Things to do in Mawlamyine
A few low key attractions
What we say:
Mawlamyine town itself doesn't really possess too many tourist sites as such but then... it doesn't really need any. We reckon strolling along the busy Strand Road waterfront, meeting the locals in the super friendly markets, taking in the views from the hilltop pagodas or just wandering the back streets checking out the wonderful old buildings could keep the most hyper visitor happy for some time.
Mon Cultural Museum
If dimly lit, dusty collections of moderately interesting artifacts with little or no English explanations is your cup of tea then you'll like Mawlamyine's Mon Cultural Museum – otherwise there are more interesting things to do in town.
We're guessing most of the prime artifacts discovered on the sites of the nearby ancient Mon cities of Thaton and Savarnabhumi are housed in the national museum in Yangon, since the display consists of some local style knick-knacks, religious paraphernalia, a couple of Mon steles and an old British canon. The museum is located in the centre of town on the corner of Baho Street and Dawei Tadar Road and is in theory opened from 09:30 to 16:30 every weekday, with a $2 entrance fee for foreigners.
The northernmost of the string of five hilltop pagodas overlooking the centre of town, Mahamuni Pagoda is the largest and most prestigious.
Though undoubtedly a sacred site for some time, most of the Mon-style temple complex you see today dates from the early 20th century, including the replica of the famous Buddha image in the Mandalay pagoda of the same name.
This is an attractive site, with plenty of gold leaf and great views, with early mornings and late afternoons obviously being prime times. It's an easy walk from the town centre – head up the hill past the prison and it's on your left.
Kyaik Than Lan Paya
A short walk south from Mahamnuni Paya, Kyaik Than Lan isn't quite as large a complex as the former but does lay claim to the town's largest stupa so plenty more gold leaf is in evidence here plus of course this is the Kipling temple!
It was here that Rudyard is supposed to have written his famous "Lookin' lazy at the sea" line though his mind does seem to have been on other views since he also wrote, "I should better remember what the pagoda was like should I not have fallen deeply and irrevocably in love with a Burmese girl at the foot of the first flight of steps...".
So much for religious architecture then and while the temple is impressive the best things are the tremendous views -- of landscapes that is, with spectacular vistas to the west across the nearby islands, Salween Estuary and Gulf of Martaban and to the east towards the limestone mountains of Hpa An.
These shady viewpoints are popular hang outs for young local couples so you will still see plenty of Mawlamyine lasses with their beaus pretending to admire the view.
Other religious monuments
On another rise, continuing south, is the Uzina Pagoda – another nicely laid out temple around a giant gold-leaf clad stupa and reclining Buddha, though it's quite a hike from the centre, while if you've had your fill of Buddhist monuments you could check out the spectacular early 19th century mosques, the icing sugar-style Kaladan and the turquoise Sulati both near the central market on Lower Main Road -- a real pair of architectural gems.
Or have a look at some of the numerous old churches, the most spectacular being perhaps the Holy Family Cathedral and the 1829 St Patrick's Church both on Upper Main Road, or the crumbling 1827 First Baptist Church just up from the Museum on Dawei Jetty Street.
Central and evening Markets
The huge central market covers two blocks at the northern end of town between Strand Road and Lower Main Street, continuing up Thaton Tadar Street.
There's a fresh fish section near the river plus all the household goods, dry goods and fruit and vegetables you'd expect, though since mass tourism is yet to hit Mawlamyine you'll probably be the most interesting item on display as far as the locals go. Nobody will attempt to sell you any tacky souvenirs and unlike certain markets you won't get the impression you're getting in their way and most locals will delight in trying out their English skills (or lack of), as well as having a great laugh from looking at the photos on your LCD screen.
You'll find a mix of Bamar, Mon, Tamil, Bengali and Chinese vendors with all the awesome market snacks that entails. Primarily this is a morning market – the fish section kicks off early – and it quietens down but continues throughout the afternoon.
Conveniently though, an afternoon and early evening market sets up nearby on Ahtet Lan Ma Zay Gyi Street – just up the hill from the central market. Much smaller but far more congested, this market specialises in fruit, vegetables and flowers, many of which even experienced Southeast Asia travellers will be pushed to identify. This market runs mid-afternoon through till mid-evening.
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