The colonial hill station of Pyin U Lwin was a summer retreat during British rule, its altitude (1070m) and relatively cool climate allowing the British ruling class to escape the fearsome heat of Mandalay and lower Myanmar. Then it was called Maymyo (meaning ‘May’s town’ in Burmese, after a British colonel who was stationed there), and is still sometimes referred to by that name.
Although sadly now blighted by some modern building development (the Shan hill station of Kalaw perhaps holds more of its original character), Pyin U Lwin’s colonial legacy still holds the key to the the town’s charm, and the surrounding area offers plenty to explore.
Pyin U Lwin’s beautiful botanical gardens are unique in Myanmar and it does retain a number of characteristic examples of 19th century country houses, some of which are now hotels – the most famous of which is probably The Candacraig (now called the Thiri Myaing Hotel), a colonial mansion built in 1904 and described in some detail by Paul Theroux in The Great Railway Bazaar.
To this day, colourful wooden horse-drawn wagons are one of the primary forms of transport around town.
The botanical gardens – officially National Kandawgyi Gardens – were opened in 1915 and contain a wide variety of colourful flora, as well as a viewing platform with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside (entry fee $5). You can get to the gardens by horse carriage or motorcycle taxi for K1000, or alternatively take a long walk.
From Pyin U Lwin, you can take a motorcycle taxi (K1500) to nearby scenic waterfalls, lagoons and pagodas. These are pleasant places to relax and while away an afternoon – and you will find local bar/restaurants for refreshment. Bicycles can be hired at most guest houses and hotels, which gives you the flexibility to get around town and see the surrounding country at your own pace.
The Peik Chin Myaung cave is one of the most attractive in Myanmar, featuring colourful Buddhist scenes, a large number of shrines and a picturesque waterfall at its entrance. It can be found approximately 20km to the east of Pyin U Lwin off the road to Lashio.
The Pyin U Lwin hot air balloon festival takes place in mid-November. It is similar, but smaller in scale, to the festival in Taunggyi, which takes place at the same time of year.
For a wider selection of photos from Pyin U Lwin, go to our Flickr photo album.
Taking the train from Pyin U Lwin to the scenic and laid-back town of Hsipaw (or further on to Lashio) makes for one of Myanmar’s most fascinating journeys, taking in the northern Shan hills and the famous Gokteik Gorge and viaduct. For more information on this route and rail travel in Myanmar, go here.
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Thursday 21 August