Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pyin oo Lwin

Our day was dedicated to driving to the Hill Station of Pyin oo Lwin about 70km outside Mandalay.  It was popular in colonial times to get away from the heat of the valley below. At $88 for a driver for the day it was an expensive day, but something we wanted to see as a contrast to rest of Burma.

The road was good and the road for each direction was separated by land/trees in between. This worked well given the need for people to overtake and this meant they weren't crossing into the opposing traffic as per normal. Our driver said it was "China road" and we haven't yet determined if it is merely the road to China or it is Chinese funded. There was certainly plenty of trade by ferried up and down the road.

The vehicle had natural air-con i.e. we drove with the windows down. And as we climbed into the hills we could feel the air getting cooler as we went.

Our first stop was the Kandawgyi National Gardens. Started in 1924 they had a good layout and collection of plants. There was still some room for further improvement of facilities, but we enjoyed the swamp walk, the pine gardens, and generally the whole establishment.

Botanic Gardens

The walk in aviary was good, except for the large billed bird that hopped along the railing and got rather too close for my liking. I believe the Burmese family in there at the same time understood my "No, no, no, no, no" as he hopped closer, without any need for translation.

birds

The orchid collection would have been lovely, except 99% of the were bare rootstock, it isn't the flowering season.

orchids2

Lunch was at the lakeside Feel cafe. We had a nice meal at a reasonable price. In the ladies toilet there was a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his body building pose circa 1980s and in the men's there was a few pictures of pin-up girls. Burma always has a little surprise for us.

In the guidebook it had said Pyin oo Lwin was experiencing a renaissance with Nouveau Riche returning to it's cooler temps as a holiday destination. However walking around the city centre there was little evidence of much catering to this. There were a number of British Colonial style buildings but all in all not overly atmospheric.

buildings

The military have training facilities here and certainly the entrance signs were impressive. We had read about industrial facilities being set up here, but that they were still just shells and facades, awaiting the lifting of economic sanctions they want to become cyber industrial estates.

military

Back in Mandalay we wandered down 84th street to find a supposed gaggle of restaurants around 23rd street. We ended up at a BBQ restaurant as we could sit outside and watch the world go by. In the couple of hours we sat there were 2 motorbike collisions (no major damage or injury) and general intersection chaos. We had BBQ garlic, BBQ Chicken and BBQ potatoes for dinner. The potatoes were so good we had a 2nd plate. Numerous Beers and food totalled 12,000 ky

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