Tuesday, December 12, 2017

the waterfall dog, and other tales

Take the dog on the walk to the waterfall, they said, so we did. 

 You couldn't have ordered a more perfect day. Here the hay balese

The view from breakfast.

 Put one foot in front of the other.

The trail goes past people's yards. Here they're drying chiles and bananas.

At the base of the waterfall.
It was a bit hot. This water buffalo had the right idea.

On the way back, we got lost in a Chinese cemetery. 
The best hiker besides Mi We, the dog, was Rose, a barefoot 6-year-old from the UK who raced ahead of me. 

We headed back to the pool, where I talked a smart young woman from Hakka through the basics of swimming. By the time she got out, she was doing a reasonable doggie paddle. She was very determined.
We ended the day with a walk into town, where we met a passionate bookseller, who has read The Old Man & The Seat 6 times. He was full of good advice and strong opinions about his country.

After dinner, we climbed up to the just filled hot tub on the rooftop. Looking out, you could see a temple and some stars, and the people of the town playing cards and rollerskating. It was quite the view.

Monday, December 11, 2017

birds of paradise

Today was a travel day, north east to Hsipaw. We left the rain behind in Pyin oo Lwin packed into a shared car, loaded with deliveries bound for Lashio, near the border of Yunnan province in Southwest China.

Break up the journey with a healthy feast at a modest roadside cafe with a new friend. (Hi, Myo!) Also: okra!

There are Yankees fans everywhere apparently.

We admired this woman's umbrella in the hot sunshine.

And at the end of a long and winding road: a hilltop paradise

A swim in a refreshing pool by the papaya trees is what you need.
Meanwhile, out on the balcony, a snail curls up in paradise. Tip: the rum drinks come with half a passionfruit, grown on the rooftop. Don't miss the guacamole with Burmese tofu (made with chickpea flour) chips or laphet (tea leaf salad) either.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

visages villages

After breakfast, we set off for the Governor's mansion, built in the British colonial era and now used occasionally as a fancy hotel. 

Various Governors lived here in the British era, and they are commemorated in startlingly lifelike wax figures, if you ignore the occasional green skin and red eyes.
Governors were in residence through 1946, despite the Japanese occupation to the south. 
Soldiers are posed throughout the building. This one had lost his arm.
Julia Morgan would admire the swimming pool. 

Burmese residents were represented as well. 
General Aung San, the democracy leader considered the father of modern Burma, and the father of Aung San Su Kyi 
Later we stumbled across this delightful Hindu temple. 
The town houses many mansions. This entrance way suited my tastes. 

We were nearly the only non-Asians in town, and children and older women and taxi drivers said hello to us and turned and giggled. But Hello Kitty lady actually stopped with her matching parasol to say hello. 
After a lavish lunch and a ride in a horse-drawn carriage straight out of Cinderella, we took a taxi to the Eternal Pagoda. The Buddha it houses is made entirely of marble.
We found Vegas Buddha hard to resist, The lights of his aura animate.

Back to San Francisco restaurant for a last dinner of Chinese stirfries and superb local tea.

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.