Loikaw is the capital of the Kayan state (pop. 140,670 as of 2013) in Eastern Myanmar close to the Thai border.
The region is known for the Kayan people, especially the Kayan Lahwi / Padaung (women) with their golden brass neck coils that seem to stretch their neck (but actually cause a lower shoulder).
From Kalaw Costs around 5,000K (October 2015) and approximately 7 hours travel time. Departing Kalaw at 04:30 in front of Morning Star eatery just behind Aung Chan Tha Zedi. First stop is just outside Aungpan, from where it departs again at 06:00. Recommended to take the front seats for the view but have a blanket and warm clothes as the driver may leave the door open and the mornings are cold. On the way the driver might ask if you're hungry and stop at a rice restaurant with view over south lake, but best to take a picnic as this is not guaranteed.
From Taunggyi Costs around 3500K (November 2018) and takes approximately 5 hours. Departing from Bus Station ti Hsiseng at 7:30. Beautiful journey trough small villages.
From Mandalay/Thazi/Kalaw: Thazi is on the main railway from Yangon to Mandalay. From Thazi you can take a train up the mountains; go to Aungban. In Aungban there is a junction for the branch railway line to Loikaw which was constructed in 1992. The trip is slow, but the landscape very scenic, and tickets are cheap. Tickets can be bought only at the stations, usually a few hours before departure.
Most of the town can be covered on foot. Surrounding temples and villages are easy by bicycle if you are comfortable with traffic on busy roads. Alternatively, a tuktuk or taxi can be hired. Local buses travel the main road. Ticket prices are based on distance.
- Kayan people village(s) (South of Loikaw and around Demoso, west of the Salween river in the mountains between 1000 and 1500 m.). Ask around which village(s) are good for visiting or organise a local transport/tour to go around (5,000-10,000 kyat).
- 1 Taung Kwe Pagoda. Impressively build on a big rock with many smaller pagodas sticking out. At night the temple is lit like a fairground with twinkling lights. Also a good place to weather watch or star gaze on darker platforms. Free but camera fee of 300/500 kyat (photo) or 1,000 kyat (video).
- Sunboon village (Leaving town South along highway 5. At the first traffic toll gate take the left track.). 50m down, women can be seen sitting weaving with goods for sale. 500 m further on, there are a few wooden houses with Kayan. Older people don't understand Burmese, so an interpreter is suggested if you really want to interact.
- 2 Ngwe Daung Dam.
- Take a walk around the local market in the morning and spot different tribes selling their goods.
- Cross the old wooden footbridge without tripping.
- Walk around the lake, see the sunset in the evening.
- Rent a bicycle or motorbike at Loikaw Souvenirs (No(1), Kandayawadi Street across the street of Mingalar Hotel. ☏ ). Victoria, the owner of the shop is very kind and would be very happy to help you. She also organizes tours to go around Loikaw and villages.
Many local foods and products at the market.
Since it's Myanmar and a small town don't expect much open after 21:30 or before 08:00. Cheap noodles 500K at a small shop just north from the wooden bridge on Highway 5. Usual tea houses with fried food freshest early in the morning. Small market with food stalls north of Shwe Thaung Monastery. Dumpling stuffed with tofu and spring onions, 1,200K good for two.
There are numerous tea shops selling fried dough snacks. No notable bars or restaurants.
- 1 Kayan Golden Sky Motel, 29, Khattar St, Mingalar Ward (South side of the river, 300m before Taung Kwe Pagoda), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 12PM noon. Motel with 12 non-smoking rooms (double, twin & family), all featuring AC, TV with satellite channels, private bathroom. Family run business. Breakfast included served from 6:30AM to 9AM on the rooftop. Free wifi accessible from all areas. Free parking. Free bicycle to borrow. Motorbikes can be rented. Guide & transportation can be organized from here. Payment by cash or Visa/Mastercard. $30 for double & twin, $45 for family room.
- Moon Inn (From the clock tower in the north of town on Highway 5, turn West and travel past the lake. Take the 4th left turn (also the second road over the river), the Inn is on the left side set back from the road, before the bridge), ☏ . Basic and not recommended if you are a light sleeper. Single and double rooms available with shared facilities, popular with locals so advanced booking is suggested. Speak English slowly and clearly. 8000K.
- Thingaha Inn (From the clock tower on Highway 5 head south. Take the last left turn before the steel bridge over the river. The Inn is about 350m along on the right side. The sign is in Myanmar Burmese but can be recognised by a large space for car park in front.). Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Basic breakfast included. Wifi and shared bathrooms, sometimes hot water. Helpful landlady. Bicycle hire is available but bikes in poor condition. 15$ single, 25$ double, $60 en suite room..
- Nan Ayar Inn Guest House. No.112A, Nat Shin Naung Street, Daw Oo Khu Qr. +95 9 262 591 161 Basic accommodation with two different types of rooms: 15000K double with shared bathroom and 25000K double with private bathroom, tv and frigobar. Basic breakfast included.
To Yangon goes via Kalaw to Aung Mingalar station in Yangon. Cost 12800K (October 2015) departs 12:00 and 15:00. The route can be popular so best book in advance. The 15:00 bus arrived at 07:00 in Yangon to Nyuengshwe leaves very early in the morning.
To Kalaw and Shwenyaung (Inle Lake) you can take a train on the branch line. You can continue down the hills to Thazi, which is on the main railway line between Yangon and Mandalay.
The ferry to Nyuengshwe departs from Pekon around 9am.