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 in a hilly region for holidays.
When we think of visiting hilly regions, 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? It is named Thandaung Gyi. It was once popular with the British who used it as a summertime retreat during the colonial era. Located just about 200 miles away from Yangon, it can be reached by car or bus in a half day journey.
Thandaung Gyi had been on my bucket list for far too long and I was so glad that I finally managed to tick it off.
It was on a Friday morning that I started out on my road trip to Thandaung Gyi at 7am. It took me about five hours driving to reach Taungoo. From Taungoo to Thandaung Gyi is only 27 miles by car passing through lush virgin forests and cascading mountain streams. There is a gradual climb to over 4,000 feet to reach Thandaung Gyi town.
It takes two and a half hours to travel from Taungoo through the town of Thandaung and on to Thandaung Gyi.
The route is pretty and follows a path through lush green hills.
When I reached the town it was already 2pm. The town is overlooked by Naw Bu Baw Prayer Mountain. It is quite a small town at only 1.57 sq-miles (1,007 acres), and set in a stunning location atop the Dawparkho mountain range in the northern part of Karen 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 treats every guest like a member of their household. The staffs are also warm and their hospitality is simply awesome.
Later I had my late lunch at a Nepalese restaurant near the guesthouse. Actually I could do nothing special that day except visit the tea plantation site near the town and enjoy the beautiful sunset from Thandaung Gyi.
It was wonderful walking under the tall trees in the peace and quiet 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 overnight 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 to the mountaintop and along the stairway are many small prayer rooms for pilgrims. There is an odd boat-shaped chapel at the peak, evoking the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark and topped with a huge Christian Cross.
Here you can still see an old Baptist church called Zion Hill 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 some colonialera buildings, including a military-owned tea processing plant that was once used to make tea for Lipton.
Trekking is an option for visitors to the area. You can visit the nearby villages or take a full-day hike to Tawpyargyi waterfall and hot spring.
Thandaung Gyi is great for those who don’t want to travel far yet get a break from hustle-bustle of Yangon. Unlike many other hill towns, what Thandaung Gyi does offer is an experience 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 sometime soon.
On my way back, I stopped at Thandaung Lay, just 13 miles away from Taungoo. Here, Pathi Creek has water that is crystal clear and good to relax your mind and body, but I felt this area requires implementation of environmental regulations that protect the sustainability of the creek and prevent trash in the area. Otherwise, it was just so amazing.
This trip made my weekend amazing. I can’t wait to share my experiences and photos about my trip with my family and friends.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my spectacular trip and hope I have inspired you to travel more often!
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 ThandaungGyi it is only 27 miles up by car passing through the forests.
The main road through Thandaunggyi has some guest houses, hotels and bed and breakfasts. Most of them are licensed to accommodate foreigners.
It is recommended for international travellers to have passport copies as the police at the checkpoint outside of town may require one.