Today, while Mawlamyine's colonial structures are in quite an advanced state of decay, the town remains a comfortable, pleasant place, with tree-lined streets overlooking the muddy waters of the Salween River. While the town primarily makes its living from tourism, sawmills, and nearby rice farms, it has gained national fame for its fantastic, fresh tropical fruits, including pungent but sickly-sweet durians, and refreshing, citrusy pomelos.
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Mawlamyine has colonial remnants from the rule of the British Raj. It was once home to a number of rubber plantations and, like other towns and hill stations in British India, was called "Little England."
Mawlamyine has significant Catholic history. Saint Patrick’s School, founded by the De La Salle brothers, first opened its doors in 1860 and is still operating today, albeit under the new label of “BEHS-5.” The town's Saint Augustine Church also makes a worthwhile stop. Other cultures and religions here include the Mon ethnic people, who are chronicled in the Mon State Cultural Museum, and Galakhar Hindus, who have long had a presence in Mawlamyine due to trade with India.
George Orwell and Rudyard Kipling, two writers beloved in great measure for their recollections of life in the British Raj, penned works directly relating to Mawlamyine. Kipling's poem “Mandalay” and Orwell's memoir Shooting the Elephant are the most famous.
Also known as Kogun, Kaw Gon Cave is an important archaeological site dating back to the 7th century. More of an extended rock outcropping than a true cave, Kaw Gon is filled with Buddhist art, including figurines of the Buddha, Buddhist scriptures carved in clay tablets, and even a separate, reclining Buddha painted in red and gold.
Located about 10 miles to the north of the town, Nwa Le Bo Pagoda is situated atop a small mountain. The round-trip hike, which takes approximately four hours, is a great activity for travelers in good physical shape.
Visit Pa Auk Taw Ya Monastery, a meditation center located about 10 miles to the south of the main town, and meet some of the hundreds of monks who live here.
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George Orwell’s extraordinary talent for understanding the human race was born from the streets and back alleys of British India and Myanmar; these Eastern lands informed one of the greatest literary minds of the Western world.
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