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Myitkyina

And Indawgyi Lake

Myitkyina in Kachin State, Myanmar’s northernmost state, is reachable by boat, train, plane or bus. What Myitkyina city lacks in architectural sites it makes up for in welcoming locals and a diverse smattering of ethnicity, including Kachin, Lisu, Burmese and Chinese. Sleepy at the best of times, this largely Christian town is particularly tranquil when the churches fill up with the devout on Sunday mornings.

You will bump into few other tourists in Myitkyina, although there is a small expat community made up of missionaries and NGO workers. When in Myitkyina, it is worth trotting down to the produce market at dawn to see a flotilla of canoes gliding up the golden river with fresh vegetables. One should also visit the Hsu Taung Pye Zedi Daw Pagoda, funded by a Japanese soldier who served in Myitkyina against the Burma Independence Army and the British in WWII, commemorating his 3, 400 comrades who died in Myanmar.


Festivals in Myitkyina

Around January 10th is the Manao Festival, where the six Kachin tribes come together in the National Kachin Manao Field to feast and dance around Native American-style totem poles. Held just before February is the Lisu New Year, where the Lisu congregate in their traditional dress and embark upon heady activities such as scaling knife towers barefoot.

Photo: Ann Wang


Indawgyi Lake

When staying in Myitkyina tourists can visit Myanmar’s biggest lake, the vast and idyllic Indawgyi Lake, where in March 10, 000 people gather for the Shwe Myitzu Pagoda Festival. Indawgyi Lake is Myanmar’s largest lake, and has been designated a ‘wetland of international importance’ by the Switzerland-based Ramsar Secretariat.

Underneath the lake it is believed are the remains of an ancient city that was flooded - Noahs's Ark-esque - by a punitive dragon who became fed up with the greedy ways of the residents. Only a virtuous widow and her two children escaped, having received prior warning of the coming flood but been scoffed at when attempting to warn her neighbours. It is said, underneath the shallow water the near the village of Nammilaung, this lady's enlarged footprint can still be spotted. It is also believed that those who look closely can see the shadow of the dragon in the glimmer of the lake, circling above, ready to descend again if and when the people of Indawgyi forget the fate of the former inhabitants. To serve as a reminder, on full moon nights the sounds of the drowned city come up from the depths of the lake ... Or so it is said.

It is possible to stay on the banks of the Indawgyi itself, in the charming - albeit slightly basic - In Daw Mahar Guesthouse. When staying on the lake, visitors can be taken on light hikes up Shwe Taung (Golden Mountain), cycle or motorbike around the circumference of the lake, kayak to the villages on the banks (not just Kachin but also Shan Ni or ‘Red Shan’), and board a boat to Shwe Myitzu Pagoda. The villagers of Lonton (where In Daw Mahar is situated, also spelt 'Lon Dohn') are delightful and there is a motley selections of comely eateries. For breakfast, we would recommend Khin Khin Tun’s freshly based pancakes served with local honey and Shan coffee.

Photo: Soraya Soriente Pahm

 

Have a look at our Suggested Journeys that incorporate a trip to Myitkyina, or alternatively find out how we curate Tailor-made Journeys.