Published/Last edited or updated: 25th June, 2016
One day when there’s a souvenir shop in Mawlamyine high street selling Mon handicrafts, maps and postcards, Yele Pagoda will feature heavily among the tourist cliches. The red-roofed, gleaming white and ochre monastery jutting into the sometimes turquoise, sometimes murky brown waters of the Bay of Bengal is one of Mon State’s most iconic views.
The temple, dating to the early 19th century, perches on top of a natural rock promontory where a Buddha image washed ashore after floating on a raft all the way from Sri Lanka. The main shrine also houses some of Buddha’s hairs, so this is a site of considerable religious importance for locals — and a highly picturesque one for others. The monastery architecture in itself isn’t very exciting, but rather it’s the setting that’s amazing.
Limited to a pile of rocks just offshore, the temple complex is accordingly compact. It’s linked to the mainland by a covered walkway, along which monks’ quarters, annexes and minor shrines are squeezed. The causeway is dry in all but the highest equinox tides or bad storms, though high tide does completely fill the bay to the south. Note that at low tide, the bay turns into treacherous mudflats between the scattered mangroves, so we don’t recommend taking a short cut.
Do also be warned that women aren’t allowed access to the main shrine (this is not uncommon in Burma). Checking out the various vantage points and strolling slowly up the causeway can fill up an hour or so, but as locals will be quick to warn you, take care of the tides. A scenic beach stretches off southwards towards a small fishing village, so if you’ve got time on your hands there’s a decent and safe walk on offer, too. (It’s good for a dip at high tide but turns rather muddy and rocky when the ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 500 words.)
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
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