When you enter Mogok, an ancient city located in the north of Myanmar there is a sign that famously reads ‘Welcome to Ruby Land’ as the town produces the finest rubies in the world. But it is so much more than just precious stones, it also offers stunning mountain scenery, a rich and diverse culture and an experience found nowhere else in Southeast Asia.
Its downtown area is lined with not only the Buddhist monasteries that are seen everywhere in Myanmar, but also monasteries with Indian influenced architecture, mosques, and even Christian churches. Visit Paung Daw Oo Pagoda, where the Buddha’s throne is lined with rubies, sapphires and other precious
stones donated by wealthy local families. There are also ruby-lined crowns and tiaras on display. The pagoda affords stunning views of downtown Mogok, providing a perfect introduction to the city.
Myanmar produces nearly 90% of the world’s rubies. Several of the stones on Queen Elizabeth’s ruby tiaras were mined here along with many of royal sapphires. You have the opportunity to visit the mines and see the origins of these precious stones. Enter the mines small caverns and observe the production and see up close and purchase new rubies. Visit Mogok’s ruby market, unlike any other market in Myanmar. There are no stalls, no vendors,nor any shops. Business is conducted here at tiny picnic tables where buyers, sellers, and experts examine the stones and negotiate prices over a cup of tea.
Don’t forget your trekking boots because Mogok also offers great hiking trails in its valleys, with sweeping views where pointed stupas and small farms are shadowed by the impressive mountain range. You will come across some peculiar sites like an abandoned rice wine distillery that has been taken over by a chicken farm and an abandoned mansion with its own moat where you can also find a small waterfall nearby. You can also walk through several jungle paths and one of which will lead you to a monastery compound which has architecturally Indian inspired structures.
You’ll be surprised to find that there is a local Lisu Baptist church in the city. The Lisu tribe originate from theHimalayan foothills in the north, and actually are practicing Christian Baptists. From here, continue trekking to through the Lisu tribal areas and don’t forget to visit Myo Oo Lwin monastery, a massive fortress-like compound with Hindu-inspired architecture.
Until 2011, the country was ruled by a military junta, and therefore travelling in the country was restricted, now that the borders have opened up again make sure you spend time visiting off the beaten places in this wonderfully diverse and rich country like ‘The Ruby Land’.
However be warned that you need special permission from the government and local authorities to visit certain areas so the best way to ensure you have access to certain areas and piece of mind that you will not encounter any problems it is best to travel with or through a tour operator.
AsiaTrips offers exclusive ‘The Ruby Land’ tours to suit all budgets. For further information visit www.asiatrips.travel or email firstname.lastname@example.org.