2015
05.31

Mawlamyine — finally! About some local attractions. Travel back into the colonial past and why I keep staying here. About the Breeze Guesthouse and its pros and cons and its guests.

Unsurpassed is the travel back in time I experienced in Aleppo, Syria, where for a short week I lived in a huge Khan above the medieval, covered Souq. 2000 square feet were almost mine. I only had to share them with Olaf from Germany who worked in Aleppo. You can read more about this time if you scroll down in my blog. It is to date my all-time favorite place where I stayed during my travels, as I felt as if I could live and breathe the past. The shoe-market’s hustle and bustle unfolded below the kitchen window, and the soap- and spice-stalls were not far, distributing their aroma through the narrow streets of the market and into the khan. I never wanted to leave that place. I felt transported into fairy-tale Aladdin’s time. According to news reports the souq has been the site of major fighting and damaged multiple times during the recent conflict in Syria

I was reminded of that feeling of time travel when Mr. Ivan, the owner of the Breeze Guesthouse first showed me my room. It took my breath away. Two of the five windows of my absolutely gigantic room in the rundown blue colonial mansion situated at the river promenade open the view to the Thanlwin River. Two other windows open merely to expose the corrugated metal roofs of the adjacent buildings, and one window only stares at a wall less than 2 feet away. But where have I ever lived in a 20×20 feet room which is over 14 feet in height with 5 windows opening up into three directions?!

The blue color of the room matches the blue of the house’s exterior. It is shabby and dusty, peeling off in many places, but it has character. Mr. Ivan told me proudly that his grand parents purchased the home which originally had been built for an English merchant. Mawlamyine has attracted its fair share of colonial occupiers but also of illustrious people, Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell among them, to name just a few!

I couldn’t help but wonder if Orwell would have marveled at the same view from perhaps a window not far from here, or from the viewpoint up on the hill. I reminisced about how many of us in “good old” East Germany risked imprisonment to read, and pass on his famous book 1984 which was one of the most sensitive books on the list of banned literature… This town has something so quaint and charming that is hard to describe. It is unique in its tri-part layout and those pagodas certainly sparkle far and wide.

After moving into my room, I immediately began to “nest”, that is to move some furniture around until all was “just right”. I covered up the TV with a lace cloth and put a fake flower pot in front of it. Who needs a TV! I made an old reclining chair with a footrest the center of operations where I would blog and work on my photographs. I hung up my clothes and spread out my purchases from the island as decoration. I thought I would stay here for about 2 days, but that turned into 5… And really, I would have stayed longer if I did not have the distinct feeling that at some point I should get going to the “real” sites in Myanmar. But all seemed right here. I loved it.

On this note, I can only recommend both Mawlamyine and the Breeze Guest House to all and everyone. However…!

Most backpackers who arrive at the guest house will end up in a room 1/6 of the size of mine! Literally, the space of my room just one level below has been subdivided into six rooms with a narrow corridor in between. These rooms are stuffy, claustrophobic and simply overpriced.

As charming as all the staff are (that is the owner Mr. Ivan, and several managers whom I met, the most delightful Mr. Anthony and the very helpful Mr. Joe), overall, the guesthouse seems too busy saving money at all corners. Breakfast is nothing but boring and awful. Three cardboard-like slices of “toast” will be served with a blob of butter and jam that seem to be inspired more by war rations than by hospitality. A nearly blue, hard-boiled egg and an overripe banana come with it. Two French ladies tried to obtain an additional egg one morning and were turned down even after they offered to pay for it.

The same two French ladies had to put up with a full-sized rat (yes, a rodent rat!) whom they caught one day on their bed… I had a roommate too: a bat which occasionally flew around and then disappeared miraculously into one of the wooden pillars. And all, but all of us were bitten to pieces by mosquitoes and else in the morning the mosquito net in my room notwithstanding. One of my bites got huge and badly infected and I don’t even know what animal could have inflicted it; no mosquito, that’s for sure.

But all of this aside, the crowd of travelers at the guest house made up for everything: there were foreigners from every corner of the globe. And we all gathered at night outside the mansion on the covered, marbled portico for beer and talk. But then, there was the 10 PM curfew which put a damper on that. Particularly fun was it to meet among all the French travelers finally three Germans: Kim, Andre and Nils. For two nights we shared many beers — thanks Nils! — and much good conversation. I am sorry, I could not say my proper goodbyes to Nils. I will do this hereby! Happy travels to you three and perhaps, our paths will cross again, someday.

Finally, on the last day in town, I hired my trusted motor taxi driver Wingo to take me to the main attractions in town: the row of pagodas, shrines, and temples lining the hills of Mawlamyine, the Kyaikthanlan Paya, Mahamuni Paya, Seindon Mibaya Kyaung, Aung Theikdi Zedi, the U Khanti Paya and U Zina Paya. They are nothing short of stunning. The views are amazing from up there and once again, the weather cooperated and I even got some sun into some of my pictures.

What a place! Good night.

5 comments so far

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  1. Monsoon is right. We have a sense of what it must be like after this past weekend. At least we don’t have the humidity. Hope the bugs find something else for their lunch.

  2. One more thing referring to the report from two days ago… I was so surprised to read about Myanmar’s Buddhism Disney world. Maybe that was just that one location? Given that the country was so closed off to the outside world I would not have expected that at all. I thought it would be a country that gives you a much more authentic experience than others that may have welcomed tourists for many years. But maybe not?

    • Authentic it is. But there is a completely different sense of reverence for “the old”. Authentic is not understood in the sense of preservation but in the sense of worship practice. It is hard to explain.

  3. Interesting to read your positive report on the Breeze Guesthouse, makes me want to go there although the rat & bugs sound more than a little scary. After your comments the last few days on the great location and the river nearby I had been interested in seeing some pictures of this abode and had looked it up on tripadvisor… let’s just say while everybody described the same things as you did not many seem to appreciate the atmosphere and history that you talk about and the words they chose were not as pleasant as yours.
    Oh and you don’t need to worry about the weather anymore. The monsoon moved on to Michigan…

    • Can you please keep the monsoon for a while? I really need to see a few things… 🙂