Monday, May 06, 2013

Myitkyina: The Jade Capital of Myanmar

Money has either given people too much comfort or too much trouble. In Myitkyina it is the latter. Situated in the northern state of Kachin in Myanmar, Myitkyina is close to some of the best jade mountains in the world and the other precious stones of ruby, emerald are not far behind. Even gold is found here in huge quantities. And everyone wants a chunk of it and that includes the neighboring country of China who takes a lot of these goods out silently.

A Myitkyina market scene
There are the people of Kachin who want the K
achin state to be spun off as a separate country so that they can keep these precious metals and stones to themselves and that is why there have been fights between the Kachin rebels and the Myanmar government. Thankfully, in the last couple of years there has not been much fighting and that is how I could visit Myitkyina. But, the bitter relationships with the government can be seen through very minimal electricity supply  in this town.

Ayerawaddy river view from New Light Hotel, Myitkyina, Burma
Everyone in Myitkyina has worked or is working in the gem industry. They either own the land, operate gem shops or do the menial job of searching for gem stones in the river water and on the banks. It is easy money, but it doesn’t look like the money is being equally distributed to everyone. In fact, it is considered lucky if the money remains in Myanmar as invariably some local helps foreign companies to dig while making small profits.

Myitkyina town view from New Light Hotel
But, keeping the gem industry aside, Myitkyina is a great river side town. Much more greener and much more cooler than the other states of Myanmar, the people here have always got a smile on their faces. Like in other riverside towns, it is here too that the Ayerawaddy river forms the character of the town. The vibrant markets, the bigger shops and the big buildings are all located near the river.

Manao Park where the Kachin festival is held
Even though the town has an airport and a railway station, the town is not very big. In fact, you can happily walk the entire city in 2 days. My best part of the town is its airport, which ends as soon as you take 10 feet away from the aircraft and your bags are handed to you in the parking lot. In terms of sightseeing, the markets offer an interesting experience and so do the cosmopolitan population (Burmese, Indians, Chinese, Nepali, Sikhs). There are a couple of churches that are dated and very well preserved. During festivals, the locals go to Manao park that is located by the river for seeing the dances and celebrations. Then there is Myitsone, a confluence of 2 rivers about a couple of hours away for a relaxed retreat and Indogyi Lake, about 5 hours away for a lakeside holiday.

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