Accessible only by road and a full day's drive from Yangon, Mawlamyine is a quiet town that sees few visitors and offers an insight into the Burma of bygone days.
Mawlamyine, formerly known as Moulmein, is the fourth largest city in Myanmar. This is the capital of Mon state with many famous destinations. Located about 300km from downtown Yangon, Mawlamyine City is becoming more attractive to visitors because of its rustic beauty and natural landscapes. Being the largest commercial and seaport center in the state, yet the city of Mawlamyine still brings a peaceful atmosphere thanks to its gentle pace and beautiful scenery.
Mawlamyine was once among the 32 cities of the Martaban division. From 1826 to 1852, Mawlamyine was the first capital of British Burma under the colonization of Britain. The city is now the capital of Mon state.
The mysterious beauty of Mawlamyine
The history of Mawlamyine
Mawlamyine was colonized in the early 1800s, at the end of the first Anglo-Burmese war. Under the colonization of the British, many constructions were built including government offices, churches, and a massive prison. From 1826 to 1862, Mawlamyine was a strategic city that became the first seaport area and a geological nodal point of the British in Southeast Asia. Timber trade was strongly developed, consequently resulting in the growth and prosperity of the city. During the colonization time, Mawlamyine had a considerable Anglo-Burmese population, thus leading to the foundation of the “Little England” area in the city, mostly living on rubber plantations. Mawlamyine has suffered from both glory and destruction throughout its history as a British colonial center. It also marks many traces of wartime in the past so visitors will have the opportunity to better understand historical stories when visiting this wonderful city.
Must-visit attractions in Mawlamyine
- Win Sein Taw Ya: This is the largest reclining Buddha statue in the world, located about 20km from the center of Mawlamyine city. With an amazing height of 30 meters and 180 meters in length, the statue can be seen from afar and will surely impress tourists at first sight. The statue stretches for nearly 200m on the hillside area, opposite the Kyauktalon Taung Buddhist temple. Inside, the statue is designed with many complex staircases, small shrines, verses, and paintings of the devils that look quite scary yet mysterious. Embedded in these paintings are the Buddha’s meaningful teachings about karma and the way of life.
- Kyaikthanlan Pagoda: Built around 875 AD, Kyaikthanlan Pagoda is another famous attraction that the city offers. Kyaikthanlan is believed to have been built by King Mutpi Jara and finished at the height of 17 meters. Later on, the successive Kings continued the construction and made the pagoda the highest structure in the area (46 meters). Besides housing a tooth relic of the Buddha, this pagoda is surrounded by 34 smaller stupas with many altars and worship areas. At dusk, Kyaikthanlan is the best place to watch the sunset and enjoy the panoramic view of the beautiful Mawlamyine city.
- Kawgoon and Payone caves: Kawgoon and Payone are natural caves with spectacular scenery as well as an attractive destination that visitors should not miss. Traveling here, visitors can discover the treasure of Buddha statues of the Burmese. Especially, the sparkling stalagmites and stalactites here also create a truly impressive atmosphere.
- Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery: This cemetery is the resting place of the prisoners in World War II, who were forced to work on the Siam-Burmese railway, also known as the death rail line. Although this place is not a mere tourist destination, yet its historical significance makes tourists want to pay this place a visit to commemorate those who have sacrificed their lives for the peace of the young generations.
Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery
- Kyaikkami Temple: This is a beautiful Buddhist temple located on the coast of Mawlamyine city. Kyaikkami is situated on large rocks near the coast and is led to the mainland by a wide passageway. Because of its amazing location, the temple brings a total different perspective to tourists, extremely special compared with other temples found in Myanmar. Besides enjoying the breathtaking view, the fresh air and the architecture of the temple, tourists can also feed the fish at high tides, which is a very fascinating activity that cannot be found in other temples.
- Bilu Island: Bilu Island is located in the western part of Mawlamyine with a population of about 200,000 inhabitants. This wonderful island possesses a typical serene beauty with vasty paddy fields, traditional villages of handicraft industries such as coconut carpets , bamboo hats, rubber bands or wooden household items. Tourists can choose tuktuks, motorbikes or horse carriages to explore the island.
Statues Of Buddhist Monks In The Forest, Mawlamyine
Myanmar is a Buddhist country with many Buddhist pagodas and sacred sites. It is recommended to bring along appropriate clothing attires, especially when visiting Mawlamyine’s different Buddhist pagodas. For instance, tourists must avoid sleeveless shirts, shorts, or skirts and shoes must be taken off before entering any religious site. One festival that tourists can participate in is the Water Festival held in April every year for 4 days. The tradition of this festival is to take a bucket full of water, sprinkle it on a passing person, bikes, or cars, and just have fun. Myanmar people are quite shy and quiet, yet they are extremely friendly. Coming to Mawlamyine on this occasion, tourists will have a chance to make friends with the Burmese, start a conversation and get to know more about their personality as well as their culture.
Weather in Mawlamyine
The most ideal time for tourists to visit Mawlamyine is during the months of November – mid-March when the weather is dry and pleasant with low rainfall. This dry season is especially essential when tourists plan on visiting the Kyaikthanlan Pagoda and seek a nice panoramic view of the city from this site. Besides, coming to Mawlamyine in April is also a good idea, when tourists can take part in the Water Festival. In contrast, the August-October months are the region’s rainy season, totally not suggested for sightseeing or exploring the city.
Streets in Mawlamyine
- Getting to Mawlamyine: Tourists can reach Mawlamyine either by flight or train from Yangon.
- Transportation in Mawlamyine: Tourists can explore the city by either tuk-tuks or small pickup van taxis of around 2,000 kyats depending on the distance you travel. Boat tour discovering the Thalwin river is also available at many hotels.
- Mawlamyine is a great place for both nature lovers and those who wish to pay homage to Buddhist pagodas. These cultural and natural factors make perfect pictures for any photographer. Mawlamyine is the city of seaport and possesses a beautiful landscape of magnificent sea and majestic islands. It is therefore recommended to visit the famous pagodas situated on the hills at dusk in order to enjoy the most breathtaking view of the city. Don’t forget to spoil yourself with the wide range of fresh seafood and a combination of Burmese-Western cuisine before leaving Mawlamyine.
- The local currency in Myanmar is kyat. It is recommended that tourists exchange money before traveling to Myanmar. However, a money exchange service is always available at any Burmese airport. While foreign credit cards may be accepted in major hotels or restaurants, it is highly recommended that tourists have cash ready in hand.