- By Ye Htut Tin
Kayah State is the smallest state in Myanmar with an area of just a little more than 3,500 square miles.
Among the various indigenous people in the region, the Kayan or Palaung are renowned for their ‘long-neck’ women who were brass coils around their necks and are dressed in colourful traditional costumes.
As Myanmar opens up to international tourists, Loikaw has become one of the newest destinations that became accessible. Yangon to Loikaw drive is a considerable drive that locals normally do. For foreign visitors, a flight to Heho from Yangon or Mandalay and by car to Loikaw is a shorter and more enjoyable ride through mountains of Shan State and Kayah State. A trip to Loikaw can also be part of a trip to Inle Lake and towns like Taunggyi, Kalaw and Nyaungshwe etc. in Shan State.
At an elevation of 884 meters above sea level, Loikaw offers a spring time climate with temperature between 26 °C in December and 33 °C in April. Peppered by pagoda-topped hills and stunning natural and rural scenery, Loikaw is tipped as one of the country’s future tourism hotspots.
In January this year, Balloons Over Bagan, an arm of Memories Group, launched hot-air balloon flights in Kayah State. The service recommences in January 2020 under the name Balloon Safaris Loikaw. The hot air balloons will rose high above Loikaw and Kayah’s famous landmarks Taung Kwe or Thirimingalar Taung Taw, Ngwe Taung Dam and Seven Step Pond.
Local and western delicacies for visitors
There are a number of local delicacies that visitors can try out when in Loikaw.
Kayah sausage: It is a sausage that does not use any preservatives in any form. Due to this it needs to be consumed within a day or two of purchase. Locals, including the tour guides and hotels should be able to point you out where it can be purchased.
Curry pack: Curry pack, locally known as Hin Tote, is a rice dumpling with chicken, pork or vegetable that was very popular, more widely available than Kayah sausage. U Tun Ya Curry Pack shop in Mingala Ward was one of the many shops where this was available. However, as it was taken as a breakfast food, it was usually sold out by late in the morning so be early to rise and be the first to take breakfast.
Visitors can also try out other local drinks like Kayah moonshine and delicacies like pork balls and fried termite eggs.
Keinnara Lodge Loikaw, an eco-lodge owned and operated by Myanmar tourism trailblazers Memories Group, has launched what it hopes will be a tasteful introduction to Western cuisine in the remote region of Kayah State.
The resort’s new menu was unveiled on 1 October by Chef Thu Ra Aung, who previously worked for nine years as a chef de partie and sous chef at Yangon’s celebrated Strand Hotel.
“Chef Thu Ra Aung brings a wealth of new culinary ideas and experience to this tranquil corner of Myanmar,” said Keinnara Lodge Loikaw’s general manager Ko Ko Lay. “Most people in Kayah State as well as many local visitors have never tried Australian beef, couscous, pan-fried salmon or European wines, so we hope these dishes appeal to their taste buds.”
Among the chef’s specialties, Thu Ra Aung said that he also intends to unveil a few “Kayah fusion” dishes starting with his very own Kayah Sausage Pizza. But, he said, he will stay faithful to the recipes of traditional local favorites such as Hin Tote.
A remote far-off place Loikaw in Kayah State is welcoming visitors, locals and international alike, with its natural scenic beauty and sites as well local and western foods.