I can't see a package tour bus pulling up in Pathein any time soon. This town is famous for its umbrella workshops, but most check those out while on Inle Lake. I'll tell you right away we have not made it to any of those either. Instead we've used Pathein as a short stop over to break the journey to Yangon and get off the pancake trail for a couple days.
We have found a cheap (and unimpressive) guesthouse on Jail Road. Next to a giant jail as you might have guessed it. But that wasn't the qhighlight of the visit. In fact there are not too many highlights to a Pathein visit. The town is set on Pathein river and the banks are pretty exotic as is the markets next to the river. People are extremely friendly and curious about foreign visitors and this was enough for me to make the stop worthy. The town is rustic and gritty enough to make it a good stop. If you get tired of 'life' there is still the Shwemokhtaw Paya, umbrella workshops and the colourful evening market on the riverside. We were lucky enough to be invited to an equivalent of a local 'Pathein's got talent', which was fun to watch, but admittedly we couldn't wait to bail. Besides a lucky coincidence was the preparations for Chinese New Year in the week running up to the event, so we encountered colourful jumping, dancing paper dragon creatures on a few occasions.
As I mentioned, Pathein is sort of off the tourist map, yet being in the middle of the way from Yangon to beach destinations, it attracts a trickle of tourists. Luckily this was nothing like Bagan or Inle Lake, but Pathein being the most important delta port outside of Yangon with its particular attractions, this is surely to change.