Kyaing Tong is well known for its scenic beauty and colorful hill tribes, still untouched by tourism. You may have done a lot of traveling throughout the world Kyaing Tong will always be among the most enchanting places.
Kyaing Tong is the capital of Eastern Shan State region and
easily accessible by flight from either, Yangon, Mandalay or
Heho. It is also one of the most scenic spots and the start of
many interesting treks
Also around Kyaing Tong are many ethnic villages; Palaungs, Eng, Akha, Lahu etc. These ethnic tribes had surprisingly preserved their ancient customs and traditions as well as their unique and colorful dresses up to now and many can be seen in the marketplace where they come to do their shopping every morning.
Forbidden No More
There are people like Joe, traders in fringe tourism, to care for the circumspect entry conditions and officialdom along the way. Joe operates a guest house in Mae Sai, the Thai town linked to Tachileik, Myanmar by a short bridge, and a trusted Toyota truck in which he avoids potholes and politics along the rough road between the Thai and Chinese borders, the end of permissible tourist travel. The alternative is a station wagon dubbed a "rabbit", which waits for passengers in the Tachileik market. Either method of transport is an exhilarating ride through the bamboo-forested valleys that are home to hitch-hiking minorities who, in Joe's case, accepted lifts in the bed of his truck.
The colourful and varied minority cultures who make the Shan State such an intriguing travel prospect are the reason the region has remained isolated. Akha, Kachin, Lahu, Palaung, Pa-O, Shan and Wa have rebelled tenaciously against central rule and each other, conflicts which have involved in confusing assortment of partnerships and players. Their secessionist movements survived by selling opium. The Mong Tai Army for Shan liberation, under the leadership of Khun Sa, controlled Shan State of opium production for twenty years. His unexpected resignation in 1996, and new economic ties between Myanmar, Thailand and China, paved the way figuratively at least-for the long-awaited, safe passage in.
The poor condition of the road reflects it origins. Hundreds of dust-coated soldiers in floppy bush hats are in charge of it repairs as each rainy season threatens to revert it to the narrow pony track it was from the fourteenth to mid-twentieth centuries, a 240 kilometer route for Chinese mule caravans cutting across Myanmar and Thailand with products bound for Bay of Bengal ports. It remains the vital trade corridor of old but today's cargo and transportation have been updated-lorries now convey everything from electronics to gemstones. Kyaing Tong was the first destination within Myanmar for the old Chinese caravans after which the route separated into two entering Thailand. A British official, who traveled by elephant through the Shan State, noted in his 1890 book that 8,000 laden animals arrived yearly in Chiang Mai from Kyaing Tong. The Chinese traders carried camphor, dates, silk, tea and walnuts, and returned with cotton, lacquerware, silver and tobacco. Some brought their religion as well, having been converted to Islam by the Mongols. The Panthays, a Moslem Shan State minority, are descendants of such caravan drivers. Kyaing Tong, halfway between Thailand and China, is the first stop for today's travellers. Here it is possible to meet characters likes retired schoolteacher Matthew who remembers the weekly caravans of 100 ponies that passed through during the dry winter months, or who can show you the drooping building where the tea they carried was stored. More relevant are the money changers in the market who run active businesses exchanging local Kyat, Thai baht, and Chinese yuan for silver Indians rupees, a currency still viable for cross-border trade since the caravan days. Many of the coins are dated no later than 1918.
W.Somerset Maugham devoted two chapters to the market in a 1930 travel book, when he rested in Kyaing Tong after an exhausting four hundred mile pony trek through the Shan State. It is larger now, and comparatively less foreign that what he described, but among the quiet Shan shopkeepers and shoppers are the same hill trible customers in their ethnic dress, distinctive headdresses and silver jewelry. They live in villages around Kyaing Tong, the closest accessible with help from a local guide. Others are remote, their only approach up mountains by foot, and stores are swapped in Kyaing Tong's coffee shops about the tigers that still menace them.
In Shan music, captured on scratchy cassettes that play in the market, Maungham heard "the impression of something immensely old". Unrecorded is the ancient music of religion-gongs, chants and bells-that leads to Wat Zom Kham where young novice monks intone scriptures inside a glided hall, the call of boyhood temporarily subdued by the sacred. When he tries, another boy begins, a cycle of prayer in place since a hermit Tunga, foretold by the Buddha himself, shrunk a lake with his magic and a devout city rose named after him. The murky natural pond in the middle of Kyaing Tong is the basis of the folk tale, its thirty-two monasteries and pagodas the final fulfillment of the prophecy. Six hairs of the Buddha are enshrined in Way Zom Kham's pagoda; left as relics, it is said, when a wandering Buddha came to the Shan State.
Kyaing Tong saw its share of pilgrims. American Baptist an Catholic missionaries beat even the British to Myanmar by several years in 1890, and set up orphanages and schools. Their simple earthenfloored churches are found in many hill tribe villages around Kyaing Tong. The Shan, who belonged to the great Buddhist Lanna Kingdom of thirteenth and fourteenth century Thailand, remained unpersuaded. Their pride in shared ethnolinguisticties to the Thai unbreakable. It was the Thai King Mangrai, later founder of Chiang Mai, who bequeathed to Kyaing Tong its final name of the "The Walled City of Tung" by enclosing it with a twelve kilometer wall. Only a single arch of the original seven gates remains under which Kyaing Tong's unhurried traffic moves. In 1991, Kyaing Tong lost another landmark, the teak palace or haw of a heredity Shan prince called a saopa, the last another historical landmark, the teak palace or haw of a heredity Shan prince called a saopa, the last of a dynasty that has existed since the end of the Lanna Kingdom in the sixteenth century. It was replaced by a symbol of the times, a multi-storied hotel. A residence of a minor prince remains for travellers to view from the outside, its current occupants United National Drug Control Program staff, no less significant today as rovalty was in the past.
If Kyaing Tong is the capital of Shan culture, the region's major ethnic group, Mongla, a town on the Chinese border, is the Wa's former headhunters who early travelers, feared and attempted to avoid. Evading the Wa is no longer necessary or possible for between Kyaing Tong and Mongla is their semiautonomous territory within which the sizxable minority has its own army, flag and license plates. Vehicle are charge to enter and exit "Wa land" and the road, the Wa responsibility, is a vast improvement over what lies outside their jurisdiction.
The Wa were Khun Sa's competitors in opium production, and reportedly replace him when he retired, but Mongla's recent development - a grand hotel, and even grander Buddhist temple, a bridge, a beer garden, and a nightclub - offer another version of the story. In the equally new, startling pink, antinarcotics museum, these projects are cited as progress in the combined efforts of Myanmar, China and Thailand to eradicate the drug trade. Thurists are shown room filled with photographs of the burning of poppy fields, the destruction of refineries, and seizure of heroin shipment and weapons.
Mongla's past in hidden under fresh paint. The mules are issing but in the market exotica sells as commonplace and all common place is trade. At the chinese border, Shan State minority maidens wait to be photographed as they do at the other entrance to their homeland, but in difference to new influences, they have rejected their traditional finery for synthetic, sequined dresses. They make an attractive picture but what they offer, an introduction to the Shan State, travellers no longer need. A colser look is available from within.
Unique tradition of the Gon Shans is the New Year Festival. In Myanmar Era 772 when Phra Kyio Matu was sawbwa of Kengtung there was a big drought and people were in heavy misery with consequent unstable situations. The Sawbwa asked the learned astrologers on ways to escape from this disaster and he was told that according their calculations, Kengtung belonged in the Monday planet but the rulers, being Yun people, were from the Rahu (or) the second part of Wednesday planet, So there were internal conflicts within the planets inself. So to erase these conflicts the astrologers suggested that 24 Tai Loi people from Moung Yang area should be summoned be Kengtung. After they are dressed in red and white robes they are then to beat auspicious drum, hung inside the compound of the Sao Lon Kart (nat shrine) from the 1.00 p.m on the Second day of the eve of the New Year.
On the Second day of the eve of the New Year the drum is taken from its place. Then a representative of the Zar people who by traditions is allowed to wear the cloths of Sankarm (Sakra) will follow on a horse behind the drum and a papier mache images of Sankarm (Sakra) and the procession will follow the Loimwe-Mong Yang Road towards Long Kop on the Nam Hkun creek. The people lining the procession route will sprinkle scented water on the procession for good luck.
A clay statue of a frog, representing the Rahu planet, with a crescent moon, representing the Monday planet, is constructed on the bank of the creek and when the procession reach the place elder persons will recite the Mingala sutra and everybody kowtows. Then both the statue of the frog and Sankarm (Sakra) are sent down the creek. The Tai Loi people bring back the drum to the original routed and when the drum reaches the Maha Muni Pagoda, 4 monks from Wat Son Hkam monastery, which is situated under the banyan tree supposed to house the guardian spirit of Kengtung, will recite the Mingala sutra and rehang it back at wat kengzan Monastery. As the ceremony ended the heavens opened up with a deluge and everybody was happy. This tradition started in Myanmar Era 772 and carried on up till now annually.
In order to get the most out of your visit to Kyaing Tone Private Hotel can make well organized arrangement with our extensive knowledge of the region, particulary the remote hill tribes.
Day - 01
On arrival welcome by our local English speaking tour guide and transfer to Private Hotel. Sight seeing in Kyaing Tong starts with Maha Myat Muni Pagoda, housing Mandalay Style Buddha image. Proceed to Shan Lacquerware. Tourists who are fond of lacquerware can purchase desirable lacquerware of high quality. Then visit Standing Buddha image, (the place where Kyaing Tong was founded about one thousand years ago), Hot spa, Akha centre village and R.C.M church. Sunset on the One tree Hill where a lone, 245 years old Kanyin-byu (Diptero carpus Spp) tree stands. The tree was planted by Alaungmintaya, the founder of Third Myanmar Empire. And then come back to the pottery village "Yan Gone" to observe the handicraft earthen pots of shan tribe. Overnight at Private Hotel.
Day - 02
After breakfast, morning visit to the central market. Then take the car about 50 minutes and trek about - 1½ hours to arrive "Ho Kyin" villages, typical Akha tribe villages. From here continue for another 30 minutes to Na Phi Phank village, where Lahu and Akha tribes living together.
From there walk to Phata Akha village and to "Pang Ma Phai" Akha tribe village to learn more about their daily life. Come back to the car to go Mong Zine (Khun Village) to see traditional Lahu Knives made by Lahu black smith. On the way back to hotel visit Joe Phyu "Wa village". Overnight at Private Hotel.
Day - 03
Breakfast at the hotel, take the car about 45 minutes for a hiking tour into the Pin Tauk area. Lush mixed monsoon forest with a view to the plain rice fields looking like a huge, green patchwork blanket. Visit the villages of Akha and Enn tribes. Some are haptized, some tribes still animists. The Enn are an ethnic group which tourists have found particularly interesting labelling them the "Black Teeth". The walk is not difficult and can be done slowly. They live on the higher slopes. They have distinctively different costumes and beliefs from the other tribes. It will take about 4-hours to visit the villages. Take lunch at Pin Tauk water-fall. Late afternoon, come back to Private Hotel.
Day - 04
Breakfast at the hotel. Full day excursion to Lwe tribe villages. Drive appr. 2 hrs on the road to Maila, a border town at the Chinese Border. From there it will take a ½hours hike to Wan Nyut village, one of the Loi tribe villages. The Loi preferring to live in a huge long houses, including at least 5 families. Before visiting the Loi there is an old monastery, a very beautiful one and very different form the other monasteries. One hour from there is another Loi village (Wan Seng). Scenery is beautiful and hiking is not difficult. Return to Kyaing Tong appr. at 17:00. Overnight a Private Hotel.
Day - 05
After breakfast drive appr.25 minutes to Palaung tribe village (Wan Pauk). The Palaung tribe are known locally as "Silver" Palaungs. A branch of the same tribe, locally called "Gold" Palaung, lives in Northern Shan State. Three hours hiking from there is Lahu Shi villages, kunpe-1 and kunpe-2. Lahu Shi, Black Lahu and Red Lahu are the same tribes. Trekking through forests. Valleys and gorges is very fascinating. Return to Kyaing Tong appr. at 16:00.
Day - 06
After Breakfast drive to Loimwe (appr. 2 hours dirve) 33km away from Kyaing Tong. Loimwe which literally translated means "misty mountain" is at an altitude of over 1600 meters above sea - level. It commands a magnificant view of the surrounding area and enjoys a temperate climate. Once an outpost of the British there remain many Colonial buildings and also a Catholic Church. The main attraction along the way is the scenery on the ascent to Loimwe, which passes through forests, terraced rice fields. On the way to Loimwe you will have several stops to visit different villages. Wan Lun Shan villages, walk and explore the native village life; HoLup Akha village where you can see the traditional Akha tribes with their colorful dresses; Nang Cho Wa village and Panwai Lahu village on the left and right side of the road. Late afternoon you will be back in Kyaing Tong. Overnight at Private Hotel.
Day - 07
After breakfast drive appr. 3 hours to Mongla, a town on the Chinese Border, 86 km away from Kyaing Tong. Where you can enjoy Mangla's recent development - a lot of grand hotels & restaurants grandeur Buddhist temple (Dway Nagara Golden Pagoda), night clubs, Casino Hall and antinarcotics museum which is cited as progress in the combined efforts of Myanmar, China and Thailand to eradicate the drug trade. Tourists can observe the photographs of the burning poppy fields, the destruction of refineries and seizure of heroin shipment and weapons. Mongla's past has already changed under fresh paint.
Breakfast at the Hotel. Morning visit to central market which bustles daily from 6 to 11:00 in the morning. The market offers products from China & Thailand, and also it has local traditional clothing, antique coins and other implements for sale making good souvenirs. Then proceed to Naung Tong lake and the Wat Jom Kham Pagoda, where sacred hair relic of Lord Buddha is enshrined in it. Legend says Wat Jom Kham dates to a visit by Gautama Buddha. If features a tall gilded stupa topped by a gold umbrella inlaid with silver, rubies, diamonds, sapphires and jade and hung with gold tinny bells. Then transfer to Kyaing Tong Airport.
No.145, Airport Road, Kyaing Tong, Eastern Shan State, Union of Myanmar
Tel: (+95-84) 21438, 22613, +95-95250903, 95404820, 09-781500544, 09-799846144
Fax: (+95-84) 21438, 22613
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