Natma Taung through Kanpetlet Town

Buran (Rhododendron arboretum) tree
Buran (Rhododendron arboretum) tree that produces the state flower of Chin State

Natma Taung through Kanpetlet Town

Natma Taung known as Khaw Nu M’ Cong and in the past as Mt. Victoria is situated in southern Chin State, Mindat, Matupi, and Kanpetlet townships covering an area of 275.35 sq. miles (176,202 acres) at an altitude of more than 10,200 ft. above sea level. The area covered with mountain mists contains Buran (Rhododendron arboretum) tree that produces the state flower of Chin State, Cherry, and pine trees.

Natma Taung had more than 800 tree species and is an area where degradation of the natural environment was kept at a minimum level. Surveys found 23 amphibians, 65 reptiles, and 77 butterfly species as well as rare cats, bears, mountain goats, pangolins, monkeys, and the region’s White-browed Nuthatch as well as 289 different species of birds.

Natma Taung had become a national park in 2010 and numbers of visitors reached the peak number during the New Year transiting from 2018 to 2019. Christmas and the New Year was the time when most visitors came to Kanpetlet town. Visitors came under the arrangement of travel companies as well as on their own.

People from nearby areas of Magway, Minbu, and Pakokku also came by motorcycles. About 1,500 visitors came every day. The majority stay in Kanpetlet at an elevation of more than 4,500 ft. and then climb the Natma Taung. So the six hotels in Kanpetlet hotel zone, as well as motels and inns, were always full of visitors. Some stay in their friends’ or relatives’ houses.

Even before 4 a.m. in the chilling misty morning, Kanpetlet came to life with the sounds of cars and motorcycles warming up to start the journey up Natma Taung. Cars were permitted up to the 10-mile station at an altitude of 9,000 ft. above sea level and from there on the area became a restricted national park area where no cars except for specially permitted ones were allowed. Visitors can proceed to the top of the mountain by foot or by motorcycles.

Most of the visitors hike up the mountain while enjoying the natural beauty and the sounds of the birds. Some women and children who prefer an easier way up and down took a motorcycle ride offered by the locals at Ks 5,000 for ascent and Ks 5,000 for the descent. This bike ride had its fair share of accidents resulting in scratches, cuts, and bruises but still, those who want to take the motorcycle ride were always more than the available motorcycles so there was a considerable waiting time. Locals from the Kanpetlet area were also gaining a sizable income from this.

The path to the top of the mountain from the 10-mile station was about 3 miles 4 furlongs long and there were no shops or stalls along the way so visitors need to bring along sufficient food and water. The hike up the mountain took about three to five hours and those who attempt it need to have enough stamina to complete it. However, all along the way was irresistible photo ops and for those who attempted the way up would find the hike well worth it.

Rhododendron flower, the Chin State national flower is normally red and can be found all along the mountain path but beyond an elevation of 10,000 ft. rare white and yellow color flowers can also be found. Locals were said to have produce wines from their national flower.

To preserve the state flower from extinction, the Forest Department had strictly prohibited peoples from picking the flowers or even breaking off the branch of the tree. This was a timely conservatory move. Forest Department had also started a campaign on reducing the usage of plastics and had set up trash bins along the way. However, it was a sorrowful sight to see discarded plastic bags and water bottles littering many locations along the path. It looks like more still needs to be done.

Just past the 9,000 ft. the elevation is a small ice-covered pond measuring 20 ft. by 15 ft. attracting visitors taking pictures and inspecting it. It was a unique experience to walk the natural path surrounded by small bamboo clusters and shrubs and all the tiredness was taken away by the splendid sight awaiting the climbers at the mountain top.

Natma Taung region situated at an elevation above 10,000 ft. is not a proud natural heritage for Myanmar only but also the ASEAN region as well. Visitors coming by car to the area from all over Myanmar must pass through Kazunma town at the junction of Pathein-Monywa road in Magway Region Seikpyu Township to Saw town where all will stop briefly before ascending the road to Kanpetlet town at an elevation of 4,500 ft. through breathtaking sights.

At Kanpetlet, they’ll be entertained by old Chin women with tattoos on their cheek who’ll play the pipe with their noses! They can also buy Chin clothes weaved in traditional looms as a souvenir. In the evening they can enjoy traditional Chin moonshine liquor and Gayal meat pounded together with chilies beside a born fire. Gayals from Chin mountain ranges belong to the same species (Gavarus) of bison and banteng. These beasts were usually bred for meat and could also be found living in the wild between 2,000 and 10,000 feet above sea level.

Credit: Natma Taung ASEAN heritage Park by Maung Yin Kyay
Natma Taung aka Khaw Nu M' Cong

Chin Mountain Ranges and roaming Gayals

Chin state mountain range

To study the culture and traditions of ethnic Chin nationals, I went to Chin State; I saw a lot of gayals during my trip to Kanpetlet Township in Southern Chin State and Tedim Township in Northern Chin State. Indian pied hornbills and gayals are regarded as outstanding animals for Chin State, but the former is not found during my trip.

Chin State

After our country’s independence, the Chin State was composed of seven Districts; Southern District consisted of Haka, Paletwa and Matupi townships whereas Northern District included Tedim, Haka and Falam townships. After the adoption of the 1974 Constitution, the Chin Division became a State, designating 20 February as its National Day.

Nowadays, Chin State is composed of three Districts and nine townships –

  • Haka district consists of Haka and Htantlang townships
  • Mindat District is composed of Mindat, Kanpetlet, Matupi and Paletwa townships
  • Falam district consists of Falam, Tedim and Tunzang townships

The Chin State which lies in the west of Myanmar is situated on a mountain range far away from Myanmar proper. In the past, difficult transport made people go across the towns through the mountain and spur ranges. Now it is easy to go from town to town through wide and smooth roads. Extensions of motor roads were seen during our trip; herds of gayals have moved en masse among nearby forests.

Beautiful chin state

Gayals from Chin mountain ranges

Gayals belong to the same species (Gavarus) of bison and bantengs. Among the species, gayals have no humps with dented foreheads and small snouts. They are not like cows but with hanging necks and hairs have grown long enough to reach their ankles. Most of them are found grey; black and white gayals are also found in bright colors.

Gayals have generally four white legs below knees; gayals with hair on the belly are also found. If gayals are looked right in front, their triangular heads can be seen. The base of the horn is slightly flat with pump backbones in a strong tail at the base.

Gayals are termed as Sials by ethnic Chin nationals; they are usually bred for meat. They are naturally found between 3000 and 10,000 feet above sea level. They are found roaming in shady gorges in townships in Chin State, Khaunglanphu and Nagmon townships in Northern Kachin State and Leshi township in Sagaing Region.

In Chin State, the wealth of a family is measured by a number of gayals. Visitors are served with gayal meat in traditional festivals, social occasions of joy and grief. By assessing the value of gayals, wedding ceremonies and several kinds of compensations have been awarded up to this day. That might be the reason that the more gayals a man belongs, the wealthier he is regarded.

The breeding of gayals

Among the varieties of draught cattle, dairy and meat cows, the gayal falls into a meat category. The average weight of a gayal is between 800 and 1300 pounds, bigger than local cows nearing the size of the Friesian horse. Cattle breeders marked on the horns of gayals of their own and sent them into the forests. In the past, the breeders did not put a fence for gayals which were marked and freed into the forests. When needed, they were called by their owners by feeding them salt. Sometimes, there were disputes over the markings about ownership of gayals.

Nowadays, they are fenced in by the breeders for meat-producing business. But they are not bred in villages, but in a large compound at a designated place in the forest. The fences for gayals are made of pine branches of crossed posts upon which poles of mangrove trees are tied with thin bamboo strips by creating a compound surrounded by three or four rows. By breeding them inside the fences from June to December, they are sent into the forest for the rest of the months. The gayal breeders have used the fences for six to seven years; a new place is sought for a new compound with a new fence.

Gayals do not eat grasses and straws like Myanmar cows; they eat green leaves, creepers, and bamboo leaves by living in groups. They are very fond of eating salt; the breeders regularly feed them by salt. Gayals roaming in the forests are in the habit of coming to a place when the time of feeding salt comes.

Gayal owners herd them to their villages by feeding salt

Gayals are often found on mountain motor roads; when they see cars and motorcycles coming, they run down along the hillsides. Gayals are not hostile to men, but they attack wild dogs in groups. Wild dogs, in turn, attack young gayals and eat them ravenously. They like a steamy place, but they resist climate change. Very young gayals are often attacked and eaten by tigers and wild dogs, but the loss is few and far among the adult gayals, but only a few in young ones.

The growth rate of gayals is faster than that of Myanmar cows and they could become pregnant at the age of one and a half years. Male gayals have mated up to the age of eight but females could give birth to the young up to the age of 15, producing a young per year. Female gayals are 100% successfully pregnant with very few fatalities. Two young gayals at birth are few and far between. Four-month-old young no longer suck its mother milk and start to eat food other than milk. At the time of giving birth to the young, their mother tends to produce a lot of milk, but Chin nationals do not drink the milk.

Entrusting one’s gayals to another

Ethnic Chin nationals breed gayals to produce meat; they are not trained to be tame to do something. Gayals are easily tamed like Myanmar cows; they are lethargic and roam in groups in the forests. They are mostly free from diseases and live full lifespan unless killed by men. But gayals bred in compounds are vaccinated against diseases during June with the help of employees from Animal Husbandry and Cure Department.

The system of entrusting one’s gayals to another is widely practiced in Chin mountain ranges. The owner of the male gayals has entrusted them to the receiver. If they are bred and give birth to a young, the first offspring belongs to the receiver, the second one goes to the male owner. Other offspring will be shared half-and-half by the owner and the receiver. Because of the good entrusting system, the breeding of gayals has improved dramatically.

Seventy percent of village households in townships in Chin State raise gayals; they are widely bred to show the wealth of a family. The current price of an adult gayal is over eleven lakhs, according to a breeder from Matupi town. At Chin wedding ceremonies, gayals are appraised for the properties brought by the bridegroom to the bride; this tradition is still practiced up to this day. Gayal meat is served as a main dish at the social occasion of joy or grief and festivals; an increase in Chin population means more breeding of gayals.

According to a report released in March 2017, there were 22491 gayals in Chin State with the most gayals in Matupi Township. Visitors to Chin State savor gayal meat with obvious relish and dried gayal meat is widely used. Less striated gayal meat stinks and is boiled soft easily. A male gayal aged between three and four tends to produce 80 to 100 visses.

As gayals and cows have the same genera, they can be bred; but with buffaloes, they cannot be because of different genera. A strange thing is that an ox and a female gayal are bred, the female gayal is fertile whereas the offspring male is sterile. But a male gayal and cow are bred, the male and female offspring are fertile. Friesian ox and female gayal or male gayal or female Friesian are bred, their male and female offspring are fertile.

As gayals are closely connected with Chin traditions, they have been raised in mountain ranges from generation to generation. As gayals are raised for foods, they can be found easily in mountain ranges, thus becoming an outstanding symbol for Chin State and its people. Many villages in Chin mountain ranges keep hanging the skulls of wild animals including those of gayals which can be seen as a sign of Chin culture.

Beautiful chin state
The Beauty of Chin State

Tee Mit Plain

Tee Mit Plain, Chin State

Tee Mit Plains

A little patch of heaven in the Tee Mit Plains by Myint Naing Soe (Htee Hlaing Myay)

Chin State’s travel industry

Chin State is located in the western and southwesternmost part of Myanmar. Located at an altitude of 40,000 to 70,000 feet above sea level, Chin State is dotted with steep and secretive mountain ranges, the beautiful rhododendron and cherry trees and breathtaking natural sceneries.

Besides, the simple and honest people living there and their unique customs and traditional festivals draw in more and more domestic and foreign travelers from far and wide every year.

Of the numerous places to visit in Chin State, there is one accessible all year round that offers a serene picturesque environment; the Tee Mit Plains where the Tee Mit Creek flows through.

Tee Mit Plains

The plains are located about 7 miles to the south of Haka and 15 miles to the northwest of Thantlang. It is accessible by the Haka-Thantlang Road that passes through it and one can witness the Tee Mit Creek winding through the plains.

Agricultural practices

Residents use water that flows down Tee Mit Creek to irrigate their monsoon crops. They also make steppe plantations and grow grapes and strawberries. There are 140 plantation acres in Tee Mit Plains and it provides enough rice for the whole area.

The months of June, July and August are the best time to see the beautiful interplay between the downflowing Tee Mit Creek and the steppe plantations.

Thingyan period in the plains

Tee Mit Creek is usually filled with people bathing or playing with the water in the summer. During the Thingyan period in April, residents and civil servants from Haka and Thantlang townships visit Tee Mit Plains in groups.

They celebrate Thingyan there with musical festivals, collective cooking, and commemorative photography, all the while bringing life into the normally quiet plains.

Local Chin youths usually take their prewedding photos in Tee Mit Plains and visitors are equally compelled by its natural beauty to snap some pictures regardless of the season they are visiting in. Surely it is a place to visit at least once in your lifetime.

Sittway and towns of Rakhine

Rakhine people, once steeped in long traditions of culture, have lived in Rakhine State in the western part of Myanmar.

Throughout history, Rakhine kingdoms had had kings and palaces which were contemporary with those of Myanmar. Among tangible and intangible cultural heritages in Rakhine State, olden MraukU has been arranged by the government to be able to put in the UNESCO heritage list.

Rakhine State is composed of five districts with 17 townships with the capital city of Sittway. With better transportation, it is easily accessible to the State by Roads; people once reached the State by means of the waterway. The journey between Sittway and Thandwe was once only reachable by a domestic flight.

Sittway – State capital city

According to the records of the Home Affairs Ministry, the Rakhine went under British rule after the First Anglo-Burma war on February 24, 1826. The British earlier used the city of MraukU as an administrative headquarters but moved to a commercial hub of Sittway in 1836.

Sittway is situated at the mouth of Kaladan and Mayu Rivers, getting a lot of cool winds from the sea and its location is militarily vital. The Arkyat Hill is two miles west of Sittway and the British changed its name as Akyab after several changes of name for the Capital. Sittway Township is 9.88 miles long from the east to the west; 13. 24 miles long from south to north and area of Sittway town covers six square miles.

Pauktaw township and Kaladan River are situated in the east, with the Bay of Bengal in the west and the south and in the north lie Ponnagyun and Rathedaung townships. Sittway is situated in the coastal plain, just 15 feet above the sea level. It has a tropical climate with winter temperature lowest degrees of 13.7 centigrade and summer temperature highest degrees of 34.5 centigrade during the period of four years. Every year the township has a rainfall of 200 inches, but in 2017 there was a rainfall of only 48 inches.

According to a statistics issued in March 2017 the township consists of 33 wards, 27 village tracts and 87 villages with a population of 229,376 of which 136,869 are Rakhine people, larger than in numbers than any other communities. Sittway has an airport, six helipads, and many seaports; people could go there by air as well as by sea.

Buthidaung Township is 80 nautical miles; 40 nautical miles from Rathedaung, MraukU and Minbya townships; 16 nautical miles away from Ponnagyun township; 128 nautical miles away from Kyaukpyu; 224 nautical miles from Taungup and Manaung; 176 nautical miles from Yanbye; 70 nautical miles from Kyauktaw; 64 nautical miles from Myebon and 16 miles from Pauktaw. Now there is a direct link of 534-mile road between Yangon and Sittway which can be covered by a car.Sittway Rakhine

Economically vibrant Sittway has two big bazaars: Myoma has 826 shops and Mayu has 144 shops. The town has the Sittway University, the Technological University, and the Computer University. There are 8 high schools, 6 branch high schools, 6 middle schools, branch middle schools, primary schools, and nursery schools. It has a State 500-bed hospital and 16-bed hospital and three Clinics for Leprosy, tuberculosis, and malaria. Medical services are being provided for different kinds of patients in hospitals and clinics.

There are ten pagodas, 172 monasteries and four nunneries with 1030 monks, 1699 novices and 240 nuns residing and keeping the Sabbath in those monasteries. Some monasteries such as Konawin Aye Pagoda, Atulamarazein Pyilone Chantha Pagoda, and Lawka Nanda Pagoda are famous among others. Myanmar’s first lighthouse tower was established in Shukhintha Ward in 1844.

As the capital city of the State, Sittway has been prosperous and highly developed with smooth transportation and infrastructural developments.

Ponnagyun township

As the Sittway District consists of Sittway, Ponnagyun, Yathedaung and Pauktaw townships, the Ponnagyun township is situated on the left bank of the Kaladan River. It is 20 miles away from Sittway by road. In ancient times, the Brahmins were allowed to live to be mingled with the locals, thus getting the name of Ponnagyun. During the days of Rakhine kings, Ponnagyun was known as Uritaung; it was a branch of Yathedaung on 1 April 1887 and again a branch of Kyauktaw town on 1 July 1891 after the First Anglo- Burman war.

Ponnagyun was then located near Mingan and Natseitma villages at the foot of Uritaung Pagoda. Uritaung town was badly damaged by a fierce storm on 23 October 1868 and then moved to the present-day Ponnagyun. The Ponnagyun township is 21 miles from the east to the west and 55 miles from the south to the north and area of Ponnagyun Town covered a total square mile of 0.52.Ponnakyun Rakhine

Pauktaw and MraukU townships lie east of Ponnagyun town, in the west lie Rathedaung and Buthidaung townships, in the south, lies Sittway and in the north lies Yathedaung Township. Ponnagyun is 20 feet above the sea level with mountainous regions in the north and a plain in the south. Situated in a tropical monsoon, the town has a temperature ranging between 13 centigrade and 36 centigrade.

According to the statistics issued in October 2017, Ponnagyun town consists of 4 wards, 92 village tracts and 193 villages with a population of 2137845. Among them are 122070 are Rakhine nationals; 90% of its population are Buddhists.

The town has two hospitals: 25-bed hospital and 16-bed hospital are for the welfare and healthcare of the people. In addition, there are five high schools and two branch schools and other basic schools in the township.

There are 115 pagodas, 186 monasteries, and 8 nunneries; according to the statistics issued in 2017, there were 388 monks, 46 novices and 33 nuns keeping the Sabbath in those monasteries and nunneries.

Yathedaung Township

The township which lies in the north of Sittway was established in 1863. With reference to stories of hermits who once dwelt in mountains, the name of the town is known as Yathedaung (Hermits’ mountain). Buthidaung and Maungtaw townships were allowed to join the border administration on 25 July 1960. Yathedaung consists of 29 village tracts which were transferred and again allowed to come under the Administration of Yathedaung township.Yathae Taung Rakhine

Present-day Yathedaung is 12 miles wide from east to west and 34 miles from the south to the north, and Yathedaung Town’s area is totaling a square of 1.73 miles. It borders with Ponnagyun in the east, in the west with Maungtaw and Buthidaung townships, in the south with Sittway and in the north with Buthidaung township.

Religious buildings include pagodas and stupas with 200 monasteries in which 315 monks, 461 novices and 20 nuns residing and meditating in those buildings. There are many famous pagodas Buddha statues and stupas in the township. The people have depended on agriculture and animal husbandry for their livelihood; less development is found in the township due to difficult transportation.

Pauktaw township

The town, situated in the east of Sittway, was established in 1788.

According to the records of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Zinchaung village of Ramawaddy town chief U San Phyu Aung and his wife Daw Mi Hla May bought a plot of pasture from U Mra Phaw Aung of Thayay village for the Rakhine 30 coins; the village of Thawyay Pautaw was established in1788. The name ‘Pauktaw’ implies the trees grown on the rich pasture. As the village became a town in 1898 to be ruled by the British Township Officer for being in a strategic waterway. Under the Revolutionary Council government, the town was upgraded to B-level status.Pauktaw Rakhine

The town is 19 miles from the east to the west, 40 miles from the south to the north, land area of Pauktaw Town covers 0.14 square miles. It is in the east of Sittway and Ponnagyun townships; in the west of Minbya township and in the south of MraukU. It is 11 feet above the sea level and the southern part borders with the Bay of Bengal. The township is composed of five wards 53 village tracts and 177 villages with a population of 187000; among them are154326 Rakhine Buddhists. There are only 18804 townspeople in the wards of the town. A 25-bed hospital and 16-bed station hospital are open to the public. For the students in the township, there are five high schools, seven branch schools, seven middle schools, and other basic schools have already opened.

There are 29 pagodas, 244 monasteries with 339 monks, 432 novices and 20 nuns residing and meditating in those buildings. Among the famous pagodas are Sandawshin Pagoda on Myegnu Island and Layudaw Pagoda in the westward and other pagodas in Taungnyo and Kyauksu wards. The town is situated on the left bank of Kyweku River and in the south, there are 8 islands including three Frontier islands.

Sittway District is situated veering towards the west of Myanmar. With better transportation, more and more people keep visiting the town for various reasons. Those who wish to go to MraukU will have to go via Sittway so that they are able to study Rakhine’s rich cultural heritage.

Mrauk-U

Mark-U, An ancient capital of Rakhine State, an essay written by U Thaw Kaung

Rakhine State

Arakan old painting
Mrauk-U in 1676

Rakhine State

Rakhine State is situated between the Rakhine Yoma Range in the western part of Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal. It borders Chin State on the north, Ayeyarwady Region on the south, the Rakhine Yoma on the east and Bay of Bengal on the west. Rakhine State is rugged with mountains and the land is high on the north while it gradually lower down to the south. Rivers are also flowing down southwards. The very beautiful Ngapali beach is situated in Thandwe Township. Andrew Bay or Lonetha Gyaing, Mayo Bay or Thabyu Gyaing, Gwa Aw and Shwe Wah Gyaing are famous bays.

As the Rakhine state is a coastal region it has a temperate climate. It has an average rainfall of over 200 inches every year. It has much rains in June, July and August. These months are in the rainy season of Myanmar. In the early months of Rainy season, Hurricanes sometimes blow past the state. Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, has a yearly average temperature of 74’F. The majority of the population are Rakhine nationals. There are some ethnic groups related to them. They called themselves other names as they cannot contact each other due to transport problems. These ethnic groups are Thet, Daing Net, Myo and Maramargyi. Rakhine national profess Buddhism. In BC 600 when Lord Buddha was still alive, Sasana had reached Rakhine state.

Among the traditional festivals, Rakhines usually celebrate the Thingyan water festival on a larger scale. The Rakhine Thingyan festival is a bit unique. Three days before the festival, elders from different townships and village-heads hold discussions and start collecting donations. On the eve of Thingyan, they set up pandals in which women start grinding all the sandalwoods on the stone slabs. At about midnight Rakhine people carry baskets of those perfume blended water and dance around their living quarter the whole night to the beats of drums and gongs. On the Akya day, the second day of Thingyan, they poured perfume blended water on the images of Buddha and that practice is dominant in Sittwe only while in rural areas it is done usually in the evening.

During the Thingyan water festival, women do not go around pouring water but they usually stay in nearby pandals and throw water at revellers. They usually keep water in longboats and old barrels inside the pandals. When the first group is revelling water the next group is waiting outside the pandal dancing and singing. These reveller groups are well disciplined and well behaved. In the past, man revellers went around in pony carriage and bullock carts to the pandals where women are throwing water. Inside the pandal, men and women stand in row face to face throw water to each other. An umpire has decided the winner. On the Atet Day, the last day of Thingyan, people usually go to the directions astrologically favourable to their birthdays and wash their hair with perfumed blended water in which gold and silver ornaments are immersed. They also pray for the new year blessings. Rakhine traditional wrestling, Kyin Game, is always held during the Thingyan water festival. Kyin Game is the Rakhine traditional wrestling which is usually held at the pagoda festival and at the funeral processions of monks.

Highlights

Sittwe

Let Way Thalone Taw Dhat Pagoda

Let Way Thalone Taw Dhat Zedi built by King Thuriya Setka. It is situated on Sittway-Yethedaung road about three miles from Sittway. When Buddha paid a visit to Rakhine Danyawady and took a rest on Kyauktaw mountain (or) Mawrapabbata Thaylagiri mountain and instructed venues to build pagodas. It was noted that place was one of the venues.

Buddhist Museum

This museum started with the articles of ancient cultural heritage collected by Reverend Pandita, the presiding monk of Mahakuthala monastery. The museum is located at Magyee Myaing Ward in Sittwe with the pagoda precinct measuring 3.657 acres. This museum is compulsory to place of study for researchers on archaeology as it has the exhibition room on the ultimate Life of Buddhahood was attained. The exhibition also displayed the sacred relics, palm-leaf and parabaik (writing tablet made of paper, cloth or metal in the form of accordion folds) manuscripts.

Rakhine Culture Museum

This museum is situated at the corner of the Main road and Yaydwin street in Mawleik ward in Sittwe. This is a four-storeyed building. The centre of the museum has paintings depicting Rakhine culture and customs. There are exhibitions about ancient cities of Rakhine, Rakhine literature, Rakhine traditional arts and cultural heritage, the architecture of Rakhine, the Buddhist culture and traditions.

Sittwe Viewpoint (Fakir Point)

This seaside viewpoint is located at the southernmost edge of Sittwe which was said to be constructed by a Portuguese engineer before 1844 AD. It was also the first lighthouse site in Myanmar. Now the lighthouse is used as the viewpoint tower from which travellers can see the scenic beauty of the beach and the bay.

Mrauk-U

The Five Mahn Pagodas in Mrauk-U

  • Radana Man Aung Pagoda was built by King Sanda Thudhamma Yarzar in AD 1652. It is highest (180 feet) among five pagodas and decorated with stone stucco carvings.
  • Sakya Man Aung Pagoda was built by King Thiri Thudhamma Yarzar in AD 1629. It was the first one to be built among five pagodas. The pagoda’s design depicting water lily blooming out of the quagmire. On the western gate of the pagoda are the two statues of ogre guarding the pagoda.
  • Zina Man Aung Pagoda was built by King Sanda Thudhamma Yarzar in AD 1652. The gate is on the east and there is Gandakuti (holy interior room) inside the pagoda.
  • Lawka Man Aung Pagoda was built by King Sanda Thudhamma Yarzar in AD1652. Inside the pagoda is Gandakuti and the spire is done proportionately. On the turrets of the pagoda, gates are decorated with stone stucco carvings.
  • Mingala Mahn Aung Pagoda was built by King Okkalapa in AD 1685. Design of the pagoda is a solid cone structure with the spine on top and decorated with stone stucco carving.

Shite Thaung Pattodawgyi and Koe Thaung Pattodawgyi

Shitthaung Paya or Shite Thaung Pattodawgyi is the most well-known pagoda for all its sculptures depicting the Rakhine heritage. It is also named as Yan Aung Zeya (Pagoda for Victory) because King Minba built it in AD 1365 in memory of his great conquest over 12 Bengal towns and Portuguese navy. There are five layers of caves forming a great underground maze upon which one big pagoda and 26 accompanying smaller pagodas. Shit-thaung stands for the Myanmar number 80,000.

Koe Thaung Pagoda or Koe-thaung Pattodawgyi was built by King Minteikkha in 1553 who is the son of King Minba. Koe-thaung stands for the Myanmar number 90,000. So the Rakhine people said “Father 80,000 and Son 90,000”. It is a massive carved out of hard rocks. The pagoda base is almost square, 250 feet by 230 feet. On its three sides, there are three terraces, each with a row of small stupas.

Htukkant Thein Pattodawgyi

The Htukkant Thein Pattodawgyi, built by King Min Phalaung in 1571, stands not far away from Shite-thaung Pattodawgyi. A natural hill supported by four man-made walls formed the base of the Pattodawgyi and there are two rock staircases, on the east and south, to climb up the hill. At each of four corners of the Pattodawgyi’s roof, there is a small bell-shape pagoda. The underground caves with stairs spiralling down as if entering a great conch. At regular places on the cave-sides, stairway or doorways were dug up with carved Buddha Images on each side of the way. On the walls, there are stone sculptures of men and women, young and old, of all classes and status in life, with their respective styles of dresses with lotus-buds in their hands paying homage to the Buddha. The intricate carvings depict such details as 40 styles of men’s headwear, 9 styles of insignia strings and 64 styles of women’s hair-dos.

Let Say Lake

This irrigated lake known as Let-Say-Kan was first dug up as a defence measure during the day of Mrauk U Dynasty. Enemies approaching the city from the south could be repulsed by letting off volumes of lake’s water through the gates. The lake has an area of over 100 acres between two hills. There is also a long wall, 12 feet high, built like a fort with a gate named Shwe Pauk Pin. The well-known pagoda Zina Man Aung stands on the north-west of the lake. With its enchanting environment, the site now has become a holiday resort of Mrauk U.

Mrauk U Palace Hill

The traces of Mrauk U period, AD 1430-1785, in which the kings made their capital at Nandaw Gon can still be seen until today at the town of Mrauk U. The ancient city has three layers of 50 feet of stone walls. Each stone wall which is closest to the capital is about 600 feet and form a square shape. Outermost layer wall on northern and southern sides stretches 1600 feet. The palace area occupies 1.2 square miles. Within the royal compound, there are nine royal buildings, buildings with earthern floors, parliament buildings, buildings where water used for coronations is housed, royal pond, the tower where there is a Bahosi (central drum), astronomical observatory, carpentry house and arsenals. To the south of the royal compound are the royal vessels. To the north of Theinganadi stream are white elephant hill and buildings for the queens. Near the place where there was the treasure house is the Archeological Museum.

Mahamuni Buddha Image in Kyauktaw Town

History says that the Mahamuni Buddha Image was cast very long ago, during the reign of King Sanda Thuria, 3rd Danyawady Dynasty, 580-528 BC. At that time, Buddha himself was still living and he let the devout Rakhine King make the image, which might be the first in the land of Myanmar. The pagoda stands 5 miles to the south of the old Rakhine city of Kyauktaw. 

Kutaung Pagoda in Rathedaung Town

It was one of the nine single-rock carved pagoda built by King Minbagyi in Mrauk-U period in AD1351. It is situated in Kutaung village, Rathedaung Township. On the walls of the cave are engraved scrollwork, pictures of birds, aquatic creatures, human beings and celestial being in decorative designs.

Ngapali beach in Thandwe Town

Ngapali is well-known for its long, smooth, white-sand beach with clean and clear water. The beach is four miles away from the town of Thandwe. The beach stretches for eight miles.

Kanthaya beach in Gwa Town

Gwa is the southernmost township of Rakhine state. The beach is 16 miles away from the town of Gwa on the Gwa-Thandwe highway. This is a long silvery beach with a stretch of coconut trees.

Chin State

Reih Lake

Chin State

The untouched western side of Myanmar, the Chin state is renowned for its mountainous terrain, unique culture, handicrafts and warm hospitality of its people. Chin state is also known as the “Chin Hills” due to its mountainous geography that has an average elevation of 5000-8000 feet. In winter, the temperature drops to as low as 2’C and very windy.

Apple, oranges, damsons and other garden fruits are produced in large quantities and grapes are cultivated. Fruit grown in the Chin State is mostly organic.

To get the capital city, Hakha, you can either take a direct bus from Mandalay or Kalay township via Falam. Taking the bus from Kalay is highly recommended as it takes a scenic route.

The entrance gateway to Chin Hills is Mindat, Kanpetlet Township which is easily accessible by road from Bagan. Kanpetlet is only 103 miles from Bagan.

Flora and Fauna

Chin State has a wide variety of unique flora including orchids which can be seen throughout the state. Taung Zalat, also known as tree rhododendron, and pine trees are also particularly unique to this region due to its high altitude. There are also many species of birds, reptiles, and butterflies. The Mythuns, a rare species of cattle, are also a unique sight.

Hakha

The capital of Chin state, this city is situated in the northern Chin Hills. It is situated over the mountains at 6200 feet above sea-level and has beautiful scenery. Due to its hilly landscape, the city has been built in a “U” shape with one main road, on which is the entire city is built along.

Falam

Located within the mountains, this tranquil town has breathtaking views. Before 1965, Falam was the capital city of Chin state. Although no longer the capital, it still retains part of its former glory. There are beautiful colonial heritage buildings to explore and a grand Baptist Church in the center of the town. It is built on the slope of a mountain range, in multiple steps. The town is quite clean and tidy.

Memorial Stone Slabs

In Chin Hills, you will see many stone slabs erected on the side of the road written in Chin Language. Chin people mark their memorable events on stone slabs.

Rieh Lake

This heart shape natural lake is renowned as one of the prettiest spots in Myanmar. Located in Falam Township between the Chin and Indian mountain ranges, this lake has significant cultural and spiritual importance for the local community. Every year locals and visitors from neighboring India visit this lake to worship and pay homage to the spirit guards of the Lake. The lake is full year round and is famous for turning red in winter, from mid-December for approximately one or two months.

Chin Women with Tattoo

Particularly unique to this region is the traditional tattoo-faced Chin women. Each ethnic group has its own pattern which distinguishes them from one another. Although the tradition of tattooing faces is disappearing, it is still prominent in the southern part of the State, particularly in Mindat and Kanpetlet.

Natmataung (Mt. Victoria)

Natmataung / Mt. Victoria / Khaw-Nau-Sone is the highest mountain in the Chin state in the western part of Myanmar. Located in Kanpetlet Township, Natmataung is part of the Chin mountain range with a height of 3053 meters above sea level. Natmataung is one of the highest peaks in Southeast Asia. The mountain is now protected within Natmataung National Park established in 1994. Its area is 279 square miles. It is also an Association of ASEAN Heritage Park and an important bird area. Visitors can trek from Kanpetlet to Natmataung National Park as it is located only 15 miles away.

How to get there

Natmataung (Mt. Victoria) is located in Kanpetlet township of southern Chin State. It is accessible by land from Pakokku and Seikpyu. It is 193 km away from Pakokku and 150 km from Seikpyu and is an 8-hours drive to Pakokku via Ayeyarwady Bridge.

Kanpetlet

A small town situates in the southern part of Chin state. It is 50 miles from Mindat located in the mountains, the view from this town is beautiful, especially during sunset. For those seeking an adventure, there is an option to climb Mt. Victoria’s summit where one can enjoy 360’ view of the Chin Hills. Most people in Kanpetlet are Chin tribe and are friendly and helpful to foreigners.

Matupi

The second capital city, Matupi, is a very pleasant and beautiful city at 3560ft above sea level. For nature-lovers, there is the option of hiking and trekking into the surrounding untouched area. One can also experience the traditional lifestyle of the local community.

Mindat

Mindat township is situated 4860ft above sea level. It is a mountainous region and has abundant rainfalls and natural forests. Due to its cold climate, the view of Mindat can be enjoyed under a misty blue sky. Local communities still wear traditional clothing and carry Chin baskets and knives. Many women adorn themselves with their beautiful handmade necklaces and large traditional earrings.

Bontala Waterfall

Bontala waterfall is the highest waterfall in Chin state. It is over 1500ft and falls over 9 levels. This is one of the most famous natural waterfalls in Myanmar and being only 16 miles from Matupi, it is a must see.

Chin Khaung (Traditional Beer)

The most famous Khaung (traditional beer) is usually made in the southern part of the Chin state, in particular, Mindat Township. Chin Khaung is made from only millet seeds. It is a sweet drink with a slightly sour taste and is said to taste somewhat like a mix of alcohol, grape juice, and lemonade.