One of the most exciting train rides in Asia begins from Mandalay to Lashio via the Gokteik Viaduct. The 15-hour train journey crosses from the Mandalay Region into Shan State, the largest state in Myanmar. Here is a taste of rural Myanmar, the countryside with its customs and traditions well-preserved. Asian Geographic and Shandy Yee Mon shows you the top 5 places to visit in Shan State.
1. INDEIN VILLAGE
Renowned for its ancient Buddhist pagodas, this little village built on stilts lies slightly to the west of Inle Lake. Although only accessible by boat through the long and narrow Inn Thein creek, this journey is well worth it as Indein’s flavour is distinctively different from the rest of Myanmar’s.
2. FLOATING GARDENS
Apart from fishing, how else could river people make their living? These gardens, which span a quarter of Inle Lake’s area, hold an answer. The locals turn clusters of water hyacinth, sea grass and lake debris into floating islands upon which food crops like tomatoes are grown for sale.
3. SHWE YAUNGHWE KYAUNG
Easily overshadowed by its neighbouring Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery, this is one of the hidden gems of Shan State. Within a wooden exterior, thousands of alcoves house little Buddha figurines. Colourful decorations also adorn the temple’s walls.
4. PINDAYA CAVES
These caves sit on a limestone ridge, and are as much a tourist attraction as they are an important Buddhist pilgrimage site. The southernmost cave is famous for having over 8,000 statues and images of Buddha, where the oldest artefacts date back to the 18th century. Even now, its collection continues to grow through donations from a steady stream of visiting pilgrims.
5. KENGTUNG MARKET
Considered by many as one of the most interesting markets in Myanmar, here you can get a rich sensory experience of Burmese culture. You can find locals in ethnic dress selling street snacks, fresh produce, sundry goods and even livestock. The people are also friendly and always ready to strike up a casual conversation.