Pyin Oo Lyin: Colonial stuff, a waterfall and strawberries.

The extremely slow train journey from Hsipaw to Pyin Oo Lyin was well worth the $4. Our $4 ticket got us a wooden seat. Perfectly viable for a seven hour day trip. There are stranger and much softer seats in the upper classes, but then you don’t get the lower class entertainment.

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The viaduct was particularly breathtaking, something positive the British left behind from their time in Myanmar. The views of the mountains were accompanied by the usual bumps and shakes of the ageing rail network.

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I’d met a Bristol lad called Maxwell. He used to be in a band. He was alright. We talked music and all that jazz. Former artists that never made it. We put the world to rights.

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During our journey a dodgy looking fella came to have a chat. That’s him below. He said he lost his eye fighting as a rebel against the Government. He was very happy to repeatedly open up his wounded eye and show us how mank it looked.

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A very angry and boisterous ticket inspector, who was dressed as a football coach, came and burst his bubble. A couple of swift slaps on the back of the head later and the one eyed rebel legged it down the train. Apparently, he was a professional thief.

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The views were pretty good too. Beat the bus hands down. A no-brainer. The usually open doors were blocked with chairs and locked shut with padlocks. Just in case anyone or any thing fell out. Glad to see they took our safety into consideration.

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We ended up coming into Pyin Oo Lyin just before dark and decided to share a room. The trip from the station to our hotel was a special one. Horse and carriage. Love hearts and flowers covered the ancient wooden contraption and the poor struglling horse looked like it was on its last leg. We joined my fellow trekker buddies Daz and Julie and were transported slowly to our digs with a little argument over payment from our ‘overcharging and playing dumb’ driver. Golden Dream Hotel provided us with a bed and a shower, not hot as they claimed, but I’m used to it, as long as there’s water I’m happy.

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Exchanging money here proved to be difficult. The exchange rate was ridiculously low and everywhere seemed to be shut until the next day. We walked out of the town and past the night markets to a restaurant that was highly recommended in The Planet. It was in an old colonial building made by the British. It served an OK green curry and a rum and coke for a staggeringly high price, almost £7. Rich, older and considerably rounder tourists filled the restaurant as the cold night set in. Walking all the way back to our Golden Dream Hotel we met a nice Swiss guy who gave me his copy of Burmese Days by George Orwell. Lovely chap. Shame I ended up lending it Guy, who never returned it. The things men do to get women into bed.

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I slept hard and went into a deep sleep. The deepest and longest sleep I’d had since being in Burma. It was quiet in the morning, no dogs, cats or cockerels. No Buddhist loon playing mantras and prayers at 5am. Although it was cold at night, I was warm. Only a weak sounding prayer call at 6am from the Muslin temple down the road broke the silence. However, I was fast asleep and didn’t wake up. My Myanmar adventure coming to an end and I was running on empty, cramming as much of this country into my 28 days as possible.

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I ended up locating some dodgy money from a hardware store down the road at a stupidly low rate and ordered a rusty old bike to take me to the beautiful oasis called the Artisakan waterfall. It was a fair 11km ride out of town and with one gear, the bike struggled getting up the steeper hills.

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I stopped at a lovely pagoda and temple on a hill on route and rode past the military training grounds. The weather was lush and I was on top form, exploring Pyin Oo Lyin on my lonesome.

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The trek down to the waterfall took about an hour, many pathways, some large red ants and a random mini temple made the trek a nice one but the waterfall at the bottom was particularly stunning.

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By far the most beautiful waterfall I’ve ever seen on my travels. That’s right. Ever. The water started at the top of the trek and gradually made its way down, crashing into a clear and light blue lagoon.

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The waterfall was huge, water crashing from a huge height which created a number of other pools that interconnected beautifully with each other. It was paradise. The temples an added bonus. This didn’t feel like just another tourist attraction. This is like most of Myanmar’s tourist attractions. Tranquil, peaceful and surprisingly void of tourists.

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There were only a couple of tourists from Mandalay there and me. Truly special moment. Trekking with a present at the end. I was glad I made the effort.

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I met an old Canadian guy whilst climbing back up to the top. He was travelling alone. A true inspiration. We talked. He had led a fascinating life. After downing a can of my favourite Lychee drink, I clambered back on my bike to return back to the hotel so I could get my bus to Yangon.

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The route back was considerably tougher than the way home. I stopped at a strawberry stall on the main road next to a Hindu temple. I bought some small looking strawberries from an Indian couple and practised my poor Hindi. Nobody creates a strawberry better than the British. These poor imitations were just a tease. Back on the road my Myanmar chest cough raged. Either the cold nights or the large amounts of dust that the road kicked up was not good for my lungs. I persisted on doing breakneck speeds on my one gear rust bucket. PMA repeating in my mind.

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I made it back to Pyin Oo Lyin and feasted at a local food market. I was served a dosa style food and a sweet lapaye by a lovely lady while some banging Burmese pop music was distorting at full volume.

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I found a fake Safeway’s. Old English people will remember the once famous supermarket brand. Counterfeit goods are all over Asia but I never thought I’d discover a fake version of a UK supermarket that ceased trading over ten years ago.

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Watching market life go by was fascinating. I didn’t want to go. But I had Aneel, an Indian motorbike taxi man taking me to the bus station in 20 minutes. Aneel was funny, he dropped me off at the station and tried to sell me a whole day tour of Pyin Oo Lyin, even though he knew I was leaving to go to Yangon. I smashed down another lapeiye and boarded my extremely plush and extremely cold, air con super bus to Yangon.

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I had a bloody marvelous day in Pyin Oo Lyin. I love Myanmar. I don’t want to leave.

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