Pathein is a bustling riverside town located about 190 kilometres to the west of Yangon, and a convenient side-trip on your way from Yangon to either Chaung Tha or Ngwe Saung. Boasting a scenic riverfront, a series of impressive pagodas, riverside night market and local hand-made umbrellas known as parasols, Pathein is worthy of a night or two on your Burma itinerary.
Capital of the Ayeyarwady Region, Pathein is a large trading centre because of its deep water ports and proximity to Yangon. Rice is its main export and paddy dominates much of the region's landscape. The city is home to Pathein University, one of the largest in the region, sitting next to Kanthonzin Lake in the northeastern part of town.
Pathein and the surrounding Ayeyarwady Delta were among the hardest hit areas during Cyclone Nargis in 2008. The cyclone is now just a sad memory, and the city, like many other places in Burma, is hopeful that recent government reforms will result in increased foreign tourism. Foreign visitors can still be few and far between and don't be surprised if you're one of the only foreign faces around. It's apparent that of the few travellers who visit Burma, very few visit Pathein, a town with huge potential that remains well off the beaten path.
To foreign travellers, Pathein is best known for its hand-made parasols, which truly are beautiful. A visit to a local workshop can be done easily from town, and will surely be the highlight of your visit. Colours, shapes, sizes and hand-painted designs vary and if you decide to buy one, it'll serve as an excellent memento of your travels through Burma.
Pathein is reached easily by bus from Yangon, Ngwe Saung or Chaung Tha, with the roads linking all three destinations in good condition.
The small city is nestled upon the eastern banks of the Pathein river. While it expands quite far, travellers will likely find the 'downtown' area to be most interesting. The properly named 'Central Market' serves as an excellent landmark as from there you'll be able to walk to the banks, internet cafes, post office, an endless supply of restaurants and any of the hotels that we've reviewed.
Strand Road runs along the river and contains a series of jetties, which you'll use to cross if you're headed to either Chaung Tha or Ngwe Saung Beach. Pathein's lone ATM machine is located in front of CB Bank.
Located across the street from the ATM machine is the bus station. None of the signs concerning the bus tickets are in English but the locals are very helpful and will point you in the right direction. You can buy tickets to Yangon, Mandalay or either of the nearby beaches.
Though a few internet cafes are scattered throughout town, most don't have power generators and are quite useless during the daytime when power-outages are the norm. Lynn Internet has its own power generators and provides reliable internet connections any time of the day. It's located on Shwezigon Paya street, a quick five-minute walk to the north from Shwemokehtaw Pagoda.
By Matt French