After our days in Bagan, our next stop was Mandalay. We decided against taking another painful bus ride and preferred to get up at 5:30am to take the boat along the Irrawaddy River. We knew the boat ride would be long but at least it was a slow pace and you could walk around the boat. Turned out to be more pleasant than we thought, even though we only arrived in Mandalay at close to 8:00pm.
We spent 2 days in Mandalay walking around the downtown area and getting ready for our next destination: Pyin Oo Lwin, a hill town 2hrs from Mandalay and the former summer retreat for the British in Burma. It was a winding way up the hill and, as soon as we arrived, we could already feel the mountain air and cool breeze of the area.
Our cute Royal Green hotel was well situated and very comfortable. We rent bikes to ride around the town and noticed the British colonial architecture that is still very much present. We stopped at the Candacraig Hotel, the oldest hotel in Myanmar and formerly the British Club. It is also where George Orwell (“Burmese Days”, “Animal Farm”) used to stay often. Unfortunately it seems that the hotel is quite abandoned but, if remodeled, could certainly bring back its old charm.
The highlight of Pyin Oo Lwin was certainly the National Kandawgyi Gardens (formerly National Botanical Gardens) where we spent a fantastic sunny day walking around the gardens, appreciating its beautiful flowers and posing for pictures with the locals (our kids felt like rock stars as locals wanted to take pictures with them…). We left Pyin Oo Lwin wishing we could have stayed longer.
We headed back for our last 2 days in Mandalay certainly pleased that we visited Myanmar before the tourists and crowds start invading the country.
**Note to readers: We are about 2 weeks behind in our posts and are working to get it updated to reflect our current location in Laos. Stay tuned!