Friday 3rd Feb – Mawlamyine
We left at a fairly leisurely 8am for our drive to Mawlamyine via the Kawgun caves at Hpa-An. These caves date back to the 7th century and were constructed by King Manuaha after he took sanctuary fro his enemies following a defeat.
The caves are really just the openings and overhangs but are covered with frescos of thousands of mini buddhas. It has suffered damage unfortunately from a cement company who were using dynamite nearby which caused some of the frescos to fall but it is still spectacular – I’ve no idea how they accessed the rock faces high above the ground, the resident monkeys seemed to be the only ones suited to skipping up the vertical rock face.
To the left of the cave was a steep stairway which we trudged up to be rewarded with stunning views over the fields.
Next stop was the Kyauk Kalap pagoda nicknamed the mushroom pagoda, it sits in the middle of an artificial lake, where they section the lake into quarters, allow the water level to drop in one section, then ‘rescue’ the fish by moving them into the sections with more water. The low section was chock full of catfish visible from the wooden walkways across the water.
On top of the rock formation sits a small pagoda and you can climb up some of the way to get the views back over the lake. The complex houses about 30 monks who we could hear chanting as we wandered around.
Mawlamyine itself is the old British capital and is a sleepy river based town with old buildings left from its colonial days. George Orwell lived here and worked as a policeman, and his essay ‘Shooting an Elephant’ is about his time here. We were based in the Attran Hotel with a large deck overlooking the river – they served food, beer and provided wi-fi so we settled in to watch the sun go down, updated our blog and ordered some food – heaven.