In the town I met a girl I had spoken to in passing the day before a poet from Luxembourg. I stopped and had some local coffee with her while she read me the poem that she had just written in the botanical gardens.
Another horse cart took me back to the hotel, this time by a different route that I think was not so steep for the horse. On the way we passed a Hindu temple, a large Christian church, a pagoda and a Chinese Buddhist temple. A mosque occupies a dominant position in the main street. Pyin U Lwin’s Hindu and Muslim populations are descendants of the Indian workers brought here to work on the construction of the town and the railway.
That night the rum got lost in translation and I ended up with straight papaya juice. Or was it that they were trying to keep me wholesome?
Burma On World Map Photo Gallery
The bus to Nay Pyi Taw left at 10.30 in the morning and I was the only foreigner on it. At first it was cold as we came down through the mountains, which were green but not forested. I wondered if all the trees were in the temples I had seen. The mountainsides were covered in low scrub, creepers and bushes. I saw that horses were still used as transport in the villages and towns we passed through down as far as Mandalay.
We didn’t go into Mandalay but veered off on a side road. The bus stopped after a couple of hours and I bought a packet of chips and ate the banana sandwich I had made in the hotel from the breakfast provisions. After we came down onto the plain and the sun was on my window it began to get warmer.
I didn’t know that this bus did not terminate at Nay Pyi Taw and goodness knows where I would have ended up if I had not suspected that we had arrived. Hanging out of the window, I asked, Nay Pyi taw?’ It was. I took a proffered taxi whose driver quoted me a price that I thought excessive until I saw how far we had to travel to the hotel I had phoned ahead for a room. I was stunned by the distance between places in the town. Even though I had read about this, the reality was a shock. And what ran continually through my mind as we drove endlessly through empty spaces was why? What reason could there have been to build a city like this? They could have taken notice of Colonel William Light’s great plan of the city of Adelaide, still lovely and functional after one hundred and seventy seven years. Built on a square mile grid with a mile of public parkland all around it, it is a very sensible city.