Located in the far northern reaches of Myanmar, just 50 km from the Chinese border lies the large city of Myitkyina. With a multicultural population of 150,000, Myitkyina is home to Kachin, Shan, Bamar and ethnic Indians, which give the city a somewhat cosmopolitan feel. Myitkyina is well off the beaten track, nestled snugly off the usual tourist trail around Yangon and Mandalay, giving travellers a rare glimpse of a special part of the world which remains free of the influences of the outside world. This is one of the many factors I decided to leave the crowded streets of Yangon and Mandalay to head wander the streets of Myitkyina and take in the delights which few ever do.
The hour-long flight in the small prop-jet from Mandalay was a little bumpy, due to hot air rising over the mountain ranges. We touched down at the small airport in Myitkyina, which itself had a long history. The airport was occupied by the Japanese during World War II, and was attacked numerous times until the end of the war by allied troops.
I left the plane with my carry-on bag, collected the rest of my luggage and met my driver outside the terminal before being whisked away to drop off my belongings and explore this incredible city. To my surprise, there were very few vehicles on the streets of the city. Occasionally I would see the odd motorbike, but this was it. It was as though I was travelling in the only car in town. I had been to places like Vietnam, where there seems to be more motorbikes than people. Myitkyina seemed to opt for the most eco-friendly forms of transport available – rickshaws or by foot.
My hotel was practically in the centre of town, and from outside the lobby I decided to gain my bearings. There’s nothing like being a traveller and experiencing the feeling of arriving in a new place, not even knowing which way north is. It was a feeling I had as I watched the crowds of people walking up and down the streets, smelling the delicious spices permeating from nearby Indian curries being sold by street vendors and the mix of colours of the clothes the locals wore and the buildings.
I was told by some veteran travellers who I met in Mandalay, and had fallen in love with the place, that the world’s best jade mines are located a short distance away from Myityina at the small town of Hpa Kant but you would need a special permission if you want to visit them.
It was time to make my way to the Myitson, which is the junction of two large mountain streams. It was amazing to see how these two mountain streams converged into raging torrents. These two streams continue on to form the mighty Ayeyarwady River, which stretches for another 2150 km, before it empties into the Gulf of Mottama.By the time I knew it, I had spent the day travelling, and it was getting late. The sun was setting as I sat back and enjoyed the changing colours of the sun reflecting off this unique landscape. I looked forward to a good night’s sleep followed by a day wandering the streets of Myitkyina the next day.
Myitkyina, 05 Januaray 2010