The town of Mergui sits on a peninsula that juts out into the Andaman Sea. It is the base of a significant and strategically placed port that has been used for hundreds of years. Because of its colonial-era past, there are still plenty of buildings with unique character and architecture.
Mergui’s harbour continues to be a place of great activity, unlike what is seen in the sleepy region of Mawlamyine. There are all types of fishing boats in action as they depart from the harbour to start their work in stretches of the Mergui (or Myeik) Archipelago.
Many of the 800-odd islands in the local area are easily accessed on organized Myanmar travel tours which depart at regular intervals from Mergui or for the longer, liveaboard trips from Kawthaung.
One of the places to visit on the tour of Mergui is the Theindawgyi Pagoda which is centrally located in the area. By climbing the hill to the pagoda it is possible to get stunning views of the surrounding harbour and town. Other local attractions include Mergui’s market, a fire station with old fire trucks, charming colonial-era buildings and a clock tower.
Similar to most other areas of Myanmar, the high season for travelling is November to April which is the best time to visit Mergui on the Myanmar travel packages. A trip that include December to February has the potential to provide the most comfortable and beautiful weather with is calm seas, steady winds, and warm and sunny. March and April starts to see higher temperatures and less wind, which also leads to the clear waters that are perfect for water sports such as snorkelling and diving.
Once May to July arrives the weather starts to experience the strong onshore winds with the possible hurricanes. The more consistent rain starts with the rainy season that runs from June to October. Most of the popular cruise tours in the Archipelago stop operating from early May until early October. Even for the travellers that plan to explore the waters in the rainy season, there are still plenty of large islands that can give protected anchorages in times of need.
How to get there
Mergui is able to benefit from several regular bus services from Dawei (about 6 hours), Ye (10 hours) and Mawlamyine (15 hours). The road journeys aren't the best in this region of Myanmar with many roads still in pretty poor conditions. Alternative options include travelling by plane or boat.
A useful boat service comes from Dawei with early morning departure times – the time to reach Mergui can vary with the weather and tide. Also, there is a fast boat service from Kawthaung. Either of these boat rides can cost in the region of $35-$45.
The normal modes of transport in Mergui are motorbike taxis and sidecars, but the price in this part of Myanmar is often more expensive than elsewhere.
Where to stay
Mergui has a varied choice of guest houses and hotels to easily match the needs of the tourist on the Myanmar tours and holidays in search of low-cost to upmarket accommodation.
A stay at the Eain Taw Phyu Hotel gives the opportunity to relax at the finest hotel in town. It has 38 tastefully decorated, spacious (even the cheap ones are an acceptable size) and comfortable rooms for guests. Many of the staff are English-speaking with an on-site restaurant, swimming pool and free private parking available to guests. Plus, for ease in getting around, the hotel can help with hiring a car for the day.
The Hotel Grand Jade is appreciated for its great value with well-appointed and modern rooms. The best rooms give a stunning view of the Theindawgyi Paya and harbour. Most rooms include amenities like a minibar, cable TV, air-con, safety deposit box and electric kettle. This hotel has a useful rooftop restaurant that serves Thai and Chinese food. Plus, this hotel is helpful for organizing the tickets for local boat tours.
For the low-cost travellers, the Whitepearl Guest House is certain to appeal and includes the basics like free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV and a seating area. This guest house is useful for bike hire and located in an area that is very popular for those that like to fish.
Eat and drink
Many of the local Mergui restaurants specialize in seafood because of its great location and superior to the food choices served in plenty of other Myanmar towns.
The Blue Wave restaurant is famous for its servings of tiger prawns, stuffed squid and tamarind and well located on the waterfront. Many of the main courses cost in the region of $3-$4.50.
For the travellers on the Myanmar local tour package interested in the street food scene there are plenty of roadside stalls and BBQ restaurants near the waterfront and serve up an amazing selection of very fresh and cheap seafood. Most of the stalls in this area don’t start to open until the evening (6 pm onwards).
A visit to the Mergui fish market makes it possible to shop for an impressive list of sea life that ranges from crabs, squid, swordfish, tuna, crayfish and lobsters. Plus, there is also a local crab/lobster farm that is open for the tourist to see.
Things to see and do
Mergui is a great city to explore for its colonial architecture which is possible to admire by hiring a motorbike for the day and exploring the local area. This region was one of the first reached by the English which lead to the construction of many striking structures. Most of the wooden architecture in town is used on quasi-mansions and merchant shops.
The Royal Pearl Trading is a great place to visit for those travellers on the Myanmar travel packages interested in learning more about the pearl industry and how they are cultivated. The crystal-clear waters in the local area make it a great site for pearls.
Even though there are parts of the Mergui Archipelago that are restricted to tourists, there are still several islands that are worth a visit, such as the Natthamee Yae, Marcus, Kala and Kadan. By hiring a long tail boat for the day it is possible to explore the local area, including the ability to spot the native otters and birds. Some of the islands have their own attractions, such as a large crab farm or Buddha statues.