Pyin Oo Lwin or Pyin U Lwin is a picturesque hill town in Mandalay, Myanmar. The town is also known as Maymyo. With an altitude of 1,070 meters, it offers pleasant cool weather that is a stark contrast of the warm and humid climate experienced in most part of the country. It is about 67 kilometers away from the city center of Mandalay. In addition to the weather and scenic attractions, Pyin Oo Lwin is significantly known for its rich history.
The town was established in the 19th century as a military outpost since it is strategically located on a hill. Situated on a trail between Nawnghkio and Mandalay, the town is near a small village occupied by the Shan ethnic people with only about two dozen families back then. In 1896, as the British military post became a permanent facility in the area, hordes of British nationals arrived to escape the heat and humidity in the capital city of Rangoon, making the hill station the summer capital of British Burma. During the hot season, the country’s commercial and economic establishments from Rangoon would move to Maymyo. More and more British discovered the place until it became densely populated with Anglo-Burmese families. “Maymyo” literally means “May’s Town”, referring to Colonel May, the commander of the Bengal Regimen that was temporarily stationed here in 1887 and a veteran of the Indian Mutiny. During the Japanese Occupation, the Imperial Army learned that the British population is largely concentrated in Maymyo and so they incarcerated many of the local residents for fear of their loyalty to the British over the Japanese flag. When the military government of Burma took over, the town was renamed Pyin Oo Lwin.
During colonial times, the town was not only known for its climate and military base, but also for the best schools in the country, which included the well-known GEHSs (Government English High Schools) at that time, such as the Colgate School, St. Michael’s Convent, St. Mary’s Convent, Saint Albert’s Convent, and St. Joseph’s Convent. There were also a number of military-based schools. Children of British expats and Anglo-Burmese families went to these schools. Today, the leading schools in town are the Defense Services Academy (DSA) and Defense Services Institute of Technology (DSIT). Most Burmese of Western descent are still living here, along with approximately 10,000 Indians and 5,000 Gorkhas.
In addition to its thriving tourism industry, Pyin Oo Lwin has a vibrant economy that is propelled by several local industries such as sweater knitting, sericulture (silkworm) cow rearing and coffee bean production. The Sericulture Research Center raises and grows silkworms, as well as plants and harvests mulberry trees, whose leaves are used to feed the worms and bark is used to make hand-made paper. It also has rich strawberry fields, pineapple orchards, flower and vegetable gardens and coffee plantations. It is now fast becoming the country’s center for coffee production. The most popular flowers produced and exported are gladiolus, aster and chrysanthemum. It is also home to the National Botanical Gardens (also known as National Kandawgyi Gardens), which is a leading tourist attraction and flora and fauna reserve since 1915.