Our private tour bus pulled over on a nondescript patch of road, somewhere between Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin. It seemed a quiet spot, with broken-down-looking vehicles parked at the side, and bamboo shop-fronts sitting back from the earthen verge.
For a moment, everything was still…
But, behind the huts and trees that lined the highway was another road, where Pyin Oo Lwin’s busy mobile morning flower market was taking place.
Because of its altitude (1070 meters – 3510 feet) and temperate climate, Pyin Oo Lwin was 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“.
Flowers are a central part of burmese life. Everyday, freshly cut flowers are offered to the Buddha at household and business shrines and in temples and pagodas.
These flowers are grown in the cooler hills and transported to the markets daily by truck and by motorcycle. At the morning flower markets, chrysanthemums, asters, gypsophila (baby’s breath), and weeping goldsmith flowers (padeign gno in Burmese), in purple, pink, white, cream and yellow are on sale. Yellow flowers, the colour of gold, are particularly auspicious as offerings.
It is early morning, but already the light angles in sharply, creating dapples and strong shadows as the trucks, buses and bikes, laden with bundled blooms, continue into town.
While I was fact-checking for this blog, I came across a delightful post from a gardening enthusiast who visited the same markets two months after we did; The Frustrated Gardener is well worth a look.
My group and I, however, had to leave. We were heading off to visit some of Pyin Oo Lwin’s colonial splendours.
But, the next day as I wandered around Mandalay, I was very aware of the fresh flowers at the shrines and local temples.
It made me think about the love and work that goes into these cheerful and environmentally-friendly offerings.
It’s enough to make you smile!