LoikawTrip

We are in the month of November. Deep blue sky above Inle Lake and ​​mist is clinging to the mountains of the country PaO. Our fast boat has left the dock at Nyaung Shwe, just north of the lake. Already, although it is about 7:00, we meet the first boats of Inthalooking fishermen or farmers who use seaweed as fertilizer for their floating gardens. our boat almost touching their narrow canoes as we near each others, we can observe their curious way of rowing with their feet while they are sending us a cordial smile.

We head south. Around us, the light so characteristic of the dawn brings us the mountains that surround the lake. It's a time when every detail of the landscape is visible. Everything is still quiet and serene as the lake awakens. Spicy freshness of the morning air flushes our faces.

After a little over an hour of regular shipping, our first step is Hmawbi village at the southern tip of the lake. Direction the market that stands there today, next to the pier. There we meet PaO peasants who crossed the mountains with their bullock carts to sell vegetables and utensils, as well as supplies of lake fish that Intha women have prepared, lying on the ground on large lotus leaves. No tourist in these places already distant from the hotels in Nyaung Shwe and the north shore of Inle Lake. We travel in small, dirty alleys in the middle of lively groups in traditional red and black costumes. Our guide bought a big bag of dried green tea, one of the best in Burma, and we offer great puffed rice cakes so light they almost fly in the morning breeze.

We board ship again, towards the lake, which communicates with Sakar on Inle Lake by a narrow strait. We pass on our left Naung Bo village near Hmawbi, famous for its pottery. A flight of migratory birds takes off behind us after spending the night on the lake.

Brief stop on the shore, near a small police station. Our guide presents permits provided by the Agency Myanmar Mosaic formality required to access the Kayah State. A few minutes by boat and we reach the village of Sakar guarded by an extraordinary group of Buddhas flooded emerging here-and-there on the surface of the water, some half buried, others on tiny islands full of overgrown banyan trees.

The invigorating air of the lake has opened the appetite. We stop at a small restaurant set in a floating house on the edge of the village of Sakar. We try the traditional dish of Inle Lake, the Nga Dukkha, a kind of carp stuffed with spices, made with homegrown vegetables.

Our last stop takes us by boat to Lake Pekoun, almost as large as the Inle Lake, located in the southern tip of Lake Sakar. Around 14h, we discuss in the small town of Pekoun, on the western shore of the lake. We are at the entrance of the Kayah State, one of the most secretive states in Burma. Open to tourism for the first time in 2007, access has since been alternately authorized or closed to foreigners. Paradoxically, it is home to one of Myanmar'a most famous cultures: that of the Padaung tribe, famous for its women-giraffes that may be encountered in the villages surrounding the capital Loikaw.

It is to the latter that we are moving now, this time by car. We cross an area of ​​rice paddies. As it is the harvest season, we can observe the activities of peasants harvest sometimes performed with small manual machines, mostly with buffalo or zebu, threshing and sieving rice stubble burning in the fields .

After about two hours of rugged road, in the late afternoon, we arrive at Loikaw, a quiet village built about 1000 meters above sea level on a plateau. First step: our hotel, not really the standard of modern comfort, due to the low number of visitors, but we enjoy the genuine hospitality and warmth of our hosts. The, start the visits;  Direction pagoda TaungKwe. Curious ancient monument that has become the symbol of the Kayah State, although the population of the latter is half Christian. It consists of two stupas built atop a rocky step, divided in two by a deep fault. We reach the first shrine by a flight of 188 steps carved into the rock. The latter can be reached by a bridge thrown over the precipice. From its square we admire the sun sets over the plateau Kayah.

On the descent, chants can be heard in the darkness, reminiscent of religious prayers. Intrigued, we ask our local guide, who reveals the existence of a large Buddhist monastery at the foot of the hill TaungKwe. We'll be back the next morning to discover the lives of about six hundred monks, mostly from ethnic groups in eastern Myanmar, who study the sacred texts of Theravada Buddhism.

For now, this is the local market that awaits us in the last light of day. Every evening, along one of the streams that crisscross Loikaw, people gather to supply vegetables and fresh fish. We take our dinner in a small restaurant built on the banks before reaching the hotel.

The next morning, after the visit of the great monastery of teaching, we go to meet the famous Padaung. The village welcomes us is known for its terracotta pottery shiny powder added to the stones. Like many of the surrounding villages, weaving is also practiced, among others to make bags and scarves. The old ladies we meet, very alert despite their incredible rings around their long necks and ankles, try to explain their techniques, smiling, but most people do not even speak Burmese! With the help of our guide, and with lots of laughs and gestures, we can still talk for a few moments. We offer betel leaves and areca nut bought on the road to Loikaw.

Today is the great feast of Kathein, which marks the full moon of the month of November. This is an opportunity for Buddhists to make collective offerings to monasteries. The faithful are grouped by neighborhood, offices, schools ... to bring in their donations together and offer them to their chosen monastery. These events are accompanied by processions and lively parties. Before a school center Loikaw, we note a particular animation and we stop to observe the preparations for the feast. Noticing our curiosity, our guide proposes to invite us to lunch with 2000 people! We join the cheering crowd in the middle of musicians and dancers. After lunch, participants

then take care offerings fall into procession to reach the monastery which they are intended.

For a long time, we look away, and then we go to the Kayah traditional neighborhood Loikaw. Along dirt alleys are lined with wooden houses on stilts. Sometimes we see old ladies in costume Kayah. Very shy, they do not usually dare to approach us, but they are easily persuaded by our guide, through which we can exchange a few words with them!

Soon ends our second day in Kayah State. Tomorrow, we will take the road to Kalaw in Shan State, where we will take a three-day hike that will take us from village to village through the mountains and forests.

 

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