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Kayah State

Loikaw and environs

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Very recently opened to international visitors, Kayah State still preserves its own unique features. Legend says it is the birth place of a beautiful story of Dwe Mae Naw, a mythical half-human, half-bird creature and her sisters who live in Silver Cloud Land. The lake where these mythical creatures frolicked is called Ngwe Taung Si (Ngwe Taung Dam) and situated at Dimawso Township. Poetically Kayah State is also known as "The Silver Cloud Land". But for many Kayah State is known for its Long-neck women.

Popularly known as the Long-neck women or the Giraffe women, they are members of the Padaung ethnic group. The Padaung were mostly animists but now most had converted to Catholicism. The females of this tribe wear brass rings around their necks that seemingly elongated their necks and thus the name Long-neck women was born. There are many tales why this custom was practised. Some say this is to protect the women from preying tigers as they forage in the forest. Others say it is to remind them of their mother, said to be a dragon and the brass rings on the neck are to resemble the dragon's scales. Anyhow, this tradition is still being practised at some Padaung villages in the remote areas of the state. The Kontha Church at Kontha village on the Kalaw-Pekon-Loikaw Highway is always packed with these Padaung tribal women on Sundays. Another place where Padaung people can be seen is at Pekon, a small town on the banks of the Mobye Dam.

The Bilu Chaung (Ogre Stream), that empties the Inle Lake further north, flows through the centre of the town too with the town market nearby. Although this market is open on all days of the week and is a good place to catch a glimpse of these Padaung ladies.

Another feature that is popular, with its own quaint superstition, is the Taung Kwe Zedi (Separated Mountains Pagoda) at the edge of Loikaw. There is a pagoda on each summit but lovers would never visit this pagoda for fear of being separated..

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