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Mogok, where most of priceless Gems are mined, lies in a beautiful mountain valley, 128 miles to the north-east of Mandala y, and 60 miles to the east of Ayeyarwady river. There is the Great Lake of Mogok in the centre of the town, lying like a pool in the garden.
The mountain ranges of Mogok are a part of the great Shan plateau but the town itself is in Mandalay Division. The residents are mostly Lisus and Shans who make their living by mining and cutting, polishing and marketing gemstones. For centuries, gems such as rubies and sapphires were found at Mogok abundantly and very easily–so easy that they were literally scopped up by hand from among tufts of grass-roots in the hill-side kitchen garden. Gems so begotten are now known as 'grass-root stones'. And the kind of loose upper soil where they are easily found is named 'Manipur paydirt' because in old days Manipur immigrants were those ordered by the king to work the mines. In those days theprice of ordinary rubies was, almost nothing. They were seen everywhere, bought and sold everyday.Only extraordinary ones, large, flawless and of pigeon-blood colour, were considered as something worthy. Rich men, lords and ladies, Sawbwas (chieftains) and kings used to collect only those extraordinary gem-stones. And among gems, rubies rank No.1.
Mogok and its environs – Momeik, Twin, nge', Thabeikkyin and Waphyudaung – together has a gem-bearing area of 1916 sq. miles. There are now over 1000 mines, which are of two main types –tunnel and open-cut. Small-scale traditional mines, such as lay-bin-gyin (four-sided pits, three feet square) are also worked in some places. Rubies and sapphires are found in most of the mines and they bring the highest prices. Mogok also produces numerous gems of lesser quality such as – alexandrite, amethyst, apatite, aquamarine, black tourmaline, black John, danburite, flourite, garnet, green tourmaline, lapis lazuli, moonstone, peridot, quartz, rose quartz, spinel, topa z, white sapphire, zircon.
Mogok then and now, is a city of gems, the heart of the gem-zone and the centre of the gem trade. Some years in the past, private mines were all closed and even Myanmar nationals on visit to Mogok hadn't the cha nce to see how the famous mines worked.
If you really are interested in gems, Mogok in Myanmar is a must in your tour program, among other gem sites of the world.You should have enough time (at least 3 days) for the round trip from Mandalay to Mogok because it is a 128 mile motor-road (about 7 hour drive) and you have so many things to see and study about gem-mining, not to mention those lovely Lisu and Shan villages which adorn the misty valleys. After you have passed Letpanhla, the halfway stop for lunch, you are among the famous gem-producing hills, and the rock-formations will mesmerise you if you are a geologist. At Mogok you'll be very busy the whole day. First, make a pilgrimage to Chanthagyi Pagoda – the name implies you'll be immensely rich soon! Then to Mogok gem-market, where you just watch others buy and sell and get thrilled. At Shwepyiaye ruby mine, see the collection of gem gravels which are then washed and scrutinised the work of mining from start to finish. You'll have to go to the lapidary works to study how the stones are cut and polished, ready for making jewellry. In the evening, climb up Kyeenitaung to take a sunset view of Mogok and to gaze wistfully towards those lovely Lisu villages.At Kyatpyin, 7 miles from Mogok on your return journey, you have the opportunity to see all kinds of gem-sites, large and small, worked in different method.