Off the beaten path and the gateway to and adventure land of volcanic lakes, caves, mountain top pagodas and beautiful countryside is the little known town of Loikaw. A dusty town bordering Thailand, this exciting region was, until recently, off limits to visitors. Even today, Loikaw makes for an authentic Burmese experience with very little tourist activity to note.
The capital of the Kayah State, Loikaw is small, dusty and nestled on the banks of the Pilo River, overlooked by the magnificent Taung Kwe Zayde pagoda. Loikaw serves as the perfect hub for exploring the splendor of its surrounding areas. Rich with natural beauty from rolling hills, to mountains, lakes and caves, it’s easy to see why trekking is a popular past time here. Take a hike around the impressive Seven Stage Lake or the striking Htee Pwint Volcanic Lake and through quaint local villages to really discover what this region has to offer.
Small villages in the area such as Rangkhu and Pataing Hnyin offer a perfect opportunity to mix with friendly and curious locals. The Kayah people are welcoming and often inquisitive when meeting foreign visitors, something that is quite rarely seen in this part of Myanmar.
Aside from its adventure opportunities, Loikaw is a town notable for its mixture of religious and spiritual beliefs and as a result, is bursting with notable sacred religious sites. Visit the impressive shrines at Dor Sor Bee, educate yourself on Loikaw’s eclectic religious history at Christ the King Cathedral and don’t miss the monastery of Thiri Mingalarpon Kyaung.
About a one hour scenic drive, or more active cycle, outside of Loikaw is the rural village of Rangkhu. Named the largest village in the Kayah State, Ranghu is still surprisingly small and is home to traditional Kayan people referred to as ‘long necks’. The name ‘long necks’ derives from the Burmese term ‘Padaung’ that literally translates to ‘wearing gold’. The Kayan women here in Rangkhu are best known for the traditional practice of stacking gold rings around their necks, ultimately lowering their collarbones and making their necks appear longer.
This small Kayah village remains the most visited in the state. The Pa-O women can be spotted by their unique tiger striped headscarves. Close by to the village is home to a small, family run textile business. A visit to Pataing Hnyin presents the ideal opportunity to interact with local villagers and learn about local life.
Dor Sor Bee
Just East of Loikaw is the fascinating Dor Sor Bee. One of the region’s most sacred religious sites, Dor Sor Bee is home to many Kayah animist shrines, lavishly decorated and designed to represent the sun and the moon it promises a culturally immersing morning or afternoon away from the town.
Christ the King Cathedral
Built back in 1939, Christ the King Cathedral remains the oldest surviving cathedral in the Kayah state. The cathedral offers the perfect opportunity to discover Kayah’s eclectic array of religious beliefs and boasts an impressive architecture combining both European and local Buddhist styles with a stunning bell tower housing a bell all the way from Italy. This distinctive cathedral is an absolute must visit whilst exploring Loikaw.
Thiri Mingalarpon Kyaung
This interesting monastery was built in 1912 and originally served as a palace to Kayah’s saopha. After his death in 1987, his family gave it away to a local Buddhist organisation. Today it offers tourists and locals alike, a fantastic insight into a local functioning monastery.
Taung Kwe Zayde
Undoubtedly the most impressive of all Loikaw’s sights is the magnificent Taung Kwe pagoda. Towering over the towns in and around the Kayah state and littered with gold pagodas, Taung Kwe Zayde offers visitors spectacular panoramic views across rolling countryside, along with the opportunity to be immersed into local life and worship at this unique Buddhist temple.
Htee Pwint Volcanic Lake
There are several interesting hiking trails in Loikaw, all of which offer fabulous opportunities to breathe some fresh air, stretch your legs and really indulge in some of Myanmar’s most beautiful countryside. One spot not to miss on your trek is the magical and muddy Htee Pwint Volcanic Lake. Located 12 miles outside of Loikaw, the mud here bubbles beneath the surface and the atmosphere is mystical and fairytale like, making for a glorious hike.
Seven Stage Lake
An hour south of Loikaw town will take you to the regions most majestic trekking and picnic spot. The Seven Stage Lake is beautifully enveloped in rolling hills and each lake is connected by a small channel and is different in colour. From deep blues, to turquoise hues, sit back and relax, marvel at the stunning reflections or put on your walking boots and set off on an adventure. A trip to Seven Stage Lake makes for the perfect day out and a welcome break from town and village life.
Food and Drink
Kayah state food can be extremely tasty. Some signature dishes include river caught fish and prawns and the many restaurants around Loikaw town offer a vast range of fusion food with Thai, Chinese and Burmese influences. Kayah sausage is extremely popular amongst locals and offers a meat sausage infused with locally grown pepper along with irresistible traditional rice cakes known as Hin Htoke.