Adventures with the
3 days visit to
Mogoke - Muse - Kutkai
I am writing this story, I sit in a domestic flight with
Myanmar Airways 630 - back home to
Yangon. Yes! Right you are - if you ever get to read these lines:
We survived the trip! I must admit, I feel quite a bit shaky
(so does the plane) and Susan next to me is doing her Chinese
chanting (please don’t stop…).
Three days earlier: The UB 653 (J) did a good job when she
brought us - 42 altogether - softly to
Mandalay. There we boarded the MI-17 Choppers and thus were elegantly
gliding to Mogoke.
Susan not chanting, but singing!
Since a couple of years Mogoke has been a bit “cut off”
our exciting travel destinations and now
slowly opens up again for tourism. People here say you
better don’t look up - just look down, as you never know
what you might find. It’s true - there is a special
atmosphere in Mogoke, thousands of people living a lifelong
dream of hitting one day the “jackpot”, and of course this
place is full of stories… like the one of the owner of the
Butterfly Hotel (the best available hotel in town - bungalows with a spectacular view), once having been a mine
worker who found a ruby worth one million US$ Dollar.
Mine in Mogoke
But alas, as some human species are, they always want more and
more and to make the story short the Butterfly Hotel owner
ended up behind bars. I was
lucky to sit in the same bus with one of my travel companions,
a well respected Myanma business man, owing a mine near
“down town” Mogoke, who became our tourguide!
He explained us that the average income of a worker is about
50 cents a day - or when finding stones some miners give a
share up to 20% of the stone’s value. It once happened that
one miner got too greedy and did not want to give the promised
share - she got killed by the workers!
in this business is a kind of gambling: There are two ways
miners are selling precious stones: Either they sell the raw
stone - not knowing how valuable exactly the stone is or
they just cut and polish the stones and find it out by
seems that “this kind of gambling” is the only sin in
Mogoke, as except of getting rid of betrayers there is not
much crime in this area. Here you find the richest people of
- but you won’t find any glamorous mansions, splendid
shopping centers and modern
buildings. Missing the saloon bars they had 150 years ago
during the gold rush in Northern California, we were told that
in Mogoke it is strongly believed NOT to drink alcohol, no
prostitution, not eating chicken, chicken- and duck eggs,
white and red carrots and worst of all (for me), NO peanuts!
More important than saloon bars however is the famous gem
market in Mogoke, mainly ruled by beautiful ladies wearing big
straw hats. Here we learned another lesson and were told that
all stones offered to us foreigners will have an actual value
of 10% of the total amount - and he was absolutely right!
But our main shopping fun was at a little shop recommended by
our friend Win Oo.
Mogoke Gem Market
The shop owner U Tun Oo does not only have an interesting
display of precious and half precious stones, jewelries and
stone paintings (thousands of tiny precious stones forming a
mosaic painting) but he is also an author of numerous books.
The topic of course are authentic stories of Ruby Land.
Chinese border patrouille...
Next morning we continued our journey to the Chinese border. Purpose
of this visit was to get more insight in the opium
eradication projects and anti-narcotic activities. Myanmar
is the second largest source (after Afghanistan) of illicit
opium and heroin and in 1999 accounted appr. 80% of the
total opium production South East Asia's!
The Burmese authorities said opium production in the country
would be halved to about 412 tonnes in the 2002 - 2003
In Kokang Special Region (1) we
visited the Drug Elimination Museum, and the commander of
this area held a quite desperate speech and pledged the
foreign business community to help his area. Thousands of
acres of poppy fields in the Kokang region were destroyed by
the local people and the army. Substitue crops, such as
rubber, maize, benas and pulses (etc) are grown in this
region, but however the opium business was by far more
lucrative and thus the farmers do not earn enough for their
the US State Department, which is one of the fierest
criticiser Myanmar's has admitted that Myanmar has made great
efforts in the opium eradication projects...
From the almost deserted city of Laukkai we finally arrived at Muse,
a border town - surrounded by mountains and rivers and located
about 477 km northeast of Mandalay.
A booming trading town full of life, border traffic,
casinos and markets. 13 years ago I was at the other side
of Muse, in Shweli, Yunnan Province, the People’s Republic
Just "peeping to the other side" I could easily see
what kind of tremendous changes Shweli had undergone! What had
not changed was the unfriendliness of the border partrouille!
They angrily tried to make us stop photographing the
"Chinese view" from our side...
Elephant dancing in Muse
night market however was fun, most of the ladies back to their
shopping mood, and not only the ladies; the counterparts were
heavily involved in the Golf Shop opposite of our hotel -
don't ask me how they managed to load numerous golf sets,
lots of parcels and boxes into the two choppers...
Due to the weather condition we had a late departure on our
last day of our trip. We tried to "kill our time" by
attending an elephant show and do some other shopping till we
finally were heading towards Kutkai (Kaung-kah Myothit, region
no. 5 of Northern Shan State).
Kodak-Alvin in front of Burmese
Boticelli in Muse
Flying over this region I saw flush green mixed forests,
emerald green lakes, paddy fields, highland terrace farms and
all in between small settlements, where Shan, Palaung, Kachin
and Chinese live peacefully. Here again as at the
other places we visitied to observe the crop substitution
projects: International help was needed as well.
The little cash donation we
gave them was just a drop into the ocean... Even bringing
tourism into the area of Northern Shan State - it won't
Last not least it's always the same issue:
Sanctions...They might be serving as a clear signal of
disapproval, and are of course easy to impose on a
country without oil reserves or nuclear weapon!
The ones with low income and who are unskilled (the majority!)
will suffer without employment opportunities.
Lucky me in front of a chopper
Maybe some countries as well
as some NLDP leaders should set aside self-glorification and
start showing what democracy also means: Fairness to the
© 1999 Myriam