By (Thiha Lulin, the Traveller) Photos : Min Hsann, Thiha Lu Lin
When we travel to southern Shan State, we usually continue to Nyaung Shwe, Inlay and Taunggyi right after the visit to Kalaw. We never thought to pay a visit to Aungban than to buy some chips while taking a break on the way. Some stay in Kalaw and visit Aungban for a while, crossing the town to see scenic views and go to Nyangan and Pindaya. I’ve known that Aungban is not only a trading town but also an excellent town to live in.
From Thar Mine Khan to Aungban
Aungban was established on 15 April 1913, and it is in Kalaw Township. Although Aungban was established one year earlier than Kalaw, Kalaw was built as an administrative township where mostly Danu ethnic people live.
As I said in Thar Mine Khan story, the beginning of Aungban and Kalaw is Thar Mine Khan. Thar Mine Khan which can be defined as “Thar Yar Shwe Pyi”, has become like a village now. Thar Mine Khan was renamed as Aungban since the British colonial rule. Min Maung Pho and Chief Minister U Khun Yone are renowned as people who established Aungban. It can be said that local people built Aungban and Kalaw was constructed by the British. Aungban had been the terminus of Myanma Railways for a long time as well. Then, the railway continued to Shwe Nyaung later. The railway was the main reason for the establishment of Aungban. As for the British, they planned to build Kalaw where the railway would pass.
Myin Thar Sayar Taw and the town’s elder wanted to name the city as “Pyin Thar” or “Shwe Pyin Thar”. Subsequently, they chose the name “Aungban” and Aungban village was also situated just two miles away from Aungban town.
A unique crop of Aungban is potato. The potatoes and the potato chips of Aungban are still popular among people.
In the past, Myanmar people didn’t dare to eat the potato. They thought it would make them sick. They just exported them to India. The potato business had become a big business in the region, and it transformed Thar Mine Khan into Aungban which could access to the railway. The railway system played a vital role to transport the potatoes at that time, and Aungban potato was very well-known in Kolkata.
As a specialty of Aungban, there are some places related to Turkish people. The Turkish prisoners of war who were defeated in World War 1 were detained in Pe Yin Taung village in Aungban and used to build the railway. Therefore, the Turkish people usually visit there, and there are wells and cemeteries still left in Aungban. Interestingly, there are many unusual stories in Aungban history. As I quoted these facts from “Aungban Kyay Hmone Pyin”, the book was written by Sayar Min Lwin Oo (Aungban), I’d like to recommend his book for more facts.
It is quite cold in winter and a bit hotter than the surrounding town.
How to get there?
Aungban can be reached by car, train and flight. All the highway buses to Taunggyi arrive in Aungban. If you come by train, you need to get off at Aungban station. As for the flight, it will take around 20 minutes to drive from Heho airport to the town.
Places to visit in over 100 years old Aungban
Except for the fact that Aungban doesn’t have nice bars and coffee shops yet like in Kalaw, the trade town is more bustling with activity and natural beauty. Places like:
Thar Mine Khan Village and Mway Taw
Thar Mine Khan, the beginning of Aungban, is interesting for its ancient Mway Taw Pagodas. The village can be reached after a two-mile drive from Aungban.
108-Taung Aung Chan Tha Pagoda
The pagoda locally called 108-Taung can be seen from every place of Aungban. It is a replica of Shwedagon pagoda. Although the Sayadaw is building the pagoda in details, it has not finished yet. But it gradually gest into its shape and is famous among the travellers. There are various kinds of stupas, Nat and Thagyamin statues. The people estimate as it will be the highest pagoda in Shan State. It has a cave with massive columns inside.
Mway Taw Taung View Point
It can be described as a new View Point of Aungban. There is road transportation to Mway Taw village, but we may be a little bit tired to climb up the mountain from there. It is worth for you climbing up the hill as you can see the 360 Degree panoramic views. Hotel Hnin Shwe Yee also conserves the View Point. It decorates the viewpoint with signboards, chairs and ladders by using natural materials. There is a pagoda at the top of the hill which is under construction. I recognize it as a place where we should not miss whenever we go to Aungban. We can study the living styles of Mway Taw villagers. When I reached there, the children are having their meals with Basil leaves. Their mother gave me these Basil leaves as a present when I ate some leaves from them. I also studied the long Pa-O drum from the village Head.
Mya Nandar Yae Htwet Oo
It can be said Mya Nandar Ye Htwet Oo in Aung Chan Tha is a gift for Sayadaw. The Sayadaw who always searched the water for his 400 student monks found that places and created water purified tank on the mountain. The surplus water is distributed to Aungban. (Translated by Ei Phyu Phyu Aung and Khine Thazin Han)