Tuesday 21st we flew to Mytikyina. This is in the Katchin state, the most northerly state in Burma and the furthest we could go without requiring a permit. The flight was delayed a couple of hours, and then once boarded we all had to disembark due to a 'defect'. (Air Bagan proudly claimed that customer satisfaction was their key strategy in its spring 2013 in flight magazine, not surprisingly there was no mention of safety!)
Mytikyina airport was dishevelled. Our bags arrived on a wheelbarrow in the car park. Chris's rucksac had been opened (they obviously didn't want his dirty pants) and my rucksac waist buckle was broken. We'd arranged for the hotel to collect us at the airport, which they duly did even though the plane was late.
The hotel walls were adorned with open cast mining photos. For two geologists this was close to heaven (or should that be hell?!). There were obviously two main techniques employed at the local mines where they searched for jade and rubies; manual or machine. The manual pictures were the most interesting, with women scuttling like ants in single file to clear the rubble.
We'd seen on a map that there was a tiger sanctuary to the north north east and were keen to visit this attraction. We went to the 'immigration department' and were told tourists could not go further north.
For dinner that evening we took a tuk tuk to the northern edge of town, next to the river to what was considered the 'top place for real Katchin food'. The waiter was visibly surprised to see white folks and quite baffeld what to do with us. He lead me to the kitchen and through hand gestures we settled on nakoo-Che (bony river fiver in a hot sour sauce), Fried vegetables, shredded pork with onions and chicken bones with morsels of meat attached. Chris ate the chicken feet. To accompany we opted for steamed rice which came in a bamboo leaf, which doubled up as our plate. It was not as fatty as the food we had had in Mandalay (where oil seemed to be a compulsory and generous gravy).
Chris opted for Myanmar beer whilst I tried Kaunge-ye, a cloudy semi-sweet pinky brown thick drink made from rice. It tasted slightly like red wine on the turn mixed with cornflower, and I thought it would have been more appealing served warm. All together, the meal cost us about $10, and the tuk tuk $5 return.
The breakfast was a smorgasbord of fried food. Mytikyina lacked any real sights. After taking three hours to find the post office to send a few cards and a trip to the bank to exchange crisp US dollars for the local kyat, pronounced chat, we settled in to our room and made the most of the free soap.
Welcome to Mytikyina!
Novelty Burmese bottle opener - a piece of wood, a hole, a bolt and a nut - genius! Now selling everywhere!
Rice in banana leaves double up as plates
Rice beer - mmmm!!!!