Saturday, May 12, 2018

Discovering Northwest Myanmar 11: Into Kachin

Northward ho! The journey continues as I leave the town of Indaw with a goal of Indawgyi Lake in Kachin State. The similarity of the names of the two places must be coincidental. They're a good 125 km apart. I'm not sure what "Indaw" means, but I know that "gyi" means "big". So we're going from Indaw to Big Indaw.


The countryside was typically agricultural out of Indaw.  Lots of beautiful rice paddies to be seen out of town. After another range of hills, I got to the border of Kachin State. At the moment, there's been a breakout of violence in Kachin. The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has been fighting the central government of Myanmar on and off for 60 years. After a long period of ceasefire, the fighting flared up again in 2011 and has been ongoing ever since with the conflict increasing over the last few months.
Welcome to Kachin!
Consequently, the gov't restricts access to the state in general, and forbids foreigners from large parts of it. Whether this is out of concern for the safety of visitors or not wanting outsiders to see what's going on, I'm not sure.



In any case, this photo was taken by a border guard whilst he was detaining me to check my bona fides and see if I was okay to enter this disputed area. If I hadn't stopped to take a picture of the sign with me "now entering Kachin State", I wouldn't have been stopped at all. Instead, I was detained for 20 minutes while they photocopied everything from my passport (I guess they needed to go into town to make the photocopies, because 20 minutes was a long time). 

There were a couple my ranges of hills before I got to Indawgyi, which was basically as far north as I was allowed to go. I think. I'm not sure. It's very confusing.
The guesthouse on the lake was in a town called Lon Ton, sometimes spelled London. On the north edge of town, there was a military check point. 4-wheeled vehicles were stopped and checked. Motorbike riders were required to dismount and push their bikes through the checkpoint, something I didn't understand as I rolled up and on through.
I just drove right through it with no repercussions. Quickly though, it dawned on me that I was in a "No-Go" zone, and I turned around and went back to London. 

At the guesthouse, I encountered the first foreigner since Mandalay! She was a Dutch grad-student who was spending three months in London, studying the local language. She was also rather snooty and had no interest in talking to a fellow foreigner. 


I spent the whole of the next day at Indawgyi, which I'll document in the next blog, but to conclude, I discovered something I will never forget. The beef curry there at Indawgyi was one of the best things I've eaten in this country. 

Enjoy the video.


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