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Our Trip to Pyin Oo Lwin

Pyin Oo Lwin, the former British summer hill station of Maymyo, was founded in 1896. Along with Yangon and Mawlamyine, it hosts one of Myanmar’s significant inventories of well-preserved British occupation-era structures, and quite possibly the largest architectural collection of early twentieth century colonial residential villas in Southeast Asia. World Monuments Fund travelled there to visit Kandawgyi National Botanical Park to make a survey of colonial structures. Established in 1924 and capitalizing on the wanderings of a small creek, the park is a beautiful series of manipulated and manicured environments, including pine and bamboo forests, an orchid garden, butterfly museum, a swamp boardwalk, and several small lakes leading to a reservoir. As part of WMF’s ongoing partnership in Mandalay at the teak monastery known as Shwe-nandaw Kyaung, with the Myanmar Ministry of Culture and Department of Archaeology, we are planning on landscaping the monastery’s existing derelict garden as part of an improved drainage network. Funds for conservation and improving drainage to reduce fungal decay and termite infestation are part of a U.S. State Department grant from the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP). I hope in the future that Shwe-nandaw Kyaung’s garden becomes a showplace for the citizens of Mandalay like this park. Kandawgyi National Botanical Park offers ideal examples on usage of decorative paving, vegetation, and flowers, and WMF hopes to engage the park’s management for advice in planning Shwe-nandaw Kyaung’s future rehabilitated context. In Pyin Oo Lwin’s nearby town center we saw some grand estates built by my country’s former occupiers, many designed as reminders of their homeland county residences with Tudor-like brick chimneys and fireplaces. But where they differ is in their roofs: made with large and steep overhangs adapted to the rainy weather of the region. Of special interest is the abandoned Free Masons meeting hall on the outskirts of town complete with peep-hole doors leading to a secret meeting room, and several old hotel where many famous people spent time. As WMF’s Civil Engineer on the Shwe-nandaw Kyaung project, I am learning many new things about conserving our heritage, and surprisingly for me, experiencing my own country in ways I never imagined. Soon I will take part in a new WMF AFCP project, documenting and undertaking a condition assessment of Adoniram Judson’s Church in Mawlamyine, the county’s second oldest. I thought it was important to prepare for that mission by seeing nearby Pyin Oo Lwin, and by the way, escaping the hot monsoon weather of Mandalay.