The somewhat remote, Irrawaddy Delta town of Pathein is actually officially the 5th largest ‘city’ in Burma – which makes it slightly smaller than Moulmein (Mawlamyine) – yet even fewer tourists ever make it down to this super-friendly and fascinating river port than visit Mon State’s picturesque capital. Pathein is the Delta’s commercial hub and the riverside area and central market are proverbial hives of activity and located only some 3 hours ride from Rangoon, (traffic permitting), it makes a great side trip for any visitor, especially those with a photographic bent.
Known in British colonial times as Bassein the name is considered to be a Mon derivation of the word Parsi since in earlier times it was home to a large number of Persian and Middle Eastern traders and the settlement has certainly been an important port since the earliest Mon period.
As we mentioned these days the town sees very few foreign visitors and wandering along the waterfront or around the adjacent market you are going to cause a stir! Despite that, ‘shy’ doesn’t seem to be part of the outgoing Pathein residents’ vocabulary and on our last visit, we were practically mobbed, (in a good way), in the main market.
If street, market and people photography is your thing then Pathein’s definitely your sort of place. Plenty of local buses run between town and Rangoon though it may be worth negotiating a taxi ride to save time. There are also several accommodation options if you wish to stay overnight and catch the early morning action?
Note also Pathein is known for its traditional parasol making and there are a few places you can visit at the entrance to the town. We were shown around a family business by a fluent English speaking lad who was also a great source of general info on the town so well worth a stop and the parasols are superb!