Called Victoria Point in the days when it was an obscure backwater of the British Empire, Kawthaung is the southernmost point on Myanmar's Indian Ocean coast and the port of entry and exit for all cruise ships sailing between Myanmar and Thailand. With multicolored buildings and golden temples clinging to hillsides behind the waterfront, the city is surprisingly attractive.
What We Love
Love Coffee Shop: Watch Kawthaung pass by from a table at this cozy cafe at the confluence of the clock tower road and the waterfront, a colorful chaos of passengers and cargo, trucks and handcarts, stevedores and ferry passengers that recalls what most Asian ports were like a hundred years ago. In addition to people watching, the restaurant dispenses cold beer, soft drinks, fruit juices, and excellent French fries.
The Market Area: Located right behind the waterfront and main pier, the market unfolds as a warren of narrow lanes, some of them barely wide enough for two people. The selection is incredible, with everything from meats, seafood, and fresh produce to fabrics, handicrafts, household items, and gold jewelry.
Best Known For
Pyi Taw Aye Pagoda: This mini version of Shwedagon crowns a hill above the city, a golden stupa surrounded by lesser shrines. Unlike most Burmese pagodas, this one actually allows visitors to enter. And the views from the terrace overlooking the city, harbor, and nearby islands is outstanding.
Bayint Naung Monument: Kawthaung's number-one selfie spot is a glimmering golden statue of national hero Bayint Naung that overlooks the straits from a strategic hilltop hovering above Victoria Point. King between 1551 and 1580 AD, he built one of the greatest empires Burma has ever known by conquering many of the surrounding lands.
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Who It's Best For
Amateur Ethnographers: A regional crossroads for centuries, Kawthaung's population is a mix of Burmese, Thais, Shan, Karen, Moken Sea Gypsies, Malays, Chinese, and Indians.
Island Hoppers: The southern extreme of the Mergui Archipelago lies just offshore. Trips of anywhere from a few hours to a week can be arranged with sailing outfits based in Kawthaung. One of the closest islands (Thahtay Kyun) is home to the Grand Andaman, a beach resort with a golf course and casino that can be visited on day trips.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Checking in and out can be very slow: Kawthaung's immigration department is not yet computerized, which means that entry and exit formalities can sometimes take hours rather than minutes.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.