About 280 km to Yangon’s southeast is a city described in the opening lines of Rudyard Kipling’s 19th century poem Road to Mandalay:
“By the old Moulmein pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me”.
This is Mawlamyine (or Moulmein, as spelled in the times of Kipling), the first capital city of British Burma from 1826 to 1852, and now the fourth biggest city in Myanmar and the capital of Mon State. Mawlamyine is home to about 326,000 people of different ethnic religious and cultural backgrounds. It is located near the mouth of the Thanlwin (Salween) River, which opens into the Gulf of Martaban (Mottama) and the Andaman Sea near Mawlamyine.
Mawlamyine is another multicultural city in Myanmar, once being home to Anglo-Burmese, Indian, Mon, Bamar and other communities, the Anglo-Burmese of them now only surviving as a dwindling population.
Mawlamyine is also a setting of George Orwell’s famous 1936 memoir Shooting an Elephant, where he opens the essay as “In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people—the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.”
It also boasts many colonial architecture, including both civic and religious buildings built during the British colonial times.
People of Mawlamyine are very affectionate and helpful, and what’s more, they love good food. Most famous for its tropical fruits and local cuisines, the trademark of the people’s Mawlamyine’s are good food and eating.
Mawlamyine is usually not included on the mainstream tour itineraries even though it is famous for its own charms – it is surrounded by pleasant areas, fair weather and nearby sights and attractions. It is also the first stop for travellers coming from Thailand via the border.
Few of Mawlamyine’s famous sights in and outside of it are as follow:
Kyaikthanlan Pagoda: the pagoda that stands on a ridge in the north-eastern part overlooking the city; famous for the panoramic view of the city and the whole surrounding as well as the best sunset-looking point. It is thought to be the “old Moulmein Pagoda” Kipking cites in his poem.
Bilu Island: A big island across the river from Mawlamyine known for cottage industries such as weaving, chalkboards, pipes, hats, and rubber bands. Small ferryboats leave the jetty on the Mawlamyine side but a bridge is under construction to connect Mawlamyine to Chaungzon town of the island.
Win Sein Taw Ya Reclining Buddha : 29 kilometre to the city’s south along the highway at the Win Sein forest monastery in Mudon township is the largest reclining Buddha statue in Myanmar; the most famous pagoda after Kyaikhtiyo in Mon State. It is approached by a roadway lined with 500 life-size statues of the Buddha’s disciples and a hall whose chamber walls display scenes of Buddha’s lifetime.