Mawlamyine/Hpa An, Myanmar

We spent a week in southern Myanmar in the towns of Mawlamyine (also spelled Mawlamyain, Mawlamyaing, or Moulmein; which is really confusing) and Hpa-An (H is silent). Both are smaller towns not really on the tourist circuit, which was our main reason for coming here. But it turns out that both have some really interesting sites to check out.

We visited the worlds largest reclining Buddha, which seems to be falling apart as fast as they are building it. It’s a cross between a Buddhist theme park and a construction site where you have to go barefoot (more on that below). Check out the crazy dioramas in the photos link.

We did a tour of nearby “Orge Island (or Bilugyun)”, and visited several villages, each of which was known for a specific skill. We saw villages specializing in:

  • Old-fashioned slate boards for classroom use
  • Bamboo hats
  • Cotton weaving
  • Rubber bands (!)
  • Wooden pipes
  • Coconut husk rope and doormats

All were very interesting to see, but will likely be gone in a few years, as cheap Chinese imports will likely undercut each of these.

We took a boat trip to nearby Hpa-An, which included a stop at the Kawhnat Pagoda compound, and is definitely worth checking out.

Hpa-An also is known for a number of interesting caves, which you’ll see in the photos. The caves were all full of Myanmar tourists (from Yangon?), who were all really dressed up! Westerners don’t tend to dress up when they travel anymore, but folks here still do.

Links to Photos

More random observations on Myanmar

No Shoes Allowed

After spending the day walking barefoot through bird and bat shit, its time to write about this. At Buddhist and Hindu temples everywhere, shoes are not allowed. This is usually great, particularly in Japan, where the temples are spotlessly clean. In Myanmar they have expanded the definition of temple to include anything in the area of a pagoda, including entire caves. Temples are often home to large numbers of birds and/or bats, which means lots of bird and bat poo. And temple grounds can also be quite dirty/dusty. This means that by the end of the day, your feet are REALLY dirty. In Japan, the shoes off rule helps keep everything clean. But in Myanmar (and some other places in SE Asia too), it does the opposite. I know its supposed to be a sign of respect to remove ones shoes, but isn’t it disrespectful to have shit on your toes too?

And BTW, there is disagreement on “are socks ok?” In Japan they are OK, in Myanmar they are not.


Young men in Myanmar are really into their hair. WAY more than neighboring countries. Here are some examples.

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