The great travel experience of the north is without doubt the journey along the Ayeyarwady from Myitkyina to Mandalay. Passing remote settlements, supply jetties, and gold-panners’ encampments, the trip can take upward of a week on the old two- and three-story ferries of the Inland Water Transport (IWT) company. This route is rarely attempted by foreigners, which makes it a uniquely intense way of experiencing local life at close quarters. Ferries and privately owned motorboats also depart regularly from Bhamo. Kachin State’s other main attrac- tions, at least potentially, are two protected areas in the far north – the Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve and Hkakabo Razi, Southeast Asia’s highest peak. With the former off-limits due to the ongoing insur gency, only the latter is currently accessible.
Uncertainty still surrounds the travel restrictions in Kachin State. The Mandalay– Myitkyna train line – via Katha and Indawgyi Lake – is usually open to foreigners. The river journey between Mandalay and Myitkyina is also technically open, but some travelers have not been allowed farther north along the Ayeyarwady than Kyaukmyaung. Road travel remains subject to controls; the only way to reach Putao in the far north is by air from Myitkyina. Daily flights connect Myitkyina with Mandalay and Yangon. Hkakabo Razi is accessible via expensive tours and trekking trips organ ized through hotels in Putao; access to the Naga Hills above the Chindwin River is granted via Burmese tour operators who set up bespoke transport and accommodations (see p229).