Dusty Lanes and Colonial Grandeur: Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar
Horse Carriages and Dusty Streets
The colonial hill town of Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar, is an odd mix of dilapidated development and old colonial grandeur.
Pyin Oo Lwin (or Maymyo), a small town 67 kilometers (42 mi) east of Mandalay is an odd place, with it’s dusty streets and Wild-West look. According to Wikipedia: “The town began as a military outpost established near a small Shan village with two dozen households…”, becoming a permanent military town by 1896. Tour books will tell you the town still feels “anglicised” from the days of colonial rule, but this is only noticeable once you are away from the inner-city rubble and litter.
I’ve written about the town, and the flower markets in the streets outside it, before:
Because of its altitude (1070 meters – 3510 feet) and temperate climate, Pyin Oo Lwin was a established as a hill station and summer capital during British colonial rule. The weather, perfect for growing fruit, vegetables and especially flowers, means that the popular resort town is sometimes called Pan Myo Daw, “The City of Flowers“.
It was after our morning stop at the flower markets that we ten photography enthusiasts, along with photographer Karl Grobl and local guide Mr MM, piled into gaily painted wooden pony carts for a tour of the town and its surrounds.
Pony and Cart
These dainty ponies hardly look strong enough to manage the cart and driver – even without three sturdy passengers with camera gear!
With their plastic flowers and gaily decorated harnesses, the ponies were almost as colourful as their carts.
Boyz in the Hood
A pony cart provides a nice (albeit unpredictably bumpy!) elevation from which to watch the life in the local streets.
In spite of the shimmering heat, the puddles from the last downpour remain.
Tourists in the Pony Traps
Soon we are out of the downtown, and into greener areas…
Life isn’t Perfect
… but even here, things can be tough.
Our first stop is at Candacraig, the oldest hotel in Myanmar.
Originally built in 1904 by the British Bombay Burma Timber Company for their expatriates, Candacraig is now a government-owned hotel.
Paul Theroux, the American travel writer and novelist, tells of his stop here in The Great Railway Bazaar (1975).
For all it’s teak splendour, Candacraig is little improved. People still bucket-bathe out the back.
While we were there, Candacraig was being used as a set…
Singing On the Porch
… for a music video. We weren’t sure if this was for a song, or part of a movie, as the actors were an ethnic minority whom our guide had trouble understanding.
Meanwhile, our ponies were grazing.
Pots and Pans
Back in town centre, I had the opportunity to wander through the shops…
… and the fresh-food markets.
Flowers for Sale
Here, too, Pyin Oo Lwin’s famous flowers are for sale.
But, it is the people I enjoy the most.
Selling Flour and Grain
(The beetle-chewing starts young!)
At the Mechanics
The absence of protective clothing in high-risk work areas is always noticeable. Of course, the weeping goldsmith flowers on the bike will appease any mischievous Nats (Burmese spirits), so everything will be fine!
At the Mechanics
Bottles, boxes and bags…
– and just about everything else!
Truly a town of contrasts.
But, as is the case elsewhere in Myanmar, the smiles are never hard to find.
There is a lot to be said for that.
May we, too, keep smiling!