Myanmar is a massive country that is full of hidden jewels only discovered by intrepid tourists. Kengtung is one of these jewels. Not far from the Golden Triangle, where Myanmar, Thailand and Laos converge, this vibrant town is a melting pot of various ethnic groups and traditions. In addition to these cultural wonders, Kengtung is surrounded by pristine mountain landscapes and isolated hill tribe villages. A Kengtung extension is the perfect adventure to add on to any Myanmar holiday. Here we share Myanmar Diaries insider tips to making the most of your Kengtung adventure.
The edge of the Shan State!
Due to its remote location in the far reaches of the eastern Shan State, Kengtung is not easy to reach. The most direct way is overland from Thailand, a cross-border adventure that takes the better part of a day. Seeing the almost instant change from modern, bustling Thailand to sleepy, laid-back Myanmar is a fascinating experience. But it is a long travel day. For those already within Myanmar, the only way to reach Kengtung is by flight as the roads leading in from the north and west are off limits to foreigners. Even traveling domestically, you will sense the contrast as you leave Yangon’s modern airport and land in Kengtung’s tiny airfield.
Markets, Temples and Tasty Treats
Although most visitors are drawn to Kengtung for the hill tribe villages, it is worth your while to spend time exploring the town itself. You will quickly notice that most shops display their signs in at least 2 and sometimes 4 languages- a tribute to the geographical location at the edge of Thailand and not far from China. If you have arrived in the morning, head straight to the market. Here you will find tons of fresh produce as well as unusual items such as fried insects, traditional herbal medicines and lots of snack foods influenced by Thai cuisine. With a full belly, carry on to Maha Myat Muni Pagoda, the city’s most important Buddhist temple. Mingle with local worshippers at this beautiful gilded structure before heading up to Wat Zom Kham, a temple that is distinctly Thai in its style. Wander around this serene site, where a gentle breeze causes the temple bells to ring throughout the day.
As the sun begins to set, head to Naung Tone Lake in the center of town. At night the serene lake becomes a gathering point for locals and many small barbeque shops open around the shores. Pull up a chair and feast on grilled meats, veggies and a selection of Thai and Myanmar dishes.
Into the Wild: Kengtung Trekking adventures
Myanmar is home to more than 130 different ethnic groups, and several of them can be found in the hills surrounding Kengtung. It is worth spending a day or two exploring the highlands to learn about the diverse traditions and customs of Myanmar’s hill tribe people.
Fuel up with a good breakfast of Shan cuisine then grab your hiking boots and transfer out of town for a Kengtung trekking adventure. Depending on how much time you have and how much you wish to walk, Myanmar Diaries can customize an adventure for you. There are three main areas for excursions, each distinctive in its offerings.
The Pin Tauk area is one of the most accessible day excursions. After a 45-minute drive you arrive in an area of stunning terraced rice paddies. A light hike will take you to an Akha village where the residents still wear distinctive traditional costumes and elaborate headdresses. Then continue to an Eng village where it is customary for the people to blacken their teeth. Throughout the day you will pass through beautiful scenery of farms and fields.
If you want to get further off the beaten track, head toward the Chinese border where the Loi ethnic group live. The drive takes around two hours and has spectacular views along the way. Upon arriving you need to trek a couple hours, passing through tea plantations and fields and climbing further into the hills. Your effort will be rewarded when reaching two Loi villages, Wan Yut and Wan Seng. Here the Loi still live in traditional long houses, with up to five families living under one roof! There is also a beautiful old monastery and temple along the way as well as lush natural jungle and colorful farmland.
The third trekking route is out to the Hokyin area, a 45-60 minute drive. To reach the first village you must walk around 1.5-2 hours, going through pristine natural landscapes to an Akha village. You will likely be invited into a family house, for a chance to see the typical ways of life of the Akha people. Then return to the trail to a Lahu village, a smaller ethnic group that is well known for its blacksmith techniques.
Regardless of the route you chose, you will be fascinated by the diverse traditions and cultures of Myanmar’s ethnic groups. Trekking in Kengtung also takes you to some of Myanmar’s most scenic spots with miles of emerald green rice fields and rolling hills filling the landscapes.
● Exploring Hill tribe villages
● Wandering around the colorful market
● Feasting on delicious Shan cuisine
● Discovering Wat Zom Khum Pagoda
BEST SEASON TO VISIT :
- From October to April