Discovering Pyin Oo Lwin - Myanmar's Highland City of Flowers
STORY: To be blunt about it, when i traveled to Pyin Oo Lwin, that was the first time i felt i was really traveling to the heart of Myanmar. Two weeks have passed and i have visited Yangon, Bagan and Inle Lake. Yet, when i first stepped out of the bus at Pyin Oo Lwin, i was suddenly high on spirit again. I put on my best jacket, puffed a cigarette as the bus stopped in front of a military camp. There i was, totally clueless where to go, but the adrenaline in me was really pumping. I hitched a ride on a motorbike looking for a place to stay. This is the kind of destination that rings a bell in my head.
When you're traveling independently, you need to be practical about things. You need to find a place to stay that is cost efficient and right smacked in the middle of many things happening. In short, i needed to find a good place to stay.
After visiting three hotels that were okay with me but seemed too far from the center, i told my motor driver to bring me nearest to the clock. I've read about it before arriving. The long, arduous sleeper bus made me decide where to go next. Of course, the clock is not just any clock. It's the clock of Purcell Tower built in 1934 by Gillete and Johnson Co. in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of the reign of King George V of Britain. I checked in at a hotel called Golden Dream which was really short in appearance if you're considering the name. Yet, when i arrived at the hotel, i looked outside and saw the Purcell Tower right in front of me. You know me, the view comes first.
The rest of the days, it felt as if i was really digesting little by little the culture of Myanmar. One of the side streets was a significant Muslim community who thrive peacefully with their neighboring Buddhists. I would walk up north to find a cafe that serves fantastic bread. Bread in Pyin Oo Lwin is a specialty, and hot dough is perfect for an afternoon break. On some days, i would walk towards south and visit a Hindu Shrine dedicated to my favorite god - Shiva. Although dogs barking loudly made the trip nerve-wracking, it's still a fun experience. My wake up call every day is the stinging sound of the clock every hour from 6 o'clock onwards.
You see, Pyin Oo Lwin, is not as popular as the capital city Yangon, nor the famous temple place Bagan, and not even near the charisma of Inle Lake. But its rich history as Britain's former colony region and home to the Indian Army, and its high elevation hill station location, make any traveler giggle in excitement traveling to this side of Myanmar. Because of its location, fresh organic vegetables and fruits like strawberry are a specialty. In addition, coffee is also one of the city's prime export produce.
The sight of a Gharry or Victorian-inspired horse carriage evokes a feel of timeless elegance that Pyin Oo Lwin is all about. On my first few days, i would pass by a couple of men asking if i wanted to ride, but i always politely decline. A few days before i left, i knew i had to ride it for experience. To tell you honestly, i wish i rode it earlier so i have more time in the carriage.
I spent about half a week in Pyin Oo Lwin doing the same thing over and over again. Yet, it didn't feel as if i was taking too long time. And if you ask me, which of the places i mentioned earlier that i liked the most, it's this city. No doubt.