CHIN STATE AND MT VICTORIA

About Chin State

The wild and remote Chin State is a sparsely populated region offers fantastic trekking and biking opportunities amidst the densely forested mountain ranges.

Southern Chin State is already attracting trekkers keen to climb Mt. Victoria, the states highest mountain. Northern Chin State, however, is still very much off the beaten track and highly rewarding for intrepid travelers.

Mount Victoria, otherwise known as Nat Ma Taung in Burmese and Khaw-nu-soum or Khonuamthung in Chin, is the highest mountain in the Chin State and third tallest in Myanmar. It is 3,053m (10,016 ft) above sea level.

Mt Victoria mountain (Nat Ma Taung) and the surrounding area are part of the Nat Ma Taung National Park, an ASEAN Heritage park that covers 72,300 hectares in the Chin Hills.

Nat Ma Taung National Park is considered an outstanding area for its highly diverse plant life and contains many threatened birds, mammals, and reptiles. Its flora has given researchers bio-geographical, evolutionary, and ecological insight into the history of Asia. Bird watchers will enjoy trying to spot the over 200 species of bird, including the endemic White-browned nuthatch (Sitta victoriae).

The mountain is a 5-hour drive west of Bagan in the Chin Hills, within Kanpetlet Township, Mindat District. The road used to be notoriously bad and only for 4WD vehicles but the road has been recently rebuilt and is mostly paved now. Be prepared though that it will not be perfect! Very few machines were used for the construction.

The peak of Mt Victoria can be reached from Kanpetlet town by a steep, winding drive along the mountainside to the trail head. From there, it’s further 3km hike to the summit.

The same steep, winding mountain road also connects Kanpetlet to Mindat but gets is often damaged during the rain season. It’s rebuilt during the winter months.

To trek from Mindat, up to the summit of Mount Victoria, and then to Kanpetlet on the other side of the mountain (or vice versa) typically takes about three days. During the trek, the expansive mountain ranges, periodic cliff drops, and hidden streams become additional companions on the trek. It’s a time to relax and reconnect with nature.

Two main towns surround Mount Victoria: Kanpalet and Mindat. Both are under development to encourage community-based tourism into the area and have become popular bases to start hikes into the surrounding Chin tribal villages. Kanpetlet, or as it’s sometimes spelled Kan Pet Let, is the home to the southern Chin tribes of Dai, Yinduu Daa, Upu, and Ng’Ya clans. Mindat is home to the K’Cho or Cho ethnic people.

Matupi, the second capital city of Chin State, lies about 100 miles northwest of Mindat and currently requires a permit for tourists to visit. Four Chin tribes live in Matupi: Matu, Mara, Zotung, and Loutu.

The main attraction for Matupi is the impressive virgin forests and environments of the town. The region is covered with high hills and deep valleys with hardly any flat topography to give respite. It’s because of this terrain and the poor road conditions that visiting this area of Chin State is still difficult, especially during rainy season when landslides frequently occur.

The Chin tribes of the area contain a variety of smaller groups and clans. Many of these tribes have converted to Christianity, but still keep their language and even some animistic traditions alive. The Chin women draw the most attention due to their tradition of unique facial tattoos. The tattoo designs are different depending on the region.

According to legend, the reason for the tattoos on the women came as a way to fend off the interests of Burmese kings. It was said that Chin women were highly desired to be the concubines of the Burmese kings and by tattooing the faces of the women, they would be unattractive to any visiting conqueror. Today, the tattoos on Chin women have become an antiquated tradition, with the new generations not continuing the practice. The living examples of this unusual form of beautification are quickly vanishing, as the remaining tattooed women are quite elderly.

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