Pyin Oo Lwin
is located 40 km north-east of Mandalay, the easiest way to get there is to buy a seat in a shared taxi. When we took the trip it took almost 2 hours from we started near the train station in Mandalay until we arrived at Pyin Oo Lwin city center. Almost 45 minuts were spent on picking up 2 more passengers within Mandalay. The road is fairly good from Myanmar standards, but there will be a lot of heavy and slow traffic, and it will be slow due to the rather step road into the mountains.
The city is small and do not offer a lot of sights, the most famous is the botanic garden. The botanic garden is situated approximately 5 km from the city center. There is no step hills on the road between the city and the garden, so it can easily be reached by bike. There is an entrance fee for foreigners of 5.000 kyats, Burmese citizens can enter for free.
The garden has a large collection of both trees and flowers, not only representing the local flora but a wide geografical representation can be found.
In the northern end of the garden you find a large tower (Nan Myint Tower) that provides a view over not only the garden but alsom most of the city, I think it’s worth the effort to take the tour up the tower.
If someone tells you that Pyin Oo Lwin is cold, believe them. The city is placed in little over 1.000 meters altitude which makes it a lot more tempered than Mandalay. When we visited the city in January 2015 temperatures during the day was just above 20 degrees C. And in the morning we were told by the waiter at breakfast that the morning temperature was only 7 degrees C. So bring a jacket, long trousers and closed shoes, you’ll need it because the temperature only increases slowly.
When you are in this area of the contry you should absolutely see the Gokehteik Bridge.
The easiest way to see the bridge is to take the train between Mandalay and Hsipaw. The unpleasant part of taking the train from Mandalay is that the train leaves a 4.00 AM and takes approximately 4 hours to get to Pyin Oo Lwin. So instead of getting up in the middle of the night you stay the night in Pyin Oo Lwin and get on the train at 8 instead. From Pyin Oo Lwin it takes 6-7 hours to get to Hsipaw.
If you are used to comfortable European high velocity trains the experience of the Hsipaw train will be chocking. First of all the train do not run with high-speed (be glad) and it will not run smoothly all the way. From time to time the tracks have bends and bumps that makes cars swirl aggressively from side to side or to jump up and down.
Don’t think about buying tickets for 2nd class, just buy for upper class. The price difference is negligible but the seating is wide away from each other. In 2nd class there is wooden benches for seating, benches are shared by 2-3 persons the aisles between the seats will be blocked by luggage, groceries, vegetables and other pick-pack. In upper class you get individual chairs with decent upholstery and reclining backs.
When the train goes over the bridge I think it’s meant to be with closed doors. But as I was standing in the doorway while the train approached the bridge the conductor laughed and left it open. As no windows can be closed you have free access to take photos of the gorge, the bridge and the train. The train will only run at a walking pace so you’ll have plenty of time to get the photos. When you are going up left side will provide the best photo opportunities as the the bridge curves so you have a good view of the trains left side.
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