Photo: On Bilu Island.

Bilu Island

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If you’re “Lookin’ lazy at the sea” from Mawlamyine, then you’re looking at the point where the mighty Than Lwin merges into the island-studded Gulf of Martaban. The large, relatively flat island you see directly opposite and west of town is picturesque and fascinating Bilu Kyun (Bilu Island).

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Bilu Island is known locally as Ogre Island; we heard several stories behind the name, with our favourite coming from an islander who reckoned that in ancient times locals were notorious for being particularly ugly. They liked to file their teeth to points and preferred to eat their meat raw, so became known to mainlanders as ogres…

On the boat. Photo taken in or around Bilu Island, Mawlamyine, Burma_myanmar by Mark Ord.

On the boat. Photo: Mark Ord

These days the island is famous for its well-preserved and distinctive Mon culture. We found the residents charming and perfectly normal looking. Bilu is large, with more than 60 villages on the island. Rice paddies and rubber plantations provide a living for many and the locals also maintain a remarkable range of traditional cottage industries. The boat trip there is worth doing on its own; the scenery is bucolic and people extremely friendly. Visits to the local handicraft displays can provide a handy framework to ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 600 words.)

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