Burma On The Map

I rode back to the hotel in a buggy straight out of Cobb and Co, an old wooden mini stage coach. These are the usual method of transport in Pyin U Lwin unless you want to ride pillion on a motorbike.

At dusk I sat on the hotel balcony. The mosquitoes were very bad then and a waiter lit a repellent coil under my feet, which, combined with catnip drops behind the ears, helped to fend them off. Horse carts arrived at the hotel, delivering tourists back from day trips. The horses generally looked in good condition and well cared for, but I watched one poor little animal panting, recovering from the effort of drawing two great lumps of German womanhood up the hill slope.

The local fruit here is made into terrific juices so I ordered papaya juice with a shot of the ubiquitous Mandalay rum as a variation on the rum sour, and received a giggling response from the waiter.

Burma On The Map Photo Gallery

Next day I walked to Candacraig, where I had stayed on my first visit to Burma. Now closed, it had been privately run and was then taken over by the government who reputedly made a hash of managing it. It was now about to be resurrected by a local company. It was not far, and I made my way there along undulating forest-shaded roads. Every now and then I passed a big old European-style house that appeared quite out of place in Burma.

The exterior of Candacraig looked old and sad. Pine needles lay thick on the shingled roof and head-high weeds flourished where the once-lovely gardens had been. But flowers still struggled to push their blooms up among the weeds and inside the marvellous polished wooden floors still gleamed. A caretaker, on her knees busily shining them, smiled up at me. I walked slowly around the carriage drive, which years ago pony carts had trotted smoothly along; now it was rough and pitted with potholes.

Down the road a little I found a horse cart to take me to the town. Riding in one of these relics was rather like being in a rustic, rattly old hearse from the corpse’s point of view in the coffin. You can’t see out unless you lie down. The cart was covered overhead and all around except for glass-less windows low on the sides. And, surprisingly, instead of an aperture through which to see the driver ahead, there was a mirror. So you sat there with your travel-worn, frazzled face staring back at you. Not a morale booster.

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