The Kyaik Khauk Pagoda was built on a hillock named Hlaing Pote Kone on the road from Thanlyin to Kyauktan.It is Mon-style stupa similar to Shwedagon Pagoda. The pagoda was built by the Mon King Cula Thirimasoka of Thaton in the Buddhist Era 241. Kyaik Khauk Pagoda had been successively repaired and renovated by 18 kings who reigned Myanmar.

Thanlyin was formerly known as Syriam. Myanmar usually pronounce as “Tanyin”. It is a city in Yangon Division in Myanmar. It is located on the bank of Yangon River, and is a major port.

Yele Pagoda at Kyauktan means the Pagoda in mid-stream on a laterite reef. The Pagoda is also known as Kyaik Mhaw Won Pagoda. The pagoda was built by King Zeyasana, the seventh king of the Pada Dynasty in the third century BC. The height of the original pagoda was only 11ft. The only way to get into the pagoda is by the boat. Foreigners are required to sit at a “larger boat” which differs from the smaller ones that the locals take due to “security purposes”.

Twante is the most accessible delta town from Yangon and makes for a nice half day or full day trip. A short ride on the Dallah ferry from the Pansodan Street Jetty on Strand Road (US$1, 10 minutes), and then a bumpy 40 minute ride on a pickup (300 kyat) through leafy villages and large pools of water gets you a good feel for life on the delta.

A slower way is by ferry from Yangon (2 hours, US$1) and, for a good look at delta life, consider taking the Twante ferry one way and the pickup/Dallah ferry on the way back.

Twante is renowned for its pottery and any trishaw driver will be happy to take you to the Oh-Bo Pottery sheds for a quick look (200-500 kyat).

Shwesandaw Pagoda, a short walk from the pickup stand, is a wonderful smaller copy of the Shwesdagon Pagoda without the crowds and well worth the trip by itself.

Kakku Pagodas are one of the Asia’s largest and most spectacular ancient monuments in Shan State. The group of small pagodas contains over 2,000 pagodas with origins dating back many centuries. It exists not only as an outstanding example of tradition art and architecture but also as a testament to the religious devotion of one of Myanmar’s many ethnic minorities, the Pa-Oh. For many centuries, the Pa-Oh has lived in peace, cultivating their land and devoting much of their energy and limited wealth to creating monasteries and pagodas.

Kakku is about 33 miles from Taunggyi. It will take about 3 hours drive by car. Kakku is located in the Shan State. Kakku is in the territory of Pa-Oh people.
The legend says that the first pagodas were created by King Alaungsithu, the 12th century King of Bagan. The decorative sculptures and figures are 17th or 18th century but some of the structures are clearly much older.

There are over 2000 pagodas packed closely together in ranks and covering an area perhaps a square kilometer. The main pagoda is around 40 meters high, the mass of the spire surrounding it uniformly. Each pagoda has its own individual masterpiece. The particular remarkable about the whole site is its good state of preservation.

Kalaw is a little town sitting high on the western edge of the Shan Plateau. It was a popular hill station in the British days and it still has an atmosphere reminiscent of the colonial era. In the surrounding hills around Kalaw there are several villages of the Palaung tribe. The Palaung women wear traditional costumes which they wear mainly at special occasions like the Tazaungdaing lighting festival during October-November.

This festival is very popular in Shan state where people let a paper balloon rise up into the sky which is lit by a candle. There are also competitions of the air-balloons. This festival is well-known throughout the country.
At the festival the Palaung villagers get together in their community centre where they welcome foreign visitors.

Dressed for the occasion the women wear a traditional costume consisting of a dark colored jacket and a red striped Longyi. Married women wrap their heads with colorful scarves and wear a cane belt around their waist. Many ethnic tribes from the surrounding villages walk to the station with local products in the baskets on their back like cheroots or cigars, flowers and presents for the children

Travel to this part of Myanmar and you will discover beautiful Kayah hill scenery and a large number of distinctive tribal cultures, the most internationally famous of which are the Kayan (with their tradition of ‘giraffe-necked’ women with coils that elongate their necks). There are up to ten native ethnic groups in Kayah, in addition to the people from surrounding parts of Myanmar who live here.

The centerpiece for most visitors to Loikaw is the Taung Kwe Pagoda, which comprises a number of white and gold monuments sitting on top of limestone outcrops which jut dramatically from the surrounding plains. They are interesting and fun to wander around and provide a different experience to other pagodas in Myanmar – as well as offering panoramic views of the distant plains, hills and mountains.

There are other similar, but smaller, outcrops dotted around Loikaw; most have pagodas on them and make for a unique landscape. There is a also a large reclining Buddha in town, which is worth a visit if you haven’t seen too many reclining Buddhas already!

Further afield, there are a number of options to visit tribal villages in the surrounding area and the Kyet Cave (sometimes spelt Kyut and also known as Yarsu Ku), located 15km east of Loikaw on the road to Shadaw, makes for an interesting trip. At the entrance to this impressive cave there is a wooden hut inhabited by an old monk who is always keen to show visitors around and offer coffee and biscuits.

Mount Popa is an extinct volcano on the slopes of which can be found the sacred Popa Taungkalat monastery, perched dramatically atop a huge rocky outcrop. The monastery is entirely surrounded by sheer cliff faces and offers stunning views of the surrounding plains and Mount Popa itself.

he monastery at Taungkalat (meaning ‘Pedestal Hill’) is famous for being home to 37 nats (spirits), which are represented by statues at the base of the volcanic outcrop. From here, you can climb up the 777 steps to the monastery at the top, where you will find a 360 degree panorama and a labyrinth of shrines to explore.

But beware the monkeys! These locals may look curious and friendly from a distance, but given half a chance they will steal anything they can get their hands on: food, purse or camera! There are a number of teahouses and beer stations at the base of Popa Taungkalat, serving drinks and simple Myanmar dishes.

The Mount Popa Nat Festival takes place in March and celebrates two brothers who were reincarnated as nats (spirits). The Mount Popa Mahagiri Nat Festival takes place in December and honours brother and sister nats who guard Tharabar Gate in Bagan.

Pakokku is quiet and traditional country town on the banks of the Irrawaddy, located 25 kilometres north of Bagan and now connected by a new road and rail bridge across the river.

Best known for tobacco trading, there is not a great deal to do in the town itself, but 20 kilometres to its northwest you can find the remains of Pakhangyi, with its old city walls, archaeological museum, and one of the oldest surviving wooden monasteries in the region.

The Thiho Shin Pagoda Festival takes place in Pakokku at the end of May or the beginning of June and features a large country fair and traditional plays.

Monywa is situated on the banks of the Chindwin River 136 kilometres west of Mandalay. Because of the industry that surrounds the town, it has a more dynamic feel than other regional centres in Myanmar: its riverfront is enjoyable to amble down; it has some lively markets; and its main street (between the clock tower and the Bogyoke Aung San statue) comes alive after dark, with a vibrant atmosphere and numerous food stalls and beer stations. Bear in mind, however, that this is small-town Myanmar, and places close early.

Turning off the road to Mandalay south east of town is the spectacularly colourful and uniquely styled Thanboddhay Pagoda (Thambuddhei Paya), which houses over 500,000 Buddha images and features many hundreds of golden spires (K3000 entry fee).

Further down the same side road is the Bodhi Tataung Laykyun Sekkya standing Buddha statue; at 116 metres, it is the second tallest statue in the world (and second tallest Buddha). It is located at the back of a large religious site with bodhi trees, gardens containing hundreds of sitting Buddhas, and a huge reclining Buddha lying in front of the Laykyun Sekkya.

The interior of the main structure features depictions of Buddhist teachings, including some alarming images of depravity and the punishment of evil-doers, plus some propaganda photos of the generals who were in power when it was completed in 2008. You can climb several floors – although the interior is not yet completed to the top.

The capital of Karen (Kayin) State, Hpa An is a picturesque town with a backpacker feel that sits on the eastern bank of the Thanlwin (Salween) river, about 270 kilometres east of Yangon. The setting itself, the surrounding caves and mountains to explore, and the laid back atmosphere are the highlights of the area.

Hpa An (sometimes spelt Pa-An and pronounced Pah-Ann) is encircled by dramatic karst mountain scenery which juts from the surrounding plains, and many of these mountains contain large and religiously significant caves (more details further down this page). Sadly, there has been some open-cast mining in the area, doing permanent damage to this unique landscape – but there remains much to enjoy, and the most impressive example is the beautiful, sacred and monolithic Mount Zwegabin (sometimes spelt Zwekabin), which can be found 16 kilometres south east of Hpa An.

If you want to climb Mount Zwegabin, there are steps all the way to the top but it is hard work, particularly in the heat – and the steps are in varying degrees of repair! It takes two to four hours to get to the summit, depending on your pace; there are people selling water and other refreshments on the way up. The monastery and pagoda at the top are a delight, and the canteen there serves fantastic (and usually well deserved!) food.

Directly to the south of Hpa An, on the way to Zwegabin, is the Kyauk Kalap – a truly unique pagoda, set on top of an unusual rock formation in the middle of a (man-made) lake. It is a beautiful spot and another that offers great photo opportunities of Mount Zwegabin. Despite signs that indicate otherwise, women are allowed access.

To get to all the locations around Hpa-An, the simplest thing to do is hire a tuk-tuk from the centre of town (there are always dozens readily available), which can take up to six people and will cost around K20,000 for one day. There are also motorbikes for hire, costing K8,000 per day.

Situated in the far north of Myanmar, and only accessible by air, Putao is a small and picturesque town in the Himalayan foothills, with a mostly ethnic Kachin and Lisu population. During the late British colonial era, there was a military outpost called Fort Hertz here.

For the truly adventurous, there are some serious trekking, mountaineering, white water rafting and even adventure skiing opportunities in the surrounding mountains. At the northern tip of Myanmar, the Himalayan peak of Hkakabo Razi sits on the border of Myanmar, China and India is famed as Southeast Asia’s tallest mountain (standing at 5,881 metres).

Costs are high when getting to Putao, staying there, and going on guided tours. You will also need a lot of time to make journeys in northern Kachin State as infrastructure is extremely limited. Although the mountain scenery surrounding Putao is attractive, it is distant; to reach Himalayan valleys takes days of sometimes tough hiking. And an ascent of Hkakabo Razi – only for the most serious of mountaineers – takes over a month, although there are some challenging peaks that can be ascended closer by.

Tours to the area typically start from 4 days/3 nights. To find out more, click on the sidebar box on the right of this page.

There are only a limited number of foreigner-licensed hotels in the Putao area, and they must be booked in advance as part of a package. There are currently no budget options. Most hotels are shut during the rainy season from June to September (inclusive). Also some parts of Kachin State and northern Myanmar are not currently accessible due to the security situation there and Putao can only be reached by air.

The bugs in this part of northern Myanmar can be fearsome, so make sure to take plenty of insect repellent to Putao!

Situated on a peninsula jutting out into the Andaman Sea, Myeik has been a busy and strategically significant port for over 500 years. Previously known as Mergui (and still sometimes referred to by that name), the town retains a number of colonial-era buildings on its characterful, meandering back streets.

Pataw Padet Kyun is the closest island to Myeik, sitting 500 metres across the water. K25,000 will buy you a fishing boat charter, which will allow you to circumnavigate the island and visit the reclining Buddha, hilltop pagoda and monastery at its southern end.

The large reclining Buddha is made interesting by virtue of being hollow, with hundreds of small, pink Buddhas lining its interior. The hilltop pagoda, which can be reached through the monastery located just north of the Buddha, offers panoramic views of Myeik across the water and the islands further out to sea. You may also encounter a wide variety of birdlife on your boat journey, from cranes to large birds of prey and fluttering groups of smaller birds.

Further outlying islands can be reached for longer trips, although these may be subject to restrictions – and you should make sure to secure a safe vessel.

The colonial hill station of Pyin U Lwin was a summer retreat during British rule, its altitude (1070m) and relatively cool climate allowing the British ruling class to escape the fearsome heat of Mandalay and lower Myanmar. In that era it called called Maymyo (meaning ‘May’s town’ in Burmese, after a British colonel who was stationed there), and is still sometimes referred to by that name.

Although sadly now blighted by some modern building development (the Shan hill station of Kalaw perhaps retains more of its original character), Pyin U Lwin’s colonial legacy still holds the key to the the town’s charm, and the surrounding area offers plenty to explore.

Pyin U Lwin’s beautiful botanical gardens are unique in Myanmar and the town does retain a number of characteristic examples of 19th century country houses, several of which are now hotels. The most famous is probably The Candacraig (now called the Thiri Myaing Hotel, although it is currently closed), a colonial mansion built in 1904 and described in some detail by Paul Theroux in The Great Railway Bazaar; another beautiful example is the Governor’s House.

To this day, colourful wooden horse-drawn wagons are one of the primary forms of transport around town.

Officially named National Kandawgyi Gardens, the botanical gardens were opened in 1915 and contain a wide variety of colourful flora, as well as a viewing platform with beautiful views of the surrounding countryside (entry fee $5). You can get to the gardens by horse carriage or motorcycle taxi for K1000, or alternatively take a long walk.

From Pyin U Lwin, you can take a motorcycle taxi (K1500) to nearby scenic waterfalls, lagoons and pagodas. These are pleasant places to relax and while away an afternoon – and you will find local bar/restaurants for refreshment. Bicycles can be hired at most guest houses and hotels, which gives you the flexibility to get around town and see the surrounding country at your own pace.