Located in the far northern reaches of Myanmar, just 50 km from the Chinese border lies Myitkyina. Although lacking in monuments, Myitkyina is a charming town with a diverse population, famous jade mines and a strong trade economy thanks to its riverside location.
Most visitors use Myitkyina as a starting or finishing point for a river cruise. Located on the western banks of the Ayeyarwaddy River, the town is interesting for a day visit. Its easy to explore on foot or by local trishaw or motorbike as the town centre stretches only a few blocks. A mix of traditional wood buildings are interspersed with some more modern concrete buildings. One of the only ‘sites’ in town, the 98-foot reclining Buddha a Hsu Taung Pye Zedidaw, is worth a visit.
If your interested in culture then Myitkyina will certainly intrigue. Myitkyina is the capital of the Kachin state but its people are a mix of Kachin, Shan, Bamar and ethnic Indians, giving the town a somewhat cosmopolitan feel. The annual Kachin festival, Manaw festival, is a colourful celebration of the Kachin traditions, food and dance. It is held in January and, if you can time your visit around it, is well worth visiting. There is also a small Kachin museum where you can learn about the customs and history of the Kachin people.
If you have more than a day, then it is suggested to head to the outskirts of town to explore the countryside. North of Myitkyina is the confluence of Maykah and Malika Rivers, from which the Ayeyarwaddy River is formed. There are also lovely rolling landscapes and small local villages to explore.
Although far away, geographically, from most of the tourist destinations in Myanmar, Myitkyina is an interesting place to visit before or after an Ayeyarwaddy boat trip. There are regular flights from Mandalay and Yangon as well as a 24-hour train trip from Mandalay.