Off the Beaten Path in Shan State, Myanmar
From ancient stupas to mesmerizing scenery and a friendly people, Myanmar—formerly known as Burma—is one of the most enigmatic countries in Southeast Asia. With democratic reforms steadily transforming the face of Myanmar, parts of the country still seems locked in a time warp—many people still live in low-rise towns and villages made of mud brick and bamboo.
Among the 14 administrative states and divisions of Myanmar, Shan State has the greatest diversity of landscapes and ethnic groups, making it a favorite destination for most of the travelers. The state is divided into three: Northern, Southern and Eastern. The Northern area is noted for its rugged mountains and jungle, the Southern for its incredibly diverse ethnic blend, winding rivers and undeveloped towns, and the Eastern for its lakes and traditional ethnic cultures. The main airports for accessing the Shan State are Lashio in the far north, Tachileik or Kyaing Tong in the east, and Heho in the southern region.
If you are looking for places that are a bit more off the beaten path to experience the nature and local culture, here is a great list for the Shan State.
The stunning natural surroundings and laidback atmosphere make the northern town of Hsipaw the perfect place to relax. Unlike bustling cities, the streets of Hsipaw are blissfully un-congested with more motorbikes and cows on the road than cars. The city sits amid lush rice paddies, rolling hills and farm land and the Dokthawaddry River curves along the edge of town. While you are in Hsipaw, don't miss the chance of having an authentic Shan Khao Sway. It is— the combination of noodles, meat and herbs to help you fuel up for a day of exploring.
Nestled in the middle of the Shan Hills, just an hour drive from Heho airport, Pindaya is a picturesque agricultural town inhabited by the Danu people. This city is famous for its Buddha-filled caves (Pindaya Caves) the extremely picturesque Botaloke Lake among the locals. Pindaya is usually a great base for trekking, with everything from half-day walks in tea plantations to multi-day treks into the highlands with overnight stops in hill tribe villages.
Kalaw is has been a popular destination for visitors since the 1800s when the British came to Kalaw seeking refuge from the oppressive heat in lowlands. The town has many things to offer the intrepid traveler, from fabulous trekking routes to stunning landscapes, from colonial buildings and quaint cafes to a mix of local and international restaurants.
Kyaing Tong (Eastern)
It won’t take you long to realize that shop signs in Kyaing Tong are written in various languages—usually Myanmar, Thai and Chinese since the city is located only a few hours drive from the ‘Golden Triangle’, the location where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos converge. The real lure to Kyaing Tong, however, is the surrounding villages where you can get a first-hand look at the different cultures of Myanmar.