Dignified Town of Kyaing Tong

Most travellers visiting Burma would investigate the magnificence of its temples, pagodas and Buddhas. Most of these are places that would instantly pop up during Google searches. Burma has other places just as striking and grandiose. Such is the town of Kyaing Tong.

Kyaing Tong lies in the Shan State of Burma. It is considered as the primary town of the Kyaing Tong District. It has an area of 31,000 square kilometres. Its boundaries in the north are Keng Hung, Mang Lon and Mong Lem; it has the Mekong River on its east; Siamese Shan States by the south and the Salween River in the west. In the olden times, the people would call Kyaing Tong, Khemarata. The people that make up the township are composed of indigenous tribes who proudly wear their smiles for its visitors. These are the Lahu, Wa, Akha and Shan tribes. These tribes have a lot to be proud of.

The town is built surrounding a lake. A magical story is passed on from generation to generation regarding the lake. It is said that a very powerful charlatan named Tungkalasi drained the lake with his magic staff and built the community of Kyaing Tong. The town, during its prime was a political force to reckon with. There were 45 sawbwas or princes ruling it at one time. It has warded off invasions by the Chinese and the Siamese during the 1700s and 1800s, respectively. The tribes are identified by the colourful traditional costumes they wear. One can go trekking to these villages and observe their traditional way of life, from tribal dances to some of the more elaborate customs and rituals.

Within the city was the site where the Sawbwa Palace was built. The wooden traditional majestic sawbwa can only be remembered through photographs as World War II blasted it to the ground. In its place stands a residence built by Sawbwa Sao Ohn Kya when he ruled from 1928 to 1938.

Traditional architecture would show intricate wooden balconies that would showcase the skill of its tribe people, the wood carving typical that of the Shan culture.

Ancient craft of 3,000 years ago can be witnessed in this quiet town of Kyaing Tong. Lacquer works is one of the commerce of Kyaing Tong. The materials come from Thitsi. The natives would harvest resin from a Thitsi tree that is at least ten years old. Anything that is less than that would not produce quality lacquer. The Kyaing Tong people take pride as they sell their lacquer that is resistant to mildew and decay.

An hour’s drive from the city is the Loi-mwe National Park. Loi-mwe means “misty mountain” and was once the location of the headquarters housing the British District Commissioner when Burma was still in the hands of the British. The national park is a home of flying foxes and several species of indigenous orchids. If you want a more peaceful trek while studying the scenic beauty then the park is the place to go.

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