Pyin U Lwin
My third morning in Mandalay meant my third day trip. I got up extra early and got hotel breakfast right when it opened at 7 a.m. Today’s trip was to Pyin U Lwin, the unpronounceable colonial hill station in the mountains to the northeast of Mandalay. This would mark the northernmost point in my trip thus far, and possibly the northernmost reach of this whole trip as Pyin U Lwin is just a bit north of Hanoi.
It took a long time to get out of town. I walked down to the share taxi station near my hotel to catch a ride for 7,000 kyat. Taxis were suppose to leave every few minutes, but no other passengers were around so I waited for half an hour until a driver got a call to pick up some other people. The other passengers were clear on the other side of Mandalay, and with traffic it took an hour to get across town. Once on the road, we stopped a couple times so that the driver could pour water on his radiator. The driver was nice though, and provided free cigarettes to me and my fellow passengers. As the other four people in the taxi were Burmese dudes, it was a foregone conclusion that everyone smoked.
It started pouring down rain about 45 seconds after I got out of the taxi in central Pyin U Lwin. I went into the Ruby Cafe for coffee and to write, and ended up staying for lunch since the rain didn’t stop. Once it finally let up, I walked around town a bit, to the market, and past some old colonial buildings. Shortly after, it started raining again so I ducked into a hardware store that ended up being run by a Sikh dude with 6 fingers on one hand, which I tried as hard as I could to not notice. The sixth finger was below his thumb, and was clearly an immobile, useless appendage.
After walking around a bit more and bumping into my friends from a couple days before, I decided to look into returning to Mandalay. It was only around 2:30 p.m., but Pyin U Lwin was kind of a bust in the rain. Also, I’d heard the last ride to Mandalay left at four, and I didn’t want to get stranded Takua-Pa style.
While looking for a ride (everyone I asked told me to walk in a different direction), it started raining again. I wanted to take a local pick-up back into town rather than a shared taxi, as it was both cheaper and more interesting sounding. I walked past the taxi stand to the road to catch pickups, but none were in sight. Then it started pouring, which I only cared about because I had my iPad. I decided just to cash out and take a taxi when a pick-up came along. “Mandalay?” I asked the tout hanging off the back of it. He waved me on.
The pick-up was lots of fun at first. None of my fellow passengers spoke English, but they were all very nice. I shared my cigarettes with them, and the man next to me gave me a betel nut, which I’d been wanting to try since my first day in Yangon.
The fun didn’t last, of course, as more and more people got on. Mothers with babies joined us (no more cigs, clearly) and lots of people were transporting extremely large parcels of rice or produce that the tout strapped to the roof. About halfway into town, an old woman with bumps all over her face and arms got on, clearly suffering from some horrific skin ailment that may or may not have been contagious. I felt a little guilty trying to keep my distance while averting my gaze, but all of the passengers that I had originally joined did the same, clearly as uncomfortable with this development as I was. I guess nobody wants what may well have been leprosy. She got off at a farm before we got to Mandalay, and there was audible relief in the pick-up when she did.
At around 5 p.m., we were back in downtown Mandalay. The local pick-up cost 5,500 kyat less than the taxi, and ended up taking about the same amount of time to run its route.
I was about to spend my fourth night in the city of Mandalay, and had barely scratched the surface in the city proper. This would change the next day.
Shortly after, I headed back to Mandalay city, which I will finally cover in my next post.
From → Myanmar/Burma