Also spelled Mawlamyaing; formerly Moulmein, is the fourth largest city of Myanmar, situated 300 km south east of Yangon and 70 km south of Thaton, at the mouth of Thanlwin (Salween) river. The city of 325,927 is the capital and largest city of Mon State, Myanmar and is the main trading center and seaport in southeastern Burma.
The Mon name for Mawlamyine, means “damaged eye.” A Mon king was said to have lost his powerful eye in Mawlamyine. The Burmese name “Mawlamyine” is believed to be a corruption of the Mon name.
Mawlamyine was the first capital of British Burma between 1826 and 1852 after the Tanintharyi (Tenassarim) coast, along with Arakan, was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Yandabo at the end of the First Anglo-Burmese War.
It is probably best known to English speakers through the opening lines of Rudyard Kipling’s poem Mandalay:
“By the old Moulmein pagoda Lookin’ lazy at the sea. There’s a Burma girl a-settin’ and I know she thinks o’ me”.
Mawlamyine is also the setting of George Orwell’s famous 1936 memoir Shooting an Elephant. The essay opens with the striking words: “In Moulmein, in Lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people—the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me.”
During colonial times, Moulmein had a substantial Anglo-Burmese population; an area of the city was known as ‘Little England’ due to the large Anglo-Burmese community, many of them running rubber plantations; nowadays, this has dwindled to a handful of families as most have left for the UK or Australia.
Mawlamyine is in the Salween River delta, where the mouth of the Salween is sheltered by Bilugyun Island as it enters the Gulf of Martaban and the Andaman Sea. It is flanked by low hills dotted with ancient pagodas to the east and west.
Mawlamyine is the main gateway to south-eastern Myanmar. Thanlwin Bridge, the longest road and rail bridge in Myanmar is the most prominent landmark in the area. It stretches 11,000 feet over the Thanlwin river connecting the country’s southeastern region with Yangon.
The city is connected to Pa-an in Kayin State and Dawei and Myeik in Tanintharyi Division by road. It was the rail head to Ye, linked to Yangon by rail only from Mottama (Martaban) across the river by ferry, but today connected by the Thanlwin Bridge (Mawlamyine) opened in April 2006. Mawlamyine Airport has regular flights to Yangon.