Certainly the most ‘unburmese’ yet one of the best known cities and favourite tourist sites in Burma is a formerly very small Shan-Danu village that the locals call ‘Pyin Oo Lwin’. It is located in the Shan hills, some 42 miles/68 kilometres north-east of and some 3.220 ft/976 metres higher than Mandalay from where to get here takes about 2.5 hours by car. Starting in Mandalay one has first to pass the plain north of Mandalay and then drive through the steadily climbing foothills of the Shan mountains.
What Pyin Oo Lwin (1.070 metres/3.510 feet above sea level) has in common with Nurwaelya in Sri Lanka and Dajiling in India are three things: they are all hill stations, have all a pleasant temperate weather and are all very British. This because all of them were created by the British as a reminder of the ‘Old Country’.
What Pyin Oo Lwin was and still is it owes to the facts that it lies at a strategically important point in Upper Burma, that it has an even during and at the height of the hot season very pleasant ‘European’ micro-climate and to a British officer of the Royal Bengal Infantry: Colonel May.
After the last member of the Konbaung dynasty and last and very cruel Burmese King Thibaw (under whose short, seven-years merciless reign (1878 to 1885) every year many thousands of Burmese were murdered) had spend little time to severely alienating the British by, among others, sending his forces into the territory of then British India. Upper Burma was within two weeks effortlessly occupied by the British colonial forces in 1885 and Colonel May stationed at the hill station of Pyin Oo Lwin in 1887. He ‘founded’ the town, then named in combination of his name ‘May’ and the Burmese term for town ‘Myo’, ‘Maymyo’, which is the name the town is mainly known by especially outside Burma.
Maymyo, the small town with its many Tudor-style brick and timber houses that has once been Burma’s best known and most popular hill station has plenty to offer to both foreign visitors and locals. This also goes for its surroundings – well known for their natural beauty made of and comprising green, tree-covered hillsides and picturesque waterfalls.
Something that immediately upon arrival in Maymyo catches the eye is the somewhat out-of-place and out-of-time appearing mode of transportation; very romantic, horse/pony-drawn, brightly painted and picturesque enclosed miniature coaches from bygone times. These carriages offer sufficient space to sit in for two passengers but get a bit overcrowded with four adult passengers squeezed into it.
Depending on the view one takes or equation one prefers they are looking like coming just out of either London’s pre-automobile streets or the American Wild West’s Wells Fargo days. However, the stage coach is Maymyo’s chief means of transport. Around town the ride in them is a little bumpy on the hard seats, though. But that quickly pales into insignificance against the backdrop of this small but in many …