It’s been a while since I did a ‘First Taste’ – this is a series of blogs I’ve done on the place I first arrived when I went to a country, also for the first time. So today I’m going back a couple of years to the town which introduced me to Myanmar, the hill-village of Pyin Oo Lwin.
In the interests of an itinerary that made some basic sort of sense, I decided to get to the most northern point of my stay in Myanmar and work across and southwards from there. That point was Pyin Oo Lwin, well in fact it was a little way away by train but that was a day trip, so it was this little hill village I headed to after flying in to Mandalay from Thailand.
The drive in a mini-bus was all uphill and interesting in itself to see people and life in a new country going on, and then I arrived in Pyin Oo Lwin, this sort of long but not so wide town in the hills. The air was cool, with temperatures reaching low 20s in the day (it was March) and getting down to single figures in the evening.
It was actually a great introduction in a way, because it wasn’t a big bustling city which was difficult to navigate with thousands of people everywhere. I’ve started in Bangkok, Delhi, London and New York when visiting the countries which hold those cities, and whilst it can be exhilarating it can also leave you swamped after a very short amount of time.
I had a friendly guesthouse with a nice view. Pyin Oo Lwin was not a town with a lot of attractions, I had chosen it because of a train that went from there across the amazing Gokteik Viaduct, and so it was the next morning that’s what I did.
That train trip was in a pretty beaten up old train. Well, the engine was okay but the carriages were falling apart and I was told at my guesthouse that they had uncoupled at the station the previous day and people had been injured and the train had been cancelled.
Luckily for me this didn’t happen to me and I took the train without incident. Apart from it being really late that is! The countryside was beautiful and the slow roll over the creaking viaduct was something I will always remember.
I also visited the nearby Hampshire Falls, with rides for kids and loads of people swimming. A great place to sit and chill.
Back in town there was a clock tower. Not too much to see, but interesting as an introduction to Myanmar and its people – at a small restaurant I met a lovely family who helped me by writing a note in Burmese explaining about my peanut allergy which I used constantly in Myanmar. The people at the guesthouse were also very helpful and friendly.
I could see the mix of modern cars versus horse and cart, and was bemused by the fact that cars were both left and right hand drive. Myanmar was once a country where people drove on the left, now they drive on the right but there is no stipulation to which side your steering wheel must be!
SO, as a first taste it gets two thumbs up! I wish I had stayed longer than the three nights. It was a wonderfully soft introduction before I headed back to taste bustling Mandalay. Thanks for reading, and as always, May the Journey Never End!