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.
This northernmost state in Myanmar is slowly opened to foreigners. The week-long trip down the Ayeyarwaddy River from the town of Bhamo is becoming popular. There is a government ferry and several luxury craft that operate on this relatively remote stretch of river.
The area is home to colorful tribal groups, breathtaking Indawgyi Lake and snow-capped mountain ranges in the far north around the town of Putao, near to the border with India.
Monywa is in the Sagaing Region west of Mandalay. It is a worthwhile trip for temple enthusiasts but it is also the second biggest town in Upper Myanmar and serves as a major trade center for agricultural produce.
Monywa is situated on the eastern bank of the Chindwin River 136 km northwest of Mandalay along the Mandalay-Budalin branch railway line. Monywa serves as a major trade center for India and Myanmar. There are bus connections with Mandalay and Bagan with the trip taking 3-4 hours.
In Monywa town there are busy markets, popular restaurants, Monywa University and the Computer University, Monywa. Transport around town is by tuk-tuk and some drivers speak English.
What to see in Chin State
The only place in Chin State that has been on Myanmar’s tourist map is Nat Ma Taung (Mt Victoria) the mountain So km west of Bagan. Rising over 3000 meters it forms a so-called “sky island” with its own distinct micro-climate, flora, and fauna. Six day trips can be arranged from Bagan. The area is great for bird-watching and observing butterflies.
Rakhaing State is today one of the most remote, under-developed parts of Myanmar, yet 350 years ago, its coastal strip formed the heartland of the rich and powerful Arakan kingdom which was the most cosmopolitan in the history of southeast Asia.
Its capital was Mrauk-U (literally “Monkey Egg”), a port founded in 1430 by King Naramithla. Thirty years later, this was a sophisticated kingdom with Buddhist traditions mingled with those of Indo-Islamic India. The arts and philosophy flourished, and splendid pagodas, temples, and palaces were erected on the banks of the River Kaladan.
Naypyidaw meaning “Royal Capital”, is Myanmar’s soul-less new capital city. It is literally a city built from scratch; construction began in 2002 and Naypyidaw was officially declared the country’s capital in 2005. It was out of bounds to foreigners until around 2010 but it has now opened up with international and domestic airlines starting to use the new airport. It is now Myanmar’s third largest city and is starting to act as a transportation hub.
The Sagaing Region is located in the northwestern part of the country. It is bordered by India to the north and west, and Kachin State, Shan State, Magway Region and Mandalay Region to the east, and south.
Today agriculture is the chief occupation here and the area has no great political importance, but in the past, this region, particularly close to present-day Mandalay, was central to Myanmar’s development. For hundreds of years, this was the epicenter of Myanmar power and the region held the capital city from 1315 until 1841. First, it was Sagaing, then later Ava (Inwa).
Sagaing was the capital of the kingdom for fifty years in the 1300’s, and then again briefly in the 1700’s. Little remains from that time. The town and wider area, however, is a major religious retreat today and there are 500 nunneries and monasteries housing 6000 monks and nuns, mainly in the surrounding hills.
The town is built near the jetty and has limited appeal, but the roads that meander up and down the hills lead to monasteries and nunneries hidden in deep gullies and tucked in behind cliffs and tall trees. All along the hills, you can see dozens of gold stupas and temples.
For about a hundred years, beginning about the mid 1700’s, several kings, moved the capital of their country around from Amarapura to Inwa, back to Amarapura, and then to Mandalay. Amarapura was founded by King Bodawpaya in 1782, after royal astrologers, were concerned about the king’s past actions. In 1783, the entire population of Ava packed up and shifted to land around the newly built palace.
The move was only temporary because Bodawpaya’s grandson, King Bagyidaw moved the capital back to Inwa in 1821 but his successor King Tharrawaddy again moved the royal capital back to Amarapura in 1842. In 1857, King Mindon again moved the capital, this time to a completely new location, 11 km further north to the foot of Mandalay Hill.
01. Tharabar Gate
The Tharabar, the main gate of the eastern wall of Old Bagan, is the only one left of the twelve gates of the walled city which King Pyinbya established in 849. The Gate is interesting because it is the only major piece of non-religious architecture left in Bagan.
In front of the Gate are two shrines containing images of the Mahagiri nats, the brother Maung Tinde and sister Thonbanhla. Superstitious locals still make an offering to the nat by leaving a banana or coconut to ensure protection against traffic accidents.