MON STATE TRAVEL GUIDE
How to get to Mon StateMawlamyine is one of those destinations which is too close to travel by air, yet too far to be travelling by road! Because Mawlamyine is located across the Gulf of Mottoma, its straightline “flightpath” distance from Yangon is only 80km – however to get there it covers 300km by road either by train (12 hrs) or by car (8 hrs).
Mawlamyine is the capital of Mon State. It is located at the banks of Thanlwin River and surely an ideal place for a journey back into colonial times. Explore the charming, green city surrounded by the river to the west and to the east by a canopy of shimmering pagodas by trishaw, drive past the Mahamuni Pagoda where women too are allowed to enter the main Buddha chamber, the Kyaikthanlan Pagoda, Kipling’s favourite, from where you have terrific views over the city, and don’t forget a visit to the three mosques built during British rule – the Saluti Mosque, visible from far away because of it’s bright turqoise-coloured facade, the Mogul Shah Mosque, with its plain Moorish arches, and the Kaladan Mosque, which looked like a birthday cake until several years ago, but has been renovated now and the facade covered with white tiles to give this place a more ‘decent’ look, and, last but not least the First Baptist Church, also known as ‘Judson Church’, because it was founded by the American missionary Adoniram Judson, it is Myanmar’s first Baptist church!Gaungsae Kyun, well known as the ‘Shampoo Island’, as the water from the island was used for the yearly Royal Hairwashing Ceremony during the Ava Period.
The famous legendary Pagoda on the Golden Rock about 160 Km from Yangon and 11 km of hiking from the base camp at Kyaikhto. This pagoda is situated on a rocky mountain 3615 ft above sea level. The Kyaikhtiyo pagoda is one of the most ancient and celebrated of all pagodas in Myanmar. It is situated in the vicinity of Kyaikhto township, Thaton district. The pagoda is said to have been built during the life-time of the Buddha over 2400 years ago. Before, it was a rare place which was very hard to reach. Nowadays, there are many more convenient transportations and Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda can be accessible easily. There are also convenient accommodations for visitors.
In the early centuries of the Christian era the Mons were settled in the region between the Sittaung and Salween (Thanlwin) rivers which was known as the Mon kingdom of Ramanyadesa. Thaton, the seat of this kingdom was also known as Suvannabhumi or the Golden Land, which also applies to the whole region of continental south-east Asia around the Bay of Bengal. Doubtless Thaton was flourishing port in ancient and there was constant intercourse between Southern India and the region around Thaton and Pegu (Bago). The old city of Thaton appears to have built on a quadrangular plan like the more modern cities of Amarapura and Mandalay. There are two ramparts in a rectangular shape and the moat lies between the two walls, which are faced with laterite stones. As the present town is developed within the old city the remains of the inner city are no more visible. The chief pagodas are situated between the palace site and the south wall.
The Shwezayan Pagoda
is said to have been built in the 5th century B.C. It has been built over and has now assumed a modern shape with a circular base and a bell-shaped superstructure. Within the precincts of the Shwezayan pagoda were found seven inscribed stones, five in early Mon of 11th century, one medieval and the seventh illegible. Among the stone sculptures collected in the same building is a figure of standing Buddha depicted in relief on a sandstone slab.The Kyaikhtee Saung Pagoda (an ancient laterite stone pagoda) is one of the earliest hair relic pagodas in Mon State. Kyaikhtee Saung Pagoda is located on the Laterite Stone hillock. The hillock itself is formed by laying the laterite stones on top of one another forming a big square gradually grind up keeping the form but reducing the size of square intact until it reaches the top platform. At 1971 the monk U Pyinnyadipa (Now, he is the abbot of the monastery and famous as Kyaikhtee Saung Sayadaw) has arrived back his native village Zoke Thoke. He himself found the old pagoda under the huge bushes. He organized his disciples and villagers to clear the bushes. Then he rebuilt and renovated the old pagoda and old laterite hillock. Now, the Kyaikhtee Saung Golden Pagoda has appeared surrounded by the new buildings for the religious purposes.
Mudon, 29 km south of Mawlamyine, is well known for cotton weaving. The mountains to the east are a source of jungle food-deer, snake and other wild forest species for restaurants in Mudon itself. Just north of Mudon is Ayin Dam, a water storage and flood control facility that’s also used to irrigate local rubber plantations. Kangdawgyi Lake is a tip-top picnic spot for locals. At the northern end of the lake stands, Kangdawgyi Pagoda named after the lake. The world’s largest Reclining Buddha Image is under construction at Win Sein Taw Ya Forest, situated 29 km south of Mawlamyine. The Buddha Image is named as Zinathuka Yan Aung Chantha, which has a length of 400 feet (180 m) and a height of 110 feet (nearly 34 m). Inside the image are 182 rooms on 8 stories. Near to the Buddha Image are 200 standing monks collecting alms.
Located 9 kms northeast of Thanbyuzayat, Kyaikkami was a small coastal resort and missionary center known as Amherst during the British era. The main focus of Kyaikkami is Yele Paya, a metal-roofed Buddhist shrine complex perched over the sea and reached via a long two-level causeway; the tower level is submerged during high tide. Along with 11 Buddha hair relics, the shrine chamber beneath Yele Paya reportedly contains a Buddha image that supposedly floated here on a raft from Sri Lanka in ancient times. Other attractions here are the colonial administrative buildings that are nearly 100 years old.
Located 24 km south east of Mawlamyine. The main Buddha image in Kyaikmaraw Pagoda sits in the position of the legs hanging down as if sitting on a chair. It is accessible via a sealed road. Many Muslim and Hindu communities live along the picturesque road. Kyaikmaraw Pagoda was the temple built by Queen Shin Saw Pu in 1455 in the late Mon regional style. The temple is famous for the Buddha which is sitting in the “western manner.” The temple is also well known for its hundreds of beautiful glazed tiles.
Thanbyuzayat – or “tin shelter” is 30 km south of Mawlamyine. It was the western terminus of the infamous Burma-Siam Railway, dubbed the ”death railway” by the thousands of Allied prisoners of war (and Asians who were forced by the Japanese military to build it. A kilometer west of the clock tower in the direction of Kyaikkami lies the Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery, which contains 3,771 graves of Allied prisoners of war who died building the railway.Most of those buried were British, but there are also markers for American, Dutch, and Australian soldiers. Other places that record the historic events at this town are Japanese-built temples and a small museum with a locomotive, which marks the beginning of the “death railway.” Two miles outside the town is the ancient city of Waguru (13th century). The walls are still plainly visible and the view from the hilltop is wonderful.
Lies 24 km south of Kyaikkami and 16 km south west of Thanbyuzayut. It is a very wide, brown-sand beach that tends toward tidal flats when the shallow surf-line recedes at low tide. The beach is lined by waving casuarinas trees. Vendors sell fresh young coconuts full of juice, and restaurants serve seafood. It is one of the noted beaches in Myanmar.
A visit to one of the little home industries producing pipes for smoking should not be missed and maybe you meet a fisherman who can dive for a long, long time under water – it is said that they have fins…You will arrive at the south of the island at Ywa Lut and cross the island by pick-up truck, departing at the north of the island in Chaungsone. Unfortunately there’s not enough time to see all the 100 villages on that island!KYAIK-MAYAWPicturesquely located at the river bank of the Ataran River, this small town is easily reached because of its quite good road condtion – the roads are sealed! Flanked by toddy palms and rubber plantations, the road passes through eight villages before ending in Kyaikmayaw. Stroll around the charming town with its simple Myanma wooden houses, some covered with palm leaves, others with metal. It’s also really worth your time to visit the Kyaikmayaw Pagoda, built by Queen Banyahtaw in 817.
PA AUK FOREST MONASTERY
Why not stay at this Buddhist monastery in the Therav da tradition, with emphasis on the teaching and practice of both samatha (tranquillity) and vipassan (insight) meditation? Learn to practise meditation under the guidance of the Venerable Pa-Auk Tawya Sayadaw, the abbot and principal teacher at this monastery.