Pathein may not be as popular as other cities in Myanmar, but don’t let that fool you. Pathein is a smaller but beautiful upcoming tourist destination that is worth a visit. You will be surprised by some of the unique things to do and places you can explore at this hidden destination.
This centuries-old golden stupa looms over Pathein like a glittering beacon. The hti (stupa pinnacle) consists of a topmost layer made from 14lb of solid gold, a middle tier of pure silver and a bottom tier of bronze; all three tiers are gilded and embedded with thousands of precious and semiprecious stones.
Shwe Wetluu Paya
Escape the crowds by venturing across to the west bank of the Pathein River and strolling through the village to find this attractive pagoda complex with a small golden zedi, a hall of standing buddhas and other colourfully painted statuary. Look out for the small shrine sheltering a gilded pig.
The foot-passenger ferry here leaves from near the Chinese Temple on Strand Rd, just south of The First Hotel.
Tagaung Mingala Zeditaw
This pagoda is centred on a graceful stupa that sweeps inward from a wide, whitewashed base to a gleaming silver superstructure. There's also a new giant reclining-buddha image in the compound. It's about 2 miles south of the city centre.
Look for the small squirrel sculpture extending from the western side of the upper stupa, representing a previous life of the Buddha as a squirrel.
Shwe Sar Umbrella Workshop
Parasols are made in workshops scattered across the northern part of Pathein. This family-run workshop is particularly welcoming and they'll show you how these silk or cotton umbrellas, painted with lovely patterns, are made. Prices start from around K2000 and go up to K95,000 for the 3m-wide parasols.
If you'd like to paint your own umbrella, its's K4000.
Set Taw Yar Paya
This charming temple complex, spread across a hilly green setting, is like a Buddhist amusement park with all its colourful statues and decoration. It's dedicated to a mythical Buddha footprint left by the Enlightened One during his legendary perambulations through Southeast Asia. The footprint symbol itself is an oblong, 3ft-long impression.
St Peter's Cathedral
The focal point of a Catholic educational compound is this 1872-vintage cathedral, distinctively plastered emerald green. If you're not here for daily Mass at 6am (also 4pm on Sunday), when you may hear beautiful singing from the congregation, the priest will happily let you peek inside.
This rectangular shrine contains 28 sitting and 28 standing buddha images – many of them jazzed up with flashing lights giving the place a carnival atmosphere. The standing images appear in the open-robe style rather than the closed-robe pose that is typical of Mandalay standing images.
At one end of the hall stands a group of crude sculptures depicting a scene from the Buddha’s life in which he teaches a disciple the relativity of physical beauty by comparing a monkey, the disciple’s wife and a deva (celestial being).
Lei Kyun Yan Aung Paya
Known to locals as Yei Kyi Oo, this temple, about 2½ mile directly south of central Pathein, was renovated in the early 1990s to create a facsimile of Ananda Paya in Bagan. Forced labour was used in the renovation, so many locals avoid praying here.
Each night vendors set up stalls beside the Pathein River selling fruit and vegetables, clothing, DVDs and the like. There's also a section for street-food vendors and it all makes for a lively scene with a good chance to mingle with locals.
Mahabodhi Mingala Zedi
About 2 miles south of central Pathein stands this temple patterned after the Mahabodhi stupa in Bodhgaya, India.