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Myanmar: Myitkyina Hsu Taung Pye Zedidaw

I rented a bicycle from the YMCA so i could get around a little faster. Approximately 15 minutes north is the impressive Hsu Taung Pye Zedidaw (or Sutaung Pyi Pagoda complex). This area is right next to the river and includes a golden pagoda, and a huge standing and reclining Buddhas adjacent to it.

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Donations are asked for to see the pagoda. It’s not compulsory, but i like to give a little. Around K200 is enough, and it gives you the chance to photograph the man collecting 😉

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It was interesting to see how many young people were hanging out there, and they would nip in for a quick worship before taking photos on their phones and heading on their way.

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Behind the complex, overlooking the river, is a restaurant where local students hang out. If you are visiting this area it’s a great place to stop for something to eat and drink.

Myanmar: Myitkyina Morning Market

One of the nice things about Myitkyina is its compactness. You can walk a lot of places, and see even more with the help of a bicyle. There are plenty of motorbike taxis if you prefer to be taken places.

The wet market is where fresh produce is sold in the early morning. It’s split into separate areas, and there is plenty of sighs and smells. Some of the produce comes in by small boat, and if you walk through to the back of the market you can watch boats crossing the calm waters of the Irrawaddy.

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I find it very difficult to take photographs of people in markets. I’m always aware they are busy selling their produce, and probably don’t want a lens pointed in their face. In Kengtung I hadn’t taken any market photos at all, which was a shame as it’s the most interesting market I’ve ever been to due to the many different ethnic groups there. I wondered if i was thinking about it too much, so decided this was the time to give it a go.

Inside the market is very dark, so photography is tricky. I cranked up the ISO to 1600, and then to 2000. I probably should have pushed it higher, although my wide aperture lens helped to keep adequate shutters speeds. With the odd exception where i could grab a sneaky shot, i asked if i could photograph. One lady was obviously too shy, but other than that i was given the green light. Most people just carried on working, without interacting with the camera. I noticed that they would be a little uncomfortable if you took too many photos, so if i didn’t get the shot within a couple of frames i would stop shooting and thank them.

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I’m not sure if i’ve described this earlier, but the ladies in Myanmar use a traditional cosmetic named Thanakha, which is to protect their skin and for beauty purpose. Thanakha is made from roots and timber of the Thanakha tree, and is worn by most women and some children. Even though it was very dark in the market, the ladies still tended to wear a good covering of  Thanakha, as can be seen in the photos.

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Myanmar: Myitkyina First Impressions

The plan was to have look around Myitkyina, and then spend a few days taking boats down the Irrawaddy River back to Mandalay. I needed to return to Mandalay to catch the first of my flights home. However,  I felt time was not on my side and, considering i’ve had some pretty special river journeys previously, I decided to spend my last few days of holiday in Myitkyina to relax.

Myitkyina is as far north as a foreigner is allowed in Myanmar without obtaining special permits. It is the capital city of Kachin State, and the northernmost river port in Myanmar. Myitkyina actually means “near the big river” in Burmese,  and the Irradaddy runs very close to the centre of town. Myitkyina is definitely a place to go to experience Myanmar’s multiculturalism including a mix of  Kachin, Shan, Bamar peoples, and some Chinese and Indians. Even though it doesn’t have a wealth of sights, i’m sure there would be enough to keep me happy.

With the exception of an occasional NGO worker, you don’t see many foreigners in town. You feel rather special as you wander the markets and eat at the restaurants overlooking the river. My first day was spend doing only that, as i recovered from the 24 hour train journey that brought me into town early that morning. The photos below show the Hindu temple, and the street market.

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I took a couple of beers at the fantastic ‘River View’ restaurant and beer bar and decided i would get some early morning photographs in the covered market the next day.

Myanmar: The YMCA [Myitkyina]

For a budget traveller who is not fussy then the YMCA is a good choice, but it’s certainly not for everyone.  I arrived before dawn and had no booking, but someone was kind enough to let me check in.

  • The rooms are clean enough
  • You can rent a bicycle from them
  • The staff are lovely
  • They can arrange motorbike hire (very expensive at K40,000 per day)
  • It’s cheap!

I took a US$10 room with shared bathroom.  Note that the YMCA does not have hot water bathrooms, but toilets are western style.

As well as providing simple but affordable rooms for travellers, the YMCA plays an active role in community development. Myitkyina’s YMCA provides the chance to meet everyday people working to make communities stronger. When you stay there, you can smile as your money spent goes towards furthering a worthy cause.

The YMCA also has tourist information on what areas are accessible – see below – and also provide a map, which is handy to find your way around town on the first day – click the thumbnail for the large version.

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