Phayo, Franche-Compte, Elounda, Jum

The Road to Mandalay is Empty

The road to Mandalay is eerily empty, and the amber-tinted bus windows add an apocalyptic touch to the deserted landscape. To call traffic sparse, on this main highway between the country’s two biggest cities, would be a major understatement. A car or bus every four, five minutes, a handful of motorcycles and 5 oxcarts enliven the 8 hour drive thru dusty scrubland. Rarely, an elegant faded pagoda hints at wonders hidden in the sunburned emptiness. And wonders abound, it just takes some working around the rough edges to find them….

Mandalay Street Scene

We all weathered an early bout of “digestive disruption”, felt terrible holed up in a sorry excuse for a hotel room, with no bathroom. So after a let’s-be-easy-on-ourselves taxi excursion from Mandalay to Sagaing, Awa and Amarapura, we retired to the hills, in tried and true colonial tradition, for rest and recuperation.

The sky is blue in Pwin Oo Lwin, the air is crisp and nature thrives at 1300 m above sea-level. The British certainly carved a comfortable niche for themselves here. We have them to thank for the magnificent Botanical Gardens,

Kandawgi Gardens

a smattering of picturesque tin-roofed mansions spread throughout the town and the Cinderella-esque carriages that still ply the streets:

Pyin OO Lwin Carriage

The town waterfall Pwe Kauk is fun for people watching

Monks, Pwe Gauk

and there’s a pool big enough for swimming at the bottom of Aniskan Falls, around 16 km from town. Cycling is a viable way of getting around, motorbikes are readily available for about 7000 Kyat/day and there’s even a train station and a golf course!

All this makes Pyin Oo Lwin a sweet place to spend a few days. It’s also the gateway to the mountainous valley that lead toward Lashio and the Chinese border.

An especially kindly-looking Takin at the gardens. (Don’t worry, I didn’t know what a Takin is either…..)


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