Myanmar - Getting to know Loikaw
On a wide area of level ground in Kayah State, within the misty landscape of the Karen Hills, nestles Loikaw: the state capital, and a regional focal point. Only recently reopened to visitors, this seemingly quiet and undeveloped town has several higher-education institutions, a hospital, busy markets, and air and rail links to Yangon and Mandalay, making it a comparatively thriving hub in this remote part of Myanmar. The satellite villages around the town are home to Padaung and Kayah tribal communities, who maintain many ancient customs, including the wearing of distinctive neck-lengthening rings.
Ancient stories and customs form the cultural backbone of Loikaw, which is still untroubled by most trappings of modern tourism. The bumpy outer tracks give way to smooth inner roads which you can wander through on foot, and see the handful of new, glass and steel hotels juxtaposed against a skyline of low-rise traditional buildings.
What to do in Loikaw
- The centerpiece of the city is the 13th century Thirimingala Pagoda, also known as Taung Kwe Zedi); a tall limestone outcrop topped with the gleaming, golden spires of a large temple complex. Climb to the top for fantastic views over Loikaw, particularly at sunset, and see the pagodas illuminated at night from the city below.
- Trek into the surrounding hills to spend time in Paduang and Kayah community villages. Find out about their rural ways of life; learn about gathering edible and medicinal plants from the forested hillside; and, with helpful interpretation from your guide, share a few stories and giggles with the villagers.
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A home from home
Central to your Loikaw experience is your stay at eponymous Lodge, helping you to really feel part of this little visited corner of Kayah, closed to visititors until 2012. The owner Jens is a photographer and showcases much of this work at the lodge, making a stay a cultural journey in itself. Discover more