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Pyin U Lwin (Maymyo)

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Located on the western edge of the Shan Plateau, Pyin U Lwin (formerly known as Maymyo or Maytown after its first governor, Colonel May) was founded in the 1890s by the British as a military post. When the rail line to Lashio was completed, the town became the official summer capital of the colonial admin istration. At an elevation of 3,510 ft (1,070 m), the town enjoys a much cooler climate than that of Mandalay on the central plains, which appealed to the homesick British. Mock-Tudor and Scottish Baronial mansions with turrets and ample veran das duly sprang up under the pine trees, along with a whites-only club, a golf course, and botanical gardens. After Burma gained its inde pendence, the sizable Anglo-Burmese com munity gradually dwindled, but the Sikh and Nepali minorities whose forebears were brought here to work on the railroads are still very much in evidence. Although Pyin U Lwin is often described as a hill station, the term is a mis nomer, as the town is set on a plateau rather than  a mountain. Its role as a hot- season retreat from the plains,  however, has seen a new lease of life in recent years with the rise of an affluent Burmese middle class. Several of the old hotels have been renovated, and dozens of new establishments have also opened since the NLD-led tourist boycott was relaxed in 2010. Most visitors pass time in the town by shopping for soft fruit and flowers grown in the local nurseries, and taking sightseeing rides around the pleasant tree-lined roads in horse-drawn carriages (locally called “wagons”), along with an oblig atory visit to the National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens. The gardens were created in 1915 and modeled on London’s Kew Gardens. Today the 150-acre (60-ha) site holds nearly 600 species of trees, over 500 of them endemics, and 480 kinds of flowers, including 25 types of roses, all displayed around rolling lawns and ornamental lakes spanned by pretty wooden bridges. The rock gardens, fountains, play grounds, and a small zoo are popular with local children. There is also a delightful Orchid Garden featuring more than 300 species of indigenous blooms, and a well-stocked Butterfly Museum, with beetles and butterflies displayed in cases.

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