Loikaw Travel Guide
Loikaw is the capital of Kayah State in eastern Myanmar. It is located in the Karen Hills area, near the State’s northern tip, just above on the Pilu River. The inhabitants are mostly Kayah (Karenni). Loikaw is slow tempo town with a few attractions. The attraction in this region is to visit different ethnic minorities, trek, cycle, visit caves and enjoy spectacular scenery. Tourism in the region is still fairly new. Travel to Kayah State was for many years restricted due to decades lasted armed conflict. After cease fire agreement was signed a few years ago access to villages outside of Loikaw was permitted. There are still some restrictions that apply for visits. Discovery DMC can arrange necessary permits and licensed local tour guides to accompany guests to villages and country side in Kayah State.
The town’s primary interest is its 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, are one of these.
LOIKAW HIGHLIGHTS AND THINGS TO DO
The town itself is scattered around the Thiri Mingalar Taung Kwae pagoda perched high up on a limestone monolith which affords great views of Loikaw and the surrounding mountain ranges, especially at sunset. Further to the south is the little visited Emerald Tree pagoda where the vista spreads over the old and new parts of town. From here, it is evident to see where the much more verdant hills of Shan state and the arid lands of Kayah meet at Loikaw. Loikaw has recently opened cultural museum. Don’t expect much.. it is very modest but worth a visit if you have excess time in the town from village visits.
Thiri Mingalar Taung Kwae Pagoda
The centerpiece for most visitors to Loikaw is the Taung Kwe Pagoda, which comprises a number of white and gold monuments sitting on top of limestone outcrops which jut dramatically from the surrounding plains. They are interesting and fun to wander around and provide a different experience to other pagodas in Myanmar as well as offering panoramic views of the distant plains, hills and mountains.
Loikaw also provides ample opportunity to learn about local cottage industries and crafts making. The surrounding areas are perfect for treks and unique explorations in the future when the region opens further.
TRIBES OF KAYAH STATE AND LOIKAW
The Kayah (Karenni) ethnic group forms the majority, and the territory was named for the bright crimson head wraps and shawls of the Kayinni, or “Red Kayin” people. The town bursts with color as many ethnic minority groups proudly wear their traditional dress.
Another ethnic group, the Kayan or Padaung people, are known for the circles of thinly pounded brass necklaces used to elongate the necks of the women, though the practice has become less standard in the younger generations.
HOW GET TO LOIKAW?
Getting to Loikaw is easy. There is daily direct from flight from Yangon to Loikaw 1hr. Loikaw can also be reached overland from Heho and Kalaw 4hrs drive. A popular way to travel between Loikaw and Inle Lake is by boat to/from Phekone which is 1hr drive north of Loikaw. The boat ride is scenic and takes around 4hrs. En-route you can stop at Samkar pagoda complex.
There is also road connection from Naypyitaw to Loikaw via Pinlaung. This is a scenic drive but a long one. Loikaw is also connected to Taunggyi capital of Shan State if you travel this route north you can make a stop at Kakku pagoda complex and by old Shan monastery.
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