Quirky and fun

Found at the busy junction of the highway for Hpa-an, Myawaddy and Thailand and the main Yangon to Mawlamyine route, most tourists will see Thaton as a flash through a bus window. But Thaton is home to a lively market, a few interesting temples and some fantastic architecture, so if you’re not in a rush it’s a quirky, decidedly off-the-beaten-track spot worth a look.

More on Thaton

Alternatively, as it’s less than 50 kilometres from Hpa-an, it can also make for a good day trip. Plenty of local buses run between the two towns, but it’s also a pleasant drive on a rental bike if you have one.

Pagodas and pagodas. : Mark Ord.
Pagodas and pagodas. Photo: Mark Ord

With an original incarnation as an early Mon trading emporium, little Thaton is probably one of the oldest continually inhabited towns in the entire country; it’s even thought to have been noted as a recognised entrepot by the ancient Romans. However these days, with Mon archaeology not high on the Burmese Ministry of Culture’s priority list, there’s not a lot of evidence remaining of its lengthy history. Today it’s a bustling, congested market centre and transport hub.

The town began life as a trading port on the India/Sri Lanka to China route and became an important outpost of the Mon Dvaravati Kingdom. Centuries of coastal silting however means that today Thaton is some 16 kilometres from the Gulf of Martaban. It now lies astride the main Yangon highway rather than the Indian Ocean and is an important spot for land transportation of goods and passengers to Thailand or all points south rather than Brahman priests from India, Buddhist thinking from Sri Lanka and porcelain from China.

Grab a snack between pagodas. : Mark Ord.
Grab a snack between pagodas. Photo: Mark Ord

You’ll see the usual mix of Bamar and Chinese and Indian Burmese residents around town plus aside from the Karen and Mon there’s also a Pa-O population in the surrounds as they have migrated (or more likely been re-located) further south from their traditional home in ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 700 words.)

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