Mawlamyine Dairies

On 10th May 2014, I had to catch a night bus from Yangon to Mawlamyine. It’s departure time was 9.30 pm and I was told to be at bus terminal 30 minutes before the departure. Accordingly, I reached Augmingalar bus stand by 8.30 pm only to find out that there are no buses from this bus stand to Mawlamyine.  It took me and the officials at bus stand some time to make each other understand as we both could not understand each other’s dialect. After struggling hard for 20 minutes, finally I came to know that I was supposed to go at Elite bus terminal from where Elite deluxe buses go to Mawlamyine. Fortunately I reached there on time and boarded my bus that departed exactly at 9.50 pm we started for Mawlamyine. At 3.30 am we reached Mawlamyine. The moment I got down the bus I felt the variation between this place and the other places in Myanmar that I had been to. The common mode of travelling comprised motorcycle taxis, trishaw and pedal cabs locally known as “tuktuks”.

A pedal cab locally known as “Tuktuks”.

A pedal cab locally known as “Tuktuks”.

I hired a tuktuk and reached hotel ‘Cindrella’ by 4 am. Apparently all the hotel gates were closed and after calling them numerous times, a hotel staff came and opened the gates only to tell us that there were no rooms available at the moment and I had to wait till 12 pm to get a room. I was provided a chair to sit and was asked to wait at the reception until somebody checked out of their room. Finally at 11 am I got one room and Man, what a relief! This is how I was welcomed by this beautiful city. However, these ‘not so pleasant ‘start didn’t deter me from falling in love with this city and its picturesque beauty.

Mawlamyine is the third largest city of Myanmar after Yangon and Mandalay and has long been a thriving teak port. People often say that if you wish to experience what it was to live in Yangon 50 years back- visit Mawlamyine today!

With its colonial buildings, wooden Chevrolet buses and its leafy tropical coastal setting, Mawlamyine has its own distinct character. Mawlamyine, being only 150 km from the Thai-Myanmar border, is a melting pot of ethnicities, religion and languages, and is yet strongly rooted to the typical Myanmar identity. The majority of Indians here are third or fourth generation Myanmar whose ancestors were brought in to Mawlamyine during the British colonial rule. They are now fully assimilated into the Myanmar culture having long forgotten their mother tongue, however many still hold strongly to their religious customs and beliefs. Apparently there are many Hindu temples in Mawlamyine. People are very warm and welcoming here- no matter what happens they won’t let you leave without feeding you. Like in other cities of Myanmar, here also the locals start and end their day very early. By 8 pm in the evening one can easily notice the empty roads with not even a single person moving around.

A Hindu temple in Mawlamyine

A Hindu temple in Mawlamyine

Another, interesting thing that I found out was that women, children and even some men here apply a yellow paste on their face called “thanaka”  every day, after taking bath. They believe that the thanaka paste cools their skin, tightens the pores, and controls oiliness.

A girl with the 'Thanaka paste' on her face

A girl with the ‘Thanaka paste’ on her face

While moving around the city, I noticed earthen pots filled with water. These were the water donations made by people for the travellers. Also, there was a handsome number of gasoline sellers by the roadside for the motorcycle bikes and pedal cabs.

Another intriguing incident that I want to share is about their ‘design’ of collecting electricity bills!  One day while having lunch, I heard some announcements being made outside. On inquiring, I was told that it was to collect the electricity bill payments. Every month between the 10th and 20th of a month- a car goes around the city and collects electricity bill payments from every household. This culture of the mobile electricity bill payment collection was devised to counter the tiresome procedure of standing in long queues all day long to make the payment. Most of the people prefer this medium of payment and don’t mind paying some extra money as service charge in return of this facility . This was something exclusive about this city.

The mobile electricity bill payment vehicle

The mobile electricity bill payment vehicle

These were some of the excerpts from my rendezvous with Mawlamyine , will share some more interesting scoops in my next blog.

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