It had been two years I went to visit Mt Victoria in Chin State. Mt Victoria is the highest mountain in Chin State and the third hightest mountain in Myanmar after Khakaborazi and Gamlangrazi in Kachin State. The mountain is situated in Nat Ma Taung National Park and it is accessible from Kanpetlet or Mindat. Kanpetlet is the nearest and most accessible town to Mt Victoria.
Chin State had became popular as a tourist destination in Myanmar in the very recent years. In the past, due to remoteness and lack of infrastructure, it had not been a choice to visit. Chin State is well-known for its distinct culture and tradition, Chin ladies who wear the facial tattoos, the large rhododendron tress and beautiful mountainous sceneries.
My friend and I joined a tour group, leaving from Yangon. We left at around 9pm on Friday night and slept on the car the whole night. Early in the morning, we arrived to Saw village before driving up the Chin mountain ranges to Kanpetlet. We arrived at Kanpetlet ‘Floral Breeze Hotel’ at around 11am.
If you are taking bus from Yangon, take the buses leaving from Aung Mingalar Highway Express Station in Yangon to Pakokku (12-13 hours) (~15-20USD). From Pakokku, take the bus to Mindat (4 hours). Since I didn’t go to Mindat, I had no info about it to share. But, people said it is easier to find tour guides in Mindat than Kanpetlet.
Another option is to take bus or train from Yangon to Bagan (12hours) (~15-25USD). And from Bagan, hire a taxi/car with driver to Kanpetlet as a round trip ( 5-6 hours for one way) ( could be a bit pricy). Or you can take a bus, which is said not a very pleasant ride.
In Kanpetlet, you can hire motorbike taxi.
The Floral Breeze Hotel (we stayed there during our visit) – ~80USD
Sky Palace Villa – ~150USD
Pine Wood Villa – ~90USD
Mountain View Hill Resort
Win Unity Hoitel – ~70USD
These are the average hotel prices in Kanpetlet and they can be changed depending on seasons.
After checking in the hotel, we went out for lunch. The hotel was new at that time and had about 20 bungalows. The contruction was still in progress. From the dinning area, you can enjoy the pleasant view over the hills. Due to low visitor rate at that time, the hotel did not open kitchen daily. The preorder had to be made. We didn’t make any preorder for lunch and so we went out. We could not find restuarants in Kanpetlet at that time. I was not sure there were no restaurants or they were closed on that day. Luckily, we found one food shop where we got rice with some local dishes. Food was ok.
Then, we walked to a nearby village and visited a house where a lady with facial tattoos lived. She lived with her daughter and grand-daughter. At first, she appeared to be annyoed by visitors. We went there with a local Chin young man, who was the friend of our tour leader and he acted as a translator or guide but not a professional. He talked to her in their language and he translated for us. What she said to him was people came and took photos with her but only few offered money. And she continued that she had a fall few months back and she needed money to buy medicine for pain. Since she had no money to buy medication, she decided not to follow up at clinic.
I felt bad to hear the negative impact of tourism on local people. I think the tour leaders and guides should have prepared well so that it would be win-win situation for both locals and tour groups. I hope this would get better now.
Then, I introduced myself. As I am a doctor, I offered her that I could have a look at her pain and X-ray if she wanted to. She allowed me to examine her and her daughter delightedly brought the X-rays and medical notes from hospital and clinic. I also requested her to accept some money to buy medication and advised her what to take for her pain. She looked so much happier, got up and went into her room with limping. She was changing her clothes to traditional dress so that we could take photos with her. We said it was ok for us if we did not get photos of her and asked her to rest. But, she went out to the little patio so that we could take good photos of her. We took photos with her, thanked her and we left.
After that, we went to see the Community Based Toursim Camp, where the small bamboo bungalows were still under construction.
Then, we went to a souvenir shop selling Chin longyis, traditional dresses, Chin blankets and shawls. I bought a Chin dress.
In Kanpetlet, the electricity supply was limited and it supplied twice a day from 5am to 7am and then, from 6pm to 10pm. The temperature in Kanpetlet is roughly between 10’C to 30’C. When we got back to the hotel, we had hot shower, turned heater on and recharged our phones and cameras. We had dinner at the hotel.
We got up early to catch the electricity supply 5am-7am so that we could use hot water, and prepared to leave to Mt Victoria. We had breakfast at hotel and left to Mt Victoria’s 10 mile base camp with our van. You can get a motorbike taxi from Kanpetlet to the base camp. The base camp is 10 miles away from Kanpetlet and so, it is called 10 mile base camp, where we had to leave the car to start trekking. Mt Victoria is ASEAN Heritage listed. It was said that Mt Victoria was proposed to be UNESCO Heritage listed but it was cancelled because a new road to the summit was created by authority with the plan of making cars accessible to the summit. It had been critised as it could badly affect the flora and fauna. The plan was haulted, the road was left as a dirt road and the cars were not allowed to use the road. But the motorbike taxis are running from the base camp to the summit using that road. The fees for Mt Victoria national park is 10USD or 10,000kyat. But there was no one collecting.
It takes about 3 hours to get to the summit. We started our trekking around 9am and it got hotter as the time went. It would be better if you could do the trek a bit early. During the trekking , the motorbike drivers would stop by and ask if you needed a ride. There are other trails to get to the summit, from Kanpetlet or from Mindat, and also a circular trek between Kanpetlet, Mindat and Mt Victoria. For that, you need a tour guide and porters because it takes few days to complete the trails with no public transport or facilities on the ways.
There were a small pagoda, a shelter and a Buddha image at the summit. The view at the summit was breath-taking. There was a toilet, which was very basic but no water. No other facilities. So, you need to bring your own food, water, toilet paper, etc. There was a rubbish bin provided. While we were chilling down after lunch, a Chin youth group came and they held a small seminar at the shelter on how to protect their beautiful environment. Quite impressive to see their effort to pass down their knowledge to youth regarding their heritage and environment. They played games and then, sang songs. We joined in when they sang and it was quite a fun. Very friendly Chin people.
We came down to the base camp in the afternoon and visited a Chin village on our way back to the hotel. This time, our Chin guide went into the houses first and explained to them first. Many of the households were ok to accept visitors and take photos with them as long as you explained to them and offered money. But one Chin lady asked not to take her photos or put her photos on internet. I went into a house and they offered me their traditional millet wine. The man even let me take photos with his rifle.
After that, we went back to the hotel, had dinner and took rest.
After breakfast, we went to the Chin lady who plays flute with her nose. Our guide collected money from us to pay the lady and the show was on. She played three traditional instruments. While playing, she moved her body like dancing and made rhythmic sound with her foot steps. After music show was the photo session. Each of us took turn to take photos with her. Then, we thanked her and left. We drove all the way back to Yangon.
I hope it would help if you are planning to visit Mt Victoria. Please make note that most of the info here are from two years back. There might be more facilities by now. Thank you very much for reading.