Bilu Kyun (Ogre Island) isn’t a hideaway for nasty monsters. Rather, it’s a beautiful island directly west of Mawlamyine. Roughly the size of Singapore, Bilu Kyun comprises 78 villages that are home to more than 200,000 people. It's a green, fecund place, home to palm-studded rice fields and fruit plantations, and it has the vibe of a tropical island, only without the beaches. A brand-new bridge now links Bilu Kyun to the mainland, allowing travellers to drive there themselves.
Some of Bilu Kyun's villages are associated with the production of various handicrafts and household items, from coconut-fibre mats to slate tablets, although the number of workshops has declined in recent years and many of those remaining are now more geared to tourists than anything else.
Although it's now easy to access the island on a hired motorbike via the new bridge, Bilu Kyun is a big island and few locals speak English, so many people visit on a day tour. Mr Antony or Mr Khaing at Breeze Guest House lead informative tours, which typically run from 9am to 5pm, circling the island, stopping in at various craft workshops and tacking on a swim stop. The K18,000 fee per person covers transport and lunch.
At research time, foreigners were not allowed to stay overnight on Bilu Kyun.