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Home > Myanmar Highlights > Off-the-beaten-track > the Golden Triangle > Info

The Golden Triangle

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Kyaing Tong (Keng Tung), the capital of Golden Triangle

Kyaing Tong has been the seat of powerful Shan (Siamese) kingdom founded around 1243AD, with its approximate number of 45 Sao Bwas (Shan Chieftains) rulers. Its deliberate location among four nations - Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, and China make extremely important in terms of either geopolitics or military tactics. This area is internationally recognized as infamous Golden Triangle for the opium trades until recent years before the painful efforts to crackdown the planting and trafficking of opium & heroines by the Myanmar military with the help of international community. After a long closed period following the narcotic trades and insurgent legacies, the trading business thrives again between four nations, where Kyaing Tong serves as a hub, and thus it should rightfully called the capital of Golden Quadrangle. And it’s challenging position of begin one of the most scenic regions in Shan State that rivals to Inle Lake, Kalaw, and Pindaya of nation’s tourist incentive sites, Kyaing Tong is now ready to serve as a new face in the Myanmar tourism. For most of the people, the main reason to visit Kyaing Tong area is to explore the villages of colorful ethnic tribes mostly living on the steep slopes of the foothills of Himalaya. The trekking trips can be rated from easy to moderate and the minimum stay should be at least two nights, by using Kyaing Tong as your base. Currently overnight stays at the tribe villages is not allowed.

Kyaing Tong lies in a valley at the elevation of 785m surrounded by the peaks higher than 1600m, offers stunning scenic beauties with the picturesque mountain backdrops, aging Buddhist monasteries that pronounced “Wats” locally & colonial era houses encircled to the legendary Naung Tong Lake. While Kyaing Tong & the immediate plains flourishes the Khün culture, which is pretty much like a long forgotten corner of northern Thailand, the nearby hills are inhabited with diverse but colorful ethnic-minority villages of Wa, Akha, Lahu, Loi, Akhi, Palaung, Li, Gon, Eng and such. Virtually Kyaing Tong can be reached by road via Taunggyi (Inle Lake) – a three day drive for 452km on the hilly road passing scenic villages, and beautiful vistas is somehow considered unsafe for the visitors and thus government is banned until now. It is possible to enter Myanmar overland from Thaichileik / Maesai border crossing with prior arrangements, and 176km drive to Keng Tong. There is no other way to get there from any of Myanmar cities but to fly from Yangon, Mandalay, and Heho (Inle Lake). Recently there are daily flights on Air Mandalay, Air Bagan, and Yangon Airways.

Highlights

Kyaing Tong In-City Highlight

The Central Market

The central Market is an excellent spot for an interesting morning tour to see colorful ethnic tribes come to exchange goods from their home in the surrounding hills. The imported commodities from China and Thailand are also cheap here. The most appealing shopping items may be woven fabrics of ethnic minorities, the headdress of Akhar tribe, utensils made out of bamboo, and many other locally produced souvenirs. There are different types of local foods to savor… including yummy beef ball & rice noodle soup, to sticky rice & fried fish and hot English tea and Indian-style pastas. It is an enjoyable to stroll around the bustling market, not for just one time but should be visited for every morning while you are in Keng Tung.

Buffalo Market

Another place of interest on the western end of the town is (water) buffalo market, which held twice a week in an open-air lot. Learn what the basic features of a good buffalo are and how a price is set, while the men curiously grilling these animals before making up their buying decision.

Religious sites

There are over thirty monasteries (pronounced Wat in Khün language) in Kengtung. Among them, Wat Jong Kham (dated to 13th century) and Wat In are two most impressive in the architectural style closer to Laotian and Thai temples. The interior walls are painted red and gilded scenes of the Buddha Life-stories written in old Gon Shan language, and huge ancient Buddha images at one end. The city center features striking 19th century Wat Pha Jao Lung or Maha Myatmuni Mandalay Style Buddha image. A number of catholic churches, dated from British era, can also be seen, including Roman Catholic Mission (RCM) and Immaculate Heart Cathedral.

Other Places

The big Naung Tong Lake, which is relating to the foundation of Keng Tung, in the city center is a scenic spot and best for the evening strolls. The teashops on the street that rimmed the lake serve good tea and fried fritters. The Lone Tree Hill, where 245-years old Kanyin-byu (Diptero carpus Spp) still stands, that planted by King Alaungpaya, the founder of third Burmese empire, on his march to Thailand in the 18th century, provides some bird-eye views of the city and surrounding Keng Tung plains. The fading tradition of making Shan-style lacquerware can be seen at U Mu Ling Ta workshop, where the decedents of U Mu Ling Ta reveal the secrets of gilded relief work.

 
 

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