Burma On Map

Maymyo, now Pyin U Lwin, was a British hill station established on the site of a small village in 1896 as a place for the colonial government administration to escape the heat of the plains. After the railway from Mandalay was completed it became the British summer capital until the end of British rule in 1948. It is a delightful little town, famous for its colonial houses, great fruit and vegetables, jams and juices and the National Kandawgyi Gardens. Established in 1915, the gardens cover 176 hectares and have 480 species of plants.

That evening I dined in solitary splendour in the hotel restaurant. Seeing rum sour on the drinks menu at one dollar fifty, I asked to try it. This caused an excited twenty minutes of flurried to-ing and fro-ing between the kitchen and the desk before it arrived, in a very fancy cocktail glass, although without the standard paper umbrella that came with ordinary fruit juice.

That night I had a wonderful sleep. It was so very quiet here. During the night it rained heavily and in the morning I went walking to the town in the cool, fresh air. It was a fair distance but the road sloped gently downhill and was shaded by a canopy of big trees. Undergrowth and greenery lined the edge of the road I ambled along, admiring the trees and flowers. Then a motorbike went past and the rider yelled a word twice and pointed to the road in front of me. There, slithering sinuously with evil intent across the road directly before my feet, was a snake about seven feet long. It was thin and shiny-black, so I know it was not a python. It was probably one of Burma’s numerous deadly lot that I had read about. I waited for it to disappear into the undergrowth and from then on paid serious attention to where I was putting my bare, sandal-clad toes. Tomorrow I will wear boots, I vowed.

Burma On Map Photo Gallery

When I reached the town it seemed much bigger than I remembered. It even had a stop light now. I walked along the main street, the centre of which is dominated by a clock tower that was a present from Queen Victoria. I found a bank with a decent exchange rate for the US dollar. I was served by two charming boys and checked out the price of gold in the goldsmith workshops. I visited the market that sprawls over a large area close to the main street where stalls were piled high with local specialties fruit, jams and organic coffee from the Shan hills. Several old people asked me for money, some of whom seemed to be Shan. I bought a small light. The Royal Park Hotel was great but the lights were up, fourteen feet away, in the ceiling.

At the Tourist Information Office, I found a woman who was most obliging, contrary to reports that say these places are most often useless. She took me next door to a bus office and helped me buy a ticket on something that previously I had been told by several people didn’t exist a daytime bus to Nay Pyi Taw. I wanted to go there next but had been offered the options only of a night bus or of going back to Mandalay and starting from there. The moral of this is you need to ask many people to find the correct answer.

Nay Pyi Taw, which means royal capital, is Myanmar’s new capital city that the government in its wisdom decided to create in 2005, supposedly on the advice of their official fortune teller.

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