Walking Tour: Colonial Mawlamyine

  • Start Baho Rd
  • End Strand Rd
  • Length 2.5 miles; two to three hours

Between 1826 and 1852, Mawlamyine served as the first capital of British Burma. An abundance of British residents – from colonial officials to Anglo-Burmese – led to the city being known as 'Little England', a legacy still palpable in Mawlamyine's architecture.

Start your walk near the park on Baho Rd, formerly known as Dalhousie St (after a Scottish administrator of British India). Head north, turning east on Shwe Taung St (look for the corner with the motorcycle-taxi drivers), an atmospheric strip of brightly coloured, low-slung houses home to the descendants of Indian civil servants originally brought to Mawlamyine by the British.

Cross Upper Main Rd to St Patrick's Cathedral, founded by the De La Salle brothers in 1829. At the back of the church compound is an overgrown graveyard with headstones, many with British names, some dating back to the mid-19th century.

Continue north on Upper Main Rd. If you haven't already visited it, turn east on Kyaik Than Lan Phayar St and ascend the covered stairway to Kyaikthanlan Paya – the inspiration for Kipling's famous poem 'Mandalay'. From here you'll also have a great view of Mawlamyine's prison, built in 1908 and probably the setting for George Orwell's 1931 short story 'A Hanging'.

Head west on Kyaik Than Lan Phayar St, veering south into any of the atmospheric side streets and taking in the tiny mosques and colonial-era homes in this predominantly Muslim neighbourhood of Shwe Taung Quarter. Emerge on Lower Main Rd, Mawlamyine's main commercial strip, home to many old multistorey shophouses. Continue north until you reach Surtee Sunni Jamae Masjid, a mosque built in 1846 to serve the Muslim officers and civil servants of British Burma.

Then turn west on Phat Tan St. You're now on the riverside Strand Rd, where, heading south, you'll pass the once-grand mansions, shipping-company offices and theatres that indicate Mawlamyine's former role as a wealthy trading port.