(Axel Boer) #1



 Pick-Up Truck, Minivan & Taxi
PICK-UP TRUCKS leave regularly from a stand
east of the New Market to Nyaungshwe (K700,
one hour) between 6am and 4pm. Pick-ups
to Thazi (K3000, seven hours) and Meiktila
(K3000, eight hours) leave from a stand one
block west of the New Market and from another
stand on Circular Rd West, near the Na Ga Bat
Monastery, during the day time.
MINIVANS to Heho (K2000, one hour) and
Kalaw (K3000, fi ve hours) leave from a bus stop
just northwest of the New Market.
TA XIS loiter in front of the Hotel Empire or at
a stand near the new market, off ering charter
rides to Nyaungshwe (K20,000) and Heho air-
port (K25,000).

Arranged in neat rows sprawling over the
hillside, the 2478 stupas at Kakku are one
of the most remarkable sights in Shan State.
According to local legend, the stupa garden
was founded by the Buddhist missionaries
of the Indian emperor Ashoka in the 3rd
century BC. The stupas at Kakku were built
in a bewildering variety of styles, marking
the prevailing architectural styles when they
were constructed. Some are simple and un-
adorned while others are covered in a riot of
stucco deities and mythical beasts. Among
the tall Shan-style stupas are a number of
small square ‘monastery style’ stupas that
are unique to this region.
Like ancient sites across the country, Kak-
ku is slowly being restored and modernised
using donations from pilgrims – the stupa

garden still has a palpable sense of antiq-
uity but don’t expect an Indiana Jones-style
ruin in the jungle. The annual Kakku Paya
Pwe, held on the full-moon day of the lunar
month of Tabaung (March), attracts Pa-O
pilgrims from across Shan State.
Kakku is surrounded by Pa-O villages and
the site can be visited only with a Pa-O guide,
arranged through Golden Island Cottages
(%in Taunggyi 081-23136; 18 Circular Rd East, Taung-
gyi; h6am-5pm). There’s a $3 entry fee for the
site and a $5 fee for the guide and you must
also arrange a taxi to the site – K30,000 from
Taunggyi, including a few hours waiting at
the stupas.
So far there isn’t any accommodation at
Kakku, but you can get a good meal at the
Hlaing Konn Restaurant (hlunch & dinner)
overlooking the site.


Beyond Taunggyi, the landscape rucks up
into great folds, cloaked in dense forest and
cut by rushing mountain rivers. This is the
heartland of the Golden Triangle, where in-
surgent armies battled for most of the last
century to gain control of the opium trade
between Myanmar, China, Laos and Thai-
land. Ceasefi res with the main rebel groups
have allowed the region to fi nally move out
of the shadow of civil war but drug traffi ck-
ing and other illegal activities are common


Originally from Kayah state on the Thai border south of Inle Lake, the Padaung tribe –
Myanmar’s famous ‘giraff e women’ – have become a victim of their own traditions. The
ancient custom of fi tting young girls with brass neck-rings has made the Padaung a ma-
jor tourist attraction – and a major target for exploitation on both sides of the border.
Originally intended to make Padaung women less attractive to raiding parties from
neighbouring tribes, the application of heavy brass neck-rings causes deformation of the
collar bone and upper ribs, pushing the shoulders away from the head. Many Padaung
women reach a stage where they are unable to carry the weight of their own heads with-
out the rings as additional support.
These days, the rings are applied with a diff erent purpose – to provide women from
impoverished hill villages with the means to make a living posing for photographs. Many
Padaung women are ferried across the border to Thailand to provide a photo opportunity
for visiting tour groups. The UN has compared the treatment of Padaung women to the
treatment of animals in a zoo.
Some souvenir shops on Inle Lake employ Padaung women to lure passing tourist boats.
If you want to help the Padaung, purchase handloom fabrics and other Padaung crafts rather
than take pictures of ‘long-necked women’.
Free download pdf