Discover the mysterious Loikaw
Discover the mysterious Loikaw
Loikaw is located in remote Kayah State, surrounded by mountains and shrouded in relative mystery as it has just recently opened to tourists.
After a 3 hour boat ride from Inle Lake, I arrived in Pekon (Taunggyi Division, Shan State), the first stopover on the journey to Loikaw. The boat trip is itself a fantastic experience since it allows you to see the majestic nature of Shan State and to really discover the life around the lake. From Pekon to Loikaw it is just a one and a half hour drive, but it is incredible how during this short distance the atmosphere completely changes. You can easily feel that you are not in Shan State anymore. You notice it from the rhythm of the life, from the empty and cleaned roads and, above all, you understand it from the different, local tribes. There are ten ethnic groups in Kayah State and Kayahn are the majority, also called Padaung (well-known for wearing brass coils around their necks), followed by Kayah people, known as Red Karen (women wear red blouses, longyis and heavy earrings but only some elders wear traditionally).
During my stay in Myanmar, I often thought about Loikaw and about how it looks, but in my mind I never imagined it like this. A peaceful, modern, cleaned town with well-kept flower beds all around and fancy houses along the road and it is impossible to not notice the intense influence of the strong Christian minority that characterize this region.
The morning after my arrival I really discovered the soul of this amazing destination. After leaving for a full day trek outside of the town and reached some little villages in the mountains, I started to feel a shiver run down my spine. The adventure finally started! That is the magic of Loikaw: the majestic natural surroundings, the quiet and the silence of the forest, the traditional villages comprised of different ethnic groups and above all, the ineradicable sign of the mysticism that you can find everywhere. Some people still practice animism, and there are a lot of beliefs and customs which make a visit to Loikaw all the more interesting. During my trekking, I had the chance to have with me an experienced guide who explained to me the relationship of the people with nature, their habit to “give back” animals’ dead bodies to the earth by throwing them in mysterious hole on the floor and the history of some villages moving from one part of the mountain to another because of the ghosts living in the forest.
But the point that impressed me the most during the trek was a visit to one of the several ritual points, a place full of mystic energy and powers. Once a year, some men in the villages cut a tree and move it to the elected point where they have to transform it into totems that will be part of an important ceremony. During the annual ceremony, in April, men (women are not allowed) pray to have a good rainy season and they also do some sacrifices to please the spirits (chickens and cows).
To listen to these tales in this particular environment was extremely fascinating and captivating. What an opportunity to learn about so many different cultures still totally faithful and tied to their religions.
Traveling to Kayah State is like traveling into the past!
If you are looking for an experience off the beaten path and away from the typical tourist destinations but still easy to reach, Loikaw is definitely a great destination to add to a Myanmar trip.
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