Known previously as Kengtung, it is the biggest commercial centre in Eastern Shan State. In the old days of Myanmar kings and before the hereditary Shan princes (sawbwas) relinquished their feudal powers in mid-1950s, Kengtung exerted a powerful influence in the border areas between Thailand and Myanmar. The majority of the people here are Shans, although there are many ethnic groups that live on the surrounding mountains. There are the silver capped Akha, the Silver and Gold Palaungs, differentiated by the type of belts the women folks wear, the Eng with blackened teeth plus many more. In town the Maha Muni Buddha statue is the main attraction, then the tall, standing Buddha statue that towers above the town. And of course the beautiful Naung Ton Lake in the town centre. Attractions in town would also include the Kyaingtong Municipal Market. The market place would be where the silver capped Akha women come down from the mountains to sell their garden produce or the elderly Shan lady would be selling common household items or assortment of fresh meat are on sale. And most interesting would be the stalls changing silver coins into local Myanmar bank notes for use in the market. The silver coins, some are vintage British coins, are greatly valued by the Akha women. They save these coins or use them on their head dresses or as ornaments. But these coins cannot be used for buying things at the market. So a thriving exchange market has sprung up to change these silver coins with local banknotes. Kyaingtong is surrounded by high mountains. And on these mountains are villages of many ethnic groups. One of these exotic groups are the Engs. Curiously they never bath throughout their life. The philosophy is that it is the inner self that must be clean and not the outer shell. Also they say only animals have white teeth, not humans. So they would blacken their teeth by chewing on a jungle vine. The Black and White Lahus are also inhabitants of this area. The difference between them is the colour of the dresses; Black Lahu would wear black costumes and the White Lahu are in white. They celebrate the New Year on the same date as the Chinese New Year but have a distinct custom of their own. No strangers are allowed inside the village before it has celebrated the New Year and this person also cannot leave the village before the celebration is over. Both the Lahu clans however have the same tradition of planting a new tree in front of their house every New Year to show their gratitude to the forest from which they earn their living. These mountain villages are all easily accessible from Kyaingtong by trekking over picturesque landscape. Kyaingtong New Year Celebrations are held on the same date as the Myanmar Buddhist New Year in April. But they also have a beautiful tale on its origin and customs. This tale starts with a love-stuck Princess and the King of the Celestials (Sakra) and their marriage on earth and bring good rains and harvest. The town elders would commemorate this Kyaungtong Shan New Year in the town centre with great ceremony and age old rituals.
It is the International Border Crossing Point between Thailand and Myanmar. Although the atmosphere in town is more Thai than Myanmar it is nevertheless an interesting place to visit. Trekking to nearby villages can be organized as well as transport to Kyaingtong by car can be arranged.