Memos from Asia

Nat Ma Taung: Avoid the Crowds and Enjoy Climbing the Highest Mountain in Myanmar

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The sign of Nat Ma Taung National Park at the Mount Victoria Summit, Photo by Thanakrit Pongpittayut

Many of Southeast Asia’s most magnificent mountains have already become famous tourist destinations that are visited by millions of people.

But for those who want to escape from the mass crowd, there is another high mountain that locates in the remote Chin state of Western Myanmar.

In this article, we recommend the lesser-known and rarely visited Nat Ma Taung National Park or Mount Victoria. This place is a great climbing spot and has been named a UNESCO ASEAN Heritage Park.

The golden pagoda at the peak of Mount Victoria, Photo by Thanakrit Pongpittayut

Geography of Mount Victoria

360-degree panorama view from the top of Nat Ma Taung, Photo by Thanakrit Pongpittayut

At 3,070 meters above sea level (10,070 feet above sea level) and 2,231 meters high, Nat Ma Taung is the highest mountain in Myanmar’s Chin State.

It is the second-highest mountain in the western part of the Patkai-Chin range after Salamati on the India-Myanmar border, and the third highest mountain in the whole of Myanmar.

This place is called Khonuamthung in the local Chin language. This place is administered by the Department of Forestry and Environment. It locates at the border of three townships- Kanpetlet, Mindat, and Matupi.

At the top of the mountain, you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. There is also a vast field there with golden towers, Buddha statues, and Christian crosses. There are also several small wooden seats arranged for you to sit and enjoy the atmosphere of the surroundings. The hilltop plains are ideal for photography.

The Buddha sculpture at the mountain peak of Nat Ma Taung, Photo by Thanakrit Pongpittayut
The Christian cross with the mountain view, Photo by Thanakrit Pongpittayut

Access to Nat Ma Taung

The road gate of Kanpetlet Township on the way to the Nat Ma Taung National park, Photo by Thanakrit
PongpittayutThe town of Kanpetlet, Photo by Thanakrit Pongpittayut

In order to travel to Nat Ma Taung, you need to enter the base before heading to the summit. The starting point of this national park can be easily reached from Kanpetlet Township. There is another road from Mindat Township, but it is not yet completed and thus difficult to access.

For safety reasons, it is advisable to take a four-wheel-drive jeep or van driven by locals only during the dry season.

It takes about 45 minutes to drive uphill from the town of Kanpatlet. Accommodation can also be found in this small town. Travelers will stay here and get up early in the morning to start the trek to the hills.

The road from the base of the mountain to the summit is unpaved. Park staff does not allow private vehicles to pass through this location. Admission to the park is about $10 for everyone, and a little more for arranged tours.

Getting to the summit will be a different experience whether you walk or take a bike or taxi to the summit.

On foot, it’s going to be a super extreme adventure as it will take several hours to get both up and down from the starting point of the trail, so it’s going to be a super extreme adventure. It’s a good idea to have water and snacks on hand while you’re trekking.

If you’re going up by bike or taxi, you won’t be able to enjoy the beautiful views that are found between the trails.

The winter season between November and February is the best time to climb Mount Victoria due to the great weather. It will be a much easier trip compared to other times of the year.

Explore around the Nat Ma Taung region

You can complete the climb of Mount Victoria in one day. There are other options for enjoying a peaceful time around the area, including the tribal villages around Kanpetlet and the circular trek that stretches from the summit to the west and north of the town.

There are many simple guest houses for tourists in the villages along the mountain roads. The famous tribal communities there are the Dai, Upu and Ya tribes, where only the older women have tattoos on their faces as a long-standing tradition.

Mindat, Myanmar – December 6th, 2015: Traditionally dressed Chin tribe tattooed faced woman (Daai) is playing a bamboo flute with her nostrils, at home in Mindat. Due to this being a dying out tradition she is one of the last nose flute players of her native Chin State. The practice of facial tattooing was outlawed in the 1960’s and is usually only seen on old generation women. Chin people, also known as the Kakis are a number of Tibeto-Burman tribal people.

The electricity in Kanpetlet and Mindat is limited. The lights always go out at 10pm. There are no generators in the regular guest houses. The eco-lodges in the area are only open during the peak season from September to May. It always closes in the rainy season.

ASEAN Heritage Park

Gurans bloom in the Nat Ma Taung National Park, Photo by Thanakrit Pongpittayut

Nat Ma Taung National Park has a rich biodiversity. The area is home to many endemic species such as a White-browed Nuthatch, and birds of prey.

In addition, there are many temperate and alpine species of the northern Himalayas and many plant species that adapt to the high altitude environment.

On the way to the summit, there are three-needle pines and many oaks; Gurans, the national flower of Nepal, can also be easily found here.

For these reasons, the park has been awarded as an Asean Heritage Park and recognized as an “Outstanding Universal Value” by UNESCO. National Park status has been established since 1994 to protect and preserve this place in its natural habitat.

Promote and protect the mountain natural sanctuary

A local restaurant in Kanpetlet Township, Photo by Thanakrit Pongpittayut

While the mountain is protected, it is only a virtual protection. Currently, there are no guards in the park. There is a lot of trash, plastic and cans in the tourist area. Tourism management is precarious and there are no records of annual tourist arrivals. Occasionally, tourists even see wildfires from the mountain tops.

The reality is that many of the people living around the park are poor and lack primary education. Local organizations try to hire local youths as tourist guides and equip them with knowledge for community management. They also support remote transportation and other means of welcoming visitors from all over the world.

All of these people’s efforts are driven by a desire to contribute to the protection of this amazing mountain. We hope it will be preserved as a legacy for humanity for a long time.

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