PyinOoLwin

By U Win Sein

PyinOoLwin boasts a diverse array of exotic trees and flowers, creating enticing flower gardens like Cherry City and Flower City, while its fertile soil has led to its transformation into a thriving Coffee City.

PyinOoLwin was founded as a British Hill Station with a name as “Maymyo”. The name Maymyo translated as “ May Town” came from Colonel May of the 5th Bengal Regiment, who in 1866 established the town as a holiday location for the British Army Officers based in Mandalay.
Today, it has become an increasingly popular weekend getaway destination for the country’s expanding middle class. Due to its moderately cool climate, even other wealthy families moved there to settle down permanently to enjoy the wholesome benefits of the surrounding environment.
Cool all year round
The town is situated on the cool Shan Plateau, about  42  miles northeast of the old Nay Pyi Taw in Mandalay Region. PyinOoLwin is cool all year round, and many old colonial houses and office buildings remain to have a central fireplace for warmth throughout the colder months.
The land around PyinOoLwin is extremely fertile; therefore, plums, pineapples, damsons and strawberries are most suitable for all to grow here on an industrial scale.
There is also a  handsome variety of exotic trees and flowers, with their smell that alluring efforts to attract people to shape into flower gardens with beautiful names such as Cherry City and Flower City.
The other benefit awarded to the relentless business people is the development of PyinOoLwin into a Coffee City on the fact that its soil is most suitable for growing coffee trees.
The hope for the emergence of increasing coffee production in the coming five to seven years is based upon the business persons who are enthusiastic to start managing coffee production systematically.
There, the eucalyptus plants are rife with full blossom, so the town is often referred to as “Pan-Myo-Daw”, meaning City of Flowers. Adventurous visitors travelling from Mandalay to PyinOoLwin can wait on the side of 34th Street and listen to the cries of  “Maymyo Maymyo” so as to hail a  pickup truck to ascend to the famous Burma Road, which was of such strategic importance to China together with the West during the Burma campaign in World War ll.
Taking refreshments
Alternatively, one can reach Maymyo Town by bus, train,  taxi or private car. At the 21-Mile Station halfway up, one can stop to enjoy the view of Mandalay City below and take refreshments at the various food stalls.
Beside hailing a taxi or renting a bicycle, visitors to PyinOoLwin can get around the town by horse and cart, referred to locally as “wagons”. Though one may at first believe these to be purely a touristic mode of transport, these wagons have actually been around PyinOoLwin since colonial times and today, now known to all the brightly-painted cart led by a horse with its head garlanded in petals.
One is more likely to see the smart Burmese cadets from the PyinOoLwin Town’s elite Maymyo Military Academy around the town than the usual tourists. Many visitors embark upon one of the famous Burma Railway tours, taking the Mandalay-Lashio train into Shan State over the Gokhteik Viaduct and trekking in Hsipaw is the most adventurous.
British colonial presence
The British colonial presence remains at Pyin Oo Lwin in the form of a variety of well-preserved colonial buildings and a Botanical Garden with flowerbeds identical to those found in a traditional English country garden.
The gardens were laid out by the former Governor of Burma, Sir Harcourt Butler and designed by  Mr Alex Rodger of the Forest Office in 1915-modelled on the fashion of Kew Garden just outside London.
They are now called the  “Kandawgyi National Botanical Garden”. Little tribute was paid to its origins, and a large plaque informing visitors, which the government minister to thank for the recent renovations, which have spruced up in front of the ground and added a handful of other attractions.
The Garden is huge  (342 acres), but it is. It is possible to hire a cart to explore it in comfort, visiting features such as the petrified wood museum, orchid garden, walk-in aviary, and view the town.
The Pwegauk Waterfall is well worth a visit, as are the Peikchin-Myaung Caves, only 15 miles away and Anisakan Falls on the way back to Mandalay.
Visiting Maymyo in 1950,  the travel writer Norman Lewis compared the English and French methods of colonial adoption of Southeast Asia. In contrast, Lewis found the French could achieve “an acceptable practice” in the Vietnamese town of Dalat. He found the “well-ordered surroundings of Maymgo, too.
British, describing it as “ very clean”, hard-working, hardworking-playing nationals are slightly timid. Journalist Andrew Marshall was similarly underwhelming when he arrived in the 1990s, writing that much of the town”.
Red-brick mansions
The British put up street after street of red-brick mansions with mock Tudor facades and strategic private hedges – middle-class dream homes rising from the jungles of Southeast Asia. The houses looked unpleasant, and cycling past their choking weekend driveways felt eerie.
Sparkling clean Chelsea Tractors roll through the front gate of which the prime families in their Sunday finest, with barely longyi or streak of Thanaka in sight; there are signs around the park prohibiting the chewing of betelnuts; however, one imagines that the “no” sign in PyinOoLwin for them to be tempted to accuse that such sign a filthy habit anyway.
In the town, visitors can pop into boulangeries and fine liquor stores and visit the Purcell Clock Tower, the chimes like Big Ben on the hour. Outside  the centre is  the Candacra Hotel, the finest piece of colonial architecture in PyinOoLwin.
Candacraig served us as a hospital during World War Two and, before that, was a residence for the bachelors employed by the Burmah Trading Company, dubbed the Raj Chummey by Paul Theroux when he visited for his book The Great Railway Bazaar in 1970.
For years, the hotel was closed and believed to be haunted by ghosts. Through journeys from Lonon to Kyoto, he was shocked by the change that time had wrought on the world. Not so in Burma, where the lack of change was “ Shameful to behold”.

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