In the far north of Kachin State, 220 miles (345 km) beyond Myitkyina, Putao is a distant outpost reached by very few foreign travelers. Thanks to its proximity to the snowclad mountains of the Myanmar– China border, the town holds great potential as a hub for trekking trips. In British times, Putao was known as Fort Hertz, after William Axel Hertz, the intrepid District Commissioner who first mapped the area in 1888. Not much has changed here since then, beyond the addition of an airstrip – famous in the annals of World War II for being the only one in Burma not taken by the Japanese, and playing a role in the legendary Allied airlift over the “Hump” of the eastern Himalayas to resupply Kuomintang forces.
Weather permitting, flights from Mandalay land here twice a week – the only sanctioned route into the region for foreign nationals. Trekking must be pre- arranged through a Yangon- based agency or one of the few hotels in the town ; fees generally include permits, excursions, and food. The hotels also organ ize trips to waterfalls, local beauty spots, mino rity villages, and timber camps.