Nearly a quarter of Myanmar´s geographical area is occupied by the Shan State. This elevated land (up to 1000 m above sea level) forms a geological bridge to Thailands Northwest. Shan State is structured by mountains up to 2000 m high and divided into a North and a South portion by Thanlwin (Salween) River. Half of the people are ethnic Shan, living in the valleys of Salween River. Despite the altitude, Shan State is still well suited for cultivation of paddy rice, but the crop flourishing especially at high elevation is papaver somniferum, the poppy for opium production……
Nearly a quarter of Myanmar´s geographical area is occupied by the Shan State. This elevated land (up to 1000 m above sea level) forms a geological bridge to Thailands Northwest. Shan State is structured by mountains up to 2000 m high and divided into a North and a South portion by Thanlwin (Salween) River. Half of the people are ethnic Shan, living in the valleys of Salween River. Despite the altitude, Shan State is still well suited for cultivation of paddy rice, but the crop flourishing especially at high elevation is papaver somniferum, the poppy for opium production.
60 km to the north, on the way from Pyin Oo Lwin to Lashio, in the midst of Shan mountains, is Gokteik railway viaduct (it is forbidden to take pictures!). It was about 100 years ago, when British colonialists asked an American steel company to construct this railway viaduct, overspaning a deep natural gorge. At those days Gokteik viaduct has been the second highest in the world. Even today, it’s nicer to see it from outside than to ride over it.
Close to road and railway connections between Myanmar and China, on the way from Mandalay and Lashio, an Austrian lady was part of a drama written in Burmese history of the 50ties: “Honourable Mahadevi from Hsipaw” became the wife of a Shan prince and played an important role in this area until 1962, when in Yangon military took power. The nephew of the prince now takes care of the palace and may tell to visitors interesting stories about bygone times. Nowadays the town of Thibaw and the area surrounding became a traveller´s hangout thanks to its cool and pleasant climate and relaxed athmosphere. The Bawgyo Pagoda is the most sacred one in northern Shan State.
The township of Lashio, located at the southern end of famous Burma Road, is home for a majority of Chinese (“Shan-Chinese”). There are no important sights at all beyond the temple Quan Yin Sancars, built about 50 years ago for the most important Goddess of Chinese Buddhism in true Chinese style. Situated in a mountain basin, Lashio weather forecast means gambling!
Muse is a border town opposite Ruili in China. Chinese-mad goods are cheap there. Myanmar can easily acquire a border pass to visit the two main markets in Ruili, Fa Hwaung and Hai li Kai, where you can buy almost anything, however electronic products seem to be cheaper in Muse. One legendary must-top venue famous in the region is the 20-years old Aung Chan Than Restaurant at Kut Khaing, on the road from Lashio to Muse.
Infamous Golden Triangle between Myanmar, Thailand and Laos was once used as floodgate for opium and heroin. These days are over forever. Nowadays, the magic of the Golden Triangle attracts an international tourist clientele, but especially along the Thai-side of the Triangle.
This township, only a cat´s leap away from Thailand, was a no go-area for foreigners not long ago. The Friendship Bridge between Thailand´s Mae Sai and Myanmar´s Tachileik, two neighbouring towns, was of no help. Now, sometimes there is something like friendship in the air – then the border is open. Sometimes friendship cools down – then the border is closed. You never know … Mountain peoples like Iquore (Akha) settle in monsoon forests close to Taichileik.
Tucked away in the far eastern corner of the Shan Sate, 456 km north-east of Taunggyi and 165 km north of the border town of Tachileik, Kyaing Tong is a sleepy but historic centre for Khun culture. Built around a small lake, doted with ageing Buddhist temples and crumbling British colonial architectur, Kyaing Tong is probably the most scenic town in the Shan State. From here the adventurous tourist may start trekking tours, ranking from soft to ambitous trekking, to tribal villages nestled in monsoon forests nearby (Iquor, An, Wa and Lahu). From Kyaing Tong excursions as far as to the Chinese border are easily arranged.