In commercial collaboration with Discovery Rides
On our motorbike road trip in Myanmar, we headed from Lake Inle towards Loikaw. On the way there we did a little boat trip at the Pekon Lake. Loikaw, the capital of the Kayah State, was a nice place, but what makes the area especially interesting are the various tribes living there. We got to learn something about the tribal cultures by visiting a local market and nearby villages. A visit to a Burmese hospital was also an experience to remember…
From Lake Inle towards Loikaw
After getting our motorbike’s rear tire repaired three times in the last couple of days, we were nervous to see if the tire would be flat again in the morning. Luckily, it wasn’t and we could start our journey from Nyaungshwe by the Lake Inle towards Loikaw.
We chose the route that took us from Inle area to the west side of the Pekon Lake. The road was curvy as we had to cross several mountains. But the road conditions were mostly good (apart from some construction works that you can’t avoid in Myanmar) and the views were wonderful, so driving until Pekon town was really pleasant.
On our way we drove through several villages inhabited by the Pa’O tribes. We could recognize it from the orange scarves women had wrapped around their heads and the baskets hanging on their backs.
A boat trip at Lake Pekon
We had a longer break in a village called Pekon by the lake with the same name. Before heading on a boat trip we had a lunch at the pier. This might have been the last time we got to enjoy the delicious Shan Noodles, as we were soon going to leave the Shan State behind.
At the pier we found a young man who promised to take us on a boat tour. He asked 15 000 kyat (around 10 euros) for a 1-hour tour. We also went to a tourist office at the pier, where they were asking the same price. It was more expensive than at Inle, but they probably don’t have many customers here, so it was fine for us. Actually, we only saw one tourist couple in Pekon, so the place was pretty much the opposite of Inle. On the other hand, there seems not to be that much to see around here either.
The boat driver took us to the Lwal Pann Sane Island. We enjoyed the village life, walking past small farmhouses and a school, until we came to a temple located in the middle of the island.
We didn’t see any shops or restaurants, but surprisingly there was a CBT-hotel at the shore consisting of a few huts. What a place to spend a South-East Asian island holiday totally off the beaten path!
One hour had already passed, so we didn’t get to see anything else on our boat tour. The driver took us back to the pier and we continued our way towards Loikaw.
Arriving to Loikaw and looking for accommodation
The way from Pekon to Loikaw consisted mostly of construction works, so it took much longer than expected. We reached Loikaw when it was already evening, and we still had to find a place to stay. We realized that the value for money when it comes to accommodation wasn’t that good in Loikaw than in other places we’ve visited in Myanmar. After checking out two cheaper but run-down and dirty guesthouses, we decided to pay a bit more (33 000 kyat, 22 euros per night) for a comfy, clean room at the Kayan Golden Sky Motel. The happy owner of the place got so excited when he saw our Royal Enfield, that he offered to wash it for us so that he could take a closer look at it.
Before going to sleep Johanna started to get very paranoid. She had petted a cute dog at a gas station on our way to Loikaw. After that she realized that the dog had licked her hand at a spot where there is a small wound. First, she thought it doesn’t matter, but then she went to google. Rabies is a common decease in Myanmar with around 1000 deaths a year. Usually, people get it from dogs’ saliva, and theoretically it’s possible to get it even through a small scratch.
If you didn’t know, Rabies is a terrible disease. Once the symptoms break out (which can take from some days to some years), there’s nothing you can do, and you die. We are vaccinated for rabies, but it doesn’t make you immune. You still need to get shots of vaccination after exposure, but without having taken the vaccination you’d also need immunoglobulin, which can be hard to get in remote areas (like this one).
The chance of having gotten rabies from that friendly dog through that small wound were very low, but still, in order to be able to catch some sleep that night, we decided that we will visit a hospital first thing in the morning.
Nice memories and a rabies shot at Loikaw hospital
When we arrived to the hospital of Loikaw, we realized that none of the workers could understand even a word of English and Google Translate wasn’t helping either. Luckily, a local young woman with a baby had seen us struggling and offered to help us. She had worked in Thailand’s Phuket before and had learned English with the tourists. “Rabies” was an unknown word, though, and for a moment everyone thought Johanna had caught Corona. In the end we could make it clear what we needed, but apparently, they got a bit suspicious as we were the only people who had to wear masks in the hospital.
The doctor looked at the wound on Johanna’s hand and agreed that it is a good idea to take the rabies shot just to be sure. They didn’t want to see any travel insurance and told that health care is free for all! But they said, if we wanted, we could put some money in the donation box for the hospital. You can be sure we did. We also got to meet the grandmother of the helpful woman’s husband at another part of the hospital and finally got a ride back to the city from her father. The friendliness and hospitability of people amaze us every time, so in the end, even a visit to a Burmese hospital will stay as a nice memory in our minds.
Things we saw in Loikaw
Luckily, hospital wasn’t the only thing we saw in Loikaw. We still had a whole day to explore.
The most important attraction in the city of Loikaw is the Taung Kwe pagoda build on a rock. We’ve seen plenty of pagodas on rocks on this trip already, but Taung Kwe still looked interesting so we decided to get up there. From the top we could see the whole city.
A nice place to hang out in Loikaw is the green area of Naung Yar lake. Some local boys even dared to go swimming in there, but we just looked at the lake from the shore and the colorful bridge crossing the lake.
In the evening there’s a small food market by the lake where locals get together to grill and eat on small plastic chairs. As vegetarians we were not too thrilled about the market, though, as there were mostly different kind of sausages and meat skewers on offer.
Exploring the tribes of Loikaw
With a motorbike one could reach several attractions near Loikaw, waterfalls and caves for example. We didn’t have time for that, since we had some other exciting plans for our second day at Loikaw area. We were going to do a trip to the Pan Pet Villages, which are home to the Kayan tribes and the women famous for stretching their necks with brass rings.
Our visit to the Pan Pet Villages was a special experience, where we also learned a lot about the Kayan culture. Therefore, we will write an own story about that topic next. But on the way there we had some other interesting experiences, as well.
Demoso market and a nice place for lunch
On our way from Loikaw towards the Pan Pet Villages we first came across the beautiful dam lake Ngwe Taung. After that we arrived to the Demoso marketplace, some 20 kilometers away from Loikaw. We were lucky as it was a Wednesday, since the market is held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The people from surrounding villages come to buy and sell stuff at the market, so it was an interesting place to get a peek into the diverse tribal cultures in the Loikaw area.
In Myanmar, both men and women traditionally wear Longyis, beautiful fabrics wrapped around their waist. Especially women smear some white thanaka paste on their faces as make up and / or protection from the sun. Many friendly smiles are colored red because of chewing on the betel nut. We also saw all kinds of headdresses, like scarves wrapped as turbans or straw hats. The shoppings were usually put into big baskets that were hanging down from the shoulders.
There were clothes and many kinds of groceries (fruit, vegetables, betel nuts, tobacco leaves, spices, drinks…) sold on the market. We bought a bag of local peppers, a bit like Szechuan peppers, but with distinct “lemony” taste, and a liter of barley wine.
On the way back from the Pan Pet villages we had a food break at a Marco Polo Restaurant near the Demoso Market Place. The food was good and affordable, but the best part were the views from the restaurant.
The next morning, we started early our long way towards Yangon. We wouldn’t be able to ride the whole way in one day, so we would stop overnight in a city called Taungoo some 200 kilometers from Loikaw. The owner of the hotel in Loikaw thought we are crazy as he heard our travel plan and by judging the curves on the map on next day’s route, we also got a bit nervous. Indeed, the next stretch turned out to be the most demanding part of our motorbike road trip. So, excitement and adventures ahead!