THREE DAYS was enough to captivate British poet and writer, Rudyard Kipling, who was supposedly so transfixed by the beauty of lady at the steps of “the old Moulmein pagoda”, he remembered little of the magnificent temple.
The temple had already stood a thousand years by then, and various Mon kings had built the city into a wealthy trading port. Britain captured it for its first capital, before moving on to Yangon and Mandalay. Kyaikthanlan Pagoda is outstanding, but just one part of this pleasant, easy-going riverside city.
With a history dating back around 600 years, Mawlamyine has at times been a major power in South East Asia's shifting fortunes.
From 1826 to '52, it was the first capital for the British invaders of southern Burma.
A fair number of colonial era buildings remain.
But the most famous building, dominating the city from all around, is Kyaikthanlan Paya, which caught the eye of famed Brit, Rudyard Kipling.
While the capital has moved away, Mawlamyine remains an important port and trading city.
A large central market is the city's life-blood, and an entertaining place for a tourist to roam.
The market spills out into the surrounding streets.
Buildings surrounding the market show the faded glory of what the Brits called "Moulmien."
While large trading houses still exist, more common are the more modest traders.
Large numbers of Indian migrants came to Burma under the British.
Indian influenced food, like these paper thin dosa, is often eaten as a snack in the streets of Mawlamyine.
Deft hands flick wet balls of dough onto a production line of hot-plates by the thousands.
Mosques and churches date back to the 1800s.
Buddhism remains the major religion.
Down the backstreets, away from the glittering pagodas and faded relics, the average citizen enjoys a more modest standard of living.
My quick visit didn't allow time for me to visit Burma's most famous balancing pagoda at Kyaikto.
An uncomfortable pick-up ride and a uphill walk north, Nwa La Bo Pagoda makes for a good day out in the hills.
The setting of the pagoda looks down over the hills, and the highlight, the balancing stupa defies logic and building codes.
The small market in the town of Kyon Ka, where the pick ups drop you at the base of the hill, is worth a wander for its quirky goods and a quick lunch.
Sour pork sausages are common to both Burma and Thailand.
Back in Mawlamyine is a wider choice of food, including tradtional Burmese curries.
But there are no doubts about the star of Mawlamyine, Kyaikthanlan Paya, the glittering jewel atop the town.
Kipling wrote "By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' lazy at the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;"
It was originally erected in 875 A.D. during the reign of King Mutpi Raja, and successively enlarged over the centuries.
34 small pagodas called Zediyan surroud the main pagoda, and a large bell bears on ancient Mon inscription.
The breezy temple makes a pleasant break from the humidity at ground level.
Buddhists come throughout the day making merit. It is easy for the visitor to while away the time watching.
A large covered walkway goes down to the street. Several other pagodas are in the immediate area, including Mahamuni Paya and U Zina.
At the south-west base of the pagoda grounds, is Yadanabonmyint Monastery, also called Queen Sein Don's Monastery.
King Mindon Min's fourth ranked wife, Sein Don Mibaya oversaw contruction in the late 1880s, and it is distinctively Mon in design.
The monastery's long arched walkway is an escape from the heat. Despite its royal connection, the monastery is struggling to be maintained.
A short punt ride across the Thanlyin River takes you to Bilu Kyun, an island similar in size to Singapore, but with a few less shopping centres.
The pace of life here is slow, with farming more or less the only game.
Bilu is flat, very scenic and lacking in development. Traditional handicrafts are made in time honoured ways .Kick-boxing matches happen during the April Thingyan (New Year) water festival. That would be cool!
Naming of the first bridge in 2017 angered local Mon feelings. They wanted "Yamanya" ("Mon State" in Mon language) but the honour went to General Aung San. Mons believe that they were betrayed by him and have been ignored by his daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi.
"Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin', an' it's there that I would be --
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea"