The past few days of mine have been spent in the sleepy city of Mawlamyine; southeast of the capital Yangon where I started my trip. While technically one of the largest cities in Myanmar, Mawlamyine still feels like a small town; known for the many gold-plated pagodas that crown the surrounding jungle-cloaked hills and the murky brown Thanlwin river that flows slowly past into the sea. Like the river, Mawlamyine is dirty, slow, and absolutely worth checking out.
Many travelers know it as an old haunt of George Orwell and the place Rudyard Kipling stayed a few days and decided to mention in the poem, Mandalay. Literary history aside, there are a number of other reasons people visit: from the many pagodas and temples in the area, to a massive 500+ foot reclining Buddha, to visiting one of several islands in the area.
I spent my time strolling the boardwalk on the riverfront, stopping in and being a patron at an unhealthy number of restaurants, being a lazy bum, and making a day trip to Bilu Kyun (which you can read about by clicking here).
I stayed at a place called Breeze Guest House. The location was great: an old, blue colonial style building right across the street from the boardwalk that goes along the river. From the balcony, you could sit and watch river boats trundle past and listen to the cawing of gulls and incessant beeping of horns. It was cheap too and had extremely friendly staff, which was great for me. Other than that, it was kind of a dump. Granted, I stayed in the cheapest room. One that I almost burst out laughing when I saw. I could lay down… barely. If I pointed my toes they would hit the wall on one end while my head brushed the other. Add to that the walls which (I’m pretty sure) actually amplify noise and the drunken herd of elephants that stampede through the halls every morning at 6:00 a.m., and I really can’t recommend the place if you’re looking for comfort or a good night’s sleep.
Dodgy guest house aside, I had a great time in Mawlamyine. It was a good place to unwind after the craziness of Bangkok and Yangon, and I thoroughly enjoyed the people I met there. It’s the kind of place you can go lose yourself for a few days and not feel like you wasted time. Plus, it’s a great place to catch a killer sunset. My favorite spot? One of the many benches lining the boardwalk by my guesthouse. Not a bad way to end the day, eh?