Pathein or Bassein (Burmese ပုသိမ်မြို့) is a city (pop. 315,600 as of 2004) and the capital of Ayeyarwady Division in Myanmar.
Lying at the western edge of the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) River delta, on the Pathein (Ngawan) River 190 km west of Yangon, Pathein is accessible to large vessels and despite its distance from the ocean, it is the most important delta port outside of Yangon. It is also the terminus of a branch of the main railway line. The city is a rice milling and export centre.
The city's name may derive from Pathi (Burmese word for "Muslim"), due to the large population of Arab and Indian traders. The name was corrupted to Bassein during the British colonial period. The British built a fort and established a garrison in 1826, after the First Anglo-Burmese War.
Pathein is now a peaceful little town with a scenic waterfront, many Buddhist temples, and Pathein umbrella workshops. The colourful handmade umbrellas made in Pathein are famous in Myanmar.
Although once part of the Mon kingdom, Pathein has few ethnic Mon residents today. There are sizable minorities of Karen and Rakhine.
Most pickups and smaller buses will drop of people at the 1 City Bus Station from where it can be hard to find onward travel, e.g. north or to the beaches. If you do not want to stay in Pathein, take a motorbike (2,000 kyat) or pickup (1,000 kyat) out of the city to the bigger 2 Highway Bus Station, from where it should be easy to catch onward travel. Equally, if you are dropped of at the latter, take a motorbike or pickup into the city.
- Yangon – There are regular bus services from Dagon Ayar Highway Bus Station in the far northwest of Yangon. The trip takes around 5 hours, including a 30-minute break for tea and snacks. Tickets cost around 3,700 kyat per person. It is probably cheaper to buy a ticket to Pathein and then further to Chaung Tha or Ngwe Saung, in case you want to go there. Try the Shwe Mingala bus company.
- Chaung Tha & Ngwe Saung – There are regular buses and pickups into Pathein, taking 1½-2 hr for about 3,500 kyat. Private taxis are around 30,000 kyat.
- Ngapali – You have to take a bus from Thandwe bus station to Yangon and get off at Ngathaingchaung with the large bridge, from where you have to catch another bus or pickup to Pathein. The trip from Ngathaingchaung to Pathein takes about 3 hr for 1,500 kyat in a non-air-con bus. However, the trip from Ngapali to Ngathaingchaung can take up to 8 hr, so start early enough.
- Pyay – The bus leaves at 06:30, takes about 10 hr and costs 6-10,000 kyat.
As the roads have improved, there is no longer a ferry service to Pathein from Yangon.
The town is small enough that you can see much of the town on foot. Motorbike taxis are also readily available and the standard fare for a trip is 1,000 kyat (which however seems a little excessive).
A local ferry can take you to the Karen village across the river.
- 1 Shwemokhtaw Pagoda. The main sight of Pathein is this Buddhist temple founded (according to local legend) by King Asoka of India in 305 BCE. Bagan's King Alaungsithu raised the height of the stupa to 11 m in 1115 CE, and King Samodogossa raised it to 40 m in 1263. The stupa is now 46.6 m tall, with the topmost layer made of 6.3 kg of solid gold, the middle tier of pure silver, and the third tier of bronze, with some 829 diamonds, 843 rubies and 1,588 semi-precious stones.
- 2 St. Peters Cathedral, Maxwell Rd. 06:00-18:00. The cathedral was built in 1872 and sits in a Catholic educational compound. Free.
- 3 Harbour. Go to the harbour and watch the hustle and bustle of stevedores loading ferries and passengers transiting from the ferry terminals. Many of the town's historic buildings are also located along the waterfront.
- There are a number of small umbrella workshops, which have been operating for more than 200 years. The umbrellas are hand painted and are very cheap to buy (a few US dollars each). The waterproofing for the umbrellas must dry in the sun for several days, though, so there is little to see here during the rainy season, but they will show you the shop.
- Cultural Museum of the Ayerwaddy Delta, Mahabandoola Road (On the lefthand side heading towards the waterfront). 10:00-16:30. The small museum houses and displays local handicrafts along with artefacts of the region. 2,000 kyat foreigners, 200 kyat if resident with FRC card.
- 1 Myaungmya (buses leave Pathein across the street from the fire station a half a block from the river). The bus is supposed to leave at 06:30, but may leave at 09:30. Buy the ticket 30 minutes before. The trip is about two hours. Return bus at 15:00, buy the ticket early or you may end up with one of the uncomfortable plastic stools in the middle of the aisle. A day trip is possible to Myaungmya (pronounced meouw miah), a busy, clean river town with the local pagoda overlooking the river. The town also boasts a church and mosque. You may also take a motorcycle taxi one-way for about 7,000 kyat.
- 1 CB Bank, Corner Merchant St / Pagoda Rd (in the commercial district, on the same block with all the tourist hotels). The large CB Bank will change money from Monday to Friday, 09:00 to 15:00, and has an ATM available. Credit card service can be unavailable, so ask your hotel when is the right time to go.
- 2 Central market. M-Sa. A standard small-town market in Myanmar. You can buy food, fabric, baskets, etc.
- Shwe Sar, 653 Tawyakyaung Rd, ✉ email@example.com. Good place to buy hand made parasols and umbrellas. Small umbrellas are priced at 8,000 kyat each, and 20,000 for medium sized umbrellas. A discount of 1,000 kyat is offered if you ask. If you are willing to walk away to another workshop a larger discount could be offered.
- 1 Hnin Wai Lwin Myanmar Cuisine. Try some authentic Burmese food here.
- 2 Night market (Ayeyarwady). 17:00 - 22:00. After sunset, the night market pops up. Grab a snack and people watch. Food stands are alongside the river, there are also street vendors/push carts with BBQ in the hotel area.
- 3 Me Mf Lay (next to Taan Taan Ta Guesthouse). Provides decent breakfast and delicious drinks.
- 4 Super Cool Restaurant (the GPS coordinates might be wrong, so ask the locals). Famous for serving beer and the terrace. 2-3,500 kyat.
- Beer garden with food for 2,000-4,000 kyat, overlooking the river.
- Teashops are everywhere and easy to find. A cup of tea is 300 kyat, a plate of noodle salad is 800.
- New City Coffee & Tea Shop (south and next to all the central hotels). This is popular with locals and an excellent start to your morning.
- 1 Sein Pyae Wi Yan (Golden Diamond), Min Gyi Rd (across from the New Pammawaddy). Free WiFi, in lobby (low signal). Basic accommodation, fan, shared toilet. US$8-9.
- 2 Taan Taan Ta Guesthouse, 7 Merchant St, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. First two storeys not very comfortable with shared bathroom, but 3 and 4 have bigger rooms with private bathroom. The friendly and English speaking Algun will help you with your travel and in case you have questions. A good budget choice. Less than 20,000 kyat.
- 3 (New) Pammawaddy, No. 14/A, Min Gyi Rd (in the center, one block east from the Central Market). Strong Wi-Fi signal. Not the best value for money, but very good travel advice. 25-30,000 kyat.
- 4 Paradise Hotel, No. 14, Zay Kyaung St (just north of the New City Coffee Shop), ☏ . Has 20 inexpensive and comfortable rooms. It is away from any main road and therefore can be expected to be more quite than Pammawaddy and Sein Pyae Wi Yan around the corner. 10,000 kyat.
- 5 La Pyae Won, No. 30, Min Gyi Rd (in between the other hotels), ☏ . Has ups and downs, but acceptable for this price. Four-storey building with AC. WiFi & BBC TV. 25-35,000 kyat.
- 6 Htike Myat San Motel, No. 8, Maharbandoola Road (At the junction of Jail Rd), ☏ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Sometimes misspelled "Hyike". 26 very clean rooms for a good price. The owner will help organize bus tickets for you - of course he will. Including breakfast on the roof. Free WiFi. Quiet air-con. Only a few minutes to the night market. Helpful and friendly staff. Free bicycles. Hot shower. US$20/30 (shared/en-suite bathroom).
- 7 Delta Hotel, 101 Strand Rd (Opposite the smaller, northern pagoda at the river), ☏ , , , ✉ email@example.com. Includes all services needed, AC, WiFi, phone, TV, clean bathroom, minibar. The good thing is that it is in a rather quiet part of the city not (yet) along of one of the main roads. Staff is friendly and speaks English. 20-40,000 kyat.
Most buses for distant destinations leave from the Highway Bus Station, otherwise try the City Bus Station (see #Get in).
- Chaung Tha & Ngwe Saung – Famous for its beaches. Pickups and buses take 1½ hr and cost about 3,500 kyat. Private taxis are around 30,000 kyat. The beach at Ngwe Saung is nice, but the locals that drive along them with their motorbike to offer transport and tours to tourists are a little off-putting. Do not expect many backpackers or many budget options.
- Ngapali – The same (regarding accommodation) can be said about Ngapali, but you might want to spend some time in one of the comfortable resorts there if you are not on your own. To get there, take a bus to Ngathaingchaung, which takes 3 hr, starts at 09:30 and costs 1,500 kyat from the Highway Bus Station. There are smaller pickups from the 3 bus stop just west of Paradise Hotel between Zay Chaung St and Myay Nu Rd that bring people to the Highway Bus Station for the Ngathaingchaung bus. In Ngathaingchaung, walk across the large bridge and about 300 m west until the end of the city, from where you can catch a direct AC bus to Ngapali. There are many passing by from Yangon, just hail at them. The second half of the trip toward the coast and along it are very exhausting due to the very bad and windy rood that sometimes only fits the bus itself. Expect to arrive between 19:00 and 21:00, and make sure you booked a hotel. There is no tourist accommodation available in Thandwe at the highway, only in Taungup, another 85 km north.
- Pyay – Famous for the nearby and ancient Pyu city. Mostly early morning buses. 10 hr, 6-10,000 kyat.
- Yangon – About 7 buses a day. 5 hr. 3,500-5,000 kyat.
The 4 Railway Station is in the eastern/southeastern part of the city. There is a train to Hinthada at 05:30, which takes about 6 hr and costs 2,000 kyat for upper class. Also Kyankin, the last stop near Pyay, is served from Pathein.