Situated practically in the centre of Myanmar, approximately 1 ½ hours outside of the ancient city of Mandalay is the town of Pyin Oo Lwin. Pyin Oo Lwin, formerly known as Maymo, is home to a multicultural population of under 20,000 consisting of many ethnic Indians and Gurkhas who moved to the area during the British rule. The town is at the start of the Burma Road, which runs all the way from Mandalay up to the inland Chinese province of Kunming. The road played a vital role in transporting supplies up to China during World War II in an attempt to counter the invading Japanese, and is a great place to travel for those who want to learn more about the Burma during WWII and take in the breathtaking sights of one of the least-visited countries in Asia.
I was originally attracted to the idea of taking a guided tour of the Burma Road as I thought it would be a good chance to view the change of landscape change throughout the journey. I also had an onward overland journey planned from the border town of Muse to Shanghai. After spending a few days in Mandalay, I hit the road with my guide with my first stop being Pyin Oo Lwin. The journey from Mandalay to Pyin U Lwin was amazingly scenic, climbing to a height of 1100 metres, passing through coffee plantations, orchards, and vegetable gardens through my ascent into Pyin U Lwin.
As the car pulled into Pyin Oo Lwin, I was greeted with the familiar site of old British colonial buildings. It was honestly like going back years in time, with old-fashioned horse and carts transporting locals and goods throughout the town. Given the central location and the altitude above sea level, the air in Pyin Oo Lwin was mild in temperature and had a fresh feeling about it. As I passed through the centre of town, I could have sworn I was in a small village somewhere in England. I dropped my bags off at the Governor’s House Pyin Oo Lwin, where I would be staying for a night, before heading continuing my way along the Burma Road.
One of the sights that I was excited about seeing was the renowned colonial style Candacraig Hotel, built by the British Bombay Burma Timber Company for their expatriates. I found out it is the oldest hotel in Myanmar built in 1904. And the lovely Kandawgyi Botanical Garden... Already the town itself had a wonderful greenness about it, but I was excited at the prospect of witnessing this amazing site. I walked around the gardens, seeing flowers all colours of the rainbow. My next stop in town was the Church of Immaculate Conception to witness some of the incredible architecture before the opportunity to take some photos in the main street of town. I was mesmerised by the absolute contrasts in the town. East meets west, old and new. It was absolutely incredible. After a day of exploring this remarkable place, I, as the next morning I would take to the road once again on my way to the border town of Muse.
Pyin Oo Lwin, 26 November 2009