Colonial buildings, horse-drawn carriages, gold-leaf laden stupas — there’s a wistful and nostalgic air of what once was in Katha, on the west bank of Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River. George Orwell was stationed as a police officer here in the 1920s, and the author used the dusty, atmospheric town as the setting of "Burmese Days," his dark novel about the waning era of British Imperialism.
What We Love
The Elephant Camp: A 40-minute bus ride from Katha, this nursing elephant camp in Tigyang is nestled amongst teak wood forest. Here you can do as mahouts do and feed bananas to the baby pachyderms and their parents or watch the gentle animals spray each other and bathe in the on-property lake. You can also opt for a guided elephant ride along tree-shaded paths.
Literacy Legacy: This town is takes great pride in being George Orwell’s former residence from 1926 to 1927. Take a stroll along Strand Road, where many of the old buildings, albeit semi-crumbling and faded, still stand — it’s a trip down British colonial memory lane.
Best Known For
Morning Market: You'll find trays of betel nut leaves and coconut cakes, plus mounds of citrus fruits, fresh-caught fish, and seafood pastes at the open-air stalls staffed by straw-hat and tanaka-bearing vendors. Don't be surprised if you also see chickens butchered on tree stumps right before your eyes.
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Who It's Best For
Literary Buffs: If you forget for a second Katha’s claim to fame, the very persistent street vendors — waving copies of "Burmese Days" — will quickly remedy your memory.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
You Will Do All of Your Viewing from the Outside: Though museums and other tourism infrastructure are in the works, the city's colonial-era buildings are not set up for welcoming visitors. Neither is George Orwell’s former home, though there is signage out front.
Lisa Cheng is a New York-based writer for ShermansCruise who also writes for Travel + Leisure.