Experiencing Small-Town Myanmar in Ye

Until recently, Ye (pronounced ‘yay’) was not visited by foreign tourists due to government restrictions. Now that those restrictions have been lifted, this compact bustling town, nestled between Mawlamyine and Dawei in Mon state, is receiving more visitors.

When you are visiting the main places that are well known in southern Myanmar, such as Kyaiktiyo and Hpa-An, Ye is worth a stop along the way. Here’s why this small traditional town deserves a few days of your time.

What to See in Town

Lakeside Area

There is a large lake right in the centre of town with a road encircling it. The lakeside area makes for a peaceful walk in the late afternoon with the last rays of sunshine dancing on the water’s surface; be careful though, motorbikes still zip up and down the road at speed! Jutting out into the lake is a pagoda that is worth seeing.

The Pagoda jutting out into Ye Lake

Gold Market

Walk through the maze of over 90 shops buying and selling gold jewellery, many with precious gems. There are a few craftsmen stalls as well. Unless you are interested in buying or selling gold though, there isn’t a great deal to see.

Public Market

The public market can be found across several blocks on Strand Road, near the Ye River that runs through town. Wander past vendors hawking fresh fruit and vegetables, flowers, dried fish, herbs and spices, and dried goods. The butcher area is one to be avoided by those who don’t relish the sight of fresh animal parts; a variety of fresh fish and other marine animals are also on display in buckets and pans.

On the other side, clothes, housewares, cosmetics, natural medicines, Buddhist items, cookware, hand-made knives and various tools can be found. The market is typically open from early morning until early afternoon and closed on Sundays and Buddhist holidays.

Pots at Ye Market

Jyaung Taung Village

You can hire a small ferry to take you across the Ye River or you can drive across the bridge that shares vehicle traffic with the train track. There is a nice view of the river from the bridge, especially at sunset. The village itself is small and there’s not a great deal to see but it is peaceful, quiet and traditional.

Jyaung Taung Village

Shwesandaw Paya

The main pagoda in town, Shwesandaw was built in the typical Mon style with two prayer halls, one with a golden Buddha and the other housing twenty with white faces that surround six central Buddha figures. The sunlight bouncing off the pagoda makes it a very beautiful place in the mornings and evenings.

‘The Shiny Temple’

Dubbed ‘The Shiny Temple’ by our guesthouse owner, this small ornate structure is rarely open but is beautiful from the outside. There is a massive white-and-gold seated Buddha statue in a covered hall next to the temple.

Large Buddha Statue near ‘The Shiny Temple’

Shwemawdaw Paya

This hilltop pagoda, at the end of a steep 3km track off the highway, has nice views over the surrounding countryside. It’s an especially good place to watch the sun set.

What to See outside Town

Ko Yin Lay

Ko Yin Lay, a uniquely styled Mon temple complex, can be translated to “The Little Monk” in Burmese and “Banana Mountain” in the Mon dialect. It is most commonly known to tourists as the latter. A 9-storey 4-sided seated Buddha figure rises high into the sky; you can ascend to the top using the stairs inside the structure.

Walking up, you’ll pass through rooms on each floor that are full of sitting and standing Buddhas. At the top, on an open-air platform, 360-degree views over the surrounding area can be seen.

If you arrive at around 11:30am, you may be invited to sit down for a traditional Mon/Burmese vegetarian lunch; a donation to the temple will be appreciated. A very large reclining Buddha has recently been completed at Ko Yin Lay, as well as a private school.

To get to Ko Yin Lay, head back along the main road towards Mawlamyine and you’ll see an obvious archway on your right. It’s a 12km drive from the centre of Ye.

We chose the wrong day to visit the complex – Mon National Day – and it was swarming with people! On a normal day, I can imagine that it would be quite peaceful! 

 Jaung Ywar Village

This village is located about an hour away from Ye. Those with can find and follow the route easily. We hired a scooter from our guesthouse and got there without too many problems. The people who live in the village are a mix of Mon and Kayin. The village is quite large with over 5,000 people inhabiting it!

The main draw here is to hire a longtail boat (10,000ks) and go upstream through the jungle to a small Mon temple, located where two branches of the river meet. There are areas along the river that are perfect for swimming or just relaxing. Outside the village, there is a hilltop pagoda with a great view over the river as it winds through the jungle, and the mountains beyond.

River View from the Small Mon Temple

Again, when we were there on Mon National Day, it was swarming with people in high spirits! Therefore, our experience wasn’t that peaceful or relaxing! On any normal day the village would, I imagine, be rather sleepy.  There are a few local teahouses where you might be able to get something to eat; be aware though that very little English is spoken in the village.

Asin Village and BinLeWa Beach

Both Asin village and BinLeWa Beach are located about an hour away by scooter. Asin is a large village to the west of Ye and BinLeWa Beach is at the point where the Ye River flows into the ocean. You’ll need to drive through a bit of a maze with lots of turns to reach the beach.

When you reach BinLeWa, climb a small hill with a pagoda at the top for good sea views. Unfortunately, there is a lot of rubbish on the beach and in the area; we, therefore, didn’t think it was worth the drive!

Bin Le Wa Beach

Duya Village and Andin Village

Heading west from Ye then bearing north will take you on a lovely drive past rice fields and Mon villages, with forested hills and plantations on both sides. Past Andin is a fishing village at the north end of a long, relatively clean beach. The area near the fishing village is, again, very dirty.

Walking along the beach to the south end, however, makes for a nice walk and it does get a lot cleaner the further away you get from the village! You’ll know that you’ve reached the end when you see a rocky point, shaded by trees.

Beach near Andin Village

Ka Bia Wa Beach

Located southwest of Ye, it’s about an hour’s drive to Ka Bia Wa Beach. There is no route on but it is possible to find using Google Maps. The beach area is cleaner than at BinLeWa, and there are restaurants with beach views. A footpath continues along the side of a hill to a rocky point with a pagoda and nice views of the ocean and the mainland.

There was a time when a guide was required to visit Ka Bia Wa Beach, given the potential for conflicts in the area, but it is very quiet nowadays and, therefore, you don’t need to worry about having a guide with you. In our opinion, this is definitely the best beach near Ye.

We got there in the late afternoon, when the heat of the day had subsided, and left just before sunset. This was a beautiful time to be there; it would also be a lovely place to spend the day and have lunch.

Late Afternoon at Ka Bia Wa Beach

Where to Stay and Where to Eat

We chose to stay at Starlight Resort, which is located on the highway roughly 4km from town; it is a newly built complex. Run by friendly American expat David and his Myanmar wife, they provide a well-run service with large, clean rooms with breakfast included in the price.

The onsite restaurant is a good option for dinner, saving a walk or drive back into town. We can personally recommend the Thai green and massaman curries, packed with vegetables and served as a very decent portion. They’re authentic and tasty.

Starlight Resort

In town, there are a couple of small-time guesthouses that you won’t find online. If you’d rather stay in town, your best bet is to rock up and ask for recommendations.

As Ye is very close to the Thailand border, Thai food, as well as seafood and barbeque, can be found in abundance. In the evenings, street vendors set up around Shwesandaw Pagoda, selling barbequed meat on sticks.

Given the fact that Ye is a small town, there are only a handful of restaurants. There are a couple of recommended places, such as Jasmine Cool, but it looked closed when we went past. There are also some local teahouses and beer stations scattered around town. When we stopped to ask for food at a few of them, we were met with a “no!” so be prepared to try your luck at a few places.

Rot Star is a small restaurant opposite the lake that makes for a nice lunch stop; it has a small but decent menu. The owner speaks some English and was OK with our request to make the food vegetarian.


Getting to Ye

If you’re coming from Hpa-An, you’ll have to change buses in Mawlamyine. When you reach Mawlamyine, you’ll probably be dropped at or near to the Highway Bus Station. From here, you can get buses to Yangon, Hpa-An and Kyaikto (for the Golden Rock), as well as to some other destinations.

But in order to get to Ye, you’ll need to get a minivan from Zey Kyo Bus Station, which is about 3.5km from the Highway Bus Station. Once there, people will ask where you want to go and point you to the correct minivan. Expect to pay 3,500ks/person. Minivans leave when full so you might be waiting a while; the journey to Ye can be cramped and bumpy!

Pro Tip: Use your to monitor when you arrive in Mawlamyine; when you see that you’re near the roundabout that’s close to Zey Kyo Bus Station, call to the conductor to stop. Disembark and make your way there on foot (500m), which will save you money on a motorbike taxi! 

Lynette and I beside Ye Lake

Getting around Ye

Ye is a compact town, so walking around is perfectly possible. Just keep your eyes and ears open as motorbikes zip up and down the roads at break-neck speed! If you need to get somewhere a little further way, motorbike taxis congregate around Shwesandaw Pagoda. Expect to pay 500-1,000ks/person for a short trip.

Motorbike or Scooter hire is a good option if you can drive, allowing for freedom of movement to places in and around Ye. Starlight Resort has bikes for rent that are in good condition; the daily rate is 8,000ks/day. Petrol stations are scattered along the main highway for refueling!

Leaving Ye

Buses: Buses depart from Ye Highway Gate Bus Station but tickets can be purchased at stalls near Shwesandaw Pagoda. There are buses to the following destinations:

  • 5 daily buses to Yangon: 8,300-10,300ks, 11 hours from 7:30am to 6:00pm
  • 7 daily buses to Mawlamyine: 3,000ks, 4 hours from 6:00am to 2:15pm
  • 1 daily bus to Dawei: 6,000ks, 4 hours at 7:00am

Trains: Trains depart from the rustic Ye train station on the other side of town. Tickets ideally need to be purchased a day in advance. Slow services run to the following destinations:

  • 1 daily to Yangon: 3,250/6,450ks (ordinary/upper class) at 2:30pm, 16 hours
  • 2 daily to Mawlamyine: 850/1,100ks (ordinary/upper class) at 4:00am and 2:30pm, 6 hours
  • 1 daily to Dawei: 1,900/2,800ks (ordinary/upper class) at 9:30am, 10 hours

Heading to Yangon? Check out Your Ultimate Yangon Travel Guide with 46+ Things to See!

Hitching: As we were staying far away from the bus and train stations, we took our chances and stood on the highway, where we managed to flag down a bus going to Mawlamyine without having to wait too long!

Once a small town unvisited, Ye is increasing in popularity as a stop for travellers visiting the south. Although not part of mainstream tourism in Myanmar, Ye offers a chance to relax and experience local life. The town and its surrounding area have some nice sights that make it worth stopping for a few days at least.

Check out some more off-the-beaten-track destinations in Myanmar in these posts:

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