There’s not a lot of information on what there is to do in Mawlamyine and the Lonely Planet is woefully outdated. There’s actually quite a lot in the region, and if you’re willing to travel a little, the local areas contain some really great sites.
Buddhist sites are plentiful in Mawlamyine, with some really nice hill top pagodas to visit. Many believe that when you walk around a pagoda you should do so clockwise, with your right hip to the pagoda, otherwise it’s bad luck! The pagodas around Mawlamyine do not charge entry fees. It’s nice to leave a small donation though. Each donation box means something different, some are for restoration, some for general maintenance and some to keep the LEDs shining.
The best hilltop pagodas in Mawlamyine are:
These can all be walked to, or a motorbike taxi can be taken. Mahamyatumuni is currently building an elevator to save from walking up the stairs. It’s little known that you can also access this pagoda via stairs behind Kawhkar monastery. It’s a beautiful walk up that way, but means no shoes for the walk.
Kawhnat pagoda compound is a little further out but is well worth a visit. It has beautiful carvings and mosaics and is great to wander around.
Of course hand in hand with pagodas goes monasteries. There are 2 that we highly recommend:
Yadanarbon, aka Queen’s Monastery is a beautiful old wooden site. It’s starting to decay and is all the more beautiful for it. The single monk that looks after the building will be happy to let you look around. The ceilings and walks are covered with carvings. This was probably my favourite site in Mawlamyine.
Kawhkar is a training monastery and houses many curious novices. They don’t see many visitors as most people don’t realise that they have a massive, reconstructed Buddha statue, which they will gladly show you. Instead of going out the way you came, go past the Buddha and find the entrance to some run down stairs (forward and left in the Buddha’s direction of sight). These will take you up past a nunnery to some hilltop pagodas.
There are a few markets in Mawlamyine, all of which offer a unique experience. Open to Strand Road, towards the Mottama Bridge end is a food market (Myo Ma Market). This is mostly dried fish, fish paste and spices. A bit whiffy but interesting.
A four story complex situated further back called Myine Yadanar Market contains clothing and gold. It’s an interesting complex that looks as though it may have been a shopping centre once upon a time. The escalators seem long summer abandoned and the shops are more stalls. The clothing on the ground floor is quite amusing and Engrish abounds. There are many stores upstairs where you can purchase traditional wear (longyi).
Attached to Myine Yadanar is a 2 story market which is where you want to go for toiletries, shoes and accessories. You can also purchase longyi here.
* Walk around town looking at the varying styles of architecture, including colonial style buildings. Most have been let fall into disrepair and are all the more beautiful for it. Strand Road and Lower Main Road are good to start with.
* Watch the sunset from Strand Road. Stroll along the footpath listening to local youths play guitar and watch the sun set over the islands. This would be 10 x nicer if the locals didn’t dump their rubbish into the river. Best avoided at low tide when it can get quite smelly and the rats come out.
* See the statue of Aung San in Than Lwin Garden. The park itself is not particularly pleasant but the statue is a good stop if you’re interested in Myanmar history.
* Spend half a day in the Mottama Hills. This is not set up for tourists, but that’s part of why I loved it.
* Watch the sunset from the view point. It’s really beautiful from up there and is made all the more Myanmar by the multitude of leaf fires below. A word of caution – a false monk operates in the area, taking photos with tourists and asking for money. Just say no. A real monk cannot ask for money – or Swiss watches like one here does!!
Mawlamyine is also well situated to explore Mon & Karen states from, see our region guide here.
With so much to do it can be hard to decide, so we’ve recommended itineraries also: