Paradise Found - Part 1 / by David Johnstone

TAKING A RIDE TO INDAWGYI LAKE, KACHIN STATE, NORTHERN BURMA

After an enjoyable sojourn in Mandalay, it was time to depart for the arduous train journey to Kachin State in northern Burma. There sits the largest natural lake in the country, Indawgyi, and one of the biggest in south east Asia. Hosting an array of spectacular bird life that includes the largest flighted bird in the world - the rare Sarus Crane - it was sure to be one of the highlights of my trip. 

The beautiful Lake Indawgyi

The beautiful Lake Indawgyi

But first the train ride. 16 hours of bone-shattering, insomnia-inducing travel. It’s the only way a foreign tourist can get there as the roads are deemed unsafe due to civil unrest between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burmese military, a conflict that’s been ongoing for decades. 

Boarding the train in Mandalay

Boarding the train in Mandalay

It looks comfortable - it wasn’t

It looks comfortable - it wasn’t

The trains run on antiquated track built by the British, are slow, arduous and very bumpy  

The trains run on antiquated track built by the British, are slow, arduous and very bumpy  

Passengers wait for the train to depart

Passengers wait for the train to depart

We eventually disembarked at the town of Hopin, an hour’s plus minibus ride to the lake and the surrounding villages. It was cold as we waited for the driver to pick up fellow passengers. Fortunately we’d purchased a blanket in Mandalay!

A cold fellow traveler, Ryan, from Leeds

A cold fellow traveler, Ryan, from Leeds

Monks receiving alms in Hopin

Monks receiving alms in Hopin

Hopping on at Hopin, the ride took us through forested hills, paddy fields and nondescript villages before we reached the entrance to the area that surrounds the lake. We stopped at a military post, our passports were checked and we headed down into the valley, the lake shrouded in thick cloud obscuring it’s beauty. 

The military post at Indawgyi

The military post at Indawgyi

The clouds had lifted as we arrived in Lon-Ton village, the only permissible place to stay by the lake. Better than one hoped, the Phyu Homestay was comfortable, clean and fitted with good mosquito nets. No hot water unfortunately but one needs to live with that sometimes. I would stay here in my own little paradise for a few days. 

My accommodation, the Phyu Homestay

My accommodation, the Phyu Homestay

Lake Indawgyi fuels the local fish markets

Lake Indawgyi fuels the local fish markets