Moulmein, modern Mawlamyine, was famously immortalised by Rudyard Kipling in the line, “By the old Moulmein pagoda lookin’ lazy at the sea….” Of course the poem was actually called Mandalay, not Moulmein, and neither is the correct title the Road to Mandalay as many assume. Well you can still sit by the old pagoda and look at the sea with to our minds sunset being perhaps the ideal time of day, and we doubt the view has changed much at all since Kipling himself sat there.
In fact apart from a smattering of newish concrete, albeit low rise, constructions and a few motor vehicles we don’t reckon much has changed since George Orwell policed its streets and Kipling sat pining in his pagoda. The golden stupas on the low wooded hills behind the town centre still dominate Moulmein – providing tremendous views in every direction not only seawards – and quiet streets lined with colonial period buildings wind their way up from the waterfront.
The large morning market and smaller afternoon fruit and veg market do hustle and bustle as well as providing a glimpse of a cross section of the town’s eclectic, and extremely friendly, population: Mon, Burmese, Bengali, Tamil, Chinese and you’ll see mosques, Hindu and Chinese temples, a Catholic cathedral and Protestant church as well as the famous Buddhist stupas.
Tourists are at present few and far between yet there are a couple of fine accommodation options, some excellent local restaurants and even a perfect riverside sunset bar so all in all we reckon this adds up to a splendid destination. In fact we’d defy anyone to visit without falling under the town’s charm. Conveniently there also happens to be quite a few attractions and visit-worthy sites in the region so we’ve allocated 3 nights in Moulmein on our new South Burma tour.
Other than lookin’ at the sea, exploring the town’s quiet streets and meeting the locals in the lively markets we’ll do a day trip to nearby Bilu Kyun, (Ogre Island – we’ll explain why later), haven of traditional Mon culture where you can meet more friendly locals, admire the scenery and check-out some of the fascinating local cottage industries with the rubber band making being a personal favourite! The trip by local public boat is a lot of fun too!
We’ll spend a second day exploring a lot of great places with unpronounceable names: the various and varied sites located down the coast to the south of Moulmein including Kyauktalon Taung Pagoda – a Mt Popa-esque temple atop a sheer rock outcrop, Win Sein Taw Ya the world’s largest reclining Buddha, Thanbyuzaya the Burmese terminus of the Japanese WW2 ‘Death Railway’ and huge Allied POW cemetery, and Kyaikkami Monastery a spectacular monastery built on rocks in the sea.
All good stuff and we’re certainly looking forward to getting back there. next up Karen State and Hpa-An.