June 17, 2024


Hill Tribes of Loikaw, Myanmar


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Ox cart carrying wooden poles in Loikaw, Myanmar


Many of the best travel experiences are often found when you venture off the beaten track. Whenever possible I try to explore lesser traveled destinations and venues – the Back Roads of the journey.  That’s how I ended up wandering among  the Hill Tribe Villages near Loikaw, Myanmar.  Travelers to Myanmar – formerly Burma – tend to gravitate to the main tourist destinations of Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Lake Inle. Loikaw is located approximently 500 km northeast of Yangon but access is limited.You’ll find few tourists in Loikaw. No major roads reach Loikaw. The bus ride over the hilly and winding roads of Myanmar  is cheap – around 12,800 kyat ( @ $10.00)  but the travel time is long – almost 18 hours!  Loikaw does have a small airport but limited service with one flight per day operated only several days per week.  The fare is significantly more than the bus – around 106,419 kyat (@$78.00)  but it’s a short flight at 50 minutes. If you go – I suggest you fly!

The countryside around Loikaw is dotted with numerous small villages of various hill tribes of Myanmar. During my stay in Loikaw I visited villages from three different cultures – the Kayah, the Pa Oh and the Kayan.  While they reside in the the same general region and interact with each other they continue to maintain their own distinct cultural features. There is, however,  one thing they have in common. -They are all very friendly and welcoming to strangers who wander their way.

Visit a village and you will be asked to join in a meal or to share food or a drink.  I was in the Kayah Village of Tattabalu during harvest. They celebrate big time, inviting family, neighbors, friends and yes – strangers to a day long feast of rice and roasted pork.

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Villagers preparing harvest feast.


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Pounding rice into mash.


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Cutting and placing meat on skewers for roasting.


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Cooking peppers 


Life tends to be rather basic and simple in the villages of Myanmar. Manual labor is the rule of the day. There are few modern conveniences.

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This gentleman gave me a ride through the Pa Oh village of Lae Htwel.


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Women of the Pa Oh wear a distinctive read head scarf.  This lady is cutting straw into short length bundles as her baby looks on.


The Village of Daw Kee lies in the foot hills near Loikaw and is home to a tribe from the Kayan culture.  Kayan women are known for their distinctive appearance.  Selected females wear bright coils of brass wound around their necks.

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Daw Kee Village


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Kayan village home sits on stilts above storage and livestock areas.


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Mother cooking over open fire pit in Kayan home.


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Kayan girl next to kitchen fire pit.


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Young Kayan mother weaving – carrying baby and wearing brass rings.


Regardless of when or where I travel I always make an effort to get out and explore the Back Roads of the area.  I truly loved the opportunity to wander the Back Roads of Loikaw Myanmar.  The Back Roads experience sometimes takes a bit of extra effort.  But it is definitely worth it.  Give it a try.



Explore The Back Roads …………… And Enjoy The Adventure!


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