19 March 2015

Meandering in Myanmar: Kyaikthanlan Paya in Mawlamyine

I didn't see just old crumbling colonial buildings when I was in Mawlamyine. Of course I also visited a religious site, yes, another Buddhist temple. Now for this one, I should first talk about Rudyard Kipling. The British author famous for writing The Jungle Book features quite a bit in Myanmar. And this is due to his famous poem Mandalay, whose full text can be found here. See, as much as the title makes a reference to a city in northern Myanmar, Kipling actually never set foot on Mandalay. Rather, the only places he visited in Myanmar when he was returning from India to England on a eastward route were Yangon and Mawlamyine (Rangoon and Moulmein in the old Anglicized spelling). His visit allegedly only spanned three days, but his imagination was definitely in overdrive. So in his famous poem, when he referred to a "Moulmein pagoda", there is a high chance that it was Kyaikthanlan Paya.

See, this Buddhist temple features a very long covered walkway, stretching from the main road to the top of the hill, as shown by the photos above. Kipling remarked that apparently there was a Burmese girl on these steps, and he fell in love with her, which made him forget about the other things he saw in his visit. Somehow, it was a weird and funny feeling to think that a famous writer walked the same pathway as I was walking several decades before.

One walks the covered walkway barefoot, of course. After all, this is a holy Buddhist place. After climbing the walkway, one approaches the temple, and magnificent views of the surrounding countryside as well as the Thanlwin River reveals itself.

Of course, there is a golden stupa here. Again, it is round, but this one features some corners and edges. During my visit, I saw a group of local visitors dressed in a particular ethnic attire, and that made me suspect that they belong to another ethnic group, one of the many ethnic groups that are found in Myanmar.

As usual, there are plenty of Buddha statues, which again made me wonder why it is the case that Buddhists don't consider Buddha as god, and yet they all bow down and kowtow in front of his statue. Maybe it's like Mary in Christianity.

Finally, as always, here are some pictures of the buildings that are present in the temple complex. By this time, I think I already have a general idea of the architecture and layout of a typical Buddhist temple in Myanmar. I figured I had enough of temple visits for the moment, so the next thing I did was some cave exploring, which I will blog about in the next entry.


  1. I think what I like best in temple (from a Western perspective) is how lively they are compared to churches. They are usually big complexes where you go from one building to another, they are open (architecturally speaking....), there is the smell of incense... many churches feel dead to me, unless people bring them alive.

    1. Zhu,

      Perhaps the reason why churches feel dead is because people aren't that religious anymore. At least in Europe, people are moving on from religion, and therefore churches are slowly transforming from being a place of worship to a museum piece. However, in other places that are still religious, then churches are not dead. For example, in Guatemala, people there actively use their churches still, and have been using them in quite interesting ways, such as in Chichicastenango.