After panicking a little bit because I wasn’t finding anyone to join a tour to visit Loikaw ethnic groups the following day, I finally found the perfect solution. Someone told me about a student that takes foreigners to the villages and after contacting him on Facebook I got lucky. He had two other people interested in going around with him the next day, so I decided to join.
I think he offers the cheapest way to go to Loikaw villages and visit ethnic minorities. It was 60000 kyats for the car that we split per 3 and we went to 2 different villages. In each village, the interesting thing to do is talking with these elderly people that still keep the traditions of their ethnic group alive. For that, you need to pay 3000 kyats to go into their house and 8000 kyats to have a guide that can translate their language. They don’t speak Burmese, they speak the specific language of their minority group, so my guide can’t talk to these ladies either. So, at some point we had 2 guides: one to translate the local language to Burmese, and our guide to translate Burmese to English. These costs were split by the 3 of us. We visited 2 villages so the tour ended up costing about 28000 kyats, plus tips for the student.
I ended up being very happy to choose this option. My guide was William, a 17 years old teenager with a surprisingly self-taught good English. Basically, from a young age, he started to approach foreigners on the street and practice English. As a very clever boy he is, he decided to start taking foreigners around. His father drives, while he answers all our questions about the day and Loikaw itself. It’s amazing how a young man looks already an entrepreneur.
He picks me up at the Hostel at about 9 am and we go to the first stop pf the day: Demoso market that only happens on Saturdays. How lucky were we to have this tour on a Saturday hehe.
Demoso market Loikaw
Demoso market is a local market in Loikaw where people sell the most varied kinds of things, from food to clothes, to kitchen wear, to veggies, etc. It’s clearly not a place where many foreigners go, and it is not done thinking about them. That’s what I like the most in Myanmar. At the market, we tried the Loikaw sausage. It was ok, but not something I would like to eat again. We also saw one of the Long Neck women walking around. How cool was to see that she is really living like that and this is not all set to please foreigners.
But, before the market, we made a short stop at the lake that exists thanks to the dam that was built not so far. There are a few people here and two elephants. Apparently locals also like to ride the elephants. Here you could see some little girls with the golden rings on their necks, but those are fake rings as you can clearly see. They are there just for pictures and maybe make some money out of the traditions of the ethnic groups nearby.
Kayah Villages: Pan Pet – Long Neck women
After a while in the market we head to the first village we will visit today. It is the village of the Long Neck women. The street ended up not being so bad to be done by motorbike, but I wouldn’t know what to do once in the village if I was on my own. So, I was happy to be with William. We stopped at a house and wait for a local guide to be available. This girl will translate the local language into English. We were lucky she could speak English, otherwise, she would translate to William and then William to us. We visit only one Long Neck woman and her house. She is 57 years old and was weaving when we arrived. She stands up to receive us with a big smile. Surprisingly her youngest daughter is only 9 years old!!! We sit at her home drinking some tea and having a conversation with her. This is what you do when visiting these villages, visit their typical houses, and have a conversation. So, we sat with her in a modest house for more than 30 minutes just asking questions about her, her lifestyle, and traditions. And, she also asked things about us.
She actually wears those golden neck rings every day, all day. She doesn’t take them off even to shower. The rings are not easy to take off, so I totally get her. The last time she removed them was because she needed an operation two years ago. The rings are one single piece, so I don’t even know how do they get that out. The rings can weight an astonishing 5 kg! That’s insane. She likes to wear them and she feels proud of it. She would like her daughter to do the same, but I’m pretty sure these traditional costumes will not last for much longer, so I was very happy that I still had the chance to see it while it still exists. It was nice to understand a little bit better about their ideas and traditions. I ended up buying a hand-carved doll that her husband does to earn extra money if some foreigner wants to buy it when visiting their house. It’s a very modest wooden house with a kitchen inside. They hang food on top of the fireplace and preserve it like that.
After it, we went back to Demoso to have lunch at a really fancy place, but it wasn’t actually expensive, so it was just perfect with an awesome view of the surroundings. Really beautiful place but empty. The food was good so I definitely recommend it. It is called Marco Pollo and they also have a place to sleep.
Kayah Villages: Hta Nee La Leh
After a rewarding lunch break, we head to the 2nd village. It is called Hta Nee La Leh and the villagers have their own costumes and language too. There are more ethnic groups in Loikaw, but some of them are not open to tourism. They are remote and I’m not sure that foreigners are allowed to go on their own.
Anyway, in Hta Nee La Leh village we also stopped to get a local guide to translate, but this time she didn’t speak English so we had things translated twice. This is why I say I don’t know how would it work if I would go on my own by motorbike. But in this village, they had some kind of a flyer with some options of different things you can do in the village. They have options like riding an ox, seeing people playing music, visiting a traditional house, or traditional clothes. We chose to go to a house to talk with this very lovely fancy lady. Her outfit looks great and I fell for it. I love the colors and all the accessories she wears. The earrings are heavy, the necklace is made of Thai Bhat coins, and she wears cotton rings on the knees. Apparently I am not the only one loving her traditional clothes as she claims other foreigners tell her she would make a hit at any party. She is 69 years old and married to a 37-year-old villager haha So cute! She grows cotton at her backyard and was working on it making cotton strings. I have never seen cotton like that before, recently collected from the tree.
We sat to see how she weaves the cotton by hand just spinning a wheel. Meanwhile, we have a conversation asking about her life, her costumes and traditions, and how things are fading. I think the traditions of this village are more endangered than the Long Neck women that are already being used in Thailand for tourism purposes. There are only 10 more ladies like this one dressing traditionally in the village. Her kitchen is apart from home, which I find clever as the smoke is unpleasant and unhealthy. One particular thing about the house is that they hang chicken bones on the house for good luck.
Before leaving she offered us a bracelet made just there with the cotton from her garden. It might be the ugliest bracelet I’m wearing right now, but it is definitely the one with more value for me because memories are way more important than objects.
Hta Nee La Leh village is very peculiar, and they believe in spirits. The local guide showed us a place with some poles up. Ceremonies are held there for prosperity, good crops, and good luck for the village. They change setting every 3 years. Nearby there is a bungalow where only the Chaman is allowed to enter. He is a very important person in the village in charge of the spirituality of the place. It was surprising to see that these people still do these rituals nowadays, with so many different convictions from our world. It’s fantastic and amazing to witness. Hopefully, these traditions will not disappear.
Best sunset in Loikaw
I thought that was it for the day, but William our guide, was so nice that decided to take us to a few hills closer to Loikaw city to watch the sunset. The views from the hills are gorgeous with pagodas and more pagodas on sight and a very wide landscape to admire. The hills are the best place to watch the sunset in Loikaw.
After the sunset our guide took us to his home, offered us many local snacks, very delicious by the way, and talked more about his family and himself too.- oh you need to try the sticky rice on a Bambu stick– William is a very admirable young man. It was his own idea to start touring to the villages on his own, he learned English by himself and he looks like a boy with a great future ahead. He is only 17 years old! Remarkable!
I totally recommend a tour with him and his father, the driver. If you want, I can give you his Facebook. Just message me ☺
You can see my video of this day below: