The southern part of the Kayin State, a thin silver of the Thanintharyi coastal belts southwest of Yangon, on the opposite bank of Gulf of Mottama is Mon State. Local historians assert it was the “Suwanabhumi” (Land of Gold) referred to in ancient Buddhist chronicles. The Mon who are of Tibeto-Burman origin, had not even begun their migration across Himalayas by this date. More certain is that they were among the first settlers in lowland Bruma to espouse Theravada Buddhasim. Rice, rubber, fishing and betel nut farming are the mainstays of the local economy.
Kyaikhtiyo (Golden Rock)
Kyaikhtiyo is one of the most ethereal spectacles in Southeast Asia, crowns a ridge of forested hills in the far north of Mon State, 210 km east of Yangon around the Gulf of Mottama. Between November and March, during the pilgrimage season, tens of thousands of devotees climb daily to the shrine. For a glimpse of a modest, 7.3 meter stupa mounted atop a lavishly gilded boulder. The hour-long climb to the hilltop temple can be arduous in the heat and the journey to and from the starting point of the walk in an open-topped trunk is less than comfortable, but the effort is worthy with the chance to see the magical boulder bathed in the delicate, rose colored light of dawn or the afterglow of sunset, when crowds of ecstatic pilgrims and monks illuminate flickering candles and incense sticks as offerings.
Once the former capital of British Burma, Mawlamyine (Moulmein), strategically sited 28 km inland from the mouth of the Thanlwin River, was ceded to the British by the Kingdom of Ava in the Treaty of Yandabo at the end of the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1826, whereupon it was transformed into a thriving teak and rubber port. The majority having left for more prosperous corners of the Empire after Independence, but plenty of mildewing Raj-era buildings attest to its 19th century prominence. More ancient Buddhist monuments crowning the ridge inland that tend to draw the eye here, foremost among them, at the far northern end of the ridge top is the Maha Muni Pagoda, a traditional Mon-style complex whose presiding image is a beautiful replica of Mandalay’s Maha Muni. For the best views of the city head further south to the splendid and much older, Kyaikthanlan Pagoda, erected in the late 9th century to house a hair relic, Tripitaka manuscripts and gold images of the Buddha. Successive rulers raised the height of the central stupa, which is now magnificently gilded and the tallest in the area. At the southern end of the ridge, U Zina Pagoda houses four life-sized statues of the images that inspired young Siddhartha Gautama to take up the life of a wandering ascetic.
The longest bridge in the country of Myanmar is Thanlwin Bridge, leading the coastal highway and its adjacent rail line north across the river towards Thaton. Crowning the hilly overlooking the estuary is a local pilgrimage site, Nwa La Boh Taung, a golden boulder that’s far less frequented than the one at Kyaikhtiyo. In fact, three separated rocks comprise this natural wonder, balanced precariously on top of each other to create a phantasmagorical monument that perfectly compliment the astounding view over the bamboo forest and jungle-covered valleys below it.
Win Sein Taw Ya
A must-see, easily accessible option, the world largest reclining Buddha Image is Win Sein Taw ya, 20 km south of Mawlamyine just off the main road to Mudon. Measuring 180 meter in length, holds diorama galleries illustrating the teachings of the Buddha.
Kyauktalon Kyaung, a peculiar, jungle-draped outcrop of rock rising sheer from the paddy fields a short way further south. Formed from limestone, the flat top of the vertical sided hillock holds a Buddhist temple, reached via a flight of ancient steps.
Death Railway (Thanbyuzayat)
Another historic site infamously located down the highway from Mawlamyine to Thanbyuzayat is “Death railway“, where the Japanese railway line met the existing British-built one to Yangon. On the outskirts of the town of Thanbyuzayat, a large war cemetery holds the bodies of 3,617 of the 16,000 or more who perished during the construction of the Burmese portion of the route. Many more were interred where they expired in camp burial grounds or at remote sites alongside the rail way, dog tags removed from thousands of such bodies were incorporated into memorial plaque on the site, which is impeccably maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Maungmagan is a beautiful beach in Thanintharyi Division. Maungmagan is a seaside village ten miles from Dawei. Most people in this region are fishermen. Thus the fishermen of Maungmagan are familiar with the majestic sea while happily carrying out fishing skillfully as their living by tradition. Dawei is the capital city of Taninthayi Division in the coastal region of southern Myanmar Maungmagan is a seaside village ten miles from Dawei. Most of the villagers carry out fishing at sea as a living tradition. Boats are vital requirements for fishing at the sea. Various sizes of fishing boats are used in this work but Boatmahlay is the most useful in manageable fishing of a family. It is a small wooden boat built without any iron or steel. The smallest Boatmahlay is 18 feet long which is used for fishing within nautical 10 miles from the coast. The construction of Boatmahlay is wonderful. It is built with Bantbwae wood planks attached with small wooden sticks into the holes on either sides of the boat. Two planks used for building the boat are joined together by keeping small wooden sticks into the holes on the sides of the planks. Yaynyantha wood is kept between the two planks to prevent water seepage into the boat. Then the ropes are tied around the planks to keep them tight together. All the Botema boats are built in this way though there may be differences in size.The fishermen of Maungmagan village load their boats with food supplies and other needs for one or two days fishing at the sea. The fishermen go out to the open sea by boats depending on the weather. They would joyfully return to their village after sufficient amount of catch at the sea. Their housewives would put the fish on sale at the market. There are various kinds of fish Kettabaung sharks, Ngakunshut (mackerel) and Ngaleikkyauk at maungmagan fish market in the morning. Maungmagan Beach is thus alive with the fisherman and their fishing boats returning after a night’s fishing at the sea and carrying out preparations to go out to the open sea again in the evening. Thus the fishermen of Maungmagan are familiar with the majestic sea while happily carrying out fishing skill-fully as their living by tradition.