The journey starts from Mawlamyaing, the fourth largest city of Burma (Myanmar), 300 km south east of Yangon and 70 km south of Thaton. The Mon name, which was previously used for Mawlamyine, Moulmein, means “damaged eye”. According to legend, a Mon king had a powerful third eye in the centre of his forehead, able to see what was happening in neighbouring kingdoms. The daughter of one of the neighbouring kings was given in marriage to the three-eyed king and managed to destroy the third eye. The Burmese name “Mawlamyine” is believed to be a corruption of the Mon name. The team visited the monastery of U Nar Auk where you can see lots of sanctuaries that tell about the life of Buddha, such as:
Hna-Kyeik-Shi-Su Wut built in 1888. It consists of two parts. The front and back buildings. The front portion consisting of the main hall which is surrounded by a corridor and is roofed by a 9-tiered spire, while the back portion is the actual shrine which has a lower pyathat roof of 5 tiers;
Dipinkara Wutshrine built in 1892. It consists of the actual shrine room, surrounded on three sides by a corridor. The notable feature about the shrine is that it houses two huge standing Buddha images each carved out of single teak logs. The taller one is over 15 feet high while the shorter image is about 14 feet;
The Theingyi building was built in 1895. It is a two-storied brick building 57 feet in length and 49 feet wide. It is topped by a six-tiered “spires” roof.
After a stop at the Mawlamyaing harbour, the team leaves for Hpa-an (Pa-An), the biggest city of the Karen state full of rice paddies. While travelling the team met a very nice family who showed them how their house was made of.
Next stop is Naypyidaw (whose meaning is “seat of the king”), capital city of Burma. It is believed that the capital was moved because would have been more centrally located than the old capital, Yangon. The official explanation for moving the capital was that Yangon had become too congested and crowded, with little room for future expansion of government offices, and some Western diplomats speculated that the government was concerned with the possibility of foreign attacks, as Yangon is on the coast and therefore vulnerable to invasions. Here the team proposed a cinema night, with the project Cinemarena, which was a success.
The team also visited the former biggest teak wood forest, which now is almost non existing. When the team got to a small village they were surprised to see lots of people, and thought it was because of the Cinemarena project and the purpose of the movie: “teach people of the village about hygiene”. The actual reason was that they had never seen “white people” before. 😛