Putao: Tranquillity in the Snow-capped Himalayas
By Amy Nair
My husband and I have been married for ten years, and to celebrate this milestone we decided on a romantic getaway. The thing with us and our holidays is that we love to go to less crowded places and yet not miss out on all that new destinations have to offer. We zeroed in on Myanmar, a country mysterious enough that it has stayed special and away from the usual tourist foot traffic.
A Cute Hill Station
Putao is a small hill station surrounded by green valleys and snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Tucked away in the northern corner of the country, the town extends across several hills.
Putao is sparsely populated, so you’ll hardly see anyone when you’re there. Truly speaking, we saw more cows than cars when we were there. But it only contributed to the carefree atmosphere as we walked around the hilly roads and enjoyed the view . Putao was a treat for us.
Getting to Putao
We landed at Yangon International Airport and took a domestic flight to Putao Airport. The flight from Yangon to Putao had a stop at Myitkina, probably because of the lack of passengers. Putao is a restricted area, thus it can only be reached by air if you’re a foreigner. The airport is located quite near the city, so it wasn’t difficult to book a taxi to our hotel.
Getting Around in Putao
The hills reached for miles and walking was the only way we got around. The option to rent a bicycle was also available from the nearby town, but the air was just too good to miss out on. As a hill station, the air there was a refreshing breeze that lifted my spirits greatly, and it was truly a liberating encounter.
Many areas of Putao are restricted for foreign tourists, so we made sure to stay clear of them once the staff at our hotel informed us.
Being surrounded by snowcapped mountains alone in a distant hill has its charm and we enjoyed it immensely. We saw the famed Hkakaborazi Mountain at a distance on one of the days when the skies were clear. The area around this tiny town is full of astounding flora and fauna, some of which I have never seen in my life. We went in search of the rare and famous Black Orchid species which was known to grow around, but could not found any, unfortunately.
Our guide told us that these were usually situated further in the forests, but as it was getting dark we did not take up his offer.
Trekking at Putao
I am not much of a trekker, thus we never intended to trek in Putao. However, the lush green forests beckoned to me the next day and I was feeling particularly adventurous, so we ended up trekking anyway. We got a guide from our hotel who took us around the forests. There were many hiking routes with varying difficulties. We chose the easiest path since I wasn’t very familiar. We created our own routes, slipping through trees and bamboo groves. There were a few mossy areas along the slopes which were quite slippery, so we fashioned walking sticks from the broken branches on the ground to help stabilise our footing. Overall, it was fun.
The inhabitants of Putao mostly belong to Kachin, Lisu and Rawang ethnic groups. They are simple people and greet tourists the area with warmth. I cannot think of one unpleasant encounter we had in the five days we spent in the town.
Shopping at Putao
As an avid traveller, I liked to pick mementoes in places I visited from our friends and family back home. The matching gifts I found were unique handicrafts made by the Kachin ethnic group, which featured different types of bamboo-woven baskets. I also bought some local cookies and chocolate. There were also shops that sell woollen garments in Putao and hiking equipment for the adventurous souls that wish to attempt the climb up to Mount Hkakaborazi.
We had a memorable time at Putao exploring the the small rivers that flowed between the villages and pebbled roads where the local people would pass by and offer us a greeting. It was a welcome break from our busy schedule. These five days away from the world was a peaceful getaway with happy memories that we would remember and keep close to us.