Kipling's hangout

"By the old Moulmein pagoda lookin’ lazy at the sea…," wrote Rudyard Kipling on his 1889 visit and we reckon probably not a lot has changed since in this rather sleepy and charming old town. Moulmein, now renamed Mawlamyine, was in former times the capital of British Lower Burma. It’s now the capital of Mon State and weighs in as the country’s fourth largest city after Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw, though on the ground it barely seems more than a large town.

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There is the occasional more recent concrete construction -- notably a truly hideous line of shophouses along the waterfront -- but few buildings stretch higher than three or four storeys and a plethora of splendid colonial period architecture remains, along with a couple of the country’s most venerable mosques and of course all Kipling’s picturesque old pagodas.

Welcome to Mawlamyine. : Mark Ord.
Welcome to Mawlamyine. Photo: Mark Ord

The waterfront is lively, with fishing boats, river taxis and passenger ferries departing and arriving from all points, and a couple of great markets close by. Otherwise it’s a delight to just wander the quiet, tree-lined streets wondering which buildings would have been around when George Orwell was part of Mawlamyine’s police force.

There’s a great feel to this cosmopolitan little town. In the morning you’ll hear Pali chanting from pagodas, calls to prayer from minarets and pealing bells from both Catholic and Protestant churches. Watch the world go by from the market tea shops, check out the sunsets from waterfront cafes, look lazy at the sea from ancient hilltop pagodas and meet a few locals -- we reckon they are among the friendliest of the country’s inhabitants. This alone ought to keep most visitors happy for a day or two, and though the city itself isn’t blessed with too many tourist sights as such, the surrounding area ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,000 words.)

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