Saturday, December 9, 2017

city of flower

After the sleeper train was full, I bought tickets on the overnight VIP bus to Pyin oo Lwin, north of Mandalay. The bus left the station at 8 pm, and a taxi was due to pick us up at 6 pm. But at 5:30, knocking on the door. The driver was downstairs, cranky. Fridays nights are bad traffic. We loaded up, preparing to go 15 km to the bus station. After an hour, we'd barely gotten out of downtown. Two hours in, we had bouts of traffic mixed with free eling. At 7:40, we were very close: giant buses in every direction.
The bus station itself was as close to hell as you can imagine. Sprawling in every direction with ten or twenty companies, named in curlicue Burmese script.
Our surly driver asked for directions, asked again, drove between buses and passengers, and somehow dropped us in front of the bus to Pyin oo Lwin a few minutes before departure. We took our seats, in a bus decoration in Barney theme colors, snuggling under the purple blankets against the fierce a/c.

12 hours later, we were in another place and time. Another country even.
Charming Pyin oo Lwin, also known as Maymyo, was a hill station frequented by British officers. It is above 4000 feet, so the air here is cool and clean, quite a change from steamy, noisy Yangon.
We checked into the Golden Gate resort, with the San Francisco restaurant, in a bungalow decorated with woven bamboo walls.
Then we set off for the Royal Kandagawyi Gardens, the week before the flower festival. The gardens were founded 101 years ago, and some of the bamboo and yew trees are very tall.
This reminded me of Last Year at Marienbad.
We were, for the most part, the only non-Asian guests. Well-dressed Burmese families and school groups took selfies and strolled among the flowers and ferns.

Petrified wood
Poinsettas taller than I am
Coffee berries in the edible garden
Feeding bananas to two taksins, a cross between a goat and an antelope (! sorry, no pictures). And a bamboo forest straight out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
And this gorgeous collection of orchids.

The people watching was top notch too.