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Kachin State

 

MYITKYINA

The capital of Kachin State, the main attraction of Myitkyina (pronounced Mitchinar) is its cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, its attractive riverside setting and its use as a starting point for trips to surrounding tribal villages and other sights – including Myanmar’s largest body of water, Indawgyi Lake.

Myitkyina is currently the furthest north that it is possible to travel in Myanmar over land by train, bus etc. As a foreigner, you will certainly receive a lot of friendly attention from the wide variety of people who live here, including ethnic Kachin (including a large Christian contingent); Hindus; Sikhs; Muslims; and Gurkhas.

Myitkyina is roughly centered around its railway station, from the station you can walk to a number of sights, including the riverfront with its market and large number of places of worship which line it. There is an impressive new golden Hindu temple; the market is a few blocks further up; and roughly 25 minutes walk further north is the impressive Sutaung Pyi Pagoda complex (sometimes spelt Hsu Taung Pye). This area right next to the river includes the usual golden pagoda, but perhaps of more interest are the huge standing and reclining Buddhas adjacent to it.

MYITSONE - THE AYEYARWADDY RIVER SOURCE

45 kilometres to the north of Myitkyina you will find Myitsone - the scenic confluence of the Mayhka (N'Mai) and Malikha rivers which marks the start of the mighty Irrawaddy river. The journey, which is rough in parts, takes one and a half hours drive from the town.

THE KACHIN MANAW FESTIVAL

The Kachin Manaw festival is a week-long festival that takes place in Myitkyina in January and is sacred to the Kachin people of northern Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands come from surrounding towns and villages to participate in mass dances performed in tribal customes.

INDAWGYI LAKE

Indawgyi Lake is a secluded destination for nature lovers in remote Kachin State. The largest lake in Myanmar, Indawgyi remains pristine and undeveloped and has been designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve; it’s still possible to find places where you won’t hear the drone of a motor – or even see a single boat.

The area is largely untouched by tourism, with few foreigners making the journey this far north. It’s truly a place to relax and enjoy the simple rural lifestyle and the beautiful natural surroundings. Indawgyi has also become something of an adventure destination with kayaking, trekking, cycling, bird-watching and recreational fishing all on offer.

Indawgyi Lake is accessible from the start of October until the end of May and each of those months has its own charm. In October and November the visibility is amazing, and it’s often possible to see the entire lake – at its best in the afternoon light. From December onwards, the visibility gradually becomes worse, getting very hazy at times. But the serenity of the location remains and the arrival of the migratory birds provide its own touch of magic.

ATTRACTIONS

Shwe Myitzu Pagoda

The most famous landmark at Indawgyi Lake, Shwe Myitzu Pagoda is beautiful from the water, especially as it casts its reflection in the late afternoon sunlight. The pagoda festival held here in March attracts more than 100,000 people from the surrounding area. At that time of year, towards the end of the dry season, the water level is low enough that you can walk across to the pagoda from the mainland on a wooden walkway.

Shwe Taung (Golden Mountain)

Rising from the northern shore of Indawgyi Lake, Shwe Taung is pagoda-topped hill that provides great views of the lake in its entirety. It’s only a 25 minute walk up the hill from the lake at a moderate incline, and there’s a monastery on the way where the friendly locals are likely to offer you some refreshments. Due to its distance from Lonton village, Shwe Taung can only be reached by motor boat or motorbike (it is too far to cycle or kayak in a single day). Note that motorbikes in the Indawgyi lake area can only be rented with driver (self-drive is not permitted).

Lake-side villages

There are a number of lakeside villages dotted around Indawgyi; visiting them and interacting with the local people is a highlight for most visitors. Some of the most interesting villages are listed below.

  • Namde and Nammilaung villages have houses that are home to elephants.
  • Lwemun Village is the most picturesque village on the lake and has two monasteries and a nat (sprit) shrine.
  • Hepa. The lake front of this village on the east shore is especially scenic. The first few houses on each of the east-west streets that reach the lake are built on stilts, which the lake flows under when it is at its highest level.

Putao

Situated in the far north of Myanmar, and only accessible by air, Putao is a small and picturesque town in the Himalayan foothills, with a mostly ethnic Kachin and Lisu population. During the late British colonial era, there was a military outpost called Fort Hertz here.

For the truly adventurous, there are some ultimate trekking, mountaineering, white water rafting and even adventure skiing opportunities in the surrounding mountains. At the northern tip of Myanmar, the Himalayan peak of Hkakabo Razi sits on the border of Myanmar, China and India is famed as Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain (standing at 5,881 metres).

Practical notes

Costs are high when getting to Putao, staying there, and going on guided tours. You will also need a lot of time to make journeys in northern Kachin State as infrastructure is extremely limited. Although the mountain scenery surrounding Putao is attractive, it is distant; to reach Himalayan valleys takes days of sometimes tough hiking. And an ascent of Hkakabo Razi – only for the most serious of mountaineers – takes over a month, although there are some challenging peaks that can be ascended closer by.

Please note that access to Putao is currently restricted to the town - further travel is not permitted for foreigners and tours are not possible; we will update this website as soon as the situation changes.

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