Perhaps Mawlamyine (Moulmein) is best known to English speakers through the opening lines of Rudyard Kipling’s poem; “By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea, There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me”.
It is believed that the panoramic view from the Kyaikthalan Pagoda over the river was Kipling’s inspiration for this poem.
Mawlamyine is an ancient Mon town and the name comes from Mot-Mua-Lum, which means,” one eye destroyed.
In this legend, an ancient king had three eyes, the third eye in the center of the forehead having the power of seeing what was going on in surrounding Kingdoms. The King of a neighboring country gave his daughter in marriage to the three-eyed king, and this queen was eventually able to destroy the all-seeing third eye.
Mawlamyine is the third largest city in the country and the capital of the Mon state. Situated in the Salween River Delta, Mawlamyine is the gateway to southeastern Myanmar.
The town is made up of people of different ethnicities, such as the Mon, Bamar, Karen, Chinese and Indians. The majority of the people are Buddhists: the minority being Christians, Muslims, and Hindus.
Today Mawlamyine is a bustling modern city with many new buildings. Only the old pagodas on the Moulmein Ridge and a few colonial buildings remain.
Mawlamyine is known for its cuisine and is also a paradise for food lovers.
Food stalls can be found in every street corner, each one recognized for its specialty.
The stalls remain open throughout the day and late into the night, each vying for serving the best mohinga or other delectable cooked dishes. The food is tasty and affordable.
You will find people sitting in low benches in these stalls and enjoying the food come rain or shine.
There is a popular expression in Myanmar; “Mandalay for the speaking, Yangon for the bragging and Moulmein for the eating.” This holds true, as Mawlamyiine is renowned for its cuisine and tropical fruits.
The best pomelos are said to come from Mawlamyine, and it is also renowned for its magosteens, rambutans and of course the king of all fruits, the durian.
Mawlamyine is a unique combination of landscape, beauty and melancholy with ridge-capped hills on one side, the sea on the other and a center filled with mosques and crumbling colonial-era buildings.
This setting inspired two of history’s finest writers of the English language-George Orwell and Rudyard Kipling.
Orwell lived here for some years (his famous 1936 essay ‘Shooting an Elephant’ is about an experience he had as a police officer in Mawlamyine). Generations of his family were born and bred in Mawlamyine.
Formerly known as Moulmein, the city served as the capital of British Burma from 1826 to 1852,during which time it developed as a major teak port.
A great deal of coastal shipping still goes on, although Pathein and Yangon have superseded it as Myanmar’s most important ports.
Mawlamyine is the main gateway to southeastern Myanmar.
Thanlwin Bridge, the longest road and Rail Bridge in Myanmar is the most important landmark in the area. It is 3,258 meters long and stretches over the Thanlwin River connecting the county’s southeastern region with Yangon.
It is an important landmark of this area and was opened in 2005. It consists of a motor road, a railroad and a pedestrian lanes.
Under the bridge, there is much activity as people from the surrounding villages come by boat to go to school, the pagodas or markets.
Kyaikthalan Paya is the city’s tallest and most visible stupa. It is a favorite spot for watching the sunset.
It was built in AD 875 during the reign of King Mutpi Raja and enshrines the Tripitaka Buddhist manuscripts as well as a hair relic from the Buddha.
It was raised from its original height of 56 feet to the present 150 feet by successive kings including Anawrahta, founder of the Bagan Dynasty and later enlarged by Mon kings, especially King Wagaru of Mottama in 1538A.D.
On the platform can be seen a big bell with a medieval Mon inscription and also another bell with a quaint inscription in English, dated 30th March 1884; “This bell made by Koonalenga, the priest, and weight 500 viss. No one body design to destroy this bell”.