HOLIDAYS or vacations are words that bring joy to everyone. As my office was closed four days for Tazaungdaing lighting festival, I decided to go somewhere a hilly region for holidays.
When we think of visiting hilly region, well-known destinations such as Pyin Oo Lwin, Kalaw, Taunggyi and Lashio are the first ones that come to our mind. Right?
But do you know there is a forgotten hilltop town much closer to Yangon? Yeah it is named Thandaung Gyi. It was once used by the British as a popular summertime retreat during the colonial era, located just about 200 miles away from Yangon and can be reached by a car or bus on a half days’ journey.
Actually Thandaung Gyi has been on my bucket list for far too long and I am so glad that I finally managed to tick this off my bucket list.
It was on a Friday morning last week, I started my road trip to Thandaung Gyi at 7am. It took me about 5 hrs to drive to reach Taungoo. From Taungoo to Thandaung Gyi is only 27 miles up by car passing through lush virgin forests, cascading mountain streams and climb gradually to over 4,000 feet, to reach Thandaung Gyi town.
The road from Taungoo through Thandaung and up to Thanthaung Gyi is a breathtaking experience as it snakes up the hills for two and a half hours through lush green hills. Due to its altitude, it is significantly cooler than lowland areas.
When I reached to the town, it was already 2pm. The town is overlooked by Naw Bu Baw Prayer Mountain. It is quite a small town only 1.57 sq-miles (1,007 acres), and set in a stunning locations atop the Dawparkho mountain rage in Northern part of Kayin State.
After looking at a few guesthouses, I finally got a decent room at Peace House Bed & Breakfast. The owner of the guesthouse is so friendly and treat every guests like their house members. The staffs are also warm and their hospitality is simply awesome.
Later I had my late lunch at Nepalese restaurant nearby the guesthouse. Actually I could do nothing special that day except I visited tea plantation site near the town and enjoyed the beautiful Sunset of Thandaung Gyi.
It was also wonderful walking under the lofty pines in the serene stillness of the forest. By the time I got back to the guesthouse, it was already sundown. I felt a soft, cold breeze and the full moon night was equally charming. It was such a pleasant over night stay in Thandaung Gyi that I will never forget.
Next morning I woke up early, enjoyed the breakfast, and decided to go up to Naw Bu Baw Prayer Mountain, which is a significant religious site for the local Karen Christians.
There is a stairway with 374 steps climbs to the mountaintop and along the stairway are many small prayer rooms for pilgrims. There is an odd boat-shaped chapel on the peak, evoking the biblical tale of Noah’s ark and topped a huge Christian Cross.
You can still see an old Baptist Church called Zion Hill Church, and another Baptist Church and an Anglican Church on another hill. You can also visit an old Roman Catholic Church in Thandaung Gyi.
Thandaung Gyi is also home to colonial-era buildings, including a military-owned tea processing plant that was once used to make tea for Lipton.
Those who do visit can go trekking to nearby villages, or try full day hike to the waterfall and hot spring at Taw Pyar Gyi. Local guiding is highly recommended and can be arranged through guesthouses.
Thandaung Gyi is great for those who don’t want to travel far yet get a break from hustle-bustle of Yangon city. Unlike many other hill towns, what Thandaung Gyi does offer is full of natural beauty, lush virgin forests and fresh-air.
I left sorrowfully and silently said goodbye to Thandaung Gyi but I hope to visit this lovely town again sometimes soon.
On my way back, I stopped at Thandaung Lay, just 13 miles away from Taungoo. It sits along the bank of the roiling, monsoon-swollen Pa Thi Creek on 100 acres of shady land.
The water is crystal clear and good to relax your mind and body, but I felt this area requires to place an environmental regulations that protect the sustainability of the creek and protect trash in the area. Otherwise, it was just so amazing.
However, this trip made my weekend amazing. I can’t wait to share my experiences with my family, friends about my trip, and I also can’t wait to show them all the photos I took.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my spectacular trip and hope I have inspired you to travel more often!!! 🙂
Romantic Legend of Thandaung Gyi
NOT only was Thandaung once a popular hill station retreat for the British during the colonial era, but it was also the site of a legendary romance between a prince named Saw Thaw Oh Khwa, and the beautiful maiden Naw Bu Baw, who was the daughter of the King of the Sea.
According to the story, Naw Bu Baw travelled from the sea to Thandaung to be with Saw Thaw Oh Khwa, who was native to the area. The young couple married and spent their time roaming the mountains, streams and meadows of Than Daung together.
But the local people would not accept Naw Bu Baw’s marriage to their prince, accusing her of being a witch because she possessed a magical silver comb that made her shine like the sun and that also made her invisible when she put it under her feet.
One day, Saw Thaw Oh Khwa went to the eastern mountains to fight against an invading army. Naw Bu Baw gave her magic comb to the prince so he could disappear when the enemy attacked.
But Saw Thaw Oh Khwa died during the battle because he thought that merely possessing the magic was enough to keep him safe. Rather than turn himself invisible, he acted daringly and foolishly in the fight, and was therefore vanquished by his enemies.
The local people blamed Naw Bu Baw for the death of the prince. Accusing her of witchcraft, they dragged her to the highest hillside in the area and imprisoned her in a rock cavern.
Locals say that to this day, the troubled soul of Naw Bu Baw still wanders through the beautiful, mist-shrouded forests of the Than Daung area. Even now the cave where she was locked can still be seen.
How to get there:
- The best way to go Tuandaung Gyi is going by a car to Taungoo through Yangon-Mandalay Express road and passing through Thandaung Lay, just 13 miles and 45 minutes by car from Taungoo.
- If you prefer using the railway, you can ride the train from Yangon to Taungoo in about six hours, and from Taungoo to Thandaung Gyi it is only 27 miles up by car passing through lush virgin forests.
- There a number of small guest houses and Bed & Breakfast in Thandaung Gyi that are licensed for foreigners, most of which are located along the main road of a town.
- Access to Thandaung Gyi is free, but foreign visitors should carry a copy of their passport to give to police at a checkpoint a few kilometres outside the town.