Myeik (formerly Mergui) juts into the mouth of the Tanintharyi River – a strategic location from which it dominated the area’s maritime trade for centuries. To avoid the pirates and tropical storms that plagued the Malacca Straits, the kings of Siam used Myeik as the main port for Ayut- thaya, transferring goods by road through the peninsular jungles.
Today the Theindawgyi Pagoda, a slender, gilded stupa on a low rise above the covered riverfront market, is the only noteworthy sight in Myeik. Boats leave from Myeik’s harbor for Kadan, a twin-peaked barrier island opposite the mouth of the river. The port is also the main embarkation point for the 800 or more islands of the stunning Myeik Archipelago, one of the last pristine marine wilderness zones in Southeast Asia. The region, homeland of the Moken sea gypsies, is strictly off-limits to land-based tourists; some cruises and diving tours travel there from Ranong and Phuket, Thailand (see p223).