A guide to traveling in Mawlamyine, Mon State

The Mon capital, Mawlamyine (Moulmein), retains a distinct colonial-era charm and serves as the starting point of cruises by old double-decker ferries on the Thanlwin (Salween) River into neighboring Kayin State. The striking limestone hills, caves and mountaintop monasteries around the town of Hpa-an are attracting increasing numbers of travelers.

Thanks to its fleeting mention in the famous poem Mandalay, the former capital of British Burma, Moulmein is associated with Rudyard Kipling. Moulmein was ceded to the British by the Kingdom of Ava in the Treaty’ of Yandabo at the end of the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1826, and it was transformed into a thriving teak and rubber port.

Beautiful Tourist Attractions

There are plenty of mildewing Raj-era buildings which attest to its 19th -century prominence, however, it’s the considerably more ancient Buddhist monuments such as Mawlamyine Pagoda, one of several on a prominent ridge inland from the city, that will appeal to others. The city today is home to more than 500,000 people which make it the fourth largest city’ in the country.

Other attractions are Kyaik Tan Lan Pagoda built in 875 AD and thought to be where Rudyard Kipling wrote his famous poem, “The Road to Mandalay”, the Nwa Le Bo Pagoda about 20 km north of town and the Pa Auk Taw Ya Monastery, 15 km south of town.

You cross the impressive Thanlwin bridge, the longest road, and rail bridge in Myanmar as you approach the town. The 11,000 feet bridge over the Thanlwin River connects the country’s south-eastern region with Yangon.

The Mon Cultural Museum, located on the corner of Baho St and Dawei Jetty Road, has displays of ancient Mon coins, lacquerware, Buddhist articles and a number of paintings depicting Mon culture and society’.

Buses, mini-buses and trains all connect Mawlamyine with Yangon and there is a road with bus connections with Mae Sot in Thailand.

There are several points of interest south of the city’. Kyauktalon Taung is an interesting flat rock formation 100 meters in height with a Buddhist shrine situated on top. Although reminding you of Mt Popa in central Myanmar, the outcrop is geologically different being made of limestone rather than volcanic rock. Just opposite here is Yadana Taung a Hindu temple where hundreds of monkeys roam about freely, often aggressively.

A hundred meters further south is the entrance to Win Sein Taw Ya. This is claimed to be the largest reclining Buddha image in the world at 180 meters in length, and 30 meters in height. Inside there are numerous rooms with dioramas of the teachings of Buddhism.

Mudon is a further 10 minutes from here. Kandawgyi Lake located just after the main town center has a number of stalls selling rice and an assortment of side dishes, as well as moehingga (noodles in a fish based broth) and soft drinks.

Some 60 kilometers south of Mawlamyine is the town of Thanbyuzayat. This was the end of the line of the infamous Burma-Siam railway linking Thailand with Myanmar during the Japanese occupation in World War II. It was known as the Death Railway due to the many prisoners of war who died constructing the 415 km long line for the Japanese Imperial Army.

A Death Railway Museum has been established about a kilometer from Thanbyuzayat’s main town center. Unfortunately, the main building of the museum is often locked. In the grounds of the museum, however, a memorial has been established complete with train track, a plaque, and one of the original locomotives donated by the Japanese authorities from a museum in Yokohama.

The well-maintained grounds of the Htaukkyant War Cemetry are located one kilometer from Thanbyuzayat on the road to Kyaikkami and Setse. It is managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to honor those who died in the construction of the Burma-Siam Death Railway in World War II.

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