Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Day 6 - January 11, 2008 - Mandalay to Pyin U Lwin

Day 6 - January 11, 2008 - Mandalay to Pyin U Lwin

To and Around Pyin U Lwin
(pronounced like "pying oo lwing")

Up at 6:45 and downstairs for b-fast @ 7:05: bananas, toast, juice, fried eggs, and coffee.

Finished packing, brushed teeth, toilet, etc., and checked out @ 7:55. Paid bill of $95 (US Dollars) for the room and 100 kyat for a phone call and 14,000 kyat (about $6 each) for the shared taxi to Pyin U Lwin. We paid the hotel for the shared taxi. Not sure how money gets to the driver or his company.

The Shared Taxi is a Toyota Corolla Wagon with right-hand-side steering - guess it came from Japan - even though Myanmar drives on the right side (left-hand-side steering wheel). Made a pickup east of Mandalay Palace - a woman and two, small, very well behaved children.

Gassed up on the outskirts of town after driving through some typical third-world rush hour traffic; lots of bicycles and motorbikes, all going in to Mandalay as we were headed out east on the main road into town.

The gas-up was novel to say the least. Gasoline is poured into a gallon container set on a stand. The container has a filter - like a big coffee filter - and gravity does the rest. Take a look at this video.


 The ride to Pyin U Lwin - a former British Hill Station named Maymyo - took about 1.5 hours; slowly uphill at first, then a section of switch backs, some rolling hills, then a few more switchbacks, then into town. The roads were good, not 100% smooth, but no potholes and with a decent shoulder. For the switchback sections there was actually two distinct roads; one for uphill, one for downhill, separated by a huge natural "median". Very safe. We followed another shared taxi most of the way whose driver paid the 3 tolls for both vehicles. Two of the "tolls" were just a guy in the road next to a shed, but one was a real tollbooth with gates and an LED sign that said 100 Ks as we passed. Sun-Ling listened to music stored on her cell phone while I watched the driver and the scenery.

As the steering wheel is on the right-hand side, the driver has to be especially cautious - and ours was - while overtaking traffic on a two-lane road. We passed tanker trucks, bullock carts with hay, and school kids walking or biking. Entered Pyin U Lwin, dropped off the woman and kids, and after passing a golf course, we were dropped off at the Royal View Hotel.

 Now, for a very detailed description of our room, #201 at Royal Parkview Hotel No. 107 Lanthaya St Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar Ph 085-22641 / 21905 email: #201 is a Standard Room The normal price in $30 US for a double (breakfast included). They offered $28 as a discount, we countered with $25 which was accepted. Maybe we could have gotten $20 as we appeared to be the only people in the place - well there was one set of golf clubs on the veranda so maybe there is one other person. [They also have Deluxe Rooms with bathtubs.] Room #201 has
  • Wood floors and a high ceiling
  • Twin beds with crispy clean sheets, extra blankets and a night stand between them
  • TV with ESPN and Cinemax plus Myanmar channels
  • Writing desk w/light and chair - very nice
  • Wardrobe, fridge, ceiling fan, and wall exhaust fan
  • 2 sitting chairs and a small table
  • Large bathroom with shower only, nice sink, western toilet, and very luxurious white bath towels and hand towels
  • Hot water in thermos, loose tea in plastic bags, and 3-in-1 coffe mix
  • Complementary apples
  • Flip-flips and minibar
  • Small veranda outside by the front door
Room #201 - Royal Parkview Hotel - Pyin U Lwin, Myanmar

 It's definitely cooler in Pyin Oo Lwin than Mandalay. You want to be sitting in the sun in the mornings with long sleeves, long pants and jacket to ward off the chill. Set out at 11:30 or so to explore town using the map given to us by the nice English speaking young lady at the front desk. She marked the Main Market and the Golden Triangle Bakery (run by Americans). The RPV hotel is on the south end of town - at least a 30 minute walk from downtown - but Sun-Ling observed that it really had the Hill Station vibe; that is, laid back, quiet, and good service.

 Walked to the Market, passing some Colonial buildings. A beautiful walk; sunny, just a few clouds, and 70 F. Continued through the market, made a wrong turn, but bought 6 samosa and fried dough w/filling from a local shop. Then headed east to Mandalay Road and finally found the Golden Triangle Bakery. The menu was Coffee, Pizza, Pastries, Juice, etc. Bought a baguette and Danish for 700 Kyat. Oh, the samosas had already been devoured. Later, when we ate the Danish, Sun-Ling suspected that it was made from goat butter as it was buttery and not too sweet.

 Left Golden Tri at 12:35 and made it back to RPH at 1:00 Pm - longer walk than expected. Grabbed our swim gear, water, flashlights, towels, extra shirts, guidebooks and headed south on foot - 45 minutes - to the National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens: admission $4 US per person plus 1000 Kyat camera fee. It's a very, very, nice, beautiful, well-maintained botanical garden, built in the early 20th Century. Right inside the entrance is an L-shaped swimming pool that did not look inviting enough for a dip at 70 F. At 20 degrees hotter I would have been in. Spent almost 4 hrs in the gardens. Highlights:
  • Eating our Danish by the lake
  • The Orchid Garden
  • Pagoda Pond with swans
  • Arranged tulips and cymbidiums
  • All the lakes
  • Blue delphiniums
  • Red and yellow poinsettias trees
  • Rain Forrest elevated walk (5 meters high)
  • Seeing an elephant
  • Aviary with Great Hornbill
  • Rock garden and swamp garden
  • Bamboo groves
  • Fishtail Palm Tree
After all that activity, we were beat and ready to pay for transport back to town but none of the traditional Pyin U Lwin Horse Carts were to be found so we hoofed on back to the hotel and marched directly to the dining room: fried peanuts + 2 bowls of veggie noddle soup + hand cut ridged french fried potatoes + large Myanmar Beer for 7500 Kyat, our most expensive meal in Myanmar so far.

 SLHOTD: Great Hornbills kissing (John has video to prove it)
 JHOTD: Gassing up

The Market
   Pyin U Lwin, Myanmar (Burma)

Colonial Era Church
 Pyin U Lwin, Myanmar (Burma)

Relaxing at the National Botanical Gardens. National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens - Pyin U Lwin, Myanmar (Burma)

  More of the Botanical Gardens. National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens - Pyin U Lwin - Myanmar (Burma)

  The Great Hornbill (photo now - video to be inserted later). Great Hornbill - Pyin U Lwin - Myanmar (Burma)

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