Myanmar’s Magical Land of Flowers
As Green-fingered enthusiasts from around the world flocked to the 11th flower festival at the National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens last month, I went to see what 150,000 plants on display looked like, while revisiting Myanmar’s botanical gem.
I took the 8:30pm bus from Yangon AungMingalar Highway gate on Christmas Eve and arrived the next day at 6:30am in PyinOoLwin. The weather was chilly but pleasant. I took a taxi to the hotel I was staying at, Hotel Spring PyinOoLwin, located in a quiet part of town.
During the high season or festival, hotel rooms get snapped up quickly, so it’s advisable to book in advance.
It took 15 minutes to reach the hotel – quite far from the city centre. I had booked a bungalow-style room, which is wide and comes with a twin bed. Other rooms available are the deluxe and standard. My room had TV and bathtub and patio with table and chairs.
After check-in the friendly hotel staff arranged for a taxi to take me to the Gardens to see the flower festival.
The festival, which ran from December 15-31, showcased37 species of flowers and sculptures in the shape of a snowman and Barbie doll, using both real and fake flowers.
The flower show was followed both a two-day music concert that began on Christmas eve and saw performances by famous artists including SaiSai Kham Leng, Snare, Bunny Phyo and Sandy MyintLwin, R Zarni, Big Bag, Idiots, Wai La and so on.
The Botanical Gardens are a jewel in the country’s crown and never fail to delight. Founded in 1915 by a British forest researcher who wanted to replicate the beauty of London’s Kew Garden’s, the Botanical Gardens spans a total of 240 acres and featuresa butterfly museum, bamboo garden, pine forest, aviary, orchid garden, fossils museum, and rock garden
The gardens are set in PyinOoLwin, located in the Shan highlands nearly 70km east of Mandalay. PyinOoLwinis famous for its flower and vegetable industries, aided by a cool climate that made it popular among the British during colonial rule.
“PyinOoLwin has another name, which is Flowery Land,” said Thiha Toe, a 23-year-old resident of PyinOoLwin, adding that the festival’s organizers were passionate about showing their flowers to the rest of the world, which is how the show started.
Covering the park and seeing all it has to offer is a challenge as there is so much to see. From the butterfly museum to the rock garden, visitors are spoilt for choice. The garden has about 5000 trees and more than 40 species of orchids. But for those looking to zip around as quickly as possible the park offers the option to rent a buggy car by the hour.
Climbing the 12-story Nan Myint Tower, however, is a must. From the top I had a panoramic view of Kandawgyi Lake, with its wooden bridges and small gilded pagoda.
In the high season the Gardens can get very crowded, which has resulted in flowers and the grass being trampled upon. So to see the place at its best, and quietest, it’s best to beat the crowds.
The Park is open from 8am until 6pm. The entrance fee is 1000 kyat for locals and USD$5 for foreigners.