LOIKAW, KAYAH STATE
Loikaw, the capital of Kayah state, is situated between Inle Lake and the Thai border. Loikaw can be reached either by air from Yangon or by road or by boat trip from Inle Lake to Pekong followed by a short bus ride to Loikaw, and it lies about 120 miles away from Mae Hong Son province of Thailand. The best time to travel Loikaw is October through March with the average temperature about 25.4°C, which will feel very nice given the humidity and wind to be enjoyable for warm weather travelers. Little dusty streets are a pleasant enough introductions to small-town life in Loikaw, but the city is really a base for venturing out into the surrounding countryside and villages, which see relatively few foreigners. The state is inhabited by a multitude of ethnic minority populations — communities who have developed their own form of dress, traditions and ways of life over time. Visitors who are interested in culture can visit a local animist temple, meet a local shaman, meet local musicians playing unique bamboo instruments, and try on local dress. Visitors can also enjoy forest trekking with great views. You can enjoy tasting ‘Kayah barbecue’ or sipping rice wine from an earthen pot.
The famous religious landmark of Loikaw is the Thiri-Mingalar Taung-kwe Pagoda Hill, scenically built on a hillock overlooking the vast expanse of the environs. The next interesting place is called Htee-pwint-kan or Umbrella pond with a legend about this pond, which situated in Demosoe Township in the heart of the paddy fields. Further to the south is the little-visited Emerald Tree pagoda where the vista spreads over the old and new parts of town. The town’s primary interest is in its people, where the visitors can be spent visiting one village after another of varying hill-tribes, some of which are only found in this area. The Padaung or ‘long-neck’ tribe, distinguished by their gold (or copper) coils which circle their necks, upper shins and wrists, are one of these. Officially they are nomadic people whose resting place is determined by killing a chicken and deciphering which holes the bone marrow seeps from when prodded with a stick. The neck coils are themselves not determined by age, but by a family’s wealth although elder Padaung ladies have a limit of 20-25 rings. Although not yet accustomed to Western travellers, Loikaw makes for a worthwhile trip for the adventurous.