Pyin U Lwin and Hispaw

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Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region » Pyin U Lwin
February 13th 2011
Published: March 9th 2011
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We left the hotel about 4pm and got lucky by catching a pickup straight away to take us the 7 kilometres to the junction where we would catch our bus to Mandalay. We had something to eat and drink at a tea shop and then played pool for an hour while waiting for the bus. The 4 of us had decided that once we got to Mandalay that we would catch another as soon as possible to Pyin U Lwin. We arrived at the bus station in Mandalay about 4.30am and asked many people where we catch the bus to Pyin U Lwin which they all told us there was no bus from there. So we eventually gave up and got a taxi to where the driver said the bus would be. He dropped us off in the centre of the city right next to a pickup, and told us this was the bus. After a little deliberation we decided to take the pickup as it looked like our simplest option from where we were and it was quite cheap at $1.80 each for the 2 hour trip. They told us we had time to go to a tea shop and get a much needed coffee because I had only slept for about an hour on the bus and I needed something to wake me up. We left at 6.30am and it was a surprisingly enjoyable trip with locals hopping on and off. After about an hour the pickup filled up so I decided to ride on the roof with Nicholas the rest of the way which was quite refreshing.

We got into town and after looking around for 20 minutes got quite a nice hotel to stay at for $13 a night. The town itself was once a British hill station and there are still a few old buildings from that time dotted about. The weather there is pretty good, warm to hot in the day and cool at night. There is also a very large military academy here so you see a lot of men in different army uniforms around town. It also seems to attract quite a few rich locals with quite a few very big houses about. As I was walking around in the afternoon I noticed about 200 motorbikes lined up in four rows under some trees on one side of the main road. As I got closer I realised that they were queuing up for the petrol station on the other side of the road. Although I was told they had to wait about an hour and a half each to get to the front of the line there was no pushing in or arguments which says a lot about the temperament of these people. As I was walking away I also saw a line of cars on the side of a different road that stretched for about 400 metres also waiting for fuel. A unique thing about this town is that they have horse and carriages as transport. It is about $1 for a trip across town. There are quite a few different transport options in Myanmar and although some look touristy they are real forms of transport that mainly locals use. The other attraction that Pyin U Lwin has is a decent golf course. So on the second day I played a round of golf and had to hire a caddy (who didn’t speak English) and the 4 left hand clubs that they had available. I played very poorly but did fluke a birdie on one of the par threes. Both nights we were there we ate a very small family restaurant that serves southern Indian food. It is hidden in one of the back streets and looks like a family home with a couple of tables. You also watch the grandmother sitting on the floor preparing your food in a very dirty looking room. The food itself was absolutely delicious and I highly recommend it to anyone coming here. Both nights we were there we were the only customers.

The next day I decided to catch the train to Hispaw. Although the train takes longer than the bus I wanted to see a bridge that the British had built across Gokteik gorge, the longest and oldest in Myanmar. I took the horse and carriage ride to the train station and then bought my $5 upper class ticket. There were a few tourists in my carriage but I was sitting with a group of locals and tried to communicate with them through the aid of a monk who had sat next to me. After about an hour the monk got off and we struggled to communicate at all. The bridge itself was fairly impressive with good views. Once we got to the other side of the bridge the people I was sitting with eagerly mimed that there was a tunnel coming up. The conductor then proceeded to turn the lights in the carriages on. Whilst we were in the tunnel people were calling out the train for the echo and everyone was very excited. After about 100 0r 200 meters we were out of the tunnel and back in sunlight. It was obviously a big deal for the locals which was quite cute in a way.

The train ride lasted about 7 hours and I got to Hispaw in the late afternoon. I found some cheap accommodation for $5 a night and then ran into a couple of Canadians, Jessie and Hillary who I had done the boat trip with in Inle. We then went out and grabbed some street food for dinner. Next day I had a look around town but struggled to find a couple of the tourist sights such as the popcorn factory. It is quite an interesting town though and wherever you wander something interesting will be going on. Once you are out of the big four tourist areas such as Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan, and Inle you will struggle to see many tourists. Towns like Hispaw, Kalaw, and Pyin U Lwin would probably only have 30-40 foreigners staying each day. Jessie, Hillary, and I booked a jeep ride up to the mountain town of Namhsan for the following day.

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