‘By the old Moulmein pagoda lookin’ lazy at the sea…’
19-22 March 2014 Instead of taking another boring busride to Mawlamyine (Molmein), I chose for the ferry option. A bit more expensive and double the time to get to my destination, but it’s a relaxing and scenic way to travel! A tuktuk picked us up at the guesthouse and drove us to the jetty where we jumped on board a small long tailed boat. There were only 2 of us that were taking this trip so plenty of place in the boat. There are no build in seats, but they provide plastic chairs to sit on (actually quite comfortable!) and there is a roof that kept the sun off us.The scenery is great and with some drinks and snacks on board (you have to bring them yourself though), we were set for a 3 hours ride on the Thanlwin River.
The next day we decided to join a tour to Bily Kyun or better known as Ogre Island. Led by the ‘famous’ 71-year old Mr Anthony of Breeze Guesthouse, we took tuktuk-ferry-tuktuk to explore the island. The island is pretty big, comprising more than 60 villages. Along the way we hit some cottage industries including a hat factory, a woodmaking workshop, a small bakery (love the smell of fresh baked bread! And the cakes where yummy!) and a slate workshop. It’s incredibly that in this era of technology there are still places where children write on a slate!
The rubber band workshop was interesting as well. I doubt the process has changed in the last 150 years. The rubber tree juice is cooked. Batches are colored and poles are dipped into the thickening mixture. When the coating dries three days later, the tubes are cut in a human powered cutting machine.
Lunch was also included in the tour. Instead of stopping at a regular restaurant, we followed some really loud music and ended up at a family that was preparing the head shaving ceremony for 2 of their sons in order to become a novice monk. The family provides lunch and dinner to whoever wants to join and in return you can give a small donation. The ceremony itself was in the late afternoon, a pity as that was too late for us to join. But the food was great! And the experience super!
We returned to the Breeze, bought a couple of beers and picked a nice spot to watch a beautiful sunset. How can you not love the laid back vibe of this seaside town?!
The following day, in the late afternoon, my fellow tourfriends wanted to check out the world’s largest reclining Buddha statue (Win Sein Taw Ya) not far from Mawlamyine. I’ve seen quite some buddha’s on my trip so I wasn’t that enthousiastic when they told me about their plan. But as it was free and we were sharing the tuktuk costs I didn’t mind joining them. I never expected to see a 170m long, immens reclining Buddha! You can explore the inside of this already 90 year old, but still unfinished statue. It contains scores of dioramas of the teachings of Buddha and scenes of the 18 levels in hell. A bit exaggerated, I felt like being in a (Disney) theme park. *_*Win Sein Taw Ya is considered a sacred place, so we had to take of our shoes at the entrance. As there are crumbled pieces of concrete and other materials on the ground as a result of ongoing construction it wasn’t easy to walk around 🙁
“By the old Moulmein pagoda lookin’ lazy at the sea…,” wrote Rudyard Kipling on his 1889 visit. Back in town, it was almost 6 pm, I thought it would be a good idea to check out the Moulmein pagoda that Kipling was referring to. The Kyaikthanlan Paya, the city’s tallest and most visible stupa, tucked behind a small alley. I’m sure that in Kiplings’ days there were much less buildings hindering his view, but it’s still a nice spot to admire the city and the river behind it.
On my last day in Mawlamyine, I went to one of Myanmar’s largest meditation centres, Pa Auk Taw Ya Forest Monastery. And when I say ‘forest’, I mean forest, with lots of trees and bushes, with hills and streams and little animals ànd the accompanying silence. I originally planned on visiting it for a night or 2 but that they only accept a minimum stay of 1 month. Too long for a beginner as me ànd I didn’t have that much time to spend, so I just visited for the day. We were however able to join the daily meditation classes and they served us a simply but tasty lunch.
With the teachings in mind and this little thank you ‘note’ from Mr Anthony I left quiet Mawlamyine for bursting Yangon!