Indawgyi Lake

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info Indawgyi Lake is located in Moenyin Township, Kachin State, Myanmar. Indawgyi Lake is the largest inland lake not only in Myanmar but also in Southeast Asia. The measurement of the lake is 8 miles across from east to west and 15 miles from north to south. The main dominant ethnic groups dwelling around the lake are Kachin, and Shan.

monetization_on No entry fees

watch_later Operation hours: 24 hours

hourglass_full Time needed: Approximately 2 hour



 There are about 20 villages around the lake. Their main occupation is plantation. Indawgyi Lake lies within the area of Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sanctuary itself composes about 300 square miles, and contains a variety of rare animal species. It was established in 1999, in the concern of environmental and wildlife preservation.


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Some of the globally threatened bird species can be found in this sanctuary. Some of those species are Greylag Geese, Oriental Darter, and Purple Swamphen. Visitors can take a tour by a motor around the lake to view the wetland species.

The train pulls into the station, and the touts circle immediately. “Hopin, Indawgyi! Hopin, Indawgi!” they yell,  as bleary-eyed passengers fumble around in the dark for their luggage. From the upper bunk of my sleeper  carriage, I ponder this development. We are on our way to Indawgyi Lake but I’d been told to get off at  Hopin station, not Mohnyin. After 10 minutes of indecision, the train slowly pulls away from the platform, the touts’ voices fading into the night. We soon discover we’re on the one scheduled service, that doesn’t stop in  Hopin. Four hours later, we sit on the platform in Mogaung, having overshot Hopin by more than two hours,  and ponder our situation as the sleepy Kachin State town slowly comes to life. Almost a day earlier we’d set off from Mandalay, heading first south through outlying suburbs before crossing  the Ayeyarwady river over the British-built Inwa bridge. Turning north again in the blazing March heat, we passed through sunburnt Sagaing Division, where you could peer from the window for an hour and not spot a single person. It’s a desolate landscape, one that would have resembled the harsh outback in my native Australia if it weren’t for the rough outlines of driedout paddy fields rather than plains of wheat or bush scrub. Occasionally, we came to small towns whose existence seem to revolve around their proximity to these two parallel steel tracks, and even before we stopped moving sellers of all varieties would be walking through the train’s corridors. And then night came, plunging us into darkness and leaving little option but to sleep. Our objective was Indawgyi Lake, the largest body of fresh water in Myanmar and a place famed for its birdlife, pristine waters and a lakeside pagoda, known as Shwe Myitzu. At 24 kilometres long and 13 kilometres wide, it’s only slightly larger than Inle Lake but certainly on the road less travelled. I’d been told that on the Tabaung full moon – now just a day away – a huge pagoda festival that draws hundreds of thousands of Buddhists from across the country, would reach its climax at a lakeside pagoda. In Mogaung, we did manage to find a vehicle to take us to the lake. The highway – I use the term loosely – was little more than a cracked dirt road, and our truck, with perhaps 20 people cowering in the back, had seen much better days. The dust was overwhelming, invading every surface. Perhaps a thousand times I swore I would never again forsake the comforts of aeroplanes and hired taxis. But, finally, after arriving in Hopin and then crossing a mountain range in the early afternoon and descending for about an hour, with a steady stream of traffic heading in both directions along the mountain road, we sighted the calm waters of Indawgyi Lake. My colleague and I stood up at the front, like captains on the prow of a ship, as our faltering pickup pulled into the festival site. We were greeted first by the sight of thousands of motorbikes parked beside the road. Still several kilometres from the lakeshore, we proceeded past the many temporary buildings set up for the pagoda festival. The site resembled a mediumsized town, with restaurants, guesthouses, public phone centres, thousands of small shops – even a hair salon. Finally we sighted the focal point of the festival: Shwe Myitzu Pagoda, the most sacred Buddhist site in Kachin State. The pagoda is set on a platform in the lake about 500 metres from the shore and is reached by a concrete walkway, which was now swarming with pilgrims slowly making their way out to the 15-metre (50- foot) high golden stupa. For more than half the year – June or July through to February – this walkway is under water and impassable, making the pagoda only reachable by boat. However, in the weeks of hot weather leading up to the festival, which is held in the seven days before the Tabaung full moon, the concrete walkway “appears” as the lake’s water level drops. Attendance at this year’s festival – estimated at 150,000 – is significantly down because of the economic situation, says pagoda trustee U Aye Kyaing. The upshot is there are less people looking for accommodation, which is an issue every year. “We still didn’t have quite enough accommodation for pilgrims. Some just spent the night walking around because they didn’t have anywhere to stay. But it wasn’t as bad as last year, when we had people sleeping on the road, almost up to the walkway to the pagoda,” he tells me. Shwe Mytizu Pagoda was founded by a monk, U Thawbita, during the reign of King Mindon (1853-78). According to legend, there were originally two sandbanks that appeared at the beginning of the festival – one for pilgrims and another, broken path believed to be a passage for the gods. These passages would reputedly disappear into the water at the conclusion of the festival. The founding of Shwe Myitzu prompted Shan, Bamar and Kachin groups to begin settling in the area, which had been previously uninhabited as it was believed to be guarded by Nats (spirits). There are now about 20,000 people living in 36 villages around the lake, and they mostly earn a living through fishing and agriculture. During the festival, many of the villages are empty; to make some extra money, their residents set up stalls at the festival selling food to hungry pilgrims. After visiting the pagoda, we take a boat to Lonton, a small village around a wild headland from Shwe Mytizu Pagoda. Lonton is home to the single guesthouse licensed to accept foreigners at Indawgyi, the primitive but charming Indawmahar Guesthouse, which is set on stilts above the water. There
are just a handful of other people in the guesthouse and we bunker down for the night after begging a meal at a nearby restaurant that has already shut. Guesthouse manager U Tin Myaing tells us only a few foreign guests visit the lake each month, mostly on birdwatching tours organised by local travel agencies. The lake is one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the country and almost 100 bird species are known to inhabit the area. Recognising this, in 1999 the government created the 830-squarekilometre (300-square-mile) Indawgyi Wildlife Sanctuary. At the festival site I’d met park warden U Sein Tun, who was in charge of the Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division’s Indawgyi Lake display. He told me locals had “a high level of knowledge” about the importance of protecting local bird species and the division was now working with a local NGO to introduce a “wise-use” system for maintaining fish stocks. Under the program, several 1.5-square-kilometre sites identified as fish spawning areas have been marked out with buoys and local fishermen are prohibited from entering these areas. “Many people rely on fishing for a living,” U Sein Tun said. “They now understand the importance of these spawning areas for viability and fishing stocks, so there hasn’t been any problems implementing it so far.” “Since the wildlife sanctuary was created in 1999, we have made a big effort to improve education, mostly by visiting schools in the 36 villages around the lake. The local people really understand the ecological importance of this area and how their actions can have an impact on it,” he added. The next day, as we were preparing to leave for Hopin, I was impressed to see teams of volunteers already working to remove the mounds of rubbish left behind by festival-goers. If the journey to Indawgyi had been harrowing, the return leg to Myitkyina was relatively pleasant. The road seemed less bumpy, the guesthouse pillows more plump and the train from Hopin positively speedy. We were even treated to a stunning sunrise over the Gangaw Taung mountain range, which runs parallel to the railway line for about 200 kilometres, from Naba in Sagaing Division all the way up to Myitkyina. The mist-shrouded
paddy fields were slowly revealed before our eyes – and those of hundreds of others on the train who had also attended the pagoda festival. A few hours later we pulled into Myitkyina train station – a world away from the wilderness of Indawgyi Lake.

Source : Air Mandalay Inflight Magazine

Author : Thomas Kean


build Year established: n.a.

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place Moenyin, Kachin State

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email no email

public no web site

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