A c-hilly escape
By June Franco
Who doesn’t enjoy a little bit of chill in the midst of a scorching summer? Hill stations have their charm with their lush green landscapes, surrounding hills and winding roads. At every turn on the road, a new visual awaits that surprises and inspires a traveller.
Being home to the Himalayas in the north and the scenic Shan hills, Myanmar is blessed with several hill stations.
A small hill station which can be explored in half-a-day, Kalaw is well-connected with the rest of the country, nestled in the picturesque Shan Hills. It is a sleepy old British hill town unfrequented by tourists. Several trekking routes are available to explore the hills around Kalaw. Adventurous tourists can opt for the three-day trek to Inle Lake which takes one through the heart of Shan hills. Kalaw town centre has a bustling market visited by ethnic tribes living in the hills around. Kalaw is ideal for tourists looking for either a relaxing vacation or power-packed adventurous hikes.
Pyin Oo Lwin
Another hill station of colonial times, Pyin Oo Lwin was the leading holiday location of the British army officers based out of Mandalay. It is one of the tidiest hill stations of Myanmar. The country’s most extensive botanical gardens – National Kandawgyi Gardens is located in Pyin Oo Lwin. It extends for over 177 hectares of land and has 514 indigenous species, 74 foreign species, 75 species of bamboo, 300 species of orchids and 25 rose species. Another interesting sight in the town is the Candacraig Hotel which was a hospital during World War II. The building provides a peek into the lives of the army officers during colonial times. Pyin Oo Lwin is ideal to enjoy a stroll, relax and unwind while appreciating the wonders of nature.
Putao, a delightful hill town is surrounded by the snow-capped Himalayas. Putao is a traditional Himalayan town complete with a gorgeous network of rivers and rivulets, straw-roofed houses, pebbled roads, and suspension bridges. The town is home to one of the eight major ethnic groups of Myanmar – the Kachin People. With cold weather throughout the year, Putao has an amazing variety of flora and fauna. One can spot the world’s rarest Black Orchids as well as rare animal species such as Red Panda, Black Bears and Black Deer here.
Another gem in the Shan hills, Hsipaw is giving competition to Kalaw in terms of trekking routes of late. Walk through the scenic northern mountains and enjoy lush green forests when you visit Hsipaw. The town boasts of a rich cultural tradition too! Apart from its network of pagodas, Hsipaw has a bustling central market where one can shop for traditional arts and crafts. Travellers can head to sunset hill for enjoying the mesmerising view of the sun going down behind the beautiful hills, leaving its last orange traces behind.
This is an amazing option for travellers up for doing the unknown. This small village is located half on Inle Lake and a half on stilts built on the water. The village was originally built by the British to become the principal hill station of the Inle area. However, due to a malaria epidemic, the intention could not be fulfilled. The village has a British bridge which extends over the lake and a cemetery with a stupa. Maing Thauk is ideal for enjoying some time away from the crowd. Travellers can enjoy long walks, hop on a canoe and relish a ride on the water or simply relax and enjoy the sunset.
The charming hill stations of Myanmar are still not a popular destination choice. They provide a great choice to travellers looking forward to spending a few days away from the hustle and bustle of city life. They bring alive the famous quote by the Victorian-era English art critic John Ruskin – “Mountains are the beginning and the end of all-natural scenery”.