What to see in Chin State
The only place in Chin State that has been on Myanmar’s tourist map is Nat Ma Taung (Mt Victoria) the mountain So km west of Bagan. Rising over 3000 meters it forms a so-called “sky island” with its own distinct micro-climate, flora, and fauna. Six day trips can be arranged from Bagan. The area is great for bird-watching and observing butterflies.
The mountain is within the Nat Ma Taung National Park (there is a $10 entry fee) which covers 72,300 hectares of the Chin Hills. It was established primarily to protect the upper watersheds of the Lemro and Myittha Rivers. It is an ASEAN Heritage Park and has been placed on a tentative list by UNESCO. There are 6,000 Chin people living around the park and about 100 inside the park.
It is possible to climb Mt Victoria. The trail head from which the hike begins is a 45-minute drive uphill from the small town of Kanpetlet, where most eco lodges can be found; the hike itself takes around five hours to the summit and back to the trail head. Kanpetiet provides a chance to meet the locals by wandering around the simple homesteads and churches of this quiet rural backwater.
Mindat is about five hours to the north and is set spectacularly along a mountain ridge. Here you will find members of the indigenous Dai, Upu, and Ya tribes; the older women of these tribes sport full facial tattoos that differ in design according to their tribe. Many locals identify themselves as Christian and attend one of the ten churches, including Presbyterian, Catholic, Baptist and Pentecostal, every Sunday.
At the market in the center of Mindat, you will find colorful Chin clothing and tapestries; local wine (made from millet); and other local handicrafts.
Well north of here, you can fly into Kalay (Kalaymyo) or travel by road from Mandalay. The temperature here is noticeably cooler than the south and at night the streets are empty because of the cold. The surrounding area grows chrysanthemums, roses, gladioli, asters and gardenias in plantations, providing a colorful scene. It has gained importance because of trans- border movement between Myanmar and India.
Over 10,000 Kalay residents were displaced from their homes by a major flood in August 2016.
It is possible to rent a van and drive around the area. The 165 kilometers Tamu-Kalaymyo road built by the Border Roads Organization of India takes you to Tamu just in the Sagaing Region near the Indian border. It is connected to Moreh, India, by a bridge crossing over Mahuyar Creek. There are some reasonable restaurants here and the teak Yav- San Hmyaw Pagoda is interesting.
The drive from Kalay to Hakha, the capital of Chin State is along a narrow highway with countless tight corners and steep climbs. There is noticeably less development here and much of the scenery is pristine. Long houses perch on the top of cliffs and there are caves where people are believed to have lived thousands of years ago.
It is possible to make a side trip to heart- shaped Reh Lake, a spectacular freshwater lake located in a valley which is part India and part Myanmar. The water is a dazzling blue for most of the year but locals claim it sometimes turns red. At Falam, the Lwut-Lat-Lay Sutaungpyae Pagoda was opened in 1948 as a memorial to Myanmar’s independence.
Hakha is a quiet, uncrowded town Located at an altitude of 1.867 meters which means it can get cold, particularly on winter nights. As with much of Chin State, the majority of the population in Hakha is Christian and there are many churches here.
The locals wear colorful clothing and if you want some for yourself there are a number of tailors around town. Also of interest are a number of shops where you can buy locally made traditional Chin jewelry.
The town has a hilltop pagoda built by one of the followers of Taung-tann Tharthar Sayardaw Gyi which provides an excellent view. You can return to Kalay via Gantgaw and the Myittha suspension bridge. Buses and mini-buses to Kalaymyo leave daily with a journey time of around 8 hours.