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Mong La Burma

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Firstly I apologise that this is not a trip report but a question. This seemed the most appropriate place to ask. My question is has anyone got information on the scene in Mong La in Burma ?

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Have not been there.   Girlie bars in the Burmese (NOT like Thailand!) are opening all over the country, even remore regions.   I, too, am curious about Mong la.  Ia sked my driver/friend in Yangon about it but he has never been that far Northeast; on border with the evil empire.   While I am curious, I am  repulsed as well as most people there are Chinese not Bamar. 


MONG LA, Special Region 4 — Nowhere in culturally conservative Burma is it easier to find sex than in Mong La, a Sino-Burmese border town with a reputation for the illicit. Dozens of prostitutes line two bridges in the center of town, scantily clad and freely distributing business cards that offer their bodies to passersby.

Potential customers pull up beside the women, and negotiations begin. Typically, these conversations take place in Chinese, the language used by most residents here. If a price is agreed to, it’s off to a room at one of a growing number of hotels in Mong La, part of an autonomous enclave in eastern Burma known as Special Region 4.

While the sex industry is legal and regulated in parts of the world as near as Thailand or far as the Netherlands, here it is an unregulated, unlawful and flourishing trade.

Along with gambling and animal trafficking, Mong La’s black market includes prostitutes, and it has sprung up to meet a demand that comes largely from China.

So too have many of the women selling sex.

While China is frequently the destination for Burmese victims of human trafficking, here in Mong La some Chinese sex workers have fallen prey to trafficking in the other direction. A 2008 earthquake in Sichuan provided a major source of sex workers, according to an ethnic Shan woman who deals gold in Mong La. Much like Cyclone Nargis forced many Burmese into the sex trade, the devastation wrought by the Sichuan quake left women there vulnerable to exploitation.

Lured by promises of jobs in Mong La, women were trafficked across the porous border by Chinese businessmen.

“For a month, they did not put those girls to work. They let them stay at beauty salons, beautified them … and finally they agreed to work as sex workers,” the local Shan woman said.

Just as they tolerate a steady stream of illegal Chinese entrants daily, local authorities appear unconcerned that these women, here without visas, are selling sex.

“They sell sex in public, but there is no problem for them. There is no action taken. They are free even though they are illegally staying here,” said Min Thu, a Mong La resident.

A representative for the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), which governs Special Region 4, declined The Irrawaddy’s interview request.

Business cards offering photos and phone numbers are also slipped underneath hotel room doors. Some hotels are said to take money from women or their pimps to display photos of sex workers, and a phone number to call, in rooms where hoteliers elsewhere might hang a perfunctory scenic painting.

While most of the prostitutes are Chinese, the town does have at least one brothel offering Burmese women. More discreetly than the women on the bridges, a dozen or so Burmese wait for customers inside a shop advertising “cold drinks” on a sign outside. They too find themselves servicing a largely Chinese clientele, and communication can be difficult—even negotiating a price sometimes ends in frustrated failure—but the trade is lucrative, one woman told The Irrawaddy.

Most of the women said that they came from Rangoon, where they would not be able to earn as much money. Ma Khine, a Burmese sex worker, said that women in her industry could earn between 2,500 yuan (US$407) and 4,000 yuan per month in Mong La.

“I just arrived here two months ago,” said Ma Khine, who came from Burma’s biggest city. “We can earn more money here than in Rangoon.”





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no problem for foreigners to get permit dfor Mong La:


The border town of Mong La, 85 kilometres north east of Kyaing Tong, has a fearsome reputation for its gambling and trade of contraband, but in fact is a fairly tame place notable mainly for the fact that, despite being in Myanmar, most of the local population are Chinese and renminbi is the only accepted currency.

Travelling to Mong La is by shared taxi and takes around five hours; a permit is needed, but is easy to obtain and is included in the K17,000 price. You have to leave your passport with the authorities in Kyaing Tong when travelling to Mong La.

Access and permits

Foreigners need a permit to travel to Kyaing Tong over land from other parts of Myanmar, and this is by private car only (15 hours from Taunggyi); to apply for permission, add to your wishlist on the right sidebar of this page. We also offer tours of these parts of Myanmar, including permits (click further up on the right side of this page for more information).

Alternatively, you can fly to Kyaing Tong from other parts of Myanmar (no permit needed) or get there over land from Thailand via Tachileik (cheap local permit included in transport cost). For more information, go to getting to Myanmar over land.


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In November, 2017, I learned that travel permits to Mong La weren't being issued. It was probably because of the international scrutiny upon the Rohingya situation in southwestern Myanmar.

In times like this, they often shut down travel to all areas which might seem controversial to outside observers, or which might lead to an incident (serious crime, for example) which might make the nation lose face.

Even if they re-open travel to Mong La, they might close it again at any time. So it's difficult to plan a trip there, until the situation changes.

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