Have you ever heard of tribe with long- neck tribe wearing many golden rings? Have you ever heard of a strange custom that people predict future by chicken bone? If not, head to Loikaw to discover a rare culture and way of life that is seemingly untouched by the outside world.
Located in the Karen Hills area, near the state northern tip, the sleepy town of Loikaw is slowly waking up. The town is scattered around the hill of Thiri Mingala (or Taunggwe Pagoda) perched high up on a limestone monolith which offers a great view of Loikaw and surrounding mountain ranges, especially at sunset.
How to get there
This area has a long history of conflict between Burmese junta and local ethnic military groups who have competed for control the natural resources and fertile lands. In fact, until very recently, the town is off limits to foreign visitors, and remember it is only accessible with special permit.
This remote little town which is the capital of Kayah State is a long way from anywhere. From Yangon or other big cities fly to Heho then take a private car to Loikaw. There is also an airport in Loikaw, but direct flights are only available on certain days of the week. If you are about visit Inle, the route Inle- Sagar- Loikaw will surprise the most sophisticated trekkers!
What to see and do
Loikaw is one of the least visited but more picturesque places in Myanmar. Most of the interest lies in the surrounding countryside. You will enjoy the spectacular scenery with pine hills, mountain-top pagodas, mysterious caves and volcanic lakes, a top site for nature lovers.
You will embark a fascinating discovery long neck tribe of Loikaw, whose women practice wearing golden rings from very young age. It is considered as top destination for a window to authentic tribal life in Asia.
Trekking to tribal villages
Above all, the main attraction of Loikaw is its people. if you embark on a day trek or even a homestay trek from village to village, you will better understand the lifestyle of ethnic tribes here. Loikaw is home for Kayah, Kayan (Palaung), Gagbar, Ma Nu Ma Naw, Yin Baw, In Ta Le, Shan, and Barma races. Among them, the most distinguished tribe is the Kayan, who live in Panpet, an area with five villages. Their costumes and the way of life is truly interesting. One of their belief: the longer neck is, the more beautiful the person is. When Kayan girls at 5, they start to wear necklace and add one more coin each year until they get married.
Another option to visit tribal villages around the town of Loikaw is Hta LeeLa Neh, a village of Kayah tribe with traditional totem- poles. There is a Kaetoebu village hall, where they celebrate chicken bone extraction ceremony. The village shaman will look at the bone and make predictions about the future. Besides, you shouldn’y miss the beautiful seven steps lake, Kan Khon Na Sin.
Visit pagodas and spirit poles
The mountaintop pagodas in Loikaw are interesting to visit. The panoramic views they offer of the town, hills and mountains are breathtaking.
The most famous pagoda in Loikaw is Taung Kwe Paya, which towers over the city. It was built in the 11th century, across two mountains. Local legend says that each mountain was inhabited by opposing groups who frequently fought. Therefore, the pagoda with the bridge built between the two mountains represent peace.
There are many outcrops dotted in Loikaw with pagodas in their top which make for a unique landscape. There is also a huge reclining Buddha in town.
Spirit poles are the unique point of Loikaw. You can find them in almost villages around this town. They are wordshipped once a year, which falls around April.
Visiting Loikaw, you should not miss the Kayah State Museum, where you can understand more about the unique culture and traditional beauty of ethnic groups in this region. Go to Kyat Gu Cave, which is known as the ghost cave . This sprawling natural limestone has broken wooden boxes which are believed to be coffins from many years ago. Another destination is Htee Pwint, the mud volcanic lake. The locals believe that the wishes will come true if they are made at the right time the muds from bellow bubble to the surface in the form of opened umbrella.