If travelling in suffocating heat, barren and dusty roads, dried shrubs and no rain appeals to you, make sure you visit Burma in March or April. If you’re a real masochist, spend as much time as possible in Yangon or Mandalay, where you’ll really struggle to find natural waters nearby to cool you down.
Once you’ve satisfied your need to roast your body and dehydrate your soul, cool down: visit Pyin U Lwin, a former British colonial hill-station, that is ‘more like a corner of Surrey than a corner of Burma’ (Quote by Herbert White, a former British civil servant in Burma).
A 2 hour or so shared taxi journey away from Mandalay (6000 Kyatt per person) can take you 1060 meters above sea level to 20-23° C temperature. The contrast in temperature is immediately noticeable and quite welcoming. For me, in particular, I spent a couple of days resting in Pyin U Lwin, as I had been ill with a bad cough for several days. The air is light and clear; the streets are fairly quiet and not too congested; and we opted to stay at a fairly pricier hotel – Grace II – in order to ensure we maintained some of our comforts during our stay.
Though I wouldn’t say the town itself is very nice, the surrounding area is quite picturesque and quaint, and strongly reminded me of a different version to Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands (another former British hill-station). Though the Cameron Highlands offer more structure and guided trails in the form of treks, Pyin U Lwin is also suitable for the outdoor hiking explorer with its’ waterfalls and trails.
Don’t, however, expect to tour the area unaccompanied. Though we aspired to navigate the Pwe Kauk Falls independently, there were a handful of young teenage girls (sometimes young children) waiting at the road to accompany tourists to the waterfall. Though we insisted we didn’t need a guide, the girl insisted she take us and that she ‘knew the way’. She also said we could pay ‘what we could’. At the end of our journey, after paying 3000 Kyatt for a service we didn’t really want, she asked for more.
Be prepared to kindly and politely say ‘no’, even during the trip of a lifetime, where – for some reason – a part of you wishes to help and be charitable to everybody.