Curious about the pagoda that was built 875 AD? Visit Mawlamyine – Myanmar (Burma)

Curious about the pagoda that was built 875 AD? Visit Mawlamyine - Myanmar (Burma)

Kyaikthanlan pagoda

Mawlamyine is the third largest city in Myanmar after Yangon and Mandalay situated 165 kilometers east of the nation’s capital across the Gulf of Mottama at the mouth of the Thanlwin river. It is the capital of Mon State with a population of almost 300,000 people. Formerly known as Moulmein, it was once a thriving teak port and the administrative capital of British Lower Burma. The town’s signature landmark is Kyaikthanlan pagoda built in 875 AD and  thought to be the site from where Rudyard Kipling wrote his famous poem, ‘The Road to Mandalay’. It’s unlikely that Kipling was referring to Mandalay Ward located at the base of Kyaikthanlan pagoda, but rather the ‘Mandalay’ in central Myanmar.The Thanlwin bridge, the longest road and rail bridge in Myanmar is the most prominent landmark in the area. It stretches a distance of 11,000 feet over the Thanlwin river connecting the country’s south eastern region with its capital, Yangon.
Mawlamyine is generally considered to be off the main tourist trail for most travellers to Myanmar but the town does have a charm of its own with its rich history, buildings with colonial style architecture, World War II era wooden buses, and its close proximity to the infamous Siam-Burma “death railway”, making it a fascinating place to visit!

Strand Rd, Mawlamyine with Thanlwin Bridge in the background

Curious about the pagoda that was built 875 AD? Visit Mawlamyine - Myanmar (Burma)

Strand Rd Mawlamyine

Today, the town has an interesting mix of Mon, Bamar, Karen, Chinese and Indian ethnicities, with the latter coming to Mawlamyine during British colonial rule when it was known as Moulmein. Although many people of Indian descent, being third or fourth generation ‘Burmese’, have now completely assimilated with Myanmar culture and language, traces of their heritage can still be seen by the numerous mosques that dot the town. One example is the majestic looking Surati mosque on Lower Main Rd built by the Indian community hailing from Surat in India during British colonial times.Mawlamyine’s close proximity to the Thai border only 150 km away also explains why so many of its population are able to speak Thai, albeit, at various levels of proficiency. Interestingly, a few are also conversant in Bahasa Melayu as well.

Mawlamyine girl wearing thanaka

Curious about the pagoda that was built 875 AD? Visit Mawlamyine - Myanmar (Burma)

Mawlamyine girl wearing thanaka

So if you’ve seen enough of the temples in Bagan or the pagodas in Mandalay and you’d like to experience a different Myanmar to that seen on the tourist trail, then Mawlamyine is the place to visit. With the opening of the Thanlwin Bridge and the vastly improved road conditions from Sittaung to Mottama travel time between Mawlamyine and the nation’s capital can be achieved in as little as 6 six hours; half the time it took before. Such an investment in infrastructure suggests that overland travel between Thailand and Myanmar may be possible in the near future and when this happens, Mawlamyine will no doubt be an important stopover point for travellers and traders a like between Bangkok and Yangon. Mawlamyine Train Station

Yangon bound train departing Mawlamyine

Curious about the pagoda that was built 875 AD? Visit Mawlamyine - Myanmar (Burma)

Yangon bound train departing Mawlamyine

Mawlamyine train station was completed in February 2006 making it now possible to get to Mawlamyine direct  from Yangon by train. The train passes over a single track railway bridge which runs parallel with vehicular trafffic over the Thanlwin river terminating at the Mawlamyine train station at Myay Ni Gone quarter. There are two trains services per day, the first leaving Yangon at 6:00 AM and arriving Mawlamyine at 3:30 PM, and the next service leaving Yangon 7:15 AM and arriving Mawlamyine at 6:30 PM.For the return journey back to Yangon, the morning service departs Mawlamyine at 6:00 AM and arrives Yangon at 3:45 PM and the next train departs Mawlamyine at 10:00 AM and arrives Yangon at 8:00 PM. The earlier trains which depart at 6am make only two stops, at Thaton and Kyaitiyo and therefore arrives at their destination quicker than the later trains. You’ll need to show your passport when purchasing a train ticket at the station.  Tickets Mawlamyine-Yangon costs $16 USD for upper class seats (4000 kyats for locals) and can be purchased from western end of the Mawlamyine station terminal at counter number 7. Unfortunately, there are no English signs but look for the number 7 counter (as shown in the picture), present your passport, and say to the man at that counter “Yangon thwa meh” (I’m going to Yangon). Tickets are usually purchased a day in advance, but to be on the safe side, you should book your tickets at least 3 days ahead. There are now daily train services between the nation’s capital, Nay Pyi Daw and Mawlamyine arriving Mawlamyine at 7:45pm.
Mawlamyine – Yangon ticket counter

There are two classes; Upper Class and Ordinary Class. Foreigners are usually automatically assumed to want Upper Class seats which are generally a lot more comfortable and more spacious than the Ordinary Class seats. Your ticket will have a car number (eg, 1, 2 3 etc) as well as a seat number, eg, A6, B6, C6 D6 where by the number refers to the row of the seat and the letter A,B,C,D whether you have an aisle or window seat. A and D are window seats and B and C are aisle seats.
Seats are soft seats with cushions with a folding tray table infront of you. If you’re lucky enough to get the middle row of seats, then you’ll have a fixed table to share with passengers sitting opposite you.
Note that the 6am Upper Class cars are more modern than the 7:15am (from Yangon) /10am (from Mawlamyine) Upper Class cars. The modern upper class actually has two air conditioners at either end of the car, but it comes on infrequently so passengers tend to open the windows of carriages anyway, thereby rendering the air conditioning ineffective. There are toilets at either end of the carriages and a meal car is also available.

Source: http://www.mawlamyine.com/ (with little change picture)

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