It turned out that the 'bus' was in fact a small pick up truck. This did not bother Chris or I too much, but the fact that they don't leave until they are full is not always ideal. You can wait from 5 minutes to a couple of hours. It really is just a waiting game. But luckily our wait turned out to be just 20 minutes, before we clambered into the back of the rickety old truck.
It was a pretty uncomfortable three hours sat on a wooden bench in the back of a pickup truck, with ten other people. Not only that, our knees were practically up by our ears due to the pile of flour bags we were also transporting. However, Chris and I did safely arrive to Pyin Oo Lwin. The town was founded by the British in 1896 and was designed as a place to escape the heat in Mandalay. Many of the old colonial structures remain, providing the town with character and charm. We ended up staying at 'Orchid Nan Myaing' the British governors residence back in the day. As we walked down the driveway it literally felt as though we had travelled back in time. The colonial buildings remained, offering an enchanting aura. Our room in one of the alluring buildings was clean and simple, with old fashioned furniture. They offered free bicycle hire as the residence was a little out of the main town. More than happy to cycle we took the offer and headed into town for some lunch.
Pyin Oo Lwin is home to many Indian and Nepali communities, who are the descendants of workers who came to the town to lay the railway line. Therefore most of the local cuisine is also Indian or Nepali. Being lovers of both cuisines, we opted for the highest rated on TripAdvisor which happened to be an Indian restaurant, 'Krishna'. Despite the food being a little cold it was really good. Along with our choice of curry (chicken for me and lamb for Chris), the table continued to be disguised by several small bowls filled with various flavoursome foods. From lentil curry soup to a tomato salsa, we were definitely not going to go hungry. Pyin Oo Lwin is also home to a few coffee plantations so it seemed only right to try the homemade coffee at Krishna's which was delightful! Chris was feeling more adventurous and opted for the chai masala tea. It is fair to say he did not enjoy it, and was best described as a milky sweet tea with an overpowering cardamon taste!
With our tummies full to the brim we cycled through the town admiring the architecture and soaking up the atmosphere. Several colourfully painted horse-drawn carriages were lingering around the town, and some were perfectly placed outside the clock tower making for a fantastic picture. We found our way to the train station hoping to purchase our train ticket for the journey to Hsipaw for the following day, however the ticket booth was very much closed. So we cycled back through town and about 3km out to the 'National Kandawgyi Gardens'. We were shocked by the $5 entrance fee, with locals paying less than $1, but we had made the journey and there was not enough time to cycle anywhere else. Annoyingly bicycles are not permitted within the gardens so we had to power walk around to be within a chance of seeing as much as possible before it closed.
We spent about an hour and a half walking around the gardens but they were not particularly impressive. The orchid garden had some beautiful and colourful orchids and we saw some takin (goat-antelope). We had a pleasant walk but it's not something I would highly recommend.
By now the sun had set and the temperature massively dropped. It was freezing cycling back into town, and knowing there was no option for dinner near where we were staying we decided to find somewhere to hang around for an hour to build up an appetite. We ended up in a Korean restaurant, sharing a beer and catching up on the internet. We ordered the bibibap to share and luckily we did as it was a huge dish. Then I couldn't help but order some avocado sushi to takeaway. Our bicycles didn't have any lights on which was not ideal for cycling back in the dark. Chris used his iPhone torch to help guide us and we both ensured we made great use of the bells to inform others of our presence!
Safely back I was keen to take a hot shower first to warm up. I was not impressed when the water only just went above freezing but I couldn't see a hot water switch anywhere. Chris decided to ask at reception and consequently was shown to a small switch in a fuse box, which was outside of our room and up high! Of course, why didn't I think to look there! I also had to ask for more blankets for the bed as it was so cold, we may as well have been at home!
Getting out of bed in the freezing cold was a memory from home I was happy to leave behind! Reluctantly we clambered out and wrapped up warm. After breakfast we joined four others in the back of a trailer attached to a motorbike which took us to the train station. Having travelled 'ordinary class' before we decided to spend out and go 'upper class', costing us an incredible £2.75 for the both of us to travel seven hours to Hsipaw, it even include life insurance!