We arrive to Mawlamyine at six in the morning and to our surprise it is not too early for a very early check-in. Courtesy of Breeze Guest House. Without wasting time, we set off on scooters to explore the area around.
The everyday life of the town’s inhabitants concentrates around the market, bustling with retailers selling all strange things, little stalls offering services and family restaurants serving great local food.
There is also a boulevard stretches from north to south for several kilometers. This one has its glory days left behind long time ago. There are relics of a bygone colonial era such as faded buildings, narrow streets, cracking walls and desolated trading port.
However, what has still kept its charm until nowadays is the Kyaikthanlan pagoda towering over the city. It is accompanied by many smaller stupas and pagodas. Come here at dawn or just before dusk to contemplate the view from the pagoda hill and most likely you will believe that this place could actually have inspired George Orwell. As for now, it is perfect inspiration for me to take a few panoramic images and time-lapse sequences.
Today we get to know Vera, an energetic adventure girl with a big backpack on her shoulders and more than a hundred ideas on what to do the next day. In the evening the temperature drops to about 35 degrees and the difficulty to endure the heat and humid air is not extremely high anymore and you can almost breathe normally.
The following morning we visit Win Sein Taw Ya, the world’s largest reclining Buddha monument. This is an impressive 170-meter long structure and even more impressive is the fact that the Buddha can be visited from the inside. There are plenty of temples, shrines and galleries. Some of them are under construction, probably for last 20 years, because somebody apparently underestimated the massive size of this structure and the possibility to fill it up with paintings and statues. More interestingly, just on the other side of the Buddha there is a construction site with another Buddha, just as big, but half-finished. It seems to be intact for at least a decade or so, probably due to funding or still completion work with the original one.
We’re hitchhiking back to the town and entering an air-conditioned car seems like transition from oven straight into freezer. The other stage of the trip is a bit more traditional. We all hop on the back of the truck carrying rusty metal barrels.
A short boat crossing from jetty at Strand Road takes us to Bilu Kyun Island (also known as Ogre Island). It feels like taking a time travel a few decades back.
Nut-Maw is a small merchant village on the island. Local trading is based on water transportation on narrow wooden boats. All the houses are made of wood and bamboo. As a rule, most are also raised on stilts. Residents lead a quiet life, roaming slowly around, performing simple everyday chores, such as visiting each other and spending time outdoors.
There are a few things which caught my attention since I came to Myanmar. Everywhere you look, you are very likely to see men wearing skirts, locally known as longyi.
Women (and sometimes men too) decorate their faces thanakha, a traditional cosmetic. This is yellow-white mush made by pounding bark from thanakha trees on a special stone called kyauk pyin. It serves as the traditional protection against the sun.
Among other curiosities, sellers are not pushy at all with their goods, instead they adapt the assumption that if a person is going to buy something, then he or she will buy it anyway. More importantly, the prices are not inflated for foreigners, so you are not likely to ripped off.