Kawthaung.

A whole new world of island hopping could be on the cusp of commencing -- exciting times.

Up until now, Kayin State has been little visited primarily due to large swathes of it being off limits due to the junta's war with the Karen people. Massive refugee camps on the Thai side of the border bear testament to the barbarity of their campaign. Today, with multiple new border crossings, overland travel is far easier. If you are overlanding, the state capital, Hpa-an, is well worth a look.

Mon State is home to one of our favourite towns in Burma, the laidback and charming Mawlamyine. While it desperately needs an injection of decent accommodation, it is still absolutely worth a look.

Further south again, Tanintheryi Region was until quite recently largely off limits, with really the only foreign travellers to have done much exploring in this area have been divers on expensive liveaboard boats from Thailand. Today though this is no longer the case and southern Burma is well and truly open for business. It is now possible to overland from the southern tip of Burma, crossing overland from Ranong in Thailand to Kawthaung and then to travel north through Myeik, Dawei and Ye on the way to Mawlamyine. All are leaping off points for terrific beaches and islands.

The southern Burma railway line peters out a ways to the south of Mawlamyine, after which bus and flights are the only real option for reaching further south. Mawlamyine and Hpa-an have decent connections to Yangon.

Highlights

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