Pyin Oo Lwin is a tiny hill-town north east of Mandalay. When Mandalay got too hot, British officers would make the trip up to Pyin Oo Lwin, where the air is always cool, and the sun, for some reason, feels a lot less intense.
I drove up to Pyin Oo Lwin in a taxi from Mandalay with JoJo (see On the road to Mandalay… for a refresher). We set out early in the morning, and the wind actually felt cooler once we got closer to the hills. It was a welcome change from the dreaded heat of Mandalay.
My first stop was the botanical gardens of Pyin Oo Lwin, that was set up by the British way back in 1915! Today it hosts an array of flowers, bamboo and trees, that also doubles up as a research centre for botanists.
From there, JoJo took me to a riverside restaurant for lunch. He told me he’d wait in the car while I got lunch, which I found odd. I asked him if he wanted lunch, and he said he would get some separately. I insisted he join me, and we got lunch together.
After that, I visited a small waterfall and some other touristy places before the big waterfall of Pyin Oo Lwin, which is a 1 hour trek on a hill (each way), and where two doggies led the way for me. Once we got to the waterfall, they decided to rest with me too.
Now, in between the touristy places and the big waterfall, we went to the local market at Pyin Oo Lwin, and even though JoJo knew I didn’t want to shop, he asked me to walk around and take a look anyway – since we had a lot of time to kill before we went to the big waterfall. You know how I keep telling everyone I love Myanmar because of the people more than the country itself? This is why:
The market was in an old British made building with exposed walls. As I was walking around, one shopkeeper asks me where I’m from. I told him I’m from India. He got the biggest smile on his face, pulled a chair, and asked me to sit. He spoke to me in Hindi and told me he is of Indian origin. He came from a family of tailors, and his grandfather was brought to Myanmar by the British to promote culture in Myanmar. They ended up staying and have been in Myanmar for over a hundred years. We spoke about life, culture, religion and the constantly changing Myanmar. After about an hour, I told him I had to go, and he gave me a big hug and said goodbye.
I walked a little further in the market (at this point I was trying to make my way out), and another man stopped me. He was a tailor too, and he stopped what he was working on to talk to me. He could barely speak English and knew a few words in Hindi that he had picked up from friends over a period of time. After trying to piece together a conversation, he asked me for my email address to reach out to me if he ever comes to India. I wrote it down for him in his little diary. He looked at it for a few seconds, and then in the best Hindi he could muster, asked me if I’d like to eat dinner with him and his parents that night. It was so wonderful, I felt bad I had to refuse.
And then while we were driving back to Mandalay, JoJo stopped on the highway and told me he will be back in a couple of minutes. I assumed he wanted to pee. But you know the lunch I treated JoJo to earlier in the day that I mentioned in passing above? He stopped stopped to get me a bag full of lychees to say thank you for that. 🙂