Myitkyina is the capital of Kachin State, and is situated in a picturesque valley 145 meters (476 ft) above sea level. The name itself means 'Near the Great River', and indeed it lies directly on the Ayeyarwady.
This lively city has a large food market, and nearby in a stone building all kinds of household goods are on sale, including the famous Kachin bags, which are often decorated with silver. On the banks of the river are a few restaurants that offer a splendid view. A little way from the city center is the great Manau Square, where in January the Kachin celebrate their National Day with a lavish festival involving traditional costumes, music and animal sacrifices. In the middle of this square are the Manau posts, whcih are painted with brightly coloured animals and decorations. Their permanent position in the square is in fact unusual for the Kachin because traditionally such posts have to be destroyed exactly twelve months after the festival.
On the way to the square, you will pass the Kachin State Cultural Museum, where you can see displays of traditional costumes and everyday objects, and learn about the culture of the Kachin.
Just 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Myitkyina lies the source of the Ayeyarwady, which winds its way through the whole of Myanmar and is the country's most important lifeline. You can take a taxi to Myitson, which is where the rivers Mali Hka and N'Mai Hka come together to form the Ayeyarwady. This triangle is believed to have been the area where the Kachin peoples originally settled. On the banks you can hire long boats for trips down the river, and there are stall offering drinks and snacks. If you have time to spare and the water level is low enough, you may also go for a walk and come upon gold panners seeking their fortune by the river.
West of Myitkyina, covering an area of 44 square kilometers, is Myanmar's largest inland lake, the Indawgyi, in the center of which stands the Shwe Myitzu Pagoda. This impressive structure is renowned for its miraculous powers as well as its annual festival.