The capital state of Shan is Taungyi City. The Shan State was founded during the Pagan Kingdom. The Shan people prefer calling their land as ‘Muang Tai’, and they fondly go by the names of Tai or Dai instead of Shan. The Thais mostly call them ‘Tai Yai’, or ‘big Thai’. The second largest ethnic residing in Shan is the Wa people. They are known to be feared by many despite living in the secluded mountains of Shan as they used to attach human heads on their poles. The mountainous landscape coupled with the Thanlwin River that flows through the state provides a breathtaking view of the state. Shan is also known to house many beautiful caves that tourists would not want to miss.
Origin: The Shan people consist of various ethnics like Wa, Pa-O, Palaung, Lisu, Lahu, Akha, Kokang and Intha. Some of the religions practised are Buddhishm, Christianity, Animism, Islam, and Hinduism. The locals speak Myanmarese and Shan, a language that resembles the Thai language.
Geography: Shan State is mostly hilly and the climate is cold and tropical with a state size of 155,801 km². It is bordered by China, Laos and Thailand.
Interesting Facts: The state derived its name from the Shan people, self administration areas could be found in Shan. As of 2014, the population of this state is 5.824 million people.
Due to the mountainous topography, tourists can find some of the best caves in Myanmar in Shan state. Apart from admiring the formation of these caves, visitors can take in the quaint view of the diverse flora and fauna found in the area surrounding the caves and inside the caves. Tourists also get to see magnificent limestone caves that take millions of years to form. The longest and deepest caves and archaeological caves can also be found in Shan State, making cave-exploring a compulsory activity for tourists. Taunggyi and Kalaw would be the best place for cave explorers to visit, as both places are well-known to have some of the longest caves and also caves dating back to the Neolithic era.
Plenty of activities involving nature could be done in this state. Tourists can hike and trek hills and mountains while observing lush pine trees in pine forests, or watch sunsets by the lake. Tourists should also visit the floating villages. Villagers in the floating village are known for their unique rowing method in which they row their boats with only one leg, and this style can only be seen in Shan state. As Shan state offers tons of picturesque views with its hilly landscape and diverse ecosystem, the place is the ideal destination for photographers to take brilliant photos of nature. For those who prefer to learn more about Myanmar’s history while keeping in touch with nature, they can visit caves that also serve as archaeological sites.
ETHNICS & BELIEFS
Diverse ethnics and cultures could be found in Shan. Each ethnic has an interesting background and history of how they began and it is an eye-opening experience to watch them interact with tourists and each other in their home ground. There is the once-fearsome Wa ethnic from the mountains that was called ‘Wild Wa’ by the British due to their head-hunting practices in the past. The Pa-O people are easily identified. The people mostly wear dark clothes with bright and colourful embroidery along with turbans on their heads for both men and women The Shans also have a folklore that dates back to the days of their ancestors. There is a belief that lonely places like graveyards and the forests are crowded with ghosts and demons, and the locals even have exorcisms to get rid of evil spirits. They also believe in reincarnation after one’s death. As the Shans are mostly Buddhists, they highly regard compassion and enlightenment. They deeply respect the disciplined Buddhist monks and believe that staying away from negative practices would ward off evil and better their lives.
Htam San Cave Situated 46 kilometres from Taunggyi at 1,800 metres above sea level, this magnificent limestone cave was found by a young monk. Standing at 10 metres high, the cave showcases the beautiful formation of stalactites and stalagmites that take millions of years to form. This rare beauty is greatly admired by tourists and cave-explorers from all over the world.
Pindaya Cave The cave is filled with an array of Buddhist statues and images of all materials, shapes, and sizes. There are more than 8,094 statues in the cave, including statues that are centuries old and those that are recently placed there by other Buddhists. As the cave serves as a religious site for monks, the statues and images are to be treated with respect.
Pyadalin Cave The caves contain an impressive amount of history dating back to the Neolithic era. The caves are only 30 metres apart from each other. Some of the earliest wall carvings and paintings can be found here, along with weapons made of bones and stones by primitive people. This makes the Pyadalin Caves some of the few places in the world that contain evidence of prehistoric times.
Montawa Thousands of years ago, the rocky cave was formed on the surface of a mountain wall. Located only 3 kilometres from Taunggyi, the Montawa Cave can be accessed by car. The entrance of the cave is narrow but it has a deep interior, lined with more than 1,000 Buddha images. The depth of the cave is still not identified, making it an intriguing cave to visit.
Taunggyi The capital city of Shan has a comfortable, peaceful environment, making it a great spot for tourists to spend some nights there. Taunggyi is busiest and packed with people when it comes to festive seasons. Tourists can join in the festivals or visit some of the pagodas found in the city. The local market offers a variety of items that reflect the cultures of the Shans.
Lashio is famous for the Burma Road built by the British during World War II. Tourists would enjoy the journey along the Shan state, admiring the scenic view and taking in the clean, chilly air of the environment or take a train ride on the winding tracks on the hill. Tourists can also enjoy the hot springs available in Lashio.
Kakku Pagoda Festival: The Pa-O tribe would gather at the pagoda in traditional costumes just to celebrate a successful harvest. Villagers sell their produce in ox-carts and donate their earnings to the pagoda to earn merits. Aside from being an important religious activity to the locals, this festival plays a crucial role in contributing to the country’s economy.
Thingyan New Year Festival:The Myanmarese celebrate the new year on the second week of April. Locals would pour water on each other as a cleansing ritual for the body and soul to ward off negativity from the past year. In this exciting festival, people will also perform kind deeds to people around them to celebrate the new year.
Hot-Air Balloon Festival: Held in Taunggyi, this highly anticipated festival attracts thousands of visitors each year. The festival can be enjoyed for the whole day as the balloon display is available for day and night with distinctive balloon shapes and sizes for both times. There will be pagodas and animal balloons during the day and illuminated balloons at night.