Myitkyina is the capital of Kachin State in Northern Myanmar. The population of the town is around 200,000 and includes a healthy ethnic mix of Bamar, Kachin, and Indian people.
Myitkyina was the site of a bitter battle between Japanese and Allied forces during the Second World War. The town was almost completely destroyed in the battle. The location of the town, in an opportunistic valley between India and China, made it strategic enough to be on the Ledo Road built by the US General Joseph Stilwell.
Myitkyina is a busy town and acts as the business center of Kachin State.
(Update December 2013) The fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the army of the central government has largely stopped but the road remains closed to foreigners for now. There are no boat connections between the town.
(Update January 2017) The city of Myitkyina is remarkably clean and cold and easy to traverse for the hardy foreigner. Fighting in Kachin and Shan state has not altered the day to day activities in Myitkyina and nearby places of interest. Foreigners can easily travel many kilometers north and west of Myitkyina without problems.
Myitkyina is not a small town which means that most of the time a motorbike taxi or a rented motorbike is the best way to get through town. Trishaws are available too. Another good way to get around are so-called Thonbeins (3-Wheelers), which can accommodate several people. Taxi-cars can be found and offer more comfort and safety, albeit at higher prices.
(2017) Local prices to travel by taxi are 500 ks and the price is not altered by distance. It is possible to go to Wainmaw (southeast of Myitkyina) in a 3-wheeler, along with locals, for the local price.
- Cold and Dry Season – November to Feburary
Temperatures can go down to about 5°C at night, which means freezing mornings and evenings and the need for some very thick blankets at night. Daytime temperatures of about 20-27°C.
- Warm Season – March to June
Temperatures are steadily rising through the months of March, April and May. Overall pleasant, especially in March and April as there is no rain yet.
- Wet Season – June to September
Hot and rainy weather similar to large parts of Thailand and southern Myanmar. Thunderstorms, heavy rainfalls and floods are common. Daytime temperatures of about 30-35°C and night temperatures of 25 °C.
- Kachin Manao Park - Visit the area in which the annual Kachin Manau Festival is held. The park is a major site of historical significance, especially for ethnic Kachin people who comprise approximately 40 per cent of Kachin State's population. Since 2006, the annual festival on January 10 has been a subject of controversy and a number of Christian groups have boycotted the celebration in recent years since fighting resumed between the KIA and Tatmadaw.
- Kachin Cultural Museum - A museum (entrance fee 5000 Kyats for foreigners, 200 Kyats for locals) about the culture of the Kachin and Shan. Some interesting things on display, such as pictures of the mountains of the Putao area and dresses of the Kachin and Shan tribes. It also explains missionary influence on Kachin script and language. Unfortunately it does not offer an objective view on Kachin people as it´s owned by the government.
- Alam Udang Bum - (25.562474, 97.450928) Known in English as the "Holy Cross Mountain", this two-hour Christian Catholic pilgrimage is available to the public for free and is situated roughly 24 kilometres North of Myitkyina, in the Kachin village of Alam. Visitors to the shrine can walk up the side of the mountain to witness a vantage point where the entire city of Myitkyina can be seen, and beyond. At the peak of the hilltop shrine is a 30 foot cross and pilgrims/visitors have the option to choose shortcuts to get their destination. The grounds are maintained by the Catholic Diocese of Myitkyina.
- Myitsone - Approximately 1 hour's drive north of Myitkyina is the confluence of two Himalayan rivers--from China and India respectively--that drain together and form the Irrawaddy river. The confluence of these two rivers is a tourist attraction often visited by Myanmar and Chinese visitors from Yunnan. Travelers can rent a motorbike in Myitkyina for prices between 5,000 - 13,000 ks and head to the confluence for a day of sightseeing and eating local Kachin food at the side of the river. Recently a Pagoda was erected on the side of the river but the oldest religious site in the vicinity of Myitsone can be found east of the river at the confluence: a Catholic shrine of Mother Mary. A small and slightly unremarkable boat tour is available for an indeterminable price. With the use of translation applications and miming it is possible to get the boatmen to bring visitors to the shrine.
- Drive - Rent a motorbike and explore the town on your own. Unlocking access to your own wheels lets you set your own schedule with minimal communication breakdowns, wherein one can drive all over the city and take detours along the way. As of 2017, travelers can drive with zero issues to neighboring Waingmaw in the Southeast, Eidan in the west, Alam and Myitsone in the far north. To rent a motorbike, contact your local guest house or hotel. Rakesh, the night manager of the New Light Hotel, can obtain a motorbike rental for 13,000 ks while the bike shop around the corner can possibly rent a bike to a foreigner for 10,000 ks. Find Myanmar Myitkyina offers online motorbike rentals and will deliver them directly to your hotel or destination of your choice.
- Cheap Burmese Golf - Near the airport is a golf course called "Five Star". The course is expensive but the driving range is extremely cheap (1000 ks for a box of balls) and comes with a servant who will tee each ball for you. There's also a bar.
- Hiking the pilgrim's path - Some of the best hiking and sightseeing in Kachin State can be found for free by seeking out Christian Catholic pilgrimages such as Alam Udang Bum. Detailed directions to the site can be obtained by seeking out a Catholic priest at St. Columban's Cathedral, located on the west side of the train tracks in downtown Myitkyina.
- Hunting for amber - In the northern part of town near the University is Myitkyina's Gem and Jewelry Trade Center, which offers some of the world's best amber for fantastic prices which fluctuate with the blink of an eye.
- Day trip to Mogaung - In the morning foreign travelers can purchase a ticket to travel to the nearby town of Mogaung for a new experience. The town is well known for its gems and a number of cultural activities also take place. The train back to Myitkyina can be boarded at about 5 p.m. on most days. Taxis back to Myitkyina can be 30,000 ks or more depending on the individual service.
- Sing - Many youth in Myanmar spend their evenings by campfires or in the park adjacent to the Hindu temple, smoking and drinking, playing guitar and singing. Foreigners often are invited to join in the fun and can be deputized as singers.
- Work out - In recent years a number of gyms have sprung up in Myitkyina and each offer competitive prices for recently-purchased gym equipment from China. Located beside the river at Manau Park, HAMMER fitness offers day passes for 2,000 ks and Hero Gym offers day passes for prices between 2,000 to 7,000 ks. You can also join local people for a run or workout at Manau Park. Many people run there and there are very hard punching bags set up in the trees.
One can find and buy the world's best jade and gems in Kachin State. Buy Kachin traditional dresses, handicrafts and other national cultural textiles and food.
In downtown Myitkyina, a large indoor marketplace can also be a great place to buy a Burmese gong.
Outdoor markets have a variety of local oddities such as mugs made out of monkey skulls. Caution should be exercised.
- Kiss Me Restaurant – Beautifully located next to the Ayeyarwaddy River. Good variety of dishes (Chinese, Bamar and Kachin). Fair prices. English menus. Very popular among the youth of Myitkyina. Located next to the Su Taung Pyi Pagoda.
- River View Restaurant - Also located on the western edge of the Ayeyarwaddy is a large open outdoor restaurant well known by wealthy locals.
- New World Restaurant - Located a couple blocks Northwest of the train station is a restaurant where french fries and various well-cooked and clean food can be purchased. The owners know English and are used to serving foreigner. However, prices for certain menu items are not cheap for the budget traveler.
- Italian N' Dream - Fresh juices and coffee for 1,500 to 2,000 ks can be purchased at a modern and western coffee shop situated across the street from New World, which is a block south of the Catholic church in Myitkyina.
- Shwe Ba Gyi - Located half a block south on the opposite side of the road of KBZ Bank on Munkrain Rd., downtown Myitkyina, is a small alley restaurant called Shwe Ba Gyi, which means "Golden Art" in Burmese. In recent months (2016-2017) the restaurant has exploded with foreign visitors in search for Burma's best tomato salad. Prices for tomato salad at Shwe Ba Gyi are 700 ks, though language barriers will likely be faced.
- Café 60 – Located next to the Kachin Manao Park (cultural point of interest). One of the best places in Myitkyina for delicious food (Bamar, Chinese, Kachin). Very popular among local people. Good prices for big dishes. English menus are available. Only drawback is the lack of good service. A larger "Cafe 60 Dimsun" can be found on Munkrain Rd., south of of Manau Park.
- Shwe Taung - (Golden Mountain in English) This large restaurant has a gigantic roof and sports a stage for live entertainment on the weekends.
- Five Star Chicken - Found throughout Myanmar is a chain of fast food stands which offer fried chicken for prices between 800-1200 ks per leg or breast of chicken, served on a skewer. In Myitkyina, no garbage pails are offered by the company but stray cats and dogs will recycle discarded bones and cartilage if given the option.
- Tea shops - Despite being the capital of Kachin State, Myitkyina businesses often close early and the only businesses that stay open are street side tea shops that offer coffee, tea and sometimes food for bargain prices. Often business is conducted by locals in these places.
Alcohol in Myitkyina can be purchased in a variety of places.
- Hitting the bar - It's extremely cheap to drink at a bar or restaurant in Myitkyina. New World Restaurant offers shots of Mandalay Rum for 200 ks and soft drinks run between 500 to 800 ks.
- Buying your own liquor' - Across the street from New Light Hotel is a liquor store where various local liquors can be purchased for 1000-3000 ks. (Jan 2017) The owner of this particular store gives gifts to foreigners, speaks English, and imports high end booze from around the world. Champagne can be bought for about 25,000 ks (Dec. 2016)
Another liquor store 30 feet north of "Italian N' Dream", owned by Indians, also offers an eclectic variety of alcohol.
- Jingpo rice wine - Wrapped up inside a tube of bamboo, local rice booze of varying qualities can be found on the side of the road in Myitkyina.
- New Light Hotel has nice rooms with free drinking water and shared bathrooms for 17,000 kyats (Jan 2016). Larger rooms with private bathrooms are also available. 5 mins walking distance from the train station.
- YMCA $10 (13,000 kyats)/Singles (shared bathroom) or $14 (depending on room size, private/shared bathroom). Basic budget-traveler place with friendly (and helpful) staff. Little comfort. Hot water not always available in private rooms, never available for shared bathrooms (Jan 2016).
Note: the pin on Google Maps is not correct; the YMCA is about 5 minutes walking distance from the train station. When you leave the station, turn left and continue down a busy road to a big intersection. Turn left there and cross the train tracks. Afterwards, turn immediately right onto the YMCA's road, you'll see it on your left side.
- Hotel Madira- Rooms starting at 45 USD, modern hotel, clean, comfortable and spacious rooms, free snacks and coffe/tea.
- Hotel United- Rooms starting at 30 USD, rooms are comfortable but smaller than the ones of Hotel Madira.
- Palm Spring Resort – Luxurious resort with swimming pool and lots of greenery, Rooms starting at 120 USD.
- Drug abuse, especially Heroin (locally known as Number 4) is rampant among the local population, especially the (Kachin) youth. This has had several negative consequences and has made parts of Myitkyina a relatively rough place.
- To stay safe you should avoid walking around the northern quarters Shitapru and Tatkone at night. You should also avoid riding motorbikes on quiet roads in this northern area of Myitkyina. Sometimes groups of criminals try to stop motorbike drivers and steal their belongings and their motorbike.
- The city center is generally more safe than the outskirts of town but some normal precautions should be taken.
- The city is generally a very safe place during the day.
- Foreigners are currently (Jan 2016) not allowed to leave town by boat towards Mandalay **
- Bhamo reachable by bus FOR LOCALS ONLY. 10,000 kyat. Foreigners cannot reach Bhamo from Myitkyina as of March 2016. You will have to head south along the western shore of the Irrawaddy from Myitkyina, either by train, or by bus. You can start a boat cruise from Katha (reachable via the Naba train stop).
- Myitsone (Mali Zup in Kachin language), the confluence of Mali and Nmai Rivers and the starting point of the Irrawady river, 40 miles from Myitkyina. Boat tours are available (8.000 - 10.000 Kyats). Some decent restaurants and shops are located at the confluence. Nice views.
- Waingmaw The town across the river from Myitkyina. Nice drive via the big Ayeyarwaddy Bridge that offers breathtaking views.
- Praying Mountain Located about 15km north of Myitkyina in Palana on the main road north to Myitsome. The Praying Mountain is a hill with a viewtower on top. It offers nice views on the surrounding areas including the Ayeyarwaddy River.
- Indawgyi Lake The best way to go there is by firstly heading to Hopin by train (about 4-5 hours from Myitkyina and 14-18 hours from Mandalay). From there you can go by off-road truck to Lonton (~ 1.5 hrs, 5,000 kyats), one of the main villages on Indawgyi Lake and currently there are 2 guesthouses where foreigners can stay overnight. The lake itself is very quiet and home to many birds. You can do a boat tour here and visit the famous Shwe Myitzu Pagoda that is situated right on the lake. Kayaking, cycling and trekking are also available as activities at Indawgyi Lake.