24 hours in Mohnyin: Kachin State's Best Kept Secret

(The article “24 hours in Mohnyin: Kachin state’s best kept secret” was originally written for and published by Myanmar Mix on 19 June 2019.)

A view from A Shay Chan Hotel, a purple structure that is among the highest in Mohnyin.

A view from A Shay Chan Hotel, a purple structure that is among the highest in Mohnyin.

You won’t find the city of Mohnyin (pronounced 'Moan Yin') in any travel books or magazines. You might have even unknowingly passed through it on the train or bus to Myitkyina, the Kachin state capital. However, as the government seat of Mohnyin township—home to Myanmar’s largest lake Indawgyi—the city is one of the most culturally rich and exciting areas in northern Myanmar.

The city is a historic gathering place. The landscape itself reflects this, as outside the city lowland and highland jungle mix together, creating a unique ecosystem. For hundreds of years, people have gathered here to trade medicinal plants, spices, gold, and jade. Living here are mostly Shan-ni, a subgroup of Myanmar’s largest ethnic group the Shan, and their home is is modernizing quickly, becoming an exciting melting pot of old and new Myanmar.

8am | Checking in and breakfast

Arrive by bus from any major Myanmar city and check in at the A Shay Chan Hotel, a 5-story purple building near the market. All rooms have AC and cost 20,000 kyats each. The newly opened Life Café serves the best coffee in town with fresh hot or cold espresso drinks. Combine this with a delicious bowl of mohinga and you’re ready to start your day. The owner, Ko Way Yan, is also the founder of the Mohnyin Cycling Club and can hook you up with daily bicycle rentals.

9.30am | Textiles and medicines

Explore Mohnyin Market. Once the seat of the ‘Mong Yang’ Shan Sawbwa, the township sits in a unique location directly between highland and lowland jungle, and this fact has always made Mohnyin and neighbouring Bilu (Burmese for ‘ogre’ but fear not) bustling trade towns. Almost 24 hours a day, there are goods being moved in and out of this historic marketplace. Take some time to explore the many rows of local textiles, stalls of Shan and Burmese cuisine, and shops selling traditional medicine and spices.

12pm | Lunch date

Theya Pu Restaurant is the place to be for lunch. Hidden by lush vegetation on a quite dirt road, this restaurant serves a delicious mix of barbecue, salads, and seasonal fruit juice all made as you order. Each table is situated beneath an open-air private cabana equipped with fans, making for a very cosy atmosphere.

Enjoying the public pool at Sein Lae Tharyar Park will set you back 200 kyats.

Enjoying the public pool at Sein Lae Tharyar Park will set you back 200 kyats.

1.30pm | Afternoon splash

It’s now the hottest time of day, and you deserve to cool down. The revamped Sein Lae Tharyar Park near City Hall has a spacious public pool that attracts not only the city’s cool kids but also families. Bring along plenty of your favourite beverages, sunscreen and sunglasses, and enjoy some great rest and relaxation. Entrance fee 200 kyats.

3:30pm | Bumper cars

There are also many other activities to enjoy outside the pool. The park features the always-entertaining bumper cars, carnival games, and food stalls to grab a quick snack.

5:30pm | City of Egrets

Sunset at the A Shay Chan hotel, one of the tallest structures in town and so an ideal place to watch the sun fall below the many surrounding hills. You’ll also see hundreds of white egrets fly back home to roost in their trees for the night; this is why roughly 800 years ago the Shan appropriately named their principality “Mong Yang” or “City of Egrets.”

6pm | Street eats

This is primetime in downtown Mohnyin. As the sun sets and the air cools, some of the best street food and night markets in Kachin state come to life. The most exciting area is at the first junction to the left as you leave A Shay Chan. Normally, we like to buy bean palata bread and bring it to our favourite food stall that serves a mind-blowing tomato salsa with its curries. For dessert, you can find anything from Indian treats to fresh seasonal fruit all within walking distance.

8pm | Shoot some pool

Behind the famed Mya Nan Taw teashop sits the Mohnyin pool hall. For an amazing look into the city nightlife, come to this 15-table hotspot for games of pool or snooker and plenty of beer that flows late into the night. This only begins to scratch the surface. If you have more time, you can even try out the golf course or jam out at the KTV. After spending one day in Mohnyin, you’ll probably find yourself planning your next trip to this charming and eclectic place.

Stephen Traina-Dorge