Geographically Shan State borders China to the north, Laos to the east, and Thailand to the south. It is made up of five administrative divisions of mainland in the west. Being the Largest of the 14 administrative divisions by land area, Shan State covers 155,800 km², almost a quarter of the total area of Burma. The state gets its name from the Shan people, one of several ethnic groups that inhabit the area. Most of the Shan State region is full of hilly plateaus, which joined together with the higher mountains in the north and south forms the Shan Hills system. The gorge of the Thanlwin (Salween) River cuts across the state allowing many settlements to be formed along the river.
Shan State is the largest of Myanmar’s seven states located in Eastern Myanmar, sharing a border with China in the north and Thailand in the south. The Shan plateau is picturesque with its natural beauty that includes the Shan Hills, often referred to as Shan Highlands stretching across to neighbouring Thailand. The hills with their narrow valleys are a trekkers’ delight, who get to see the alignment of the mountain ranges to the Himalayan foothills in the North West.
Being located at an altitude of 1436 metres, Taunggyi (which means ‘Big Mountain’ in Burmese) has a cool and pleasant year-round climate. The capital city of the Shan State lies on a hill region the atmosphere is conducive to good health especially by means of the salubrious mountain air. Set spectacularly on a mountain ridge and home to a large number of traditional ethnic tribes, including the Intha and the Pa-O, who in fact outnumber Shan here. The city hosts a bustling market, where you will find large numbers of Pa-O, instantly recognisable by the colourful towels that the women wear on their heads. There is also a variety of tasty local Shan dishes to be tried out, as well as a range of wines at the nearby Aythaya vineyard. The dazzling fire balloon festival that takes place in November and the thousands of pagodas that can be found nearby at Kakku are other reasons to visit Taunggyi. The Shan State Cultural Museum offers some insight into the history and style of the various tribes in the area, as well as some local political history.
The pagoda complex at Kakku is a centre of worship for the Pa-O people and features thousands of closely-packed stupas in a small area, all with tinkling bells on top – making for an enchanting atmosphere. Unfortunately, many of the structures have been insensitively restored, using concrete instead of traditional brickwork – but the setting remains an impressive one. Behind the pagodas to the east, one will find a lovely rural scene, with the Shan hills stretching out into the distance.
The Kakku pagoda festival is held on the Full Moon of Tabaung (usually February or March). During the festival, the Pa-O tribe pay homage by wearing their finest ethnic clothing and by decorating their prize bullocks.
Before World War II Kalaw had belonged under the rule of the Sawbwas, but as the British took over Myanmar (Burma) Kalaw served as a sub-division head office to the army while Aung Ban served as the District office. By 1966 Kalaw became the headquarter taking over Aung Ban and Heho which then served as sub-divisional townships. At an elevation of 1400 meter above sea level, Kalaw is spread around 582 sq miles and is located in the Shan highlands. Kalaw was initially founded by the Palaung Tribe, where they used to call it “Kalaung” in their native tongue. This old hill station on the rim of the Shan Plateau, located the Pine-land, remains a favorite place for holidays.
The main attractions of Kalaw are the town itself with its mock-tutor colonial bungalows, its ethnic mix of people, and its location; trekking distances of many ethnic minority villages. Many colonial Tudor-style houses and English gardens of remain. People from the villages of the Palaung tribe and other hill tribes come to the Kalaw market held every five days, in their colorful costumes adding to the sentient. This old hill station on the rim of the Shan Plateau, in the Pineland, remains a favourite place for holidays. The main attractions of Kalaw are the town itself, with its mock-tutor colonial bungalows, its ethnic mix of people, and it’s setting within trekking distance of many ethnic minority villages.
is the second largest natural lake in Myanmar located in the middle of the greatest depression in Nyaung Shwe valley between two parallel mountain ranges running north to south in the southern Shan State. 35 km from the nearest airport at Heho. There are flights from both Yangon and Mandalay. Inle Lake is shallow, 14 miles long and 7 miles wide, 4358 feet above the sea level among the hazy Blue Mountains. Inle’s most unusual feature is its extraordinary ‘leg-rowing fishermen’ who have developed an original, eccentric method of rowing their small boats with one leg. Floating gardens are built-up from strips of water hyacinth and mud, dredged from the lakebed. Villages, farms and monasteries perch over the water on stilts. Visitors may observe cottage industries of weaving, netting and cheroot making etc.
Inle Lake is the second largest natural lake in Myanmar, located in the middle of the Nyaung Shwe valley between two parallel mountain ranges it runs north to south in the southern Shan State. It is located 35 km from the nearest airport at Heho; there are often flights from both Yangon and Mandalay. Shallow, 14 miles long and 7 miles wide, 4358 feet above the sea level among its surrounding hazy Blue Mountains. But the shallow lake is what allows its residents to LIVE ON the lake in hut style houses, and also have commercial activities. Inle’s most unusual feature is its extraordinary ‘leg-rowing fishermen’— that have developed an original, eccentric method of rowing their small boats with one leg. There are many floating gardens that are built-up from strips of water hyacinth and mud, dredged from the lakebed. Villages, farms and monasteries perch over the water on stilts. Visitors may observe cottage industries of weaving, netting and cheroot making etc.
Pindaya is known for its extensive network of limestone caves, situated at the foot of Menetaung Range at an elevation of 1160 meters above sea level, and about 45 km north of Kalaw is a picturesque place called Known to the world as the home of the countless Buddha Images in its extensive lime stone caves and picturesque lake. The main sight in the area is Pindaya Cave, locally known as Shwe Oo Min Cave and unique Shan traditional paper umbrella making works. The limestone caves contain a maze of chambers with 6226 Buddha statues. Some of them are tiny, others are huge, and are made of white marble, bronze or plaster, coated with gold leaf. Some of the smaller caves within the complex serve as meditation chambers. Scenic drive over the rolling hills of the Shan plateau through colourful mustard and wheat field. The road from Kalaw to Pindaya (38 km) passes through countryside of magnificent scenic beauty. Oxcarts are not an uncommon sight and the pace of life is unhurried here.
Padah-Lin Caves are limestone caves, located on a spur of the Nwalabo Mountains within the Panlaung Reserved Forest. There are two caves, the smaller of the two is a rock shelter while the larger cave comprises nine chambers connected by narrow passages in a north-south axis, three large sink holes that let natural light in, and several active speleothem formations.
Red ochre paintings of human hands, fish, bulls, bison, deer and other objects are visible at the rock shelter. The art has not been directly dated. The walls of the cave have also been decorated with carved patterns. More than 300 cupules have been documented in the rock shelter.
Excavations at the rock shelter recovered seven pieces of charcoal and bone that were radiocarbon dated to between 1750 and 13000 years BP. The excavation also recovered over 1600 stone artefacts as well as many pieces of bone and red ochre. The stone artefacts include uni-facial choppers, bifacial chopping tools, perforated stone rings, adzes and scrapers. Excavations in the larger cave revealed deposits dating to 65000 years ago, and flaked stone artefacts dating to 25000 years ago.