Aungban

Aungban

Aungban

When we travel to southern Shan State, we usually continue to Nyaung Shwe, Inlay, and Taunggyi right after the visit to Kalaw. We never thought to pay a visit to Aungban than to buy some chips while taking a break on the way. Some stay in Kalaw and visit Aungban for a while, crossing the town to see scenic views through Yuangan and Pindaya. I’ve known that Aungban is not only a trading town but also an excellent town to live in.

From Thar Mine Khan to Aungban

Aungban was established on 15 April 1913, and it is in Kalaw Township. Although Aungban was established one year earlier than Kalaw, Kalaw was built as an administrative township where mostly Danu ethnic people live.

The beginning of Aungban and Kalaw is Thar Mine Khan. Thar Mine Khan which can be defined as “Thar Yar Shwe Pyi”, has become like a village now. Thar Mine Khan was renamed as Aungban since the British colonial rule. It can be said that local people built Aungban and Kalaw was constructed by the British. Aungban had been the terminus of Myanma Railways for a long time as well. Then, the railway continued to Shwe Nyaung later. The railway was the main reason for the establishment of Aungban.

Myin Thar Sayar Taw and the town’s elder wanted to name the city as “Pyin Thar” or “Shwe Pyin Thar”. Subsequently, they chose the name “Aungban” and Aungban village was also situated just two miles away from Aungban town.

A unique crop of Aungban is potatoes. The potatoes and the potato chips of Aungban are still popular among people.

In the past, Myanmar people didn’t dare to eat the potato. They thought it would make them sick. They just exported them to India. The potato business had become a big business in the region, and it transformed Thar Mine Khan into Aungban which could access the railway. The railway system played a vital role to transport the potatoes at that time, and Aungban potato was very well-known in Kolkata.

As a specialty of Aungban, there are some places related to Turkish people. The Turkish prisoners of war who were defeated in World War 1 were detained in Pe Yin Taung village in Aungban. Therefore, the Turkish people usually visit there, and there are wells and cemeteries still left in Aungban.

Weather

It is quite cold in winter and a bit hotter than the surrounding town in summer.

How to get there?

Aungban can be reached by car, train, and flight. All the highway buses to Taunggyi stop in Aungban. If you come by train, you need to get off at Aungban station. As for the flight, it will take around 20 minutes to drive from Heho airport to the town.

Places to visit in Aungban

Except for the fact that Aungban doesn’t have nice bars and coffee shops yet like in Kalaw, the trade town is more bustling with activity and natural beauty. Places like:

Thar Mine Khan Village and Mway Taw

Thar Mine Khan, the beginning of Aungban, is interesting for its ancient Mway Taw Pagodas. The village can be reached after a two-mile drive from Aungban.

108-Taung Aung Chan Tha Pagoda

The pagoda locally called 108-Taung can be seen from every place of Aungban. It is a replica of the Shwedagon pagoda. Although the Sayadaw is building the pagoda in details, it has not finished yet. But it gradually gets into shape and is famous among the travelers. There are various kinds of stupas, Nat, and Thagyamin statues. The people estimate as it will be the highest pagoda in Shan State. It has a cave with massive columns inside.

Mway Taw Taung View Point

It can be described as a new View Point of Aungban. There is road transportation to Mway Taw village, but we may be a little bit tired to climb up the mountain from there. It is worth for you climbing up the hill as you can see the 360 Degree panoramic views. Hotel Hnin Shwe Yee also conserves the View Point. It decorates the viewpoint with signboards, chairs, and ladders by using natural materials.

There is a pagoda at the top of the hill which is under construction. I recognize it as a place where we should not miss whenever we go to Aungban. We can study the living styles of Mway Taw villagers. When I reached there, the children are having their meals with Basil leaves. Their mother gave me this Basil leaves as a present when I ate some leaves from them. I also studied the long Pa-O drum from the village Head.

Mya Nandar Yae Htwet Oo

It can be said Mya Nandar Ye Htwet Oo in Aung Chan Tha is a gift for Sayadaw. The Sayadaw who always searched the water for his 400 student monks found that water source and created water purified tank on the mountain. The surplus water is distributed to Aungban.

Naung Tung Lake – Landmark of Kengtung Town

Kyaing Tong, Naung Tong Lake

Naung Tung Lake –

Landmark of Kengtung Town 

by Maung Maung Naing (Kengtung)

Historical places of Kengtung

Ethnic Shan tribes settled and lived together in Shan State (East) Kengtung region. From Kengtun Haw (Palace) 44 reigns of Saophas (Sawbwa in Myanmar) ruled the region from AD 1243 to 1962. Kengtung is located at an elevation of 2,700 ft. and is a gateway to border regions of China, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

In Kengtung the three hills of Swam Tong, Swam Mon, and Swam Sat are situated at imaginary vertexes of a triangle and the wards of the town are on or at the foot of the hills. Between the two hills of Swam Tong and Swam Sat is Naung Tung Lake about 33 acres wide lying on a north to south axis. Kengtung town was first established on the east of the lake and had many historical places like – Swam Tong (also called Swam Kham or Zom Kham) Pagoda, Haw ground on which Kengtung Haw was built, Maha Myat Muni Pagoda, Aung Myay Nat Abode, old market, the tomb of Saopha and Pa Leng Gate.

Swam Tong Pagoda, Kanyin Phyu tree and Standing Buddha

On top of Swam Tong hill on the east of Naung Tung Lake is Swam Tong Pagoda built hundreds of years ago. Due to repeated renovations, it is now 226 ft. tall. The uniqueness of this pagoda is not having a pagoda umbrella-like other pagodas in the country. On top of Swam Mon hill is a several hundred years old Kanyin Phyu tree. The tree rises up to a height of 218 ft. and had a girth of 39 ft. 10 inches at the bottom of the tree. Even though the name of the hill was Swam Mon, it was also called One Tree Hill (Thit Ta Bin Taung) due to this lone tree rising high above it.

Southwest of the lake is Swam Sat hill and according to early Shan history, there was once a pagoda on top of it. Digging on top of the hill in 1995 unearthed old Buddha images and based on research conducted, the ground was considered as a religious ground. In 1998 a Standing Buddha image 74 ft. 6 inch high was built on the hill. This huge Standing Buddha image is visible from all parts of Kengtung town.

History of Naung Tung Lake

According to a book written in 1930 that was a copy made from early Gon Shan writings, Kengtung was once a flooded area. Four hermits who came down from the north drained the water from the flooded area and after 7 years and 7 months, only a small lake remains. As the water recedes Hermit Tonga built a pagoda on top of Swam Tong hill. The small lake and the town took up the name of the Hermit Tonga and became Naung Tung Lake and Kengtung town.

Kyaing Tong

Saopha administration and tradition

Earlier, the Kengtung region was a vast canyon, gorge or ravine submerged in the water surrounded by three hills. The town was established after the hermit built the pagoda. When the hermits drained the water, the submerged land became a fertile land where people came to settle. Later it became a town administered by Saophas. As the region had good climate and fertile land the town was barricaded in a 4 miles 1-furlong long wall with 12 gates and a moat to protect it from invaders. It becomes a tradition for a new Saopha to hold a coronation ceremony in the town. The town was owned by the hermit but it becomes a tradition to transfer administrative matters of the town from the hermit/ monk to the Saophas and successive Saophas continued this tradition.

Today’s Naung Tung Lake

Naung Tung Lake had become a well-known place in Kengtung. As it existed since the town was founded it became a landmark of the town. Not only was it a well-known landmark locally but it was also known by neighboring countries and had become a landmark for international tourists as well.

Nowadays, Naung Tung Lake had water inlet and outlet systems and the bank of the lake had iron fencing. There were two circuit roads around the lake, one for vehicles and one for pedestrians, and trees and flowers were planted between the two roads. Benches were also placed for pedestrians to rest. Around the circuit road for vehicles are food stalls selling local delicacies, restaurants, hotels, and houses. There’s also a physical exercise area with fitness and exercise equipment installed.

The western part of the lake is considered as the best viewpoint. From there the Standing Buddha image can be seen to the southwest of the lake. Looking toward the south of the lake, the Swam Mon hill can be seen with the tall imposing Kanyin Phyu tree on top. In the evening the water fountain in the middle of the lake was brightly lit up with multicolor lights.

Loved and cherished place

Naung Tung Lake is a place loved and cherished by the locals. It was also a place that remains in the memories of visitors. Locals say visitors who went around the lake once will become so attracted or attached to it that they’ll come back again.

Naung Tung Lake flocks with walkers, joggers, families, children, picnickers, and visitors in the morning and afternoon. During sunsets and evenings, Naung Tung Lake became a painting where artistes visualize images from their minds.

Kyaing Tong

Ywangan

The natural scene around Ywangan
The natural scene around Ywangan

Ywangan

Ywangan Region is located in Danu Self Administered Zone, Southern Shan State, Myanmar. Ywangan town is at an elevation of 4,028 ft. above sea level. It was formed with 28 village tracts and had a population of more than 82,000. It can be reached from the Aungban-Pindaya road junction. As Ywangan town was surrounded by unspoiled natural beauties it was considered as virgin land. It is a land where peace and tranquillity prevails.

Ywangan Region can be reached by train from Yangon Station. The railway road entered Shan State by passing through Thazi and Yinmabin. As it entered Shan State the temperature became cooler. The rail track twist and turns after passing Kalaw and after about half an hour, it reached disembarkation station in Aungban.

Aungban Station to Ywangan was a 42 miles car ride that took through natural scenes of mountains and hills as well as some pagodas. Euclid trees were all along the roadside occasionally dotted by some farmlands. The road passed through several big villages such as Myin Twin, Myinjado, and Phayagyigon and reaches Ywangan after a car ride of about an hour.

Alechaung Village

It is situated on the west of the Pindaya mountain range. The majority of the villagers were Danu and they were very friendly and simple people. Of the 135 ethnic nationals in Myanmar, the Danus are the tenth most populous and were one of the ethnic nationals that had lived in Myanmar for the longest time.

Danu National Day was held annually on the 8th Waxing Day of Nattaw. Bama, Pa-O, and Palaung in addition to Danu lived in the region. Mountains and hills lie on the east of the village while farmlands and plains are on the west of the village. Every five days, there is a market, and access to food was very convenient and easy.

The village is a liquor-free area where sale and consumption were not made. Villagers have devoted Buddhists. When a donation ceremony was being held for young boys becoming novice monks, visitors were invited to enjoy the food donation made for the occasion which runs for a whole week, and villagers from nearby villages were also invited.

Natural scene around Ywangan

The natural scene around Ywangan

Agriculture was the main mean of livelihood in the Ywangan region. Fruits and vegetables such as orange, tomato, cabbage, ginger, avocado, etc. were grown but the main products were coffee and tea. Coffee and tea plantations are the usual sight seen at the entrance of every village. Ywangan coffee has become known in the world for its quality and was reported to have achieved a Geographical Indication (GI), the same designation that protects the Champagne region in France from copycats.

Ywangan coffee beans are of the Costa Rican variety and are grown as a substitute for poppy. The coffee is currently rated at a level of 85 in the global market under the recommendations from American Coffee Specialists. Any grade of 80 or above is considered a specialty coffee. Out of 125 villages in Ywangan Township, about 90 are engaged in a coffee plantation with 7,300 acres of coffee farms.

Yasakyi Mountain

Yasakyi Mountain was on the east of the Alechaung village. It was the highest mountain in the area rising to a height of 6,860 ft. Although the hike up the mountain was tedious and time-consuming, the sight waiting at the summit was breathtaking. All the mountains in the area were below except for some higher peaks of Shan State that were visible afar. Every hiking enthusiast should hike up Yasakyi Mountain near Alechaung Village in Ywangan Township to enjoy the view from the summit as well as the hike up and down the mountain.

Meinmaye Thakhinma Mountain

Meinmaye Thakhinma Mountain

Well known areas in the vicinity

There were many well-known areas in the region. To the south of Ywangan Town lies Meinmaye Thakhinma Mountain. There are stairways to the pagoda on top that will take about 15 minutes to climb up. Myathabeik Blue Water Pond and Tawkye waterfall are near Tawkye Village.

Blue Water Pond was teeming with small shops selling local products such as herbs, local food, honey, flowers, and gift items. There was no scientific explanation made yet for the water in the pond being blue but locals believe that it was the reflection of an emerald bowl (Myathabeik in Myanmar language) at the bottom of the pond. Local superstition was such that littering, washing with the water in the pond, taking water from the pond was not done while care was taken of not speaking any word that can be deemed as offensive or rude.

A 20-minute walk from Blue Water Pond will take you to the Tawkye waterfall. The water in the pond at the bottom of the waterfall was so clear that fish can be seen swimming in it.

There was even a waterfall right near Alechaung Village. It was a fall that goes down 11 steps or levels. When the waterfall was at its highest flow of water volume, there were considerable numbers of visitors visiting it.

Waterfall near Alechaung Village

Waterfall near Alechaung Village

Pyadalin Cave in Ywangan Township is another famous cave. There are two caves the smaller one amount to being a rock shelter while the larger one had nine chambers connected by narrow passages. Three large sinkholes bring in natural light into the cave. This cave contains an impressive amount of history reportedly dating back to the Neolithic era.

The two caves were only 30 meters apart from one another and some of the earliest wall carvings and paintings in Myanmar were found here along with weapons made of bones and stones by primitive people. According to Wikipedia, a superficial investigation of the caves had been performed by American South-East Expedition for Early Man in 1937-1938 and geologist U Khin Maung Kyaw discovered the paintings in 1960. The site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on 4 October 1996 in the Cultural category.

Another unique place is the Yephyu Waterhole near Tatkon Village, Kyantaw Village Tract. It is located southwest of Alechaung Village. The water from this waterhole was not clear but white, hence the name Yephyu which means white water. Locals say bathing with the water from this waterhole eases aches and itches. The place is indeed a virgin area.

The highest peak in Shan State, 7,752 ft. high Ashay Myin Anauk Myin Mountain is also in Ywangan. Taunggyi town can be seen looking toward the east from the summit. Looking west, Meiktila town can be seen too. South of the mountain lies 7,307 ft. high Moelonehein Mountain and to the north lies 7,203 ft. high Pansitpway Mountain. The Ashay Myin Anauk Myin Mountain is home to rare flowers as well as birds and animal species. The summit of the mountain can be reached either from the Ywangan side or the Pindaya side. The mountain was located about 6 miles southwest of Alechaung Village.

The natural scene around Ywangan

The natural scene around Ywangan

Another significant place is a small pillar marking the place where ash of Colonel Ba Htoo was buried. Major Ba Htoo at that time led the fight against the Japanese in upper Myanmar in 1945. The plan was for the Myanmar army under General Aung San to revolt against the Japanese in end March but Major Ba Htoo declared unilateral war against the Japanese in early March diverting attention from General Aung San who led the entire Myanmar army uprising at a later date.

Major Ba Htoo’s action contributed toward driving the Japanese fascist forces out of the country but he succumbed to a severe case of malaria. The plaque on the pillar simply stated “Martyr hero Colonel Ba Htoo passed away at 8:10 p.m. 2 June 1945 in Ywangan Township Telu Village. His ashes were buried here.”

It was reported that when Major Ba Htoo passed away, he never knew of his promotion to colonel by General Aung San. A monument honoring Colonel Ba Htoo was put up in Aungban but the small pillar in front of Telu Village Basic Education Primary School was the spot where his ashes were buried. It was a considerable walk through the humid valley and over a rickety bamboo bridge across a river.

Pindaya, land of Danu

Pindaya environs

Pindaya’s environs

Pindaya, land of Danu

If a trip is taken to the south of Shan State (South), firstly Kalaw, Inlay, and Taunggyi are thought to visiting and much time is usually given to go there, but Pindaya is near in position en route to these worth-visiting places, however, the travelers to the south of Shan State must not miss it. The travelers make a half-day trip to Ywangan and Pindaya while visiting Kalaw, but of course, Pindaya has many sights to keep the visitors occupied. It is a worth-visiting town spending at least one-night stopover.

In Shan dialect, Pintaya is pronounced as Pindaya which means wide-ranging plain, some say far-reaching plain full of Bauhinia acuminate (a kind of Swedaw flower) and some differently says Pindaya came from Pintkuya since the spider was defeated in the legend. Pindaya is adjacent to Yaksawk in the north, to Ywangan in the west and Pwayhla in the south. Pindaya is known as the central region of the south of Shan State and it is a town with 3,000 feet above sea level.

Pindaya’s history is unclear, but the stories of seven female nats, the spider and Konmabaya prince are very famous and talked about a lot by local people in this region. The spider is used as a tourism promotion logo especially making a trip to this region.

Danu Self-Administered Zone is home to most Danu people and PaO, Taungyoe, Manaw, Shan, Myanmar, Intha, and Palaung are residing there as well.

Climate

Pindaya is a little hotter than Kalaw and Aungban.

How to get to Pindaya

Pindaya doesn’t have a direct highway bus line, but it can be reached by the Yaksawk highway bus. The highway bus can reach directly to Yaksawk. If a flight is taken, there is a drive from Heho airport.

Worth-visiting places around Pindaya

There are not many places to visit inside the town, but small villages outside the town are nice to visit where local people are very friendly and delicate. It is not busy and noisy and its traffic is not heavy. Local people are helpful to each other.

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda

Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda

While in Pindaya, not to be missed is Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda. It is situated on a high hill where the visitors can overlook an impressive view of the whole town. This Shwe Oo Min cave naturally exists in limestone and it is estimated to be 200 million years old.

The research showed that images of Buddha were found on 10 January in 1773 which guessed these were from the time of King Singu. The cave entrance was narrow in the past, but the area of the cave entrance was enlarged in 1924. The pagoda was built there and from that time onward, the number of Buddha images has been increasing, and now there is no space left inside the cave because of the construction.

As soon as the visitors go up the cave, they can pay homage to the 75-feet high pagoda. If they go in according to the road sign to the cave, they will have to pay obeisance to different shapes of Buddha images. At last, the cave entrance becomes quite narrow. The entrance of the cave to the other end of the north is 490 feet long. This pilgrimage visit is especially good for the nature-lovers. The good sites where the pilgrims to Shwe Oo Min Pagoda taking photos are the statutes of seven female nats, the spider, and the Konmabaya prince at the bottom of the hill.

Many shops and the car park located at the bottom of the hill of Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda look very lovely. Local products and traditional costumes are available there as a return home gifts.

Pindaya Tabaung Festival (Pindaya Pagoda Festival) is held on the 6th Waxing of Tabaung every year. On such occasions, culture, dance, and lifestyles of Danu ethnic can be observed. Those coming to the pagoda festival by bullock-carts spent many nights in the open fields near Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda previously. These scenes are very much liked by the photographers.

Age-old banyan trees

While in Pindaya, don’t miss taking photographs near the age-old banyan tree in front of Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda. This kind of banyan tree can be seen in most parts of Pindaya, but this location looks very impressive. Parts of a tree that grows out from the main stem look as beautiful as a painting. Some visitors had the photo taken riding horses there. Visitors can hire horses. Local products such as fruit, vegetables, and snacks are available.

Pon Taloke Lake (Poke Taloke Lake)

Pon Taloke Lake (Poke Taloke Lake)

Pon Taloke Lake (Poke Taloke Lake)

Pon Taloke Lake located downtown adds attractiveness to the beauty of the town and besides it, there is a banyan tree which is also a good place to take photographs and provide shade as well.

Pindaya Hawnan (Manor of Shan chief)

There is Hawnan in Pindaya. It is learned that Shan chief of former times is still residing at Hawnan until now.

Pinseinpin and Hsekya-in villages

Pinseinpin and Hsekya-in in Pindaya were recognized as the villages of the community-based tourism in early September in 2018. Local people from these villages welcome visitors and provide them with the services of accommodation and food. They arrange for trekking to the forest, visits to places of interest, and observation of traditions of Danu ethnic. The visitors can enjoy Danu’s group dance, the dance of self-defense art with stick and drum in the evening.

Green Tea Industry

Hsekya-in Natural Green Tea Industry Hsekya-in village in Pindaya. With the guidance of an organization from Germany, modern natural green tea managed to be cultivated and produced. The green tea is hygienically produced.

The author remembered that he encountered heavy rain while studying the green tea industry and the family of the host served him wet tea leaves without artificial sweetening agents while having a chat. Looking at the rainfall among the mountain ranges from Danu’s traditional house while sipping plain green tea is very delicious.

Danu traditional paper and umbrella industry

Danu’s traditional paper and umbrella enterprises. The traditional paper and umbrella industry is located in a locality not far from Shwe Oo Min Natural Cave Pagoda. Local products include a hand-made umbrella, fan, book, envelope, paper lantern, lantern, bamboo hat, and toys. The foreigners buy them as gifts and local visitors as home use.

Konlon Sayadawgyi Corpse Cave Shrine Edifice (Lwan Zedi)

The famous Buddhist monk in Pindaya is Konlon Sayadaw Shintajay Niyasa. When the Sayadaw passed away, the body of the Sayadaw did not go rotten, hair and nails lengthened. The corpse of the Sayadawgyi was put into the glass coffin. The pagoda where the corpse of the Sayadawgyi was put into the glass coffin is called Lwan Zedi. The formation of the Lwan Zedi looks strangely beautiful and sublime. Record images of offering alms, fruits, and flowers to the Sayadaw can be paid obeisance.

The Sayadawgyi was born in Tamel village, Htelthon village tract in Pindaya on 4 April in 1900. At the age of 13, the Sayadawgyi became a novice and at the age of 20, the Sayadawgyi became a monk. His age was 96 years and he had 76 years of monkhood. He was famous for vegetarian. A 20 minutes’ drive from Pindaya can reach Konlon Sayadawgyi Corpse Cave Shrine Edifice. It is higher than Pindaya because it is 4,352 feet above sea level.

Pwayhla Market

Pwayhla is a village but it is believed as if it was a big city because it is hustle and bustle.

Pindaya Hawnan (Manor of Shan chief)

Pindaya Hawnan (Manor of Shan chief)

Pwayhla Hawnan (Manor of Shan chief)

Pwayhla Hawhan is more than 100 years old and it has existed since the Japanese era. There only the daughter of the Shan chief is currently living. Pwayhla Hawnan can be seen as a European structure designed with Myanmar handiworks. It is about 80 feet long and 50 feet wide. The room the Shan chief lived, couch, and electric cords used those days remain. Bolts of the doors look strange. The place is more than 100 years old since the construction of Hawnan and the photos on the walls of the living room upstairs are very historic. The first-ever Shan chief to the latest one can be seen at the same place.

Setkyar Taung (Settaw Taung) Pagoda

The corpse of the presiding Sayadaw who resided at Setkyar Taung (Settaw Taung) Pagoda en route to Ywangan from Pindaya was put into the glass coffin. Settaw Taung Pagoda became the cave shrine edifice. Only bones were left in the corpse. The current presiding Sayadaw did not dispose of the corpse of his senior Sayadaw who passed away on which he always concentrated and practiced Dhamma every day. On the other mountain of Setkyar Taung Pagoda, a new Zedi has appeared and it looks like a strange shape of a tunnel. It is supposed that it would be alive with a teeming crowd of pilgrims if completed. The visitors can observe the mountain ranges and plantations and enjoy the beauty of villages near that mountain.

Trekking and hiking in Pindaya’s environs

The visitor can go trekking and go hiking activities in Pindaya’s environs hiring a local guide. The visitors can spend half days, one or two or three-night stopovers in the villages while exploring environmental knowledge such as lifestyles of ethnic villages and enjoying the beauties of forests and mountains. Local guides give services for Pindaya-Yasakyi, Pindaya-Inlay, Pindaya-Kalaw, Pindaya-Kanhlakone/Shwe Pahtoe, and Pindaya-Ywangan.

The hotels available to be chosen in Pindaya are not many. The prices are very reasonable in general. The bungalows are all lovely and their items are in a good state. The hospitality of the staff reflects the honesty of the local people. Shweoomin Cave Pagoda and the age-old banyan tree in the vicinity. The visitors can go there either on foot or by bicycle. It is near the market and Pindaya Hawnan as well.

Pindaya’s environs

Pindaya’s environs

Loikaw and Lawpita

Taung Kwe Sadi, Loikaw

Loikaw and Lawpita

Kayah State was named the Kayinni area before Myanmar had regained independence and it was also called Ngwetaung State in Myanmar literature. Silver Mountain (Ngwetaung) is located in Demawhso Township, 14 miles from Loikaw.

Kayah State is sharing a border with Shan State in the north and Kayin State in the west and south. It is the smallest state among other states of the country. Kayah State on 4,529.56 square miles of area with 65 miles in width from the east to the west and 105 miles in length from the south to the north is formed with seven townships in two districts. Kayah ethnic people are the largest number in the state residing together with Shan, Inntha, Pa-O, Danu, and Padaung ethnics.

Loikaw Township, the capital of Kayah State, is at an altitude of 2,950 feet, constituted with 12 wards and 13 village-tracts. Biluchaung hydropower project site takes a position near the Lawpita Village of Loikaw Township. So it is famous as the Lawpita power station.

Thanlwin River is crossing more than 100 miles long area from the north to the south in Kayah State. Bilu Creek originated from Inlay Lake flows into Pun Creek passing the centre of Loikaw.

An isolated hill takes a position in the west of Bilu Creek. Shan ethnic people called it as Loikhaw in Shan language which means an isolated hill. Then, it changed to Loikaw. But, Kayan ethnic people call it Siridor till today. Siridor in Kayan language means the victory of the village using the bone of chicken.

Taung Kwe Sadi, Loikaw

Taung Kwe Sadi, Loikaw

Nine rocks with 387 feet in height are located between Pobbayon Monastery and Mogaung Pagoda in Mingala Ward of southern Loikaw. The rock is in the shape of nine parts called Taungkwe in Myanmar language, Mawphye in Kayah language, and Loifatet in Shan language. It was renamed Thiri Mingala Hill in 1970.

The famous Taungkwe Pagoda was built on Thiri Mingala Hill. Such a pagoda attracts pilgrims from various regions of the nation. Taungkwe Pagoda is a symbol of Kayah State.

Pilgrims must climb up the hill along the narrow pavement between cracks of the hill to the pagoda without using the lift. Everybody can enjoy the beautiful scene of Loikaw from the pagoda.

Towards Lawpita

We went to Lawpita via Loikaw. After paying homage to Taungkwe Pagoda in Loikaw, we proceeded to the eastern ward of Loikaw. Along the route, we saw vast paddy plantations as well as maize ones. Lawpita is in 25 kilometers distance from Loikaw. Along the way to Lawpita is flanked by greening and thriving crop plantations.

We were allowed to enter Lawpita after passing three inspection gates as the area is very important for security. Before entering Lawpita, we enjoyed scenic beauties from a view deck on the hillside.

Lawpita Waterfall

Lawpita Waterfall

A saying has been favorite among Kayah ethnic people, which goes:

Will it rain only when frog fries; will fish up only when it rains; will flooding happen only when only when fish ups; will elephants do pulling only when flooding happens; can timber be extracted only when elephants do pulling; and will the state be prosperous only when timber can be extracted.”

In line with the saying, saw thick forests along the route to Lawpita. Kayah ethnic people were engaged in timber extraction on a wider scale.

Biluchaung Hydropower Projects in Kayah State rely on water sources of Inlay Lake to supply electricity to all areas of the nation till today. KTA company of the United States of America conducted the feasibility studies in 1953 to generate electricity on Bilu Creek. Based on the report of company, Nippon Koei Company of Japan made field trips around Bilu Creek and submitted a proposal that if three power stations are built on Bilu Creek, they can generate 124 megawatts and that if Inlay Lake is improved as a reservoir, these stations can produce 240 megawatts.

As such, three turbines were built for Biluchaung No 2 power station in 1954 for the first phase and machinery installed in 1960 when it started generating 84 megawatts. Three more turbines were installed at the station for the second phase. However, it was necessary to build a reservoir to store water all the year round for generating electricity. Hence, Moebye Reservoir was built near Moebye Village in Pekhon Township, 18 miles from Loikaw, in 1967, and construction was completed in 1970.

Thanks to Moebye Reservoir, local people can make trips from Inlay Lake of Shan State to Pekhon Port in Kayah State along the waterway. The reservoir can irrigate 20,000 acres of cultivable land and supply water to generating electricity all year round.

Lawpita Hydropower Station

Lawpita Hydropower Station

The power station was installed with three 28-megawatt generators for the second phase in 1974. So, the generating capacity of the station reached 168 megawatts. In extending the power stations, Biluchaung No 1 power station was built in 1992 to generate 28 megawatts and Biluchaung No 3 power station in 2014 to produce 52 megawatts. Three power stations generate 248 megawatts equivalent to 1,724 million kilowatt-hours per year.

Upstream Biluchaung hydropower project is being implemented in the site, 14 miles, and four furlongs southwest of Nyaungshwe. It is expected to generate 30.4 megawatts equivalent to 1,34.6 million kilowatt-hours per year. Thanks to the project, it can prevent silting into Inlay Lake.

No responsible persons are allowed to enter the project area. The responsible persons are not allowed to take photos inside the station. As applications in advance of visitors to Lawpita are allowed, students and those from associations and organizations can pay a visit to the project site.

While in Lawpita, I saw the speedy, rough flow of water in Pun Creek daily. The water flow of Pun Creek which passes jungles and mountains is at high speed. Such strong massive water volume moves turbines of the power station to generate electricity round the clock.

Biluchaung hydropower projects electrifying the whole Myanmar for more than 50 years is expected to benefit the people for the coming many years.

As I heard the continuous sound of the current in Pun Creek among beautiful natural beauties of Kayah State daily, I remembered the sound of water flow when I left Lawpita.

Inle Lake, Southern Shan State

Inle Lake, Southern Shan State

Demawso

Demawso

Demawso

Demawso is a few minutes’ drives from Loikaw in Kayah State. It is abundant in natural beauty scenes and legendary interesting religious buildings.

Demoso or Demawhso

The town named Demawhso in 1962 was known as the street to Nawngpale before 1952. Local people in the town have been living in unison with faith in various religions. Not only Roman Catholic churches but also Buddhist stupas and temples mushroom in the town in addition to beautiful scenes of mountain ranges, waterfalls, springs, and caves.

Climate

Cold and wet weather helps create a good lifestyle for the people. Among many towns having hotness in climatic conditions, Demawhso always enjoys chilling in Kayah State.

How to pay a visit to Demawhso

Travelers can go to Demawhso from Loikaw by car or motorcycle. It is a 40 minutes drive to Demawhso from Loikaw. However, many traveling sites scattered around the town and nearby villages. They have to take adequate time for the visits.

Destinations around Demawhso

Demawhso possesses the largest number of travel sites in Kayah State. These attractive moves such as natural beauties, the lifestyle of locals, foodstuffs and religious edifices are interesting ones.

Ngwetaung Dam

DemawsoNgwetaung Dam is one of the significant sites which should be visited in Demawhso. The embankment of the dam catches the attention of visitors. View desks on the embankment have been arranged for travelers to enjoy natural beauties. A car park and toilets are under construction to give services to the visitors. A vast green grass lawn is a good scene for taking photos. Travelers can view traditional costumes such as bronze rings at necks of female Padaung vendors. A feeder creek of Ngwetaung Creek was blocked as earthen Ngwetaung Dam on which local people and farmers rely on agriculture and drinking.

Htipwint Lake, Thitsa Lake

Htipwint LakeThe water surface of the lake seemed like a mouth of old volcano spews out the sand in the shape of umbrellas. So, local people name such a move as the opening of umbrellas (Htipwint). The lake is 227 feet long and 115 feet wide. In the legendary stories, sisters of Dwe Mei Naw played in the lake. Another lake close to the umbrella lake is named Thitsa Lake. The well of God is located there. Thitsa Lake is famous as a spring that never dries up. Spirit chambers are displayed around the area.

Seven series of lakes

DemawsoThe lake has been fenced, with facilities of placing roads, construction of recreation centers and traditional houses as temporary accommodation. A legendary story mentioned Prince Thudanu was in love with Dwe Mei Naw who took a bath in the lake at the foot of Ngwetaung Hill daily together with her six sisters. These lakes are located naturally at different levels in series starting from the foot of the hill.

Demawhso Market

Demawso MarketThe Demawhso market on the market day held once three days. The market was crowded with visitors even in the afternoon although it was not a market day. It was because local people and travelers tasted delicious barbeque and fried meats. Roasted beef or pork, fried meals, and Kayah sausages are good cuisines with Kayah traditional brews. On the market day, local female Padaung vendors arrived at the market to sell goods and some persons traded small and large containers of traditional brews.

Hsintaung spring

The spring at Nanmeikhon in Demawhso is attractive to travelers. Water in the spring is very clean and blue. Water is not too deep. Some locals take a bath at the spring whereas picnickers take a rest in the spring on Saturdays and Sundays when some local students sell traditional brews and foodstuffs for earning incomes. Up to now, the spring is naturally beautifying because it is a specific recreation area without maintainers. However, the road to the spring is just a lane for one vehicle. So, it is difficult to dodge two cars in opposite ways.

Koingan spring

The spring is flanked by a Roman Catholic Church and a swimming pool. The spring originates from the underground river of the Htiparunu Tunnel. The statues of Roman Catholic Christians are kept in a cave. Travelers can pay a visit to the spring in Koingan Village of Saungsula Village-tract, along the road from the junction of Nawngpale Village.

Cave for Our Lady of Lourdes

Travelers strolling along the street to Koingan spring will first see the Cave for Our Lady of Lourdes. It is a holly site for Roman Catholic Christians, whose church is located at the foot of the hill. Religious ceremonies take place on the hill.

Panpet

Panpat villageTravelers pay a visit to Panpet Village where Kayan (Padaung) ethnic people reside. Entrance to the village is crowded with shops for selling various items of domestic products, souvenirs, and traditional ornaments. Visitors will have chances to observe weaving works of Kayan ethnic people (especially women) and placing of bronze rings at necks. Travelers can take photos wearing Kayan costumes. They can pose for documentary photos together with Kayah belles.

Tawkyettaung Pagoda

The pagoda is dubbed as Shwekyettaung Pagoda by some people. Silver pagodas on the hill can be seen from a far distance. Ladders are arranged for pilgrims to the pagodas on the hill. It is an area of sanctuary for jungle fowls. Significantly, the pagoda and encircled pagodas were decorated with silver paint. From the terrace of the highest pagoda, travelers can enjoy beautiful scenes.

Loinanpha Hill

Hills of KayahIt is the highest hill not only in Demawhso but also in Kayah State, at an altitude of 5,010 feet. Despite difficulties to climb up, nature lovers and explorers scale the hill. Travelers should take time to climb Loinanpha Hill which is one of the attractive sites in Demawhso. Hsinbyu Hill I think Hsinbyu Hill is involved in the area of Pruhso Township but some say it is in Demawhso Township. The entrance fee for the car is collected in some areas. Travelers spent the night in tents on the hill but such a move was not allowed later due to requests of village authorities. Now, accommodation is arranged for travelers in the valley. Travelers can enjoy the best views of sunset and sunrise, taking a position on the hill. Travelers must take a long time to the hill but the most beautiful panoramic view may be compensated for their precious time.

Kyat Cave in Loikaw

Kyat Cave in Loikaw

Kyat Cave in Loikaw

Mountain ranges linking with Shan plateau among various hills and mountains which emerged depending on geological conditions of the Earth are stretching from Kayin, Mon and Kayah state to Taninthayi Region. Natural caves and tunnels position in some parts of these mountain ranges, including Kyat Cave in Kayah State located in the southern part of Shan plateau.

Stalactites, natural tracks of water, ancient Buddha images and votive tablets at natural caves attracted travelers. However, some pieces of wood assumed as damaged coffins in Kyat Cave caught the interest of the travelers, increasing the number of visitors. That was why Kyat Cave became a tourist destination of Myanmar.

Loikaw

According to the records of the Ministry of Home Affairs, as Loikaw was established by U Thiri in 1200 Myanmar Era (1838 AD), it was in the past named Thiridaw Village established near Taungkwe Hill. As such, the village was called Loikhaw in Shan language. In this regard, Loi means hill and Khaw, separately in Shan language. Later, Loikhaw changed to Lweikaw and then to Loikaw.

On 20 April 1888, Chieftain of Kandarawady Sao La Wee established his palace in Loikaw. Kayah region, which was located as Kayinni State before regaining independence of Myanmar, became Kayah State in 1951.

Existing Loikaw Township was formed with 19 wards and 123 villages of 12 village-tracts on 17 March 2016. Loikaw Township on 598.06 square miles of land shares border with Shadaw Township in the east, Demawhso Township in the west, Bawlakhe Township in the south and Pekhon and Hsihseng townships of Shan State in the north.

Loikaw Township is filled with a lesser area of plains but with thick forests and mountains. Among the hills, Thiri Mingala Hill (Taungkwe), Shwe Hill, Taungthonlon Hill, Myakalat Hill, and Shweletwah Hill are famous in the township. As Bilu Creek is the main water source in Loikaw Township, Bilu Creek hydropower plant (Lawpita) supplies electricity to various towns and villages across Myanmar.

Loikaw Township at an altitude of 2,950 feet is home to Kayah, Bamar and Shan ethnics as the majority.

Kyat Cave

Travellers who arrived in Loikaw focused on visits to Taungkwe Pagoda, Lawpita and Ngwetaung Dam in the past. Nowadays, travelers pay visits to Kyat Cave in addition to the aforesaid sites.

Kyat Cave, is famous among travelers for a few years, is located 10 miles east of Loikaw. Travelers leading to Kyat Cave must come from Pinlaung to Loikaw. At the junction to Loikaw, they need to turn the left. They can reach the cave by driving along the smooth road to the foot of the hill where the cave is located.

As the mouth of the cave is 120 feet high from the foot of the hill at an altitude of 2,990 feet, brick steps were made to the hill with rails. Local people called the hill, the location of Kyat Cave, as Rasuku in Kayah language.

Currently, local Buddhist monk U Vayama leads the maintenance tasks of the cave. Travelers are urged to take off foot wares before entering the cave. But, Kyat Cave, being a limestone structure, is always wet at its earthen floor.

The 2,194 meters long enclosed end cave is gradually narrowing inside. Anyone cannot walk till the end of the pavement. The 600 meters long inside part of the cave is facilitated with lighting starting from the mouth. Wooden bridges at some parts help travelers move conveniently.

We found woods and pieces of timber logs in the shape of coffins around 300 feet area from the entrance. Among them, some timber logs were carved in the shape of coffins but some were sawn timber. No structure in good conditions was found. Collapsed wooden posts and bars assumed as stages on which carved timber logs might be put were found near the walls inside the cave. Some of the stages were 20 feet high from the cave floor.

Although local people said there remained human skeletons in the coffins, not only fossils but remains of humans were found there at present. However, some pieces of earthen pot were seen near the pieces of wood. That is why it needs to conduct research on these pieces whether or not related to the customs of Myanmar in breaking the water pot at a time when the corpse was conveyed to the graveyard.

It was a strange fact that although the carved wooden pieces found in Kyat Cave were assumed as coffins, there was no piece of human bones.

A large number of woods assumed as coffins were found in the interior part of the cave. One ends of wood were on the interior walls and other ends on the cave floor in disarray. Drag-holes were seen at some timber logs. It can be assumed that these logs were tied with ropes to pull them out from the foot of the hill to the cave and to control them inside the cave not to drop into the ravine.

The coffin-shaped logs were carved of teak, most of which were broken and damaged. Each of them was eight to 15 feet long. The carved parts were about 20 inches to two feet wide. As the logs were longer than the area where a human body could be put, anyone did not know when the logs existed and these were in shape of coffins, Kyat Cave became a puzzle one.

Coffins hanging at the rocky hillside

A cremation custom happened in China from 400 to 2,500 years ago that coffins in which dead bodies were kept were hung at the rocks for cremation. Similar hanging coffins were found in Indonesia and the Philippines. Especially, Bao race residing in southern China practiced hanging coffins for the cremation of remains.

We saw wooden coffins in various sizes and forms of logs put on the edges of rocks and hung at the rocky walls in the caves.

Hanging the coffins of dead bodies aimed to protect them from the danger of wildlife and to invite gods from heaven. Due to the belief that gods from heaven call the dead, coffins were placed on the high stages to be closer to the gods.

Evidence was found that similar traditions were practiced in some parts of China, the Philippines, and Indonesia. However, anyone could not know the aim of hanging the coffins but they could generally assume it might be easy access for the dead to the gods.

Coffins in Kyat Cave

The evidence on hanging the coffins in which dead bodies were kept was found at Kyat Cave in Myanmar. However, any fossils, pieces of bones and bodies were not found around the coffins. That was why some researchers assumed pieces of wood in Kyat Cave might not be coffins. Post-graduate students of the Anthropology Department of Yangon University reviewed these pieces might be the carved boats similar to the coffins. These boats might be stored in the cave due to something reasons. Although each human could not have more than seven feet high, the coffin-designed logs in the cave were sized for two persons.

It was a puzzle for all that the exact fact when the carved logs were sent into the cave and who sent them could not be discovered, catching the attention of the travelers.

Although the custom on cremating the dead bodies in the carved logs into the cave was not found in Myanmar, teak log coffins were found on roofs of Bo Krai and Ban Rai caves in Pang Mapha District of Mae Hong Son Province in northern Thailand. As the Pang Mapha District of Thailand is located in the east of Loikaw, close to the same latitude via mountain ranges, if research could discover the relations of culture between the two areas, the puzzle of Kyat Cave could be solved.

Travelers to Kyat Cave are allowed to pay visits to the cave from 9 am to 4 pm daily. As the interest of local and international travelers helps develop the tourism industry at Kyat Cave, if firm evidence can be exposed, Kyat Cave will have more development.

Goke Hteik Bridge

Goke Hteik Bridge

Goke Hteik Bridge

Where skill, goodwill, and discipline can be found by Ms. Moon (Dagon University)

All of us have well heard the term ‘Standard’ which is especially used in construction work and other important ones. If a work is in line with the specified ‘Standard’, it lasts long and those who are associated with it are happy in body and mind. There has been a unique example in Myanmar since the colonial era. It was nothing but a bridge construction work in Nawnghkio Township. Its name was well-known as Goke Hteik Bridge.

British decided to construct a railroad from Mandalay to Kunlong in Northern Shan State after they occupied Upper Myanmar dated 29th November 1885. In the construction of the railroad, there was the greatest difficulty for the British in which they had to join the canyon between Nawnghkio and Nawnpein, Kyaukme District. The distance between the two banks of the canyon was over 8,000 feet and the depth of it was about 300 feet. Therefore, to construct a railroad across that canyon was a major barrier for the British.

However, the British did not resign their scheme and they assigned the work of drawing the design of the bridge to Sir A. M. Fendal Inc. Co. in London, England. They also entrusted the duty of construction of the bridge to Pennsylvania and Maryland Co. in the United States. The scheme of Goke Hteik bridge started at milepost No. 463-09 which was 7 miles away from Nawnghkio and it was an extremely difficult task as it was constructed via the series of forest and mountain ranges. Besides, Goke Hteik Bridge was the highest among other bridges in Burma (Myanmar).

The necessary steel structure beams were carried from New York by marine vessels and conveyed up to the construction site with various difficulties. The construction work was commenced on 28th April 1899 and completed on 1st November 1900. The whole measures including the tasks of finding the way around, carrying the steel structure beams, balancing ground level and making a tunnel across the rocky mountain that the train had to pass through on the northern side of the canyon lasted about 9 months. Although that period seemed to be somewhat short, it has been significant proof that it indicates its strength and being systematic.

The British were the guests who temporarily occupied our motherland but they never did their works that were for their benefit with slip-shop manner. They took their responsibilities definitely and carefully through excellent techniques of their times. Therefore, Goke Hteik bridge has been used for over a century and is still being used now. We have to emulate their practices. Nowadays, there are many buildings, roads, and bridges being constructed nationwide. However, there has been much notorious news we heard such as the collapse of building or bridge, damage of building or bridge, not being up to the international standard of highways, etc. before their due time.

If one guesses why such necessities are caused, there must be a solution that highlights the irresponsibility of responsible personals. Moreover, their lack of goodwill upon the citizens and the State is a major cause. In every large scale or small—scale scheme, it needs man-powers and qualified materials. Man-powers include skill, goodwill, and discipline. Only when these triangle qualifications are incorporated properly, the outcome result will be good. In my opinion, it is the time on which the mindset of our people should have been changed already to keep abreast of the international standard.

Pin Laung

Pin Laung

Pa-O Land with true natural beauty by Thiha (The Traveller)

Pa-O land or Pa-O region’s Pinlaung Town was said to be very beautiful by those who were there. Those who had visited many regions of Myanmar would say that Myanmar is beautiful with its natural beauties. However, the beauty of Pinlaung is somewhat majestically and peacefully.

Pinlaung

It was a region once governed by Saophas (local rulers or royalties) and the region was known as the Loilon region. Now it is Pa-O Self-Administered Zone. It was in southern Shan State and was about 50 miles away from Taunggyi. Sao Moe Kyaw was Pinlaung (formerly Loilon) region’s last saopha and relinquished his powers on 29 April 1959.

Weather

Situated 4,820 ft. above sea level, the weather in Pinlaung Town is cool. It also rains considerably in the raining season. For a person like me who came up from the hot and humid delta area, the Pinlaung weather was very nice. Sometimes water became frozen during the wintertime.

How to go to Pinlaung

Pinlaung was a town midway between major cities so it is quite an awkward destination. From Yangon, most will take an overnight express bus to Loikaw reaching Pinlaung at an unearthly hour of 2:30 or 3 am. From Nay Pyi Taw, it can be reached via Kintha. By air, you’ll land at Heho and then drive down to Pinlaung for about two hours.

Places to go in and near Pinlaung

There were some places to visit in Pinlaung but most drive out of town to visit villages, hike into forests or up a hill. Pinlaung was surrounded by natural greenery and many natural waterfalls and caves are of interest. There were even places to go trekking or hiking or even rock climbing! As I’m not that sporty type of person, I’ll only mention places that I went to.

Pinlaung Haw or palace

The front end of Pinlaung Haw (palace) had collapsed while the back end was in a dilapidated condition looking at though it was hit recently by a strong earthquake and was on the verge of collapsing. Relatives of the saopha still lived in nearby houses and visitors can pay a visit but be sure to be respectful toward the host. Comparing the sad state at the present with its glorious past could bring tears to those who tend to be sad.

Saopha tombs

The tombs of Saophas and families are in the town center near Mway Daw Pagoda. Their ancient titles and names can be examined from the cemetery record.

Mway Daw Pagoda

Mway Daw Pagoda can be seen from afar across Kan Tha Ya Lake as you enter Pinlaung Town. The lake itself was always crowded with local and foreign visitors.

Pinlaung Myoma Market

Although it is right smack in the middle of the town, it is usually busy only on the market days that were held once every five days. The market days are when exotic traditional Shan foods that were not readily available every day even in other towns and villages were offered. Restaurants and eateries near the market also offer special dishes on the market days. It is advisable to check out when the next market day will be and time it to coincide with your visit to taste local Shan delicacies.

Loi Maung Taung or Loi Maung Mountain

The road beside the Mway Daw Pagoda will take you to Loi Maung Taung or Loi Maung Mountain. This is the highest peak near Pinlaung rising to a height of 6,124 ft.

At such height, the weather at the top of the mountain is severe and changes drastically in a moment. It might be misty but can become sunny and hot within a moment or the other way round. At the summit are a monastery, a pagoda, and a communication tower. The mountain is very attractive for active sportspersons, mountaineers and hikers alike. As the summit can also be reached by cars or motorcycles, even non-sporty person like me can enjoy the view up there. Inle Lake, as well as other peaks, can be seen from the summit. Most went up to enjoy the sunset view and timed the ascent to coincide with the sunset.

Edible earth

There’s a strange habit of eating earth in this region. The edible earth pits were right beside the road or trek up Loi Maung Mountain. For a visitor like me, the ordinary and edible earth were indistinguishable. It is best to check out with locals. Villagers roast the edible earth and eat it as a snack.

Nam Hoo Pagoda Hill

Nam Hoo Pagoda Hill near Pinlaung Town is a place where the town can be seen closely from above. Pintale Kyaik Hti Yo Pagoda is yet another place rising above the town and yet near the town offering a close-up view of the town from above. Lone Naga Pat Pagoda is a must-visit place if you were ever in Pinlaung. The views along the way to the pagoda were breathtakingly beautiful. The history of the pagoda was too mythical and I’ll leave it for visitors to learn about it in their visit and to believe it or not! Near this pagoda is a small pond called Thitsa Khayu (snail) pond with many snails in it.

Sa Ma Kyauk Sar Pagoda

Sa Ma Kyauk Sar Pagoda or Sa Ma Stone Inscription Pagoda is right beside the path that’ll take you to Lone Naga Pat Pagoda. In my mind, the stone inscriptions look more like a fossil remains of the snails!

Nyaung Shwe

Boats of Inle Lake

Nyaung Shwe

As per the saying “Nine Saophas and nine reigns of Shan” the ethnic Shan nationals in Myanmar established nine Mao Kingdoms. They were –

  • Mogaung,
  • Mohnyin,
  • Thaungthut,
  • Mongmit,
  • Mongnai,
  • Hsenwi,
  • Mongpe,
  • Nyaungshwe and
  • Hsipaw.

According to “History of the Shan State – From its origins to 1962” by Sai Aung Tun the years from 1287 to 1531 are recognized as the period of Shan kings in Upper Myanmar. This period witnessed the successful establishment of the three historically famous cities of Pinya, Sagaing and Inwa (Ava) by the Shan kings. As the successive Shan kings ruled in these cities, they let their sons and brothers rule their regions of origin in Shan as Saophas which was eventually called Sawbwas in Myanmar language. Shan Saophas uses royal objects like white umbrellas, headdresses, and footwear used by the Myanmar kings.

Shan Saophas lived in Haw (palace) and after they faded from history, their Haw and royal objects remain as cultural heritages. Nyaungshwe museum is one of the many museums in Shan State that had maintained and displayed these cultural heritages.

Nyaungshwe in Shan State, Taunggyi District is 602 km from Yangon and 30 km from Taunggyi and was a town visited by visitors who came to Inle Lake. On the east of the town are Taunggyi and Hsihseng while to the west lies Kalaw and Pinlaung. It is connected to Pekhon Township to the south and to Taunggyi Township to the north.

Nyaungshwe with an area of 561 square miles is at an elevation of 2,950 ft Nyaungshwe Township was formed with 8 wards and 35 village tracts with 445 villages. According to the 2017 Census, the township had a total population of 171,459 of which 69 percent were Intha while Pa-O made up 13.5 percent.

Nyaungshwe was established by Saopha Si Sai Pha in 1359. In Shan language, it was called Yawnghwe meaning a plateau between two mountains.

Nyaungshwe had Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda, Alodawpauk Pagoda and Shwe Intane Pagoda in Inle Lake and Yadana Mann Aung Pagoda in Nyaungshwe town as well as 1,013 pagodas and stupas. A cultural museum (Nyaung Shwe Haw) situated in Nandawun is also a historical building in Nyaungshwe.

The present Nyaungshwe Haw was built by a Shan Saopha Sir Saw Maung in 1913. The construction took 10 years and cost some 300,000 Kyats (a couple of billion Kyats in today’s money). Maukmai Saopha Sao Kham Hlaing drew the design of the Haw combining the Mandalay Palace design and traditional Haw of Shan Saophas. The construction was led by carpenter U Ngo @ U Htun Aung and Shan artisans.

After the first Nyaungshwe Haw was destroyed in Nyaungshwe town fire of 1908 the present Haw was built with 206 pillars. It was a rectangular structure measuring 200 ft from east to west and 194 ft from north to south and faces toward the east. The two-story Haw with seven tier roof contains three main halls. The hall to pay homage to the Saophas was where the Saophas received his subjects paying homage to him twice a year and it had a throne. When the Buddha images from Inle Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda were in town, the images were placed on this throne where the people came to worship it.

The outer hall is where the Saopha and his ministers discussed matters relating to the people. The inner hall is where the Saopha, his family, trusted ministers and aides discussed family, royal and religious matters. Soaphas of Shan State conducted preliminary discussion for Panglong Agreement matters on 8 February 1947 in this inner hall.

In addition to these three halls, Nyaungshwe Haw had a building (South Dawei Building) on the south for Saopha’s mother and Mahadevi (Saopha’s wife), a building (North Dawei Building) for the Saopha and sons.

There’s a 10 ft square rectangular room with iron bars in the middle of the ground floor of the Haw that was considered as a safe room. It was used as a Japanese military police Kempeitai office room during the Japanese occupation in the Second World War.

Nyaung Shwe Haw
Nyaung Shwe Haw