Mon is a state in Myanmar which covers a narrow strip of land located between Kayin state to the east and the Andaman Sea to the west. The first recorded kingdom of Mon is attributed to Dvaravati which prospered around 1024 AD till their capital was sacked by the Khmer Empire. The region was conquered by the British in 1824 after the first Anglo-Burmese War. The Mon people helped the British in the war, in return for promises of their own leadership once Burma is defeated. Thousands of Mons had migrated to Siam earlier but returned to their homeland during the British rule. However, the promise was never fulfilled and Mon existed as a colony of the British. Mon has a tropical climate since it is located close to the sea. Currently, Mon has about 8 notable cities and two islands. It is home to the Mon people who are the ethnic group of the state. They are one of the earliest people to reside in Southeast Asia. They speak the earliest people to live in southeast Asia.
Origin: Lineage – Mon, Bamar, Anglo-Burmese, Chin, Kachin, Kayin, Rakhine, Shan, Burmese-Thai. Language spoken – Mon, Kayin, Bamar. Religion followed – Buddhism, Christianity
Geography: Climate – Tropical climate. Region borders – Kayin State , Andaman Sea, Bago Region Tanintharyi Region and Thailand. Region size – 12,296.6 sq km/ 4,747.7 sqmi.
Interesting facts: State capital – Mawlamying. Home to the Mon People. 2.05 million population (2014)
Mon State houses some of the most notable pagodas of Myanmar. The Golden Rock pagoda Kyaik Htee Yoe is located here. It is a pagoda built on a huge rock, precariously balanced over another rock. The rock is located on top of Mt. Kyaik Htee Yoe which presents a charming view of the landscape. The largest reclining Buddha of the world is located at the Win Sein Taw Ya Pagoda in Mon State. this 30 meters high and 180-metre long pagoda attracts thousands of tourists across the world every year. It is located right opposite Kyauktalong Taung, a flat rock formation with a Buddhist shrine on top. Kyaik Paw Law Pagoda is another notable pagoda of the Mon State, famous for the living mole on the face of the Buddha image. Shwe Sar Yan pagoda is also an acclaimed pagoda believed to have eight hair strands of Kakusana Buddha and four tooth relics of Gautama Buddha. Kyaik Than Lan Pagoda is another important pagoda which holds Tripitaka manuscripts and gold images of Buddha.
Mawlamyine, the erstwhile capital of the British Empire, is the capital of Mon State and is the third largest city of Myanmar. The city has been featured in several famous pieces of literature, especially British literature. The town offers an eclectic mix of colonial architecture and Buddhism, the evidence of which can be seen in various parts of the town. The town’s landmark is Kyaik Than Lan Pagoda which was built in 875 A.D. A notable place to visit is Kyaik Ka Mi, a small coastal resort, well-known for Kyaik Ka Mi Yele Pagoda, a metal-roofed Buddha shrine complex perched over the sea and Kyaik Ma Yaw Pagoda, a temple of serene, white-faced Buddha, built by Queen Shin Saw Pu in 1455. Another notable place to visit is Thaton, also known as Suvannabhumi. It bears an important place in Myanmar’s history as it is one of the places where Theravada Buddhism was established some 2500 years ago. Other interesting places in Mawlamyine include Bilu Kyun, Setse beach and Sein Yin Hmyaw Pagoda.
BREATHTAKING BEACHES AND ISLANDS
Being located in the southern region, with a significant coastal region overlooking the Bay of Bengal, Mon State is home to quite a few pretty beaches and some beautiful islands. The coastal town of Kyaik Ka Mi with the Kyaik Ka Mi Yele Pagoda is a noteworthy place to visit. A pretty beach lying 24 kilometres south of Kyak Ka Mi town is Setse beach. It is a wide beach with brown sand lined with waving casuarinas trees. Tourists can enjoy a quiet time here enjoying nature while sipping on fresh coconut juice sold by local vendors. An island located quite close to Mawlamyine is Bilu island, locally called Ogre Island. This curiously named island has several stories which relate back to Ogres. Tourists can have a fun time collecting these stories from locals, who are warm and hospitable. The island offers a wide variety of experiences to tourists. Another island worth visiting is the beautiful island of Gaungsay Kyun located to the north west of Mawlamyaing. Considered as a good picnic spot, tourists can enjoy a fun day here.
Kyaik Htee Yoe Pagoda known as Golden Rock was built in 574 B.C. Located 229 km from Yangon, the pagoda is built on a huge boulder which stands on the extreme edge of the cliff, 1095m above sea level. The rock and the pagoda are at the top of Mt. KyaikHteeYoe. It is the third most important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Myanmar after the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and Mahamuni Pagoda in Mandalay.
Kyaik Paw Law Pagoda is located in Kyaikhto township. It is well-known for the living mole on the face of the Buddha image which is offered with golden foil. The eyes of the image are lively. Legend says that efforts were made to move the image through elephants, horses and men but could not be moved. The image is said to be floating on water and always faces the direction of Sri Lanka.
Shwe Sar Yan Pagoda believed to have been built in the 5th century B.C enshrines four tooth-relics of the Gautama Buddha and eight hair relics of Kakusana Buddha. The pagoda also houses items of Gonaguna Buddha, emerald alms bowl of Kassapa Buddha in addition to several gold images. This three storied conical structure is an interesting place to get a perspective about Buddhism.
Win Sein Taw Ya Pagoda A Buddhist shrine located right opposite Win Sein Taw Ya is Kyauktalon Taung. The pagoda is located atop an interesting flat limestone rock formation 300 feet in height. Reaching the top requires a steep climb and hence is recommended for physically fit people only.
Thanbyuzayat 60 Kilometres to the south of Mawlamyine lies Thanbyuzayat, a town with the atmospheric memorials to the 100,000 POWs and civilians who perished at the hands of the Japanese during the construction of the ‘death railway’ during WW II. The railway was made infamous by the epic 1957 film ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’.
Mawlamyine is the capital of Mon State. It has an illustrious past as the erstwhile capital of the British Empire. The city has featured in a number of famous literary work. The city is charmful providing a diverse mix of Buddhism and colonial architecture, the depictions of which can be seen in local products and traditions. Kyaik Than Lan pagoda, built in 875 AD is the landmark of this town.
Kyaik Ka Mi is a coastal resort town in the Mon State. Located around 48 kilometres south of Mawlamyine, it is a popular destination for tourists looking forward to enjoying the sea. The town is famous for the Kyaik Ka Mi Yele Pagoda which attracts pilgrims to this town too. Still untouched, this town is ideal to get away from the crowd and enjoy a few days of peace.
Setse Beach A notable beach of Myanmar, Setse beach is a wide brown sand beach where tourists can enjoy the sea. It is located 24 kilometres south of Kyaik Ka Mi and 16 kilometres south-west of Thanbyuzayut. The beach is lined by waving casuarinas trees. Tourists can enjoy juice of fresh young coconut and gorge on the delicious seafood served at the local joints.
Bilu island is worth a visit to see the well-preserved and distinctive Mon culture. It is a large island hosting around 60 villages. The most common livelihood on this island is rubber and paddy plantation. It is also home to a large number of cottage industries. A boat trip to this island is rewarding due to the warm and friendly people as well as natural diversity.
Gaungsay Kyun Island A short boat ride away towards the north-west of Mawlamyaing is the Gaungsay Kyun Island. The island was originally called Head Wash Island due to the yearly royal hair washing ceremony during the Inwa period. The island is considered as a good picnic spot now. Tourists can enjoy a lazy day amidst nature here.
Thaton is a town in Mon State located on the Tenasserim plains. It was the capital of Thaton Kingdom from around the 4th century BC to 11th Century AD and is considered to be the birthplace of Theravada Buddhism established around 2500 years ago.
Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda Festival: The Kyaikhtiyo Pagoda Festival is a special festival of lights celebrated at the pagoda on the full moon day of Thadingyut. The locals offer 9000 lighted candles and 9000 flowers to Buddha on the full moon night. Next morning, rice, sweets and other snacks are offered to the Lord. The festival usually falls in October, although it is dependant on the lunar calendar. It is attended by thousands of local and foreigners.
Tazaungmon Moon Festival: This festival is celebrated throughout the country on a full moon day after the rains. Since the monks need new robes after the rains, on the full moon day, new robes are offered to the mons along with other offerings which include slippers, umbrellas, alms bowls, food, towels, soap and other necessities.
Thingyan Water Festival: This is the most interesting and greatest occasion for merry-making in the country. During the Thingyan Festival, people pour water over one another to the melodious tunes of singing and dancing at the decorated pavilions. During these auspicious days, Myanmar people perform a lot of meritorious deeds to usher in the New Year.