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Mon State Myanmar

Mon State
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Places to Visit
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Mawlamyine is accessible by train or car from Yangon. As regards road and railways, the railroad starts from Yangon. It goes on from Mawlamyine to Yay while the motor road goes on beyond the boundary of Mon State right down to Myeik. Heading towards the eastern border with Thailand, there are two routes. The first is the Mawlamyine-Kawkareik-Myawady-Maesot route and the second the Three Pagodas route starting from Thanbyuzayat.

Key places to visit
Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock) Myanmar, Thaton Myanmar, Mon Cultural Museum, Thanbyuzayat


Places to Visit

Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock) Myanmar

The sublime balancing boulder stupa called Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock) is a major pilgrim age site for Myanmar Burmese Buddhists and tourists alike in Myanmar Mon State. A visit shouldn't be undertaken lightly as a day trip, which in theory could involve a taxi, long-distance bus, truck, human porters and your own foot power, but it's well wroth the hassles as much for the inspiring views from the top as for the gravity-defying boulder itself. The manmade plaza around the Golden Rock is the typical Myanmar mix of religious iconography and commercial development, monks and laypeople meditating in front of golden Buddha status while several meters away rosary beads and toy wooden rifles are for sale. All but the fittest will probably have to take a breather at one of the drink stands clinging to the cliff sides on the road from the truck stop to the stupa area.

The small stupa, just 7.3m high, sit atop the Golden Rock, a massive, gold-leafed boulder delicately balanced on the edge of a cliff at the top of Mt Kyaikto. Like Shwedagon Paya in Yangon or Mahamuni Paya in Mandalay, the Kyaiktiyo Stupa is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Myanmar and Mon State.

Myanmar legend states that the boulder maintains its precarious balance due to a precisely placed Buddha hair in the stupa. Apparently Myanmar King Tissa received the Buddha hair in the 11th century from a hermit who had secreted the hair in his own topknot. The hermit instructed the king to search for a boulder whose shape resembled the hermit's head, and then enshrine the hair birth to a zawgyi (an accomplished alchemist) father and naga (dragon serpent) princess, found the rock at the bottom of the sea. Upon its miraculous arrival on the mountain top, the boat used to transport the rock then turned to stone. This stone can be seen approximately 300m from the main boulder it's known as the Kyaukthanban (Stone Boat Stupa).

The atmosphere surrounding Kyaiktiyo during the height of the pilgrimage season (from November to March) is charged with magic and devotion, especially when the glinting boulder id bathed in the purple, sometimes mist, light of dawn. Pilgrims chant, light candles and meditate all through the night. Men are permitted to walk along a short causeway and over a bridge spanning a chasm to the boulder and affix gold-leaf squares on the rock's surface.

A new terrace allows devotees to view the boulder from below. There are several other stupas and shrines scattered on the ridge at the top of Mt Kyaiktiyo in Myanmar. The interconnecting trails, however, sometimes lead to unexpected views of the valleys below.

Further behind the Myanmar pagoda plaza area, down a stairway, there is a Potemkin village of restaurants, souvenir shops and guesthouses for locals Burmese (Myanmar).


Thaton Myanmar

Long before the rise of Bagan, Thaton was an important centre for a Mon kingdom that stretched from the Ayeyarwady River delta to similar river deltas in Thailand, and possibly as far east as Cambodia. Early on, Thaton may have been known as Suvannabhumi, the "Golden Land" legend says Asoka, the great Indian Buddhist emperor, sent a mission here in the 3rd century BC. Later it was called Dvaravati when it reached its dynastic peak between the 6th and 10th centuries AD. Shin Aran, a Myanmar monk from Thaton, carried Theravada Buddhism north to the Burmese Kingdom of Bagan Myanmar, and in 1057 Thaton was conquered by Myanmar King Anawrahta of Bagan.

Today Thaton sits on the main road and Myanmar rail line that stretches from Bago to Mottama. Little of Myanmar ancient Thaton is visible, as the modern town has been built over the old sites in Myanmar. The town's core is a leafy place, lining each side of the highway with colonial mansions and thatched-roof homes. A few older Myanmar stupas dot the hillsides surrounding the town and a picturesque canal network irrigates rice paddies and fruit orchards in Myanmar.


Mon Cultural Museum

This two-storey Myanmar Mon catural museum (Baho Rd formerly Dalhousie St & Dawei Jetty Rd., admission US$2) at the northeastern corner is dedicated to the Mon Myanmar history of the region. Exhibits are displayed downstairs, while upstairs are reading rooms and toilets.

The museum's modest collection includes stellae with Mon inscriptions, 100 year old wooden sculptures depicting old age and sickness (used as dhamma-teaching devices in Myanmar monasteries), ceramics, silver betel boxes, royal funerary urns, Mon musical instruments and wooden Buddha altars.

In front of the Myanmar Mon catural museum is a British cannon dated 1826, plus a huge Burmese gong. Some labels are printed in English though most are in Burmese Myanmar only.



South of Mudon, little traffic is seen and the hills to the east are more densely forested. Thanbyuzayat (Tin Shelter), 64km south of Mawlamyine, was the western terminus of the infamous Burma Siam Myanmar Railway, dubbed the "Death Railway" by the over 16,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) and Asian coolies who were forced by the Japanese broke into Myanmar after marching over the rugged mountain range separating British Myanmar Burma from Tak in Thaikand via Three Pagodas Pass.

A clock tower in the centre of Thanbyuzayat stands at a road junction; the road south leads to Ye white the road west goes to Kyaikkami and Setse. About 1.5km south of the clock tower, a locomotive and piece of track commemorating the Burma-Siam Myanmar Railway are on display. A kilometer west of the clock tower towards Kyaikkami, on the southern side of the road, lies the Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery, this contains 3771 graves of Allied POWs who died building the railway. Most of those buried were British, but there are also markers for American, Dutch and Australian soldiers. The site is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.




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