Pyin U-Lwin to Hsipaw
After a twelve-hour rough bus ride during the night from Inle lake I arrived at six a´clock in the morning in Mandalay. I booked a seat in a shared taxi to Pyin U-Lwin for 6500 Kyats (about 5 US$). At nine o´clock the car filled up .with passengers. We left Mandalay in a white Toyota from the good old 1970s. The driver was a hotheaded man without any patience. He drove in a furious speed on the serpentine roads up into the mountains trying to overtake trucks in sharp bends but he usually failed and had to stop quickly. After a couple of hours driving the engine was exhausted and one could smell smoke in the car.
The driver went into a service station for much-needed rest for the passengers and the car, he filled up motor oil and petrol. An hour later we were on the road again. At lunch time the shared taxi pulled into Pyin U-Lwin and the heart rate could go down to normal.
Pyin U-Lwin (1070 m / 3510 ft elevation) is an old classic British hill station from the colonial times in Burma. Pleasant temperatures predominate even during the hot season and in the cold season there is no frost. Pyin U-Lwin offers a line of stylish former British country houses, rebuilt into small 6- to 8 room hotels. One of these jewels is Candacraig, a stylish and yet quite inexpensive hotel and a living museum as well. Every tourist going to Burma knows, one shouldn´t stay at governmental owned hotels, one shouldn´t use governmental services such as boats and trains. Lonely planet has been very successful in bringing this message out to the backpackers. I don´t read Lonely planet much nor do I always follow their travel rules. Candacraig is governmental owned and it was my first choice for the night in Pyin U-Lwin. The taxi pulled in at the entrance, I went into the reception asking for a room. The astonished receptionist couldn’t answer my question. A man standing right behind her said, well the hotel is empty, you can have any room you want. I would suggest one of the two best rooms on the second floor. I will cut the price to 42 US$/ night. I paid and took my luggage and went up to my room on the second floor, to sip in some old classic British colonial atmosphere.
I was the only tourist staying at Candacraig. This created problems since they there not used to accommodate any one at the hotel. They had to hire extra personal to clean the room and prepare breakfast. The manager hurried out from Pyin U-Lwin city centre to see who a hell was visiting the hotel? Did you expect a middle-aged man in military uniform as a hotel manager? Well, you are wrong, as so many times before a well dressed middle-aged woman was the governments manager. One can surprisingly often find women in leading positions in Burma, although the military is ruling the country. There are two more things one should do in Pyin U-Lwin. Stroll through the old city centre and visit an old café from colonial times and finish with a colorful horse-drawn carriage to your hotel.
I finished my travelling in Pyin U-Lwin with a horse-drown carriage from Candacraig hotel down to the train station. There is a railway line going from Mandalay up to Lashio between Pyin U-Lwin and Hsipaw the train is travelling over the famous Gokhteik Viaduct . This viaduct spans a ravine 300 m deep; when completed in 1903 it was considered a pioneering achievement in bridge-building. I booked a seat in first class to Hsipaw for 4 US$. The train should leave at 8:30 am and take six hours, but it arrived an hour late from Mandalay with a lot of people in the carriages. At Gokhteik the train made a break for about half an hour. It was possible to go to a viewing point and have a nice view of the south bound train when it was slowly crawling over Gokhteik Viaduct in 10 km/ h.
I arrived in Hsipaw in the late afternoon, my choice for the night was Nam Khae Mao guest house for 7 US$. This was a friendly, nice, clean guest house with hot shower in the room. I met the famous mr. Bean later in the evening. He said he was famous because he was in the Lonely Planet guidebook. He had got the name mr. Bean since he was selling beans on the market in Hsipaw, an english tourist created the name. He was well aware of Rowan Atkinson Mr. Bean movies. I paid Mr. Bean 7 US$ for one full day walking to small Chin villages outside Hsipaw. One of the people I met during the chin village tour was a peanut farmer who was a self-made electrical engineer. He had bought electrical equipment from China and created his own water power plant in a small stream. The man was very proud of his achievement and for good reasons. The government newspaper “Light on Myanmar” had an article on the front page about a newly built power plant it delivered power to 3000 bulbs and one TV-set. The military sent one of the highest generals to an opening ceremony!
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