Photo: Myawaddy street scenes.

Introduction

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The small border town of Myawaddy is usually visited only briefly by travellers crossing to or from Thailand’s Mae Sot. Those heading into Burma are typically on their way to Mawlaymyine and Hpa-an, but those staying a day here will find a few decent spots to sleep and eat and a couple of sights worth checking out, including a great local market.



Until recently, Myawaddy was a remote outpost on the edge of a war zone. But the town is clearly on the up now, with a peace treaty between the government and Karen autonomists holding fast – at least for now. The Burmese town is connected to Thailand by a new (as of 2016) Friendship Bridge, which arches over the shallow Moei River to Mae Sot. A modern Thai-built highway leads into the rest of Burma via the scenic Dawna Mountains.

Myawaddy views. Photo taken in or around Myawaddy, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

Myawaddy views. Photo: Mark Ord

The bridge touches ground on Myawaddy’s main street, connecting from a dusty outskirt of Mae Sot some five kilometres from its centre. It’s one of the rare border crossings where the Burmese side seems more inviting and indeed modern than the Thai side.

The first thing you’ll see upon crossing into town is the delightful terrace of the well-placed River View Guesthouse and Restaurant, after which banks, shops, cafes and travel agents line the busy four-lane main street. Perhaps because it is currently the quickest land crossing to use between Bangkok and Yangon, Myawaddy makes remoter crossings such as Kawthaungand Tachileiklook almost sedate, though it does lack the latter’s vast Chinese market.

Good to go? Photo taken in or around Myawaddy, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

Good to go? Photo: Mark Ord

Myawaddy town isn’t exactly scenic and be warned that the main street following on from the bridge has its share of touts. Turn off the main drag though and you’ll find yourself in quiet residential streets with wooden houses and plenty of friendly locals. There are several interesting temples to visit and the town’s main market is a good one. Myawaddy has two very good accommodation options, both of which come with equally good restaurants. So while the little town will never be high on Burma’s tourist destination charts, if for logistical reasons you have to spend a night here, it’s a far from disastrous thing.

Note that while Thai telephone networks widely work in Myawaddy town, Thai baht isn’t as commonly accepted as in other border towns. Numerous money exchange places however line the main street.

Popular attractions in Myawaddy

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Myawaddy.





Orientation
The layout of Myawaddy is straightforward. It stretches aside a four-lane main street that heads due west from the Friendship Bridge before turning into the Hpa-anhighway on the edge of town. Banks, markets, shops, the police, a hospital and the best accommodation and restaurants are located along this one road, which is noted on maps as Bayintnaung Street. KBZ bank has two locations along here, one close to the bridge and another further west, and there are also plenty of currency exchange desks as you emerge from immigration coming from Thailand. You’ll also find myriad bus and taxi company desks along this stretch.

Market scenes. Photo taken in or around Myawaddy, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

Market scenes. Photo: Mark Ord

The morning market is on the north side, and the afternoon market is on the south side of Bayintnaung. The town’s main pagoda, Shwe Muay Wan, is opposite the Myawaddy Hotel. Sedate streets lie just off the main highway to the north and south. While the northern district has a few decent budget hotel options, the southern area has several more temples and is a good bet for a wander.

Heading west out of town, the main street morphs into the highway to Hpa-an. This is where you’ll see the town’s larger and newer buildings including a couple of hotels and some beer garden-type spots. A casino complex lies close to the river – for easy Thai access – slightly to the north of the town centre.

Welcome to Burma. Photo taken in or around Myawaddy, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

Welcome to Burma. Photo: Mark Ord

Border crossing to Mae Sot
Myawaddy is a legitimate crossing point to Thailand (Mae Sot) in either direction for foreign nationals. Geographically speaking, as of 2016 this crossing is the most practical of the four official land crossings open for foreign tourists. The others are Ranong/Kawthaung, Mae Sai/Tachileik and Pum Nam Ron/Htee Klee (Kanchanaburi). Mae Sot town is reached by direct bus from both Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Tour agents around Tha Pae and Khao San Road are already offering bus tickets to Yangon using the Mae Sot crossing.

Burmese immigration police are located at the foot of the bridge, smack bang in the middle of town. Don’t be put off by the often lengthy queues of locals at the exit counter as foreign passport holders go instead to a dedicated counter and the procedure is quick and smooth. When we crossed there was no public transport available on the bridge itself, so we had to walk the 300 metres or so across the Moei River to Thai immigration. There’s no fee to pay on either side and formalities can be completed between 06:30 and 20:00 (Thai time) every day.

Shiny shiny. Photo taken in or around Myawaddy, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

Shiny shiny. Photo: Mark Ord

Arriving from Thailand, Burmese visas are not available on arrival and e-visas are not accepted so you will need to obtain a visa from a Burmese embassy in advance. If you don’t have a valid visa you are allowed to cross temporarily, to Myawaddy town only, on deposit of your passport at immigration and payment of 500 baht.

On the Thai side, songthaews will take you into Mae Sot town or the bus station for 20 baht per person. On the Burmese side moto-taxis and small vans and tuk tuk-type vehicles await to whisk you to a hotel or propose a tour of the town’s sites. If your bag’s not too heavy, most of the accommodation options we suggest are walking distance, as is the market and main pagoda. Myawaddy’s main street is lined with ticket booths and transport offices offering tickets for onward bus, minibus and shared taxi rides to Hpa-an, Mawlamyine, Yangon and so on.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Myawaddy.
 Read up on where to eat on Myawaddy.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Myawaddy.
 Read up on how to get to Myawaddy.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Myawaddy? Please read this.





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