Travel

To Elusive Snow-Capped Peaks— Destination Guide to Northern Myanmar

By Marie Starr 2 April 2019

The former police commissioner’s home in Katha has been converted into a small museum about the history of Katha, including its most famous resident, George Orwell. / Marie Starr

Katha

Katha is a small, sleepy town famous for being the setting of George Orwell’s novel Burmese Days. Orwell was stationed as a police officer here from 1926 to 1927 and the locations featured in the story—including the British Club and Orwell’s house—can be visited today. Local Orwell enthusiasts have managed to save the former Commissioner’s House from demolition and have simple visual exhibits connected to Orwell and the history of the town.

Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary was named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2017. / Myanmar Tourism Federation

Indawgyi Lake

Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Park is an official UNESCO Biosphere Reserve which is special for its rich population of wildlife and water birds, many of which are endemic or endangered species. Visitors usually base themselves at Lon Ton on the southwestern shore of Indawgyi Lake and can take boat rides over the the famous “floating” Shwemyitzu Pagoda, kayak on the water and learn about the Shan-ni culture. Trekking with a local guide in the surrounding hills is an educational and rewarding experience.

A view of the Irrawaddy River from a riverside restaurant in Myitkyina. / Marie Starr

Myitkyina

This Kachin capital is a city unlike any other in Myanmar. As well as people from the Kachin ethnic group, you’ll see Chinese influence and a multitude of other ethnic subgroups and religions as evidenced by the traditional outfits the range of places of worship you’ll see on a walk around the city or at the central market. Myitsone, the point where two rivers converge to form the important Irrawaddy River, is a one-hour drive north of the city. This confluence has also been the subject of nationwide protests against a proposed China-backed hydropower dam. At sundown, go to a riverside restaurant and try the herby Kachin dishes teamed with the local liquor, sepi.

The snow-capped mountains of northern Kachin State. / The Irrawaddy

Putao

Putao, the northernmost town of Myanmar, is surrounded by the snowy mountains of the eastern Himalayas and can only be accessed by flight from Myitkyina. It is home to the the Lisu and Rawang ethnic subgroups. The little-visited town is the closest urban center to Myanmar’s—and Southeast Asia’s—highest mountain, the unconquerable Hkakabo Razi. Foreigners are required to have a permit to go outside the town where there are opportunities for whitewater rafting, long-distance trekking and even mountaineering.

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