Boasting varied landscapes which include islands, hills, tropical forest, crop land and plantations, Mon State covers the upper part of the Tanintharyi Peninsula. Its capital, Mawlamyine (also known Mawlamyaing) is Myanmar’s 4th largest city, and the capital of the former British Empire. Mawlamyine is the main gateway to south-eastern Myanmar. It featured in a number of famous writings such as George Orwell’s 1936 memoir, “Shooting an Elephant” and Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “The Road to Mandalay”.
Its charm remains to this day; rich history and deep roots in Buddhism mix with colonial architecture, coupled with diverse traditions like the weaving of colourful local fabrics. Mon is where Theravada Buddhism was first established in Myanmar some 2,500 years ago.
Mon has many surprising religious sites like the little known Nwa-la-bo which consists of a stupa on top of three stacked, sausage-shaped gold boulders; Kyaik Ka Mi Yele Pagoda, a metal-roofed Buddha shrine complex perched over the sea as well as Kyaikami Yele Pagoda, Sein Yin Hmyaw Pagoda and Shwe Sar Yan Pagoda.
Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (Golden Rock), the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage destination in Myanmar (after Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda and Mandalay’s Mahamuni Pagoda), is by far Mon’s most famous site. It appears as if it is floating and is a wonderful place to watch the sun set.
WIN SEIN TAW YA
The site of the world’s largest reclining Buddha statue. The approach to it is quite a sight to see because it is lined with a procession of some 500 larger-than-life concrete burgundy-robed monks.
PA AUK TAW YA
Mon State is vibrantly spiritual; monasteries offer insight awareness meditation (satipatthana vipassana), and Pa Auk Taw Ya, which at 500 acres is one of the largest meditation centres in Myanmar, is about 10km from Mawlamyine.
MON CULTURAL MUSEUM
The museum mainly displays traditional costumes, Buddhist artefacts, sculptures, palm-leaf manuscript, handicrafts, bronzeware, silverware, coins and figurines of the ethnic Mon people who founded one the earliest civilisations in Mainland Southeast Asia, and were responsible for the spread of Theravada Buddhism in Mainland Southeast Asia.
Thaton was the capital of the Thaton Kingdom, an ancient Mon kingdom which ruled present day Lower Burma between the 4th and 11th centuries.
Thanlwin is one of the state’s most prominent landmarks in Mon State. It was the longest bridge in Myanmar before the construction of Pakouku Bridge.
Spirited away in the back of the littleknown, dark and dank Kha-Yon Caves are rows of ghostly buddha statues and wall paintings that come lurching out of the dark as the light from a torch catches them. Close by is another, smaller, cave system with an open cavern and a small cavedwelling stupa. Bring a torch or buy candles from the stall near the entrance. The caves are northeast of Mawlamyine, 30 minutes by bus along the road to Hpa-an.
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It is a flat rock formation 91m high with a Buddhist shrine atop. On the opposite side of the road is a similar but smaller outcropping surmounted by a Hindu temple. Kyauktalon Taung is around 40 minutes’ drive south of Mawlamyine, on the road to Thanbyuzayat.
It is home to an atmospheric memorial to the 100,000 prisoners of war and civilians who perished at the hands of the Japanese during the construction, on perilous terrain, of the so-called “Death Railway” in WWII. The railway was made infamous by the epic 1957 film “Bridge on the River Kwai”.
KYAIK THAN LAN PAGODA
Kyaik Than Lan Pagoda, built in 875 is thought to be the setting where Rudyard Kipling wrote “Mandalay”, a famous poem penned and published during colonial Burma in 1890. Linked to it by a covered walkway is the state’s largest temple complex, Mahamuni Pagoda.