Kawthaung, or as it’s sometimes spelled, Kawthoung, lies at the southernmost tip of all Myanmar (Burma) and the Tanintharyi Regiong. Even though Kawthaung isn’t much of a tourist destination itself, it still is the main gateway to Myanmar from southern Thailand as well as a major trading town with its neighbor.
Kawthaung is the primary gateway to the paradise islands of the Mergui Archipelago. Most cruises, liveaboards and day trips by speed boat operate from Kawthaung.
The Tanintharyi Region (then known as the Tenasserim Region) was under British rule following the conclusion of the first Anglo-Burmese War in 1824-1826. From then until Myanmar’s Independence Day in 1948, Kawthaung was known as Victoria Point.
The town did not obtain importance to the British immediately. Originally, the town of Maliwan, north of Kawthaung, was the focal point of the Malay Peninsula. It wasn’t until the local government moved the government offices from Maliwan to Kawthaung to take advantage of its accessibility for ships.
The mountainous Kawthaung sits at the mouth of the Kyan River on the Malay Peninsula, with the Thai border town of Ranong to the east and the gorgeous Andaman Sea to its west and southwest. It’s because of Kawthaung’s close location to Thailand that, in addition to the Myanmar language, visitors will not only hear Thai but can use Thai Baht and even the Thai mobile services.
One of the few attractions in Kawthaung is the Pyi Daw Aye Pagoda. Rising above downtown Kawthaung, on a hilltop, visitors have a panoramic view of the town and the Thai mountains in the distance.
Just north of the town is the island of Plontonton (also spelled Palautonetone), connected by a long wooden bridge to the mainland. This island has mangroves, beaches, and a fishing village. There is also a small pagoda west of the town.
There are also some attractions centered on Maliwan, a short drive north of Kawthaung. There is the Maliwan Waterfall, a 10-meter waterfall with a pool and water park created out of the water downstream of the waterfall. You can rent inner tubes and kayaks and play in the water with the locals since it’s a popular weekend spot. 10 kilometers further north from there also are the Maliwan hot springs, only 40 kilometers from the Thailand border.
Even though Kawthang isn’t much of a tourist destination itself, it still is the main gateway to Myanmar from southern Thailand as well as a major trading town with its neighbor.
To get to Kawthaung from Thailand, there are flights to the closest Thai city, Ranong, from Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport. If flying isn’t your style, there are also buses and minibuses from Bangkok, Krabi, Phuket, and Chumphon to get to Ranong. Once you get to Ranong, there are many longtail boats happy to take you across the Kyan River (Kraburi River) for the 25-minute boat ride to get to the Myanmar side of the border.
To travel farther into Myanmar from Kawthaung, there are buses and minibuses that connect to Myeik, Dawei, Ye, Mawlamyine, and even Yangon. There are also boats that connect to Myeik (Mergui) and Dawei that cost about 40-60 USD. However, as of early 2016, any public boat service has been suspended indefinitely.
Travelers can also fly from Kawthaung to Yangon, Dawei, and Myeik. If you want to explore the Mergui Archipelago, however, you’re in the right place since most cruises and sailing trips operate from Kawthaung.
Whatever method of transportation you take to go into Myanmar from Kawthaung, make sure you have obtained a Myanmar visa beforehand. As of September 1, 2016, e-visas now are accepted at three land border checkpoints, one being Kawthaung.
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