Bagan to Yangon Bus
We would certainly forgive you if the thought of leaving the sun-soaked array of Bagan’s ancient temples was the last thing on your mind, but the time will come none-the-less.
Getting from Bagan to Mawlamyine via coach is a two stage journey: first via the nation’s former capital and transport hub, Yangon, then catch a second coach from there to Mawlamyine itself.
There are a few ways to get out of Bagan from Nyaung-U, the suburb dedicated to travel in and out of the region just out of town. Air, rail and coach are the three most popular, and as air travel is a little more expensive (and you don’t get to see as much of the country!), and as we’d had our fair share of trains recently, we opted for the bus south to Mawlamyine.
This marked the beginning of our long journey down the Andaman coast by land and sea, all the way from North Myanmar to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. More on this coming soon!
Bagan (Shwe Pyi Highway Bus Station) to Yangon (Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Station)
Mandalar Minn Express VIP, air conditioned sleeper coach departs 8pm, arrives into Yangon approximately 6am
Depart 8PM, check in 7.30PM – or whenever your pickup arrives
Duration – Approx 10 hours
First stop, Buy Your Tickets at Shwe Pyi bus Terminal
We found its always best to grab your tickets at the source, rather than through your hotel or an agency – cut out the middle-man and save yourselves the commission (weigh it up though, shop around – smaller guesthouses can be very fair indeed with helping you book). Jump on your electric scooter and head to Bagan’s out of town Shwe Pyi bus station in Nyaung-U. Find the ticket office there for Mandalar Minn Express and get it booked.
Connection from your hotel
When booking your ticket you should be asked where you are staying – these VIP bus companies include a pickup from your hotel.
We went for the 8pm VIP coach. The big red Mandalar Minn Express VIP coaches are quite modern and relatively comfortable. Put your seat back and try to relax, it’s a long, 10 hour journey ahead.
Arriving at Yangon’s Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Station
Now this is where it gets really interesting. As the sun gently rises and the soft, almost bluish light starts to flood into the streets of Yangon, you will arrive at the very-much-out-of-town Aung Mingalar bus station.
Prepare yourselves for a little bleary-eyed chaos as you offload and try to find the Mandalar Minn Express ticket office to purchase the next leg of your journey.
Aung Mingalar resembles a small village/complex more than a bus station. Hundreds of coaches coming and going, handfuls of lovely little cafes and restaurants that are open all hours of the day and night. Of course, there are taxi drivers who will be offering you a lift into the centre of town, but that’s not where you are going. We even had a driver offer us a lift to the ticket office (its a 5 minute walk).
Our coach didn’t drop us off at the Mandalar Minn Express ticket office – that was a 5 minute walk to the east. Having a charged phone with Google Maps is invaluable here, and it’s how we found our way there.
Yangon (Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Station) to Mawlamyine
Price – 6500 MMK per person (2017)
Depart 8.30AM, check in 8.00AM
Duration – Approx 7 hours
Squeeze your way into the ticket office and grab a pair of tickets – they should look a little like the image below. Their little office is crammed full of people and luggage, so it’s not the most ideal place to wait.
If you catch a similar bus to us, then you will have a couple of hours to kill. Time to fill up on coffee and breakfast. We grabbed a couple of (instant) coffees on a quiet cafe on the corner, before moving ourselves and our bags over to one of the cafe restaurants in the same square as the Mandalar Minn Express ticket office.
Mohinga for Breakfast
We headed over to the local restaurant, တိုကျို, and grabbed a couple bowls of Yangon’s famous breakfast noodle broth, Mohinga. It wasn’t the most visually pleasing example of the dish, but it was a delightfully zingy, fishy delicious dish nevertheless. Our mohinga came with soft youtiao, or Chinese donuts.
30 minutes before your departure time, find a spot to perch in or outside the Mandalar Minn Express ticket office – we watched various coaches come and go, and a delightfully totalitarian ticketmaster/conductor shouting orders through a megaphone and over his rather portly belly at drivers and porters alike.
Time to Leave Yangon, Destination, Mawlamyine
The journey south from Yangon was a pleasant one – we definitely recommend the Mandalar Minn Express VIP bus, mainly thanks to its fully functioning AC. The bus journey from Yangon to Mawlamyine takes you North first via Bago, through Waw, past Kyaikto, the connecting town for getting to see the famous golden rock of Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, Thaton and more, before finally arriving in Mawlamyine.
Arriving in Mawlamyine
Finally you will arrive at the Mawlamyine Highway Bus Station, which is, of course, on the highway and out of town. From here you could negotiate a taxi into town or your guesthouse, or even walk into town if you are feeling fit.
For the latter, there’s a gorgeous walk if you head south to the next junction, then back on yourselves and up along the hill ridge that overlooks the town – there’s some incredible pagodas up here including the U Zina Pagoda, Buddha images, the Bamboo Buddha. Gorgeous sunsets and friendly monks. Just give yourself around 45 minutes to walk into town.
Where to Stay in Mawlamyine
Or do as we did and choose a hotel close to the highway bus station. We stayed at the fantastic Pinlon Pann Hotel – just a few minutes walk from the station (and train station), and the owners are very friendly and will help you with all aspects of your stay and onward travel.
What to do in Mawlamyine
Mawlamyine marked the start of our journey into South Myanmar – and as much as we loved the north, including Inle Lake and Bagan, the South really offers so much more.
Romantic, rustic, dilapidated – yet still oozing with charm, there was a reason that Rudyard Kipling found inspiration in Mawlamyine for his poem Mandalay.
From its incredible blazen orange sunsets, to Kipling’s favourite Kyeik Than Lan Pagoda, to its myriad restaurants, walks along the messy promenade and the Thanylin River – there’s so much to do here. Visit Shampoo Island, and you absolutely must make time to go to Hpa An from here.
More on the above in several posts to come soon.