We have made our way into the beginning of what is considered southern Myanmar, slightly off the main tourist route which mostly revolves around the centre of the country. Mawlamyine is famous for having made an impression on both Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell, and now, Clare and Troy! Mawlamyine was an important port city during the time of British rule and subsequently has some incredible colonial architecture that while crumbling, helps to enhance this sort of mysterious mood that Mawlamyine exhibits. Oh, and we basically have this whole area to ourselves!
It is pagodas galore in Myanmar, as in many other southeast Asian countries, but typically the temples here have some new features we haven't seen before, which helps avoid the inevitable "temple fatigue". Firstly, many temples are actually perched up on higher elevation, with long, sometime grand, covered walkways from multiple sides leading up to them. You might pass the old monasteries on either side of you, and this is also an opportunity to have a little more shade from the sun for a few more minutes! The downside is that these areas are often the favourite hang out spots of stray dogs, some of which seem a bit aggressive. In fact, sadly there are a lot of stray dogs in Myanmar in general. Please don't hurt us, pooches. Many of the gateways to the temples are fronted by chinthes - large lion-like creatures that present themselves in pairs, and are guarding the entrances. And in the temple complex itself, the platform is often a light coloured tile, which casts a warm, shiny gleam in the afternoon sun but is very hot to stand on! The other temple category that we are frequenting is the "let's-climb-a-steep-limestone-karst-in-40-degree-heat-and-bare-feet" one (the one no sane person is doing in May), which usually takes you to some small shrines or stupas and rewards you with some lovely views over the landscape. For us, all the spiritual sites we have been seeing are vastly different from ones in other countries we have visited, so we are still in that dreamy sort of delighted state of novelty.
But our dreamy/delighted stated was rudely interrupted in Mawlamyine by our first *real* bout of food poisoning while travelling, ever. Troy's sickness came on first, and Clare had a few hours to silently congratulate herself for not eating whatever he had eaten before hers also came on, and so the two of us were very ill for several hours over what just happened to be Clare's birthday. Ah, the tragedy of it all! We lay in the room all day feeling miserable, but with the kind staff of our guesthouse checking in on us, and bringing us ginger tea and toast. We feel certain that the culprit was some Indian food we had eaten the night before that seemed like it had been prepared maybe just a touch too long ago. Damn you, lukewarm curry! The hotel manager told us that typically Burmese food is made all in the morning for the whole day, and so we might have to try find some more restaurants that prepare the food as it is ordered. We luckily bounced back very quickly from the illness and were able to leave Mawlamyine the next day in more or less one piece.