“If we could take Kalaw with us, we would!”, the British are reported to have said when leaving Myanmar. This old hill station on the rim of the Shan Plateau, in the Pinelands, remains a favourite for holidays away from the harsh tropical sun.
Situated at about 1,400 meters above sea-level, Kalaw is located 70 km west of Taunggyi. The main attractions of Kalaw are the town itself with its mock-tutor colonial bungalows, its ethnic mixture of people, and significant trekking routes that lead through many villages occupied by ethnic-minority. Even today, many of the Tudor-style houses and English gardens from the colonial days remain vibrant in Kalaw. There are many hill tribes near Kalaw such as athe Palaung village, and every five days several tribesmen come down to the Kalaw market and trade goods. Usually, the tribesmen come dressed in their traditional clothing, thus adding to the quiet attraction of Kalaw.
Situated at the foot of Mene-taung mountain range, 45 km north of Kalaw is a picturesque place called Pindaya. Pindaya is known as ‘the home of countless Buddha Images ‘for having several statues and carvings in its extensive lime stone caves. The main attraction here is the Pindaya Cave, locally known as Shwe Oo Min Cave. Pindaya is also known for its unique traditional Shan umbrellas made out of paper. The limestone caves contain a maze of chambers with 6,226 Buddha statues crafted in different sizes. These statues are made of white marble, bronze or plaster, and are coated with gold leaves. Some of the smaller caves within the complex serve as meditation chambers.
Loikaw is the capital of the Kayah State, and is situated about 130 miles southeast of Kalaw. This region is famous for its unqiue Padaung tribe (Giraffe Necked Women) where women elongate their necks using brass rings. The beautiful, pleasant surroundings of the Lawpita hydroelectric power plant and the Baluchaung waterfall are also only a day’s trip away from Loikaw.
The road to Shan Plateau
This route is swarming with tress, bushes, plantations and livestocks. However, when the road changes from flat highway to twists and turns of the mountain clumps of bamboo and plum trees replace the vegetation. Forests filled with dry, leafless trees and thorn forests fill the hillsides. The Loikaw vegetation, on the other hand, is much greener; the trees are larger and denser. Several fruit producing plants such as bananas, coconuts, mangos, and other trees can also be seen. Away from the cliffs are deep alleys with either dry streambeds or water trickling down the hills. A lot of timber plantations can also be seen as Shan State is one of the main timber production regions for its commercially valuable hardwood.
The road also passes through the beautiful hillside where the temprate climate produces fruits such as pears, peaches and oranges in addition to the common rice, tea, wheat, Soya beans, groundnuts, tobacco, potatoes, garlic, sunflower seeds and dried green cordia leaves that are used as cheroot wrappers.