It’s All about the Journey, Not the Destination
After two magical weeks, the end of my stay in Myanmar was approaching. However, I had planned one last stop before my flight out of Mandalay. Halfway to Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin (formerly Maymyo) is a scenic 6 hour train ride for Hsipaw. Highlight and major draw of the journey is the crossing of the Goteik viaduct, a 689m high single rail track steel giant. The trestle was constructed in 1899 as a way for the British empire to expand its influence in the region and was the highest in the world at the time of its completion.
‘A monster of silver geometry in all the ragged rock and jungle, its presence was bizarre’ – Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar
Crossing the bridge at walking speed in squeaky train wagons is nothing short of spectacular and both, tourists and locals hang out of windows and doors to marvel at the breathtaking jungle and cliff formations dropping several hundred meters below their feet. Down in the abyss, a lone railway track, long abandoned to vegetation, is the only relict of the colonial invaders’ anti-sabotage plans.
Former summer capital of the British colonial administrators of Burma and located on a plateau, Pyin Oo Lwin has a refreshingly cool climate. The eerie town is spread out and scattered with abandoned colonial-style villas, horse carts and baptist churches. The ‘Candacraig’, one of the biggest and most impressive estates, was a well established hotel up to the 1990’s. Today, not much of its former glory is left. Although, travelers are allowed to explore the property and peer through broken windows, all doors remain locked indefinitely.
In the afternoon, we rented semi-automatic bikes to explore the magnificient Botanical Gardens south of town. Established in 1915, and still astonishingly well maintained, the National Kandawgyi Gardens have a large pond, an orchid garden, elevated boardwalks and an impressive aviary. At the time I visited, it seemed very quiet, and offered great shady spots to relax and catch op on some reading.
Stay: Grace Hotel 2