Pyin Oo Lwin

 

Named by the British as Maymyo, after Colonel (later Major General) James May of the 5th Bengal Infantry, Maymyo was once a staunch stronghold for British traditions and eccentricities. Located in the Shan Highlands, some 67 kilometres to the east of Mandalay, it was established as a summer capital for the colonial overlords at the latter end of the 19th century. Decades of British influence turned this lush corner of Central Burma into a little slice of Middle England and today many of the former colonial mansions have been renovated by rich Chinese merchants reviving memories of that bygone age. The cool, clean air makes the town a refreshingly elegant destination to escape the heat and humidity of the summer and the town’s wonderful botanical gardens provide a blaze of colour amongst the verdant green of the surrounding hills. Home to a thriving Eurasian community, the town is one of the most unique in Burma, with its distinctive horse-drawn carriages providing the means of exploring its historic heart.

Once the summer capital of the Raj in Burma, Pyin U Lwin retains some of the 'hill station' look that cities like Darjeeling and Simla in India used to have in the 1960s and 1970s. Because of its history as a summer capital and a military centre of the Indian Army during British times, it has both a large Indian population and strong Anglo-Burmese and Anglo-Indian communities. As a town near the border of China, many Chinese people are also settling down in this pleasant hill town. It is also an important market centre for goods from the Shan State and Kachin territories and an important military base. At an elevation of 1070 metres above sea level, there is an abundance of flowers, strawberries, and coffee beans, that make it a diverse place to visit.

Pyin U Lwin is relatively free of the ubiquitous pagodas. Some colonial Tudor style houses still stand (mostly around the National Kandawgyi Gardens), albeit in poor condition, and walking around is an interesting way to see how the Raj lived. There are many churches as well, the oldest dating back to about 1910.

 

Hotel Pyin Oo Lwin on TripAdvisor and 7.9 on Booking. A nice resort layout and nice villa bedrooms, but missing out on the detail. The resort is like a small village, with a winding road leading to the villas. Each villa is split into two large individual hotel rooms. The rooms are very comfortable, well designed and charming. The only problems are that the safe did not work, and, even if it had done, was more complicated than anything else I have seen in a hotel. And the wood fire, which we would have liked to have used, was for display only.

We did have a noise problem at 6.30 am ; departing guests were taking photos of themselves and shouting at each other. I was annoyed enough to get out of bed and admonish them in English "Don't you know what time it is" and the answer came back in broken English "It is 6.30". The pool is a disaster, under netting, not atmospheric and not very inviting. Even my wife, who appears to swim anywhere, declined to enter here.

The reception was decidedly unfriendly. And the restaurant was middle of the road - given the location of the restaurant on an unlit road, you cannot walk anywhere else at night, though I think you can get transport to another restaurant owned by the same people. They could make this one of the great hotels in the town, if they only got in a progressive manager to improve the detail.

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The Carriage Ride. Our tour included a carriage ride. Neither of us was impressed by the surly driver and his mangy horse. We were trotted round the old "colonial" houses of the town, but it was difficult to see anything from inside the carriage. Among others we saw, The Candacraig - a colonial mansion built as a guest house of The Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation in 1904. Made famous by Paul Theroux in The Great Railway Bazaar, it is a place to stop and see how the colonials lived. For the last couple of years the property has been abandoned and the mansion is falling into disrepair. As of April 2015, the mansion was said to be under renovation, but in March 2017 we saw no sign of any work going on. While it is possible to enter the property, the access into the house itself is forbidden. From the outside, it is possible to see an old table tennis table that was used back in the colonial days. Other colonial houses remade into government run hotels include The Croxton and Craddock Court.

In 2013 the Government auctioned off these three properties to be run by private enterprise, but as far as I can see, to date, no new hotel has been opened on any of these sites.

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Anglican Church
Craddock Court
Croxton
Governor's house
Candacraig

 

National Kandawgyi Gardens are particularly lovely. They were established in 1915 by Alex Rodger as the Maymyo Botanical Gardens. The gardens have a rich and diverse collection of flora, including many English plant varieties, and are without a doubt among the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world. The original site was 30 acres, and was modeled after the Kew Gardens of England with the help of an amateur gardener called Lady Cuffe. In 1917, the government granted it official recognition, and in 1924, the site was declared a Government Botanical Reserve. On 1 December 1942, the Ministry of Forestry designated the Botanical Gardens a "protected forest area". On 1 December 2000, Gen Than Shwe renamed it "Kandawgyi National Gardens". It has been used to promote extensive ecotourism in Burma

A rose garden, a stupa in the middle of a pond, an aviary, and an orchid garden are amongst the highlights. The park includes a bird area with an impressive collection of exotic species.

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Pan Taw Win Cafe. This cafe is on a main road, and easy to find. Its two great plus points are the setting and the cakes/coffee. The photos below give you an idea of the setting. Being a plant nursery, the cafe looks out onto sculpted grounds with lots of greenery. A large selection of cakes are on display, and you need just to point to what you want. A choice of coffees, which I understand come from their own plantation. The staff were "neutral", neither friendly nor unfriendly. Friendly staff probably would have improved our experience.

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We were only staying in Pyin Oo Lwin for one night, so it was an early start the next morning to drive to Mandalay and catch the boat to Bagan

 

On to Boat down the River to Bagan

Burma Holiday