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Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park

Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park

A pristine National Park in Myanmar

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An adventure day tour in north Myanmars Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park with elephants and outdoor adventure in the jungle.
This National park is also the largest wildlife reserve in Myanmar / Burma.

A great nature spot where they left everything as it always was to keep the environment and animal intact. The park is to the west of the Chindwin River, in the vicinity of Kani and Mingin townships are the Muhtolon and Tawdwin forest reserves. On its east lie the Ponnya hill and the Myittha valley.

Dense forest growth is noticeable at Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park. Mist and haze often surround the area. So thick is the vegetation there that darkness often descends on it by 5 p.m. Hardwood trees such as teak, pyinkado, padauk, ingyin, are plenty. During monsoon times many waterfalls appear at the rivers.
Elephant trekking in Myanmar / Burma
Asian Elephant Photos
One of the main attractions of Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park are the elephants.

Trekking with beasts is why most tourist come here their tour always start in Mandalay which has the nearest airport.

This is local and international tourism in Myanmar because also Burmese people enjoy a few days in the wilderness although usually not with elephant trekking. Local travelers connect the day tour mainly with Buddhist themes since there are several popular legends around that theme.
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Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park Elephants
Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park Elephants
trekking in the wilderness
Trekking in the wilderness

With an area of 1600 skm wilderness this is the largest nature reserve, the proximity to Monywa and Mandalay makes it very attractive for a day trip, maybe longer.

This famous Forest Reserve


is 60 miles north-west of Monywa district in the Yinmabin Township. A journey there involves 17 miles of tough trekking and elephant ride, ups and downs on difficult terrain. This is definitely a attractive tropical environment for adventure trips to the hikers, the bold and the brave.

adventure travel in myanmar
Adventure travel in Myanmar

This is also one of the top areas for nature conservation. The name connotes a Boddhisatva, one of the disciples of Gautama Buddha and an ordinary priest. Opinions vary and views on the subject differ from one another.

national park river
National park river

The region was designated as the Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park by the government on 1 April 1984. Formerly it was a sanctuary. Hlawga and Popa are also sanctuaries.

Out of these three, this one has the makings of a great ark. It possesses abundant flora and fauna, htaukkyant, thityar, etc seem to be quite abundant there. The Thitlone camp, a beautiful wooded area awaits the tired traveller before he / she reaches the park. Many believe that one gets refreshed and invigorated after making a stopover at Thitlone.

gushing wild streams
Gushing wild streams

The sound of rushing and gushing streams, chirpings of tropical birds

and the pleasant wooded bungalows give an added impetus to travel on. From here the last trek is only about 2km.

There is a brick Tazaung which is a 40 feet wide brick structure. Twenty-eight seated Buddha images which the locals call hnakyeik shihsu, with the reclining statue in the centre, can be seen inside. The local folks however believe that the genuine remains of the disciples lies directly underneath these statues somewhere in the bowels of the earth.

traveler in the Myanmar jungle
Traveler in the Myanmar jungle

A traveler can go right up to the cave entrance from a path formed near the Tazaung. The passage into the cave is blocked and sealed and there is no way of getting inside. Thousands of bats have congregated at the entrance and made it their home. It is their haven, if their poise and balance get disturbed at the sight of every human approach.

They would then, as usual fly in all directions before returning to their nooks and crannies. The locals believe that a stream meandered inside the cave at one lime. In those days offertories floated into the cave from outside would come out cleared and emptied at the other end.

Opinions on the park have been forwarded by learned scholars. Dr. Than Tun, citing the inscriptions argued that the name does not connote the monk who was supposed to be the disciple of Gautama Buddha. He believed that Alaungdaw Kathapa is only an ordinary priest, a forest dweller known as Paunglaung Shin who lived at the time of King Bagan (1846-53). He was born at Pareimma, a place somewhere in Sagaing division in 1807 and passed away in 1916, at a place 60 miles away from Monywa.

The late U Chan Mya, Professor of Myanmar Language, Mandalay University concurred with Dr. Than Tun. He opined that Alaungdaw Kathapa, the disciple of Gautama Buddha had died thousands of years ago at Webula hill near Rajgahir in India. A story has it that in his tender days as a koyin (novice) he was an ardent bird lover and watcher. But the presiding abbot of his monastery detested the caging of these winged creatures.

One day, to escape his weary eyes he hid his little 'catch' under a tripod of stones.


Most unfortunately, the tiny bird died from lack of sufficient air. He paid a heavy price, just before attaining parinibbana he died locked inside a tripod of rocky boulders. Then there is another story of how a koyin miraculously escaped from the cave.

The locals believed that, at one time the cave was an open sesame to all and sundry. Pilgrims and tourists arrived, entered the cave and left without let or hindrance.

Among them, a story has it that, one day a young priest and a koyin were on their pilgrimage when inside the cave both saw the non-decomposed body of Reverend Kathapa amidst the glitter and shimmer of precious gems. Greed came upon the mental awareness of the young priest. With that mental formation the cave door suddenly closed and they became locked inside.

At the critical moment, the story goes, the young koyin pledged and vowed that he never had harbored the thought of stealing these priceless gems. He prayed hard and lo and behold! An aperture wide enough for him to pass through became apparent on the cave wall. The koyin hurried to this gaping hole and made good his escape.

Then there was the case of the miraculous survival of a young female pilgrim who accidentally slipped and fell into the deep gushing stream. She flowed with the turbulent current and appeared alive and kicking at the other end of the cave entrance. Her physical frame was unscathed and unbruised. It was indeed a most astounding and unbelievable occurrence.

An almost unbelievable incident took place at June 1994. A group of pilgrims from Kani township witnessed the strangest phenomenon at that time. They saw the cave wall change from an opaque to that of a clear transparent formation. For a few minutes it was just like a sheet of glass, transparent and clear. Right inside they saw the remains of Reverend Kathapa. They paid obeisance to the arahat, their ascetic pleasure knew no bonds. So great was the impact that some pilgrims cried aloud; some shed their tears in silence. But the scenario soon changed with the arrival of another batch of pilgrims. The wall again became opaque as before. The pilgrims who witnessed this most unusual phenomenon were said to be still living in Kani area in the mid 90s. May be some of them still are. This place is not far off from Mandalay and could be integrated when travel there.

Mandalay Palace Moat and Hill
Mandalay Palace Moat and Hill

A adventure trip to this remote spot

is a great trek. It is also a haven for monks and ascetics. The locals believed that a rikshi once sojourned here for almost two decades. These religious recluses discharge their routine spiritual gymnastics amidst the serene atmosphere, which pervades there. They remained uncommunicative and silent as much as possible.

Some time ago, Col. John Blashford Snell, OBE, (Hon.) FRSGS, Chairman of the Scientific Exploration Society, England and his party of 13 people, mostly scientists and naturalists came again, being here in the late 1960s and 1970s remarked, “We have never seen such good and pristine forest in South East Asia, flora and fauna especially tigers, thamin, golden deer, cenvus eldi (thamin) which are already extint in the world. They can be only found in Chattin Wildlife Sanctuary and the Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary.

This is a habit of large mammals like sambers, barking deer, wild pigs, tigers, Hinlyan bears and wild elephants. Poaching and illegal hunting are prohibited under the Myanmar National
Powintaung Cave Pagodas
Powintaung Cave Pagodas
Park Law, 1994. In the streams and rivers, there are variety of birds, like red-wattled lapwing, wag tails, sandpipers, forest birds like woodpeckers, lauging thrushes, babblers, orioles drangos, mynas, parakeets, barbets, crucals, jungle fowls, pigeons and doves, etc.

If one wish to do some unique adventure travel, that's the right place, enjoy exhilarating and enlivening venture, and experience mythical sensation and feeling in the lush tropical jungle, Alaungdaw Kathapa is a excellent choice and option. Another very interesting tour destination close to Monywa are the Powintaung Cave Pagodas on the other side of the Chindwin river.

The Chindwin River at Monywa
The Chindwin River at Monywa