Visit to Home to Second Largest Ethnic Group in Shan State, Pa-O

Photo - Phoe Nyan

Travellers today are increasingly showing a trend away from taking conventional vacation and towards exploring off-beaten tracks or less-known regions, which are interestingly, culturally, and originally set.

A Southeast Asian nation Myanmar has a lot more unique things to offer to such travellers.

Myanmar’s largest state Shan, situated in the northeast of the country, is in a prominent position to get local or foreign travellers immerse in different but friendly settings.

Let’s see, what you want to do and/or enjoy on your vacation. For adventure tour, trekking, exploring and experiencing new things, among others, it is a Shan area known as Pinlong township (ပင္ေလာင္းၿမိဳ႔နယ္), looking forward to fulfilling all your expectations.

A conventional itinerary of most travellers is about touring such towns as Inle, Taunggyi and Kalaw in the hilly Shan plateau. As a difference from it, a reporting team with the My Magical Myanmar has recently visited Pinlong, bringing to you its observation and experience in terms of travel values.

Home to the ubiquitous Pa-O people – the second largest ethnic group in the Shan State, Pinlong is endowed with historic Buddhist temples, ethnic villages, and plantations to observe.

As well, adventurous visitors could do ridge hiking and trekking there.

Pinlong, like a hidden gem, the principal town of the Pa-O Self-Administered Zone, is located between the towns of Loikaw and Nyaung Shwe, an overnight convenient drive of getting there from Yangon.

To complete an itinerary there in and around, one would have to spend at least a two-night-three-day period, or stay for one more day to go farther to a few fur-flung sites.  

How to get there
There are tour bus services from Yangon to Loikaw. One can book bus tickets online for a standard/VIP service. The team chose services with a travel bus operator Myo Satt Thit.

We’ve found the service convenient, despite the frequent stopovers on the way. For those who have onboard feeling of dizziness and light-headedness, please keep drugs or remedies to calm the feeling.

The bus left Yangon at 3:30 p.m. sharp, and arrived at the Phoe Phyu bus terminal in Pinlong at around 4:30 a.m. Only at the time of the arrival, there were several people around on duty, and there was none within a moment. So, it could be inconvenient for a woman traveller alone.  

Where to put up
Based on the needs over touring, you can decide your preferred guesthouse or motel by checking it online. Pinlong Hotel is the biggest for the time around. Our team stayed up at Friends’ Hotel of an international standard, which is set to celebrate its grand opening soon.

The setting of the Hotel, built on a seven-acre plot of land, is fairly pleasant with shady trees and flowering plants.  

Where to tour
The cool morning at Pinlong welcomed our first leg of the itinerary.

Pinlong Manor
Coming across the forepart of a more-than-100-year-old wood-structured manor, we were aware of its architecture and Shan chiefs’ traditional traces. Due to poor maintenance on the manor, the rear was found damaged. One can go into its history, having a talk at a single house in the compound.  

Ye Khaung
stūpa and foot-print of Kyansittha
The stūpa was aptly named as it was built in Ye Khaung village. It is also called Kyaik Hti Yoe stupa, because of an exact replica of the original Kyaik Hti Yoe pagoda built at the top of Mt. Kyaikhtiyo in Mon State. According to local people, the stūpa was built by a hermit atop such a rock cave.

Despite the fact that the cave reflects the mixed colours of limestone and haematite, local people pronounce it the haematite cave. The religious festival of the 28 pagodas is held in the fencing of the stupa every year.

In front of the stūpa across a lane is the foot-print of Kyansittha, a popular and influential king of Myanmar’s Bagan dynasty. Known as the king’s left foot-print, it is well kept in a building by the venerable Ye Khaung Sayadaw. We did not come across anyone who could talk about the foot-print’s history. However, it is an interesting one.

Betel Box Mountain
A 30-minute drive through a haematite lane from Ye Khaung village brings you to the nearest place to the bottom of the Betel Box Mountain. Leaving the car parked there, we began climbing a flight of steps that are curved into from the texture of soils.

We had to pass some steep climbs of the mountain provided with bamboo handrails at the flight. But, we did not rely on the handrails lest we stumble on the weak handrails and fall down. We took regular and steady steps.

It took 30 minutes to get atop. We inhaled fresh air deeply, taking a rest for a while and looking at the surroundings around. There is a stūpa with a flagstaff, in addition to a human figure under a gilded umbrella. We were also rewarded by a vista of the Pinlong area under a gray winter sky.

Well, the climb down was more cared in order not to slip on the muddy surface of the steps, as caused by showers of rain while on the way up. On the way back as well, we had a few glimpses of processing tea at the village of Don Min Poo.

Nangmon Waterfall
Leaving the car at the village of Lainli, we took up a chartered boat for the Nangmon waterfall. A picturesque vista of rolling hills around afforded us along the river of Paunglong. It took 70 minutes to reach the idyllic waterfall. It could be taken as an adventurous tour! What’s next? We proceeded to the Lainli suspension bridge, followed by a visit to Wengabar Cave. It was after 3:00 p.m., when we arrived back at Pinlong.

Lainli suspension bridge
It is Myanmar’s longest suspension bridge that spans the river of Paunglong, which originates from Elephant Hill. The bridge, over 20 miles away from Pinlong, was put into service in November, 2016.

Wengabar Cave
There is a very narrow passage of about three feet in width leading through the cave. Via the passage’s several branch lines, you can reach other parts inside the cave. There you can see many stalagmites in a strange natural setting, and feel somewhat chilled as cold drops of water are seeping through rock crevices.  

Nagar Coil Pagoda (serpent dragon pagoda)
The pagoda is in the village of Nagar Coil.  The lane leading to the pagoda could not accommodate a 45-seat bus, and so we went there by a light truck, which could be arranged by the pagoda's Sayadaw upon request upfront. 

Regarding the availability of food items, Pinlong offers limited choices, but reasonably charged.   

The last leg of our trip was in Nyaungshwe.   

In the morning, we travelled to Inle Lake to have looks into traditional cloth-weaving workshops and their products, Shwe Intein pagoda and floating restaurants, not to mention the Inle Phaungtaw Oo pagoda, the primary attraction of the Inle region.   

Among the other things to explore are small enterprises of making cheroots and curving wooden boats.   

We came back to Nyaungshwe at 4:00 p.m., which is vibrant with many different restaurants and hotels. We said, "Goodbye," to Nyaungshwe at 7 o'clock.   

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Theingi Htun is a journalist who worked for two years at Yangon Times Journal and Flower News. She also worked for two years at Democracy Today News as Senior Journalist. She wrote many articles about culture, the travel sector and lifestyle stories too. Now she is working at My Magical Myanmar as a travel writer and social media executive."


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