Visiting Putao on a journey to Burma (Myanmar)
Situated in the Hkamtilon Plain, Putao was once known as Fortress Hertz in honor of the British District Commissioner Captain Hertz. In fact, the castle is still visible. The Putao is the point of departure for many scholarly excursions to Mount Hkakaborazi and beyond. The area is rich in ethnical towns such as Rawangs, Lisus and Hakmti Shans.
Rawangs are also part of the Kachin population and many of their rites are similar. Some years ago, the Rawangs also organized a manaw festival in Putao. It is located in the centre of many interesting hiking trails. There is a little daddy at Nogmong; about seven hiking day away and along the way there are many Rawang and Lisu towns.
Whitewater canoeing is also possible for the more fearless traveller and it is possible to go on night-trips on the upper reaches of the Ayeyarwady River.
Putao: An ethnically diverse treasury
Almost every Thai tourist knows the "Golden Triangle", where the boundaries of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand come together. Less known is the "triangle", the area where the boundaries of Myanmar, China and India converge. It has been possible for some considerable amount of development to request a specific permission to visit this area in the most northern Kachin state of Myanmar.
Last July, during the wet seasons, I traveled to the "Triangle" and wanted to know whether mountain peoples cultivate mountainous crops like in the Shan state on the Chinese frontier. I was targeting Putao, in the east Himalayan spurs, about 220 km from the state of Kachin's capitol, Myitkyina.
First I had to go to Yangon, where I came on July 13, and an old boyfriend, U Rakwi Pung, 70, a Rawang from Putao and the former manager of Snowland Tours & Tours, to get my specific permission to go there. Permission from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism was e-mailed by Nay Pyi Taw on July 20 and I traveled to Putao with an US married couple because it was necessary to make a booking for a guided group.
It was US$1,859 per capita and comprised all food and airfare, two overnight stays in a guest house in Putao and a five-day Lisu Village trek. On July 22nd we departed from Yangon via Mandalay and Myitkyina to Putao, a trip of about four long hrs. Nine photocopies of our passport and visa were handed over to the migration authorities at Putao International Airfield, where we were picked up by our leader Ahyin, an English-speaking Rawang from Myanmar Frontier Travel & Tours, and taken to the "Htawan Razi" guest house.
In the following few day we planed our hike with a group of older men, known as the "Lisu Culture Committee", who invite us to come and see their communities, where all the inhabitants are Christians. The majority of Lisu Christians in Putao are members of the Church of Christ. Taking the chance to discover Putao, formerly known as Hkamti Long, which means "Golden Square", in a scenic Nam Lang River basin.
There is a small street leading northwards to the Lisu towns and mudsy paths leading to the far away hills, which have snows in winters. Heading eastwards, the highway leads to Nam Tun Valley, where Buddhist Hkamti Tai peasants cultivate paddy, past the airfield and on to Machanbaw Township, where most of the local populace is Jinghpaw, one of the most important Kachin subgroups, along with Lisu and Rawang.
It ends at a hanging viaduct over the Malikha River about 14 mile from Putao. During the drought it is possible to take a riverboat up to Nam Khan and see a large Rawang settlement where US misionary Robert Morse and his wife and daughter used to live for several years in the 1950', when he imported lemon plantations to Kachin State.
From Putao it is no longer possible to go to China, although there were indications of an ongoing trafficking of Myanmar Mahagony across the borders. Goverment built a new viaduct across the riverbank on the highway leading to Myitkyina via Sumprabum, a journey that can take three whole-day.
There is a road with airlines and some guest houses just outside the village, as well as an agency of the United Nations Development Programme, where I got some information about Putao and its surroundings. The Putao township occupies 2,105 sq. m. (1st Putao is not far from the border with India, in the west, and China, in the North and East.
It' about 170 mile (? 274km) on the highway and 134 mile (? 217km) in the sky, from Putao to Myitkyina. is custom. Seventy-nine per cent Lisu, 31. Nine per cent Rawang, eight. 69 per cent Jinghpaw and seventh. Hkamti Tai (Shan) 17 cents. Ethnical variety is evident, but since most mountain people are Christians and dress conspicuously only at festivities, there is not much in Putao's towns.
It also has a jail containing about 40 prisoners, most of whom were Lisu and Rawang. There is a wealth yardage mining in the western part of Putao to the Indian frontier. The northern part of the mountain range includes Hkakabo Razi, adjacent to Tibet, which at 5,889 meters is the highest in Southeast Asia.
It is interesting that there are only a few inhabitants of India or China origin in Putao. Situated on a small mound above the Hkamti Tai River basin just south of Putao are the deserted remains of Fort Hertz, a British army station founded in 1914. Its name derives from William Axel Hertz, who conducted field trips to the area in the 1880' and later became the first deputy commissioner of the Putao District.
A further "culture museum" about the Rawang tribe is created. Putao's tragic landscape, wildlife and the wealth of culture and variety of its native peoples make it one of the last paradise on the planet. July 29th we departed Putao by airplane to Myitkyina, where we took the 27-mile (.45 km) highway to Myitsone, where the junction of the Malikha and N'Maikha River forms the Ayeyarwady.
One of Myitkyina's main tourist attraction is the Kachin State Cultural Museum with artefacts from all areas of Kachin's daily work. Manau Festival is one of the most dramatic in Myitkyina. Waingmaw Towmship has many Lisu communities, opposite Myitkyina on the east side of Ayeyarwady, and is a bustling trade center for goods from China.
From Myitkyina there are many ways to get to Mandalay and beyond. The first is to take the whole voyage by rail, but a more enjoyable voyage, if you have the free moment, is to take the rail to Bhamo and from there take the official shuttle to Mandalay.