Since my visit in July 2019, Mogok has become one of my favourite travel destinations. After all, what gemmologist could resist venturing into a place known as ‘The Valley of the Rubies’?
Mogok’s gemstone mining past is shown in documents dating back to the 16th century, though it is estimated that mining and trading of gemstones in the area was thriving long before then – possibly even as early as the 6th century.
The town has certainly acquired centuries’ worth of legend and tradition. The story of Mogok’s foundation tells of three Shan hunters who became lost and were forced to spend the night sheltering under a tree. Woken by the noise of a startling number of crows in a nearby valley, the hunters were curious to see why the birds had congregated there. They were astonished to find a valley studded with rubies that the birds had mistaken for glistening chunks of fresh meat. They reported the find to their king, who ordered his guards to establish a town there to protect the hoard.
Mogok is most famous for its rubies, with one early French trader reportedly exclaiming, “Mogok produces rubies, each worth a nation.” However, myriad other gemstones also emerge from the mines of Mogok: sapphire, spinel, spessartite, garnet, topaz, tourmaline to name but a few. Emerald is the only conspicuous absence.
Because of civil unrest in the more recent past, Myanmar has not developed as a tourist destination in the same way as many other gemstone producing areas. However, the gates of Mogok were opened to the public for the first time ever in 2018 to mark Mogok’s 800th anniversary. The three-day celebration attracted international visitors and Myanmar locals alike and was such a success that six months later the government opened up Mogok to the tourist trade.
With the tourist industry still in its infancy, Mogok is one of the few places a visitor can have a truly authentic experience. The town has much to offer a tourist: stunning scenery, delicious food, the famous gem markets and a plethora of breath-taking temples and pagodas. Unsurprisingly, gemstones feature heavily in these beautiful buildings. The Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda—one of my favourites—houses five gilt statues of the Buddha, pillars sparkling with mirrored mosaic and two plinths encrusted with gleaming gemstones.
I can’t wait to return to Mogok in February 2020, when I’ll be leading an unmissable tour for those who love travel and want to learn more about Mogok and its gemstones. To find out more about the Gemstone Detective Mogok tour and book your place, visit www.gemstonedetective.com.
Be sure | Be smart | Buy with confidence