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The largest town on the Ayeyarwady between Myitkyina and Mandalay, Bhamo is also the one closest to the Chinese border, 40 miles (60 km) east. Traders, merchants, emissaries,  and holy men have for hun- dreds of years traveled here  along the Daying Jiang Valley to reach the mighty river. Among the visitors in medieval times was Marco Polo, who penned an account of the route in the 13th century. Then, as now, jade mined in the surrounding hills dominated the region’s trade.

Evidence of the site’s ancient commercial importance lies 3 miles (5 km) north at Old Bhamo (Bhamo Myo Haung), where the ruins of a lost city  are scattered around two gold- tipped stupas, the Eikkhawtaw  and Shwekyaynei pagodas, believed to date from the Pyu era (1st century BC–9th century AD). Modern Bhamo was gutted by fire in the 1990s and holds little to detain visitors, although its daily market, attended by ethnic minority people from the nearby hills, is worth a browse early in the morning. On the riverfront, a large open-air pottery bazaar provides the town’s best photo opportunity.

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