Kayah is the smallest and one the least developed states of Myanmar (Burma), therefore almost the most pristine in its physical condition, dotted with virgin jungles and wildlife. Situated in southeast Myanmar bordering Thailand, there are various ways to reachKayah capital Loikaw. We can fly from Yangon direct or via Heho or we can take a bus from Yangon or Taunggyi, or we can enter from Thailand through the Border Posts.
Loikaw old town is small enough that we could explore the streets in one early morning to see daily activities of its residents. Various kinds of ethnic tribes members of Kayah State live in Loikaw, their presence could be seen or heard with their lovely heavy accent when they speak Burmese. Loikaw is not only filled with Buddhist monasteries, temples and pagodas, but also various denominations of Christian churches, mainly Catholic. The two religions often compete for visibility with buildings and colours where you can see crosses on top of a mountain accompanied by another pagoda on top of a neighbouring mountain. Religion here and elsewhere in the country is much more about devotion and pride than spirituality. Loikaw is also known for its rice-wine brewed by the Kayah, Kayan and Kayaw people.
To the west of Loikaw we can visit Demoso to explore the heart of KayanPadaung people and to the southwest, the Kayaw people while visiting Seven Lakes and Angel Pond. To the south we could see the old capital of Kayah chiefs, Bawlake and its breath-taking surrounding.
Demoso is a provincial town in the west of Loikaw to explore the local market filled with exotic goods and local people exchanging their wares. We will sample local rice-wine and sausages and other exotic dishes. After taking a half an hour drive, there is a village, Panpet, nestled among beautiful mountains and valleys. Here we can see Kayan (Padaung) people in their natural surrounding and share their daily activities during a short track around and inside their villages. The fresh air and breeze around Seven Lakes will definitely whet our appetite more. Then we can stroll around nearby Kayah village and observe their activities and interact with them.
Situated on the east of Loikaw, a 40-minute drive away, Kyakgu was said to be inhabited by ghostly people known as Kyak. Inside the cave are troughs carved from single teak trees believed to be coffins by some and boats by others, lying on the floor and walls of the cave. A short drive to the state museum will provide you with information on Kayah in general. For lunch, we pop in to ‘Sunday Club’ (not open on Sunday), a rice-wine shop specializing home-made rice-wine and sausages. You can also watch the process of rice-making there. Then you will be taken to an elephant camp near Demoso to watch the animals bathing and relaxing in the stream. You can also request 15-30 minutes elephant rice around the jungle. Then you can enjoy the panoramic view of Loikaw from Broken Mountain Pagoda.
Kehtobo Festival (Around April)
The festival falls around April when villagers from different parts of Kayah hold their annual festival to ask their ancestral spirits to grant them fertility, health and wealth. You will be taken to a couple of villages to sample different styles of ceremonies carried out and taste traditional dishes and rice-wines. The festival lasts a week and there are many chances for you see different styles of dancing, ceremonies and sample organic traditional food and drinks.