Top things to do in Myeik: The gateway to the Mergui Archipelago
Updated on February 12th, 2020
Myeik is a special place in Myanmar. It’s one of those cities that the more you look the more you find. I’m not going to lie, it took me awhile to warm up to. Yet, that wasn’t due to lack of the locals trying to win me over. Large warm smiles and Mingalaba‘s greet you wherever you go and never in a way where you feel uncomfortable. At first, I just didn’t explore enough and it took me a long time to discover the top things to do in Myeik.
If you’ve been following along, you will know I moved to Myeik as an expat with my partner who is working for a conservation group here. So our first couple of months were spent house hunting, scouting appliances and furniture and looking for a visa sponsor for myself. We’ve been here over 3 months now and Myeik has definitely grown on me.
I was walking around yesterday feeling guilty that it took me so long to warm up to this place. If you are part of my email subscribers, you may even remember me saying I wasn’t sure I would recommend a visit. Well, that has changed entirely and I think you definitely need to give Myeik a chance if you come to Myanmar. If you aren’t yet a subscriber, sign up here!
The trick to Myeik is to avoid the main streets. They are busy and have the same types of shops on them. The real magic lies down the side streets. You’ll find cafes and restaurants popular with locals (and way better and cheaper), local kids playing on the streets, hidden colonial buildings and other wonders that you would never know about without venturing off.
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In the time I have been living in Myeik, I’ve watched the city grow at an unfathomable rate. On the main road across from the water’s edge, the Sea View Condo’s are in the process of being built. These are set to be 4, 30-story towers, which may not sound like much to some. Although to Myeik, where a 5-story building is considered tall – that’s a big deal.
The base of these condos are planned to be a shopping complex and almost weekly another shop, restaurant of cafes opens up inside. Other areas in Myeik are also growing rapidly and it’s easy to see where the city is heading.
Having only opened up to foreigners in recent years, Myeik is a great place to visit to witness a truly authentic Myanmar city unhindered by western influence. Locals aren’t known to rip tourists off and it’s often when we leave the change from our bill we get chased after because we ‘forgot’ it.
While I do recommend travellers ask about tuk-tuk prices before getting in, as a local and knowing the correct prices there was only ever one driver who told me a ridiculous price when I arrived at my destination. It’s a nice change from that feeling of having ‘westerner please rip me off’ written across my forehead in other Asian countries.
Myeik is the northern gateway to the Mergui archipelago, a chain of over 800 islands. More than 300,000 people live in Myeik, although it feels significantly less. Coming from a town in Australia of 50,000 this feels a similar size to that. Traffic is never a problem and getting from one side of the city to the other doesn’t take more than 10-15 minutes.
Cash is the accepted form of payment and there are ATM’s located throughout the city. The main SIM card providers all have service here. If you would like help picking one make sure to read my guide on choosing a SIM card for Myanmar.
How to get to Myeik
The worst part about Myeik is getting here. Unfortunately, the flights are not cheap. There are a couple of daily direct flights from Yangon to Myeik year-round. Also from the southernmost point in Myanmar, Kawthong on the Thai border during the winter.
Yangon to Myeik flight
There are three airlines that fly between Myeik and Yangon. Air KBZ and Myanmar National Airlines and Myanmar Airways International. On any given day, no matter how close or far in advance you book the prices start at $120 USD from Yangon and a couple of dollars cheaper for the return leg. Check dates and airlines on Skyscanner.
Kawthong to Myeik flight
If you are entering Myanmar by the Thai border, flights north start at $105. Skyscanner has the best rates, you can check those here.
Buses to Myeik
Getting a bus to Myeik is a lot cheaper! Yipee. Although, a bus to Myeik takes a long time – 20 hours in fact from Yangon. So, you will need to choose between money and time to get here. If you choose to come by bus there are a few places you can get off to break up the journey. I personally would visit Hpa An, Mawlamyine and Dawei.
How to get from the airport and the bus stop
Once you arrive in Myeik either to the airport or the bus station there will be cars with trays on the back witing to take you to your hotel. If you can get a tuk-tuk, prices will be better. Although you don’t have much leeway from these destinations 5,000 is the absolute most you should pay and that’s too much.
If you can make a phone call, my tuk-tuk driver doesn’t speak a word of English but is very honest and fair. Get a local to give him a call for you, his number is 09760471571. Otherwise pre-arrange with your hotel for a pickup.
What to do in Myeik
Now that you have made it to Myeik, let’s discover the top things to do here. You can explore the top attraction in Myeik in 3 days including a day to visit the islands. Although if you would like to go on two island trips, spend 4 days here.
Places of interest in Myeik
Visit the Myeik islands
The obvious thing to do when coming to Myeik is to actually leave Myeik and explore the Mergui Archipelago. There are plenty of tour companies in Myeik all offering very similar if not the same trips. I personally would recommend going with either Mergui Dolphin Travel and Tours or Jade Flower Travel.
I’m not affiliated with either of these companies, but Mergui Dolphin is my visa sponsor company and they invited me to come on both of their day trips. I have experienced first-hand the tours with Mergui Dolphin and know that the staff are wonderful and the guides speak good English.
Jade Flower Travel gets more foreigners as their office is located at the base of a large hotel and the company is spread throughout the country. However, I’m one to support the underdog and know that Mergui Dolphin runs great trips.
Mergui Archipelago Island Tours
The two days trips that run to the islands are either to Smart Island or to Marcus Island. Make sure you read my full review on the Smart Island tour. This tour first visits Done Island. You will see the Done waterfall beautifully running into the ocean and then visit a local Sea Gypsy community. Lunch is served here before heading to Smart Island for swimming and beach time.
I personally preferred the Marcus Island tour which was more of a relaxed day. This tour starts off by visiting a floating fish farm and learning about that main business here in Myeik. After a quick stop here, you are off to Marcus Island where you will spend the rest of the day on a beautiful white sandy beach. The beach is in a protected cove and has a trail leading up to a vista.
Each trip does a quick snorkel stop before heading back to Myeik. Although neither of these trips is centred around snorkelling.
Explore the central market – Sake Nyein Zei
There’s no better way to get a feel for a city than wandering through its main market. The Sake Nyein Zei market covers a full city block and sells jewellery, fabrics, knick-knacks and fresh food. This is where I do my daily produce shop and love coming here as much to see the Myanmar people in their traditional dress and well as for the delicious mangos.
The far end sells the meats and fish and is a bit stinky if you come unprepared. If the smell gets too much for you, head back in the other direction and browse through the rest of the market.
If you would like to buy fresh fruit during your stay, this is the place to buy it. On the outer street by the clock tower, you will find 5 or 6 fruit vendors selling local and imported fruit from Thailand. Compared to most things in Myeik, the fruit isn’t super cheap (mangos cost between 700 and 1,000 Kyat), which is good to know that you aren’t getting ripped off.
Visit the reclining Buddha
Across from Myeik, you will see Pataw Padet Island. At the southern end is the giant reclining Buddha that can be seen from the mainland. From the jetty across from the main tourism offices, you can hire a boat to take you the short journey over to the island. Expect to pay 2-3,000 kyat each direction or offer 5,000 for the driver to wait for you.
The Buddha is decorated with small icons that tell the story of Buddha’s previous lives. The interior is hollow and you can walk through it really grasping the size of it while witnessing the teachings of Buddha and a shrine. The 66m length makes it the third-largest reclining Buddha in the country. The largest one is located in Mawlamyine and is also the largest in the world at 180m in length.
Enjoy sunset at Thein Daw Gyi Pagoda
There are a few wonderful places to watch the sunset in Myeik, but my favourite might just be the Thein Daw Gyi Pagoda. There’s something even more peaceful about this location as the sun starts dipping behind the mountains over the sea.
The many sounds soft chime sounds blow in the breeze enhance the meditative effect. There is a balcony which gives a great vantage point to watch the sun setting or you can sit on the warm tiles in front of the Stupa.
Join a Myeik tour
When in Myeik, it’s a good idea to join a local tour. As so many of the treasures are hidden down side streets it would be impossible to discover them all yourself. You can join an official tour with one of the tour companies and will be shown the daily lives of locals while visiting the city highlights.
Myeik is a large exporter of birds nest, cashew, pearls, rubber, dried fish and seafood. You will have the opportunity to learn more about this export industry and can visit some of the factories.
Another option is to hire a private guide. My friend Jo Jo, specialises in backpacker tours keeping costs as low as possible and can show you not just Myeik but southern Myanmar. He can customise the tour for anything you would like to see. I have been on two tours with him since being here and I can guarantee you will have a great time. To arrange a tour with Jo Jo, you can send him an email or message on whatsapp +959 425345158
Have tea at a local tea shop
All over Myeik locals spend their day socialising and drinking tea. The tea shops are mostly small joints with plastic seating that you’ll recognise as being reserved for the children’s corner back home.
The universal chai can be used to order or pointing goes just as far. A larger establishment that I had wanted to try since arriving and only just visited is the No.1 tea house in the Muslim Area.
The place didn’t disappoint and the milky chai made with sweetened condensed milk was delicious. On the kitchen counter, you can pick a fried item that the locals dip in the tea. I say do as the locals do.
It’s also not uncommon for someone to come and sit with you who wants to practice their English or learn more about you. As it’s rare for them to see a foreigner in the tea shops.
To get here, find a moto-taxi or tuk-tuk driver. It’s likely they will all know the place.
Head to the seafood market
If you enjoy seeing how locals live their lives than a trip out to the evening seafood market is a must. It’s a bit out of the way and at night you’ll wonder where you’re actually being taken to. This big market is where the other market stall owners go to purchase their seafood.
Every day when the boats come in you will find the fresh product being laid out for sale or export. Prices are ridiculously cheap and you’re bound to see some weird items for sale. I felt really sorry for the large eagle ray that had been spread out on the concrete here. Luckily there was just the one.
View the colourful colonial architecture
Like a lot of Myanmar colonial architecture has a large presence here. There are some beautiful old buildings in all sorts of disrepair. Some have been wonderfully restored but they amount to a small percentage. Either way, it’s a great contrast to the local wooden style buildings either side of each other.
You can go on a self-guided walking tour of Myeik using One Map as a guide to the colonial buildings around the city. There is also a book available for purchase on Amazon detailing a walking route to the fascinating history of Myeik.
Discover the Myeik Lake
In the centre of the city is a lake hidden by buildings and alleyways. During the late afternoon and evening you will find couples come here to snuggle up by the shore or take the quick stroll around its perimeter. The lake has lights to illuminate it at night and is best visted when the day isn’t at its hottest.
Combine a walk around the lake with a walk down what I call pagoda road. The road stretching northwest from the lake is dotted with numerous religious monuments and buildings. It’s especially impressive during the evening when the lights come on.
To find the lake and pagoda road, use the map above or head to Mergui de Kitchen for a meal and use their back exit which pops you straight on to the lakeshores.
Wander the strand in the evening
Another popular activity for locals is to visit the strand in the evenings. The strand is the road parallel to the ocean and is full of restaurants and shopping. The restaurants range from a bbq stall on the side of the road, a local establishment selling cheap food up to the places with a foreigner intent.
The entire length is over 3km and makes for a nice walk when the sun has set. The pathway is in no way flat or smooth for the most part, but it is in the process of being done up. You can find a few of my favourite restaurants below.
Where to eat in Myeik
There are plenty of restaurants in Myeik suited to foreigners and they are all serving delicious food at very affordable prices. I don’t think I’m yet to go out and spend more than 35,000 Kyat ($24 USD) between 2 people. That’s including a few cocktails each and enough food to make two people very full. Most of the time when we dine out we’ll spend closer to 10-12,000 Kyat ($7-8).
If you’re wondering where to eat these are my top restaurants in Myeik. Both the places you will find on Tripadvisor and the local joints that you will need to follow a map to find.
My Mergui Bar & Restaurant
My Mergui Bar & Restaurant is located at the far end of the strand. This is one of the more expensive places in Myeik as mentioned above. It’s a great place to enjoy a few cocktails and has a nice upper deck or outdoor dining area.
Some of my favourite things to order here is the prawn cake and prawn tempura. Also, you have to try the Mergui Old Fashioned if they have it – which isn’t always the case. First, you need to get the regular old fashioned cocktail out of your head, it couldn’t be more different. Except take my word for it and give it a go. The margarita is always a good choice if this isn’t available.
Eain Taw Phyu
This hotel has the Mali Cafe attached and is where I sit writing this. The staff are really friendly and if you are craving western food this is a good place to get some. They have an extensive menu and everything I have tried here is delicious. It’s also one of the two places I come for coffee when I run out of my own supply.
Pssst. The second place to find a decent coffee is the bakery inside the Grand Jade shopping mall.
Mergui de Kitchen
Situated next to the lake, you should combine a visit here with a walk around the lake. The owner speaks perfect English and cares a lot for the food he prepares. The curries are delicious here and you have to get the pineapple fried rice which comes in a pineapple! I personally like coming here for lunch, but dinner is equally as good. The restaurant is located in a large old colonial building.
If you’re after a quick and central bite to eat you can’t go past White Pearl. Located at the southern end of the strand and closest to the downtown area white pearl is best for bbq’d foods. There is a glass cabinet full of skewered meats and veg to choose from or pick some of the other meals on the menu. White Pearl is frequented by foreigners as it is located next to Season Island Guesthouse.
Angel Thai food
Now for the places that you won’t find on Tripadvisor. I’m sure these have a name, but I have no idea what they are called. You will have to go by the locations on the map above.
This local Thai food place is the perfect spot for lunch. It’s on a busy intersection which makes it easy to find but set off the road so it isn’t overly loud (at least louder than the general city). While not for everyone as the meals are pre-prepared and sit out on a table. Although I have been here a few times and never gotten sick. I believe they are popular enough that the meals get replenished quicker than they can go bad.
The lady speaks a bit of English and is able to point out what meat is in the dish or can tell you if it’s vegetable. There are big wooden bench tables perfect if you are travelling in a group. There are strange brown balls on the table in plastic containers. Make sure you try these – they are palm sugar and super delicious. At least, if you have a sweet tooth like me.
Jetty corner shop
This was one of my favourite places to eat. The best way to find this is to head to the main tourist jetty and you will find it located on the corner across the road. Again, not for everyone if you don’t like eating pre-prepared meals. What I liked about this place is that the food on offer changes daily. The lady who cooks has a knack of making everything have so much flavour.
There isn’t much if any English spoken here, so you just have to point at things that look good in the window. There is a green vegetable dish which has egg and another round root looking veg – it is delicious! I usually get 2 or 3 dishes and the bill has never been more than 2,500 Kyat. This also includes free green tea and a bowl of clear soup. Pop across the road to Mergui Dolphin and tell them I said hi while you’re there!
Kaq kyi kaiq shop
On the other side of the lake to Mergui de Kitchen is a local shop selling kaq kyi kaiq (pronounced cach chi kai). Kaq kyi kaiq is a rice noodle dish typically eaten for breakfast in Myeik.
Where to stay in Myeik
Since Myeik so new to foreign tourism your options are limited to 12 options that are registered for foreigners. When we first arrived we stayed for a month at the Myint Mo Hotel. Staff were friendly and more than helpful and the rooms clean and comfortable. The one downside to this is there is very little within walking distance. Although this is the same area as two of the other nicer hotels.
The cheapest option is the White Pearl Guesthouse, but I haven’t heard the best reviews about here and personally wouldn’t recommend it. If money is a concern, my top pick would be Seasons Island. It’s located on the strand, close to the downtown area and the within walking distance to the tourist jetty. The dining area is partially open-air and looks out over the water.
For other places to stay click here to read reviews and see prices on Booking.com.
If you’re looking to experience a part of Myanmar that is off-the-beaten-track than you should definitely visit Myeik. You’ll see authentic Myanmar culture, traditional dress, taste local food and visit the beautiful islands.
There is enough of a tourist season that you can enjoy western dining and nicer restaurants as well as clean and modern hotels. The city has definitely grown on me and I can’t for you to try my top things to do in Myeik.
Myanmar travel resources
- Myanmar travel tips and things to know before visiting
- What to pack for Myanmar
- Yangon itinerary
- What to do in Yangon