Pyin U Lwin is all about rest and relaxation. On my 6th day journey through Myanmar, I decided that it was the perfect day to turn-off the alarm clock and stay tucked under the sheets a bit longer than usual. Letting the cool climate dictate when I should be up and about. But that plan partly failed as I was already up by 7am. Good thing I was excited to explore Pyin U Lwin, a town which is still part of Mandalay Division is characterized by its strong British influence found almost 3500ft above sea level at the Shan State Highlands.
“Why am I hiking when I had little sleep?” were my thoughts as we descend a steep dirt trail. We were headed to Anisakan Falls, one of the sites in my list of places to visit in Pyin U Lwin. But what was most bewildering are the 3 girls joining the hike aside from my motorbike driver that I hired. I don’t remember hiring guides or porters at that little shop at the trail jump-off earlier.
From the warm and earthly environs of Bagan, Pyin U Lwin was a pleasant change. As soon as I got out of the train station, I hired and hopped on a motorbike to take me to my first choice of accommodation. Immediately the cool air, the sight of pine trees and the British-influenced neighbourhood reinvigorated my spirit. It was until it worried me that a lot of accommodations are fully booked. Dahlia hotel was fully booked and the also the nearby areas. I was worried for a while but it was a blessing in disguise as I wound up staying in Grace Hotel 1.
I thought the train was finally moving after at least an hour of waiting, but it was just my consciousness, slipping and sliding in two worlds. My reality blurred from fatigue and lack of sleep as I lean on the side of an open train window in the cart, oblivious of the passing crowd and vendors at the station. I am going to Pyin U Lwin (pyuu-lin), a cool scenic hill town, east of Mandalay, straight from an almost 8 hour overnight bus journey from Bagan. But I was awake the full day before and the bus ride didn’t offer a chance to sleep. It was already 15 minutes past 6am when the train finally rolled on the tracks. That’s already 2 hours late from its original time of departure. But I was just relieved the 4-hour train journey had started.
My journey in Bagan was coming to a close. On our way back to the inn, Mime asked about the Philippines. He was curious what it’s like here. So I showed him some photos from my phone and told him briefly how long it took me to get into Myanmar and how some things are similar with Myanmar as well. Mime has been a pretty reliable horse cart driver and guide. At first I was pessimistic since I’ve heard from friends of lazy and opportunistic horse cart drivers they had. But getting to know him, I learned more about his life here as horse cart driver.
These were the last few temples I visited in Bagan before leaving in the evening for Mandalay. Even if I enjoyed the sunrise and visited a few sites in Myinkaba, I already felt templed-out come mid-morning that I just wanted to head back to the inn to pack my things and get ready for the evening bus ride. But Mime insists we do a few more stops on temples on our way. I guess he wants to get my money worth so I obliged and it did pay off. I get to meet another interesting character in one of the temples in Old Bagan.
By this time, I had been used to the constant nagging of vendors. Initially they would eye you like a prey, ask where you are from, then give some trivia about the place or temple you are visiting, even accompany you around and finally ask to look at their wares without obligation to buy. On my way out from Nan Paya, I encountered this young persistent girl who tried to sell her lacquerware. I did look at the items she’s selling but decided not to buy the pair of owls (man and woman) that interested me that I found so expensive at 8000 kyat. As I head to the steps she was pleading. Telling me it would be good luck if I’ll be her first customer. She followed me to the exit with a face almost in tears.