Every Friday I’ll be writing a post with where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to that week, and include my favourite five photos.
Apologies for my absence the past two or three weeks; wifi connection in Burma has been an issue, along with other excuses I won’t bore you with.
Last Friday I departed Inle Lake, where I’d just finished a beautiful two day trek around the Shan state from Kalaw. Arriving into Mandalay by minibus, the last royal capital of Burma, I had nothing planned other than a few days of R&R.
On Monday, my final day in Mandalay, I took a taxi to the nearby town of Amarapura to watch the sun set over U Bein bridge. Believed to be the longest and oldest teakwood bridge in the world, U Bein bridge is busiest at sunset, when locals and tourists gather to admire the scenery around Taungthaman Lake. Whilst there I was joined by three monks who wanted their photo taken with me – much to my delight, as monks generally don’t talk to foreign women.
Early the following morning (4am) I boarded a train northeast to Pyin Oo Lwin, a hill station and the former summer capital under British rule. I travelled ‘ ordinary’ class, or lower class, and was seated on a hard wooden bench in a mosquito-filled carriage for the four hour journey.
Pyin Oo Lwin was a literal breath of fresh air, in comparison to other towns and cities I’ve visited in Burma so far. Immensely clean (no litter), green and full of brick, colonial buildings, it appeared to have been dropped there straight out of 1900s England. A horse and carriage was waiting for me on arrival to take me to my British-built guesthouse.
Later that day my driver turned up to show me around town in the same carriage, an 1885 Indian-built wooden wagon. He took me to see various British colonial buildings, including Candacraig Hotel and a school, and to the Botanical Gardens, which were full of roses and pansies, and a lake of swans!
On Wednesday I boarded the train once again, this time ensuring I secured an upper class seat. The seven hour train ride between Pyin Oo Lwin and Hsipaw, my next destination, is named as one of Burma’s highlights and is also written about in Paul Theroux’ book ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’. The reason for this, other than the gorgeous Shan countryside it travels through, is that the train crosses the Goteik Viaduct, which when built in 1900, was the longest railway trestle in the world.
After a couple of days relaxing in Hsipaw, I have a two days of non-stop train and bus travel to get back to Yangon in time to fly to Bangkok on Monday. Here I will reunite with Jeni and continue our travels south through Thailand and into Malaysia.
Here are my favourite five for the week: